8 March 2013

Matthew 15:32-39

"Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 'I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.'" (v. 32)


We are still on the mountainside, where Jesus is healing all those who are brought to him. The noise is tumultuous as people praise the God of Israel (verse 31). As the crowds continue to grow and as miracles continue, we discover that they have been there for three days.

Then follows an account which is familiar and yet beware of complacency. The number don't always match up to our expectations. This is not an account of the feeding of the 5,000, but 4,000 (plus women and children).There are not five loaves and two fish. This is the account of seven loaves "and a few small fish" (v. 34). And instead of twelve baskets left over symbolising the twelve tribes of Israel, there are seven baskets collected - a symbol of completion.

Once again, Matthew's Gospel is demonstrating that Gentiles (non Jews) have a place in the kingdom of God. They are welcome to feast together and invited to participate in the hospitality of the Messiah.

This is a passage which challenges the way in which we read Scripture. Our tendency may be to translate this miracle to the feeding of the 5000, and miss the subtlety of the numerical detail - and so miss the point that Jesus fed lots of people more than once!

This passage also challenges the way that we understand and practice hospitality. How many times have you spent three days with needy people? How many times have you offered to feed a large group of people? What does welcome, hospitality and compassion mean to you?

To Ponder

  • What does it mean for Jesus to have compassion?
  • What don't we read this miracle more often?
  • Who can you eat with this week?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Joanne Cox-Darling

Joanne Cox-Darling is a Methodist presbyter currently serving in the Wolverhampton Circuit, where most recently she participated in a harvest festival in a farmyard, surrounded by a 'small' dairy herd of nearly 200 cattle. Joanne is the chair of the Christian Enquiries Agency ( - described by the Archbishop of York as the "possibly the easiest form of evangelism you will ever do".