The inspired Apostle Matthew presents Jesus to the world as “King of the Jews”. Jesus the Christ (Christos- Heb. Messiah), is the one whom the Jewish nation had long awaited to take the throne of David and reign as Davids last and final heir. When one gets to Matthew 14, many things have transpired and the fame of Jesus is spreading abroad. This particular miracle, found in Matthew 14, is also recorded in the other synoptic Gospels, and in John as well. This is the only miracle recorded in John, that is also found in the others. Besides the four detailed accounts of this event, it is mentioned five other times, giving evidence to the significance of this occasion.
Just prior to this, it is recorded that Jesus taught a group of 7 parables. And at the end of this teaching, the people were “offended in Him” (Matthew 13:57). Jesus was rejected by His own people because they knew His mother, brothers and sisters. Since they knew His family, they could be sure that Jesus could not be so special as to listen to His “wisdom and mighty works” (Matthew 13:54). Although Jesus revealed Himself to be special, the people were full of unbelief (Matthew 13:58).
It is on the heels of this rejection that chapter 14 opens up with real tragedy. The cousin of Jesus, the one who lept in his mother’s womb at the announcement of His conception (Luke 1:41), was beheaded of Herod Antipas. “John the Immerser” was the forerunner and friend of Jesus. Herod the Great had ordered the execution of the Bethlehem boys (age 2 and under- Matthew 2:16-18), and in a “like father like son” episode, Herod Antipas turns his attention to Jesus the man.
Jesus, upon hearing of the dastardly deed done by the Tetrarch, goes by ship to a desert place. (Yes, friends, it is good to grieve, and maybe for a time, alone). But Jesus was not going to be alone, because they inquired of Him. They must have asked, because the text says, “and when the people heard thereof, they followed Him on foot out of the cities” (Matthew 14:13). And in this time of grief, He sees the multitude, the sick, and He is “moved with compassion toward them” (Matthew 14:14). You see, with Jesus, it was also “like Father like Son”. Jesus came to be something, somebody, and that something/somebody was to represent God (John 14:9). He was about His Fathers business (Luke 2:49).
“MOVED WITH COMPASSION” (v.14)
This account shows us a glimpse into the selflessness of the Messiah. He healed their sick. They came to Him, wanting, lacking, and looking for a solution to their problems. They had families and children that needed respite from disease. So, they come to Jesus. This “man” who speaks with authority and does mighty works. Jesus does not turn them away, but He takes the time to meet their needs. Jesus was moved with compassion. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus loved the people like His Father did, and He gave to prove it. He gave up His equality (Philippians 2:6-7), He gave His time (Acts 10:38), He gave His Word (John 12:48), He gave His blood (Matthew 26:28) and ultimately, He gave His life (John 10:18). No man could ever rightly claim to have invested as much into the human family than Jesus (Romans 5:7-8).
“MANIFEST THE CAUSE” (v.15)
Jesus recognized the great effort of the multitude. They had spent a great amount of time hearing Him and witnessing the power of His person. He was involved in manifesting Himself as the “greater prophet” to the people who had long awaited His arrival (Deuteronomy 18:18). The miracle under consideration was not to garner a crowd, for He already had one.They had followed Him. The deed performed was to meet a need in their life and in the disciples. In verse 15, the disciples come to Jesus to inform Him that it was evening and the merchants were closed for the day in the city (i.e., “the time is past). So, now, a great multitude of people are in a “desert place” (unpopulated; not civilized) and they have nothing to eat, so the need is made known in the discourse.
“MISGUIDING OF COUNCIL” (v.15)
It is much like mankind to be ill-advised in many situations. When men do not see things as Jesus sees, they cannot do as Jesus would do. Therin lies the problem. Jesus saw something they could not see; opportunity. Here, in verse 15, the students seek to instruct the teacher about the situation. Although it was “past time”, the disciple’s solution to the problem was to send them back to town where they would not find “their daily bread”. Many do not have a clue what the multitude gave up that day in order to follow Jesus. Maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t have anything to eat at home had they returned? Furthermore, Jesus is the answer to the solution and His disciples are ready to send the hungry away from the “bread come down from heaven” (John 6:51). This author won’t pretend he would have faired any better than they, and you shouldn’t either.
“MUSTERING OF THE CHALLENGE” (v.16-18)
In the next verses under consideration, Jesus says the opposite of what the disciples advised. Not only did He tell them “They need not depart”, He said, “feed them”. The disciples must have been taken back a little. They not only are taken back, but begin to protest about the miniscule amount of food there against the need of the hour. They focused on the circumstances instead of the Christ.
God works opposite the systems of the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-28). This world despises the small. The world goes after the smartest, brightest, highest, fastest, largest and strongest. The world is enamored with the gigantic, with supermarkets and blockbuster sales. But, not so with God. God has a “little flock” He is enamored with (Luke 12:32). It is the “little children” that God desires men’s hearts to mirror (Matthew 18:3). It is amazing what God can do with the “small”. It is about to astound the world what He can do with five loaves (buns) and two little fish, barely dinner for a small boy.
