12 July 2014

John 6:1-15

“Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted.” (v. 11)


The feeding of the 5,000 is one of the few events found in all four of the Gospel accounts (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17): it must have been a very important story for the first believers. The simplest of meals becomes a window to the abundance and generous nature of the kingdom of God.

In Grenada the national dish is 'oil down' - fish, meat, yam, callaloo, breadfruit and more all cooked in coconut milk for at least an hour until the flavours all mingle together. The best place to cook and eat oil down is outdoors under a tree or on a beautiful tropical moonlit night. The result is a meal packed with flavour that will keep you going for the whole day - its sum seems much greater than its parts! This account of the feeding of the 5,000 from John's Gospel seems like that. The disciples, the small boy, the thousands of people and Jesus are all mingled together in the lush outdoors around the time of the Passover festival. Out of this mingling comes a meal where the sum is much greater than the parts. So much so that even the leftovers are much greater than the original parts.

This meal for 5,000 at Passover seems in many ways to prefigure the Passover meal for 12 where Jesus offers himself in bread and wine (Luke 22:1-23) and the service of foot washing (John 13:1-17). It is a meal which we still share today in our Communion services and where the spiritual sum is so much greater than the simple bread and juice that we take. The joy and abundance of the feeding of 5,000 on that day becomes a sign that points people to something greater. Yet they set their sights too low and focus on a kingly messiah to liberate them from Rome, rather than the one to open the way to the abundant table of the Father.

To Ponder

  • What things enable you to experience God's kingdom in a way where the sum is much greater than the parts?
  • How does our generosity match up to the example of Jesus sharing with anyone and everyone who came to that field of 5,000?
  • Have you ever tried to take 'Jesus by force' and try and make him something he is not? What happened?

Bible notes author

Dr Andy Dye

Andy Dye is a mission partner for the Methodist Church in Britain serving with the Methodist Church in Grenada, South Caribbean. He has a background in science, science teaching and mission work.