“THE MASTER GIVES THE COMMAND” (v.18)
Jesus tells the multitude to sit in the grass. People will always benefit from heeding the Masters command. Everything Jesus has done is for the enrichment of the lives of His subjects (2 Corinthians 8:9). (1) The command is essential- They couldn’t feed themselves. As men need Jesus today- they best listen to Him. Men can’t save themselves. (2) The command is encouraging- It is here that the crowd notices that Jesus is about to do something about the problem. How encouraging it must be when someone takes action in peoples lives that need help. Jesus has called His disciples to be this kind of encouragement to others. When a need is made known, be the person that does something about it. (3) The command is efficient- It is much easier to navigate a massive crowd that is seated, and stationary, than one that is standing and in motion. Jesus knows exactly how to deal with the problems, even the details. When Jesus gives instructions, realize it is the efficient mode of reaching the desired result. (4) The command is easy- When Jesus commands the crowd to “sit”, there is nothing to misunderstand about the command. Jesus communicates to men in such a way even children can comprehend what He means. When the Master speaks, listen (Mark 16:16).
“THE MULTIPLYING OF THE CONTRIBUTION” (v. 19)
Christ is humanities ultimate example. Often times men struggle with seemingly insufficient means, but haven’t learned to trust and to be thankful. Here, Jesus and the disciples have a woefully insufficient amount of food to feed a massive crowd. Having enough food to feed a crowd this size in a wilderness area would be a herculean task. It was a task that the disciples had already sized up and reported to Jesus. The solution was to “send them away”. Jesus takes the measly meal, and gives thanks. Jesus gave thanks for the “little”, for that which seemed insufficient. He blessed it.
Jesus begins to break the food into pieces, and as he is breaking, it is multiplying. The miracle was happening during the breaking, simultaneously. God often works through brokenness. Many things become useful to God after they are broken. In Mark 2, a roof had to be broken to heal a man sick of the palsy. In Mark 14, an alabaster box had to be broken before its contents became useful. In Judges 7, Gideon and his men broke their pitchers before routing the Midianites. In Judges 16, Samson was completely broken and blind, and God used him to slay more Philistines in his death, than he did in his life. Its amazing what God can do with the broken. He made something really special from the broken, when He made Christians (Ephesians 2:1).
When Jesus breaks the food and the disciples begin to distribute it to the people, they begin to accomplish the task that Jesus laid at their feet, “give ye them to eat” (v.16). It is in this moment that Jesus is teaching them exactly what their ministry would be about. Jesus often used the physical, that which they could grab on to, to teach the spiritual lessons. Jesus was preparing them to see their lives would be spent in service to Him and others, and that they would feed men physically, but later, feed man spiritually. Maybe, emphasis should be put on meeting physical needs so that men will be ready to receive the spiritual truths that lead to life, real life.
“THE MEAL AND THE COLLECTION” (v.20)
“And they all did eat”. Not only did they eat, but they were filled! There it is, friends, a true-blue certified miracle. This event was witnessed by thousands, experienced by thousands, and was never brought up as being fake or staged. This miracle was not “cheap” as is seen in todays “miracle workers”. This miracle fanned the flames of chatter about this “man come from God” as Nicodemus would say in John 3. “No man could do these things except God be with him”. Exactly, Nicodemus, this Jesus, is exactly who He is showing Himself to be.
Jesus can provide for those who are far from home and without. He can take next to nothing, barely enough to feed a young boy, and fill the masses. Jesus made so much out of so little, that 12 baskets were taken up of what remained. Jesus put the period at the end of the sentence. This author would love to speculate about the “12” baskets for the “12” disciples that had doubted the moment. Many remark how “Jesus wasn’t going to waste”, but maybe it was much more about not wasting an opportunity to teach the disciples a lesson about the abundance in Him. This writer is much more inclined to believe that this moment of gathering the “left overs” was Jesus putting a cap on the event for His inner circle. What must the disciples have thought when they stood there beholding the man, while each holding a basket full of bread and fish?
“THE MASS OF THE CROWD” (v.21)
The text says, “And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside woman and children.” Some speculate that this mass of hungry Jesus seekers would have maybe been in the range of fifteen to twenty thousand souls. The total number is really inconsequential, which is why the Bible leaves it alone. The miracle is magnificent in its own merit. If Jesus had taken the measly morsels and fed the twelve, it would have been a miracle, but he fed the multitude. This proves the deity of Jesus.
“THE MESSAGE FROM THE CRISIS”
Jesus chose twelve men to mold into a group that would help Him affect humanity from the Garden of Eden, onward. His blood had to be spilled in retrospect throughout time, and in application throughout all ages (Hebrews 9:28). Jesus’ mission was from eternity, a world-wide mission. It unfolded from Abraham to Israel and ultimately culminated in His birth in the “fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4). It started in and among those to whom the promises were made (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8; Galatians 3:19) but then turned out to all the world (Acts 13:46). Since the scope of Jesus blessings are worldwide, He is looking to bless many more than this crowd of weary seekers. He wants to bless you. Jesus proves His person in the events herein discussed, so what will you do with Jesus?
Jesus is offering you eternal life today. He is offering you much more than reprieve from physical hunger. He wants to satisfy your soul. If you would like to study what it means to “obey the Gospel” and what that entails, reach out below. Your soul is worth the investigation.
God bless you.