8 June 2021Luke 9:10-17
And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. (v. 16)
Earlier in the chapter (9:1-6), Jesus had sent out his disciples to preach and heal, and today’s passage begins with the disciples returning to Jesus and sharing what had happened. Jesus and his disciples then ‘withdrew privately’ to Bethsaida (v. 10), a fishing village north-east of Lake Galilee. Despite their desire for privacy and rest, crowds follow, and Jesus welcomes them, proclaiming the kingdom and healing those in need of help (v. 11). While the disciples had been commissioned earlier for this role, Jesus again takes centre stage. It is Jesus, after all, who brings the kingdom.
With the day coming to an end, the disciples suggest that Jesus sends away the crowd to find lodging and food (v. 12). Jesus refuses to do so, and instead asks his disciples to give them something to eat. Unable to do so – having just five loaves and two fish – Jesus directs them to sit the crowd down in groups of fifty (v. 14). Luke mentions that about 5000 men were present, although we know from Matthew’s Gospel that women and children were also part of the crowd (Matthew 14:21). After Jesus breaks and blesses the bread and the fish – a possible echo of the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:19) – the crowd finds that there is more than enough to go around, and 12 baskets of broken pieces remain (v. 17).
The multiplication of the loaves and the fish is, of course, one of Jesus’ best-known miracles, and a version of it appears in the other three gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; John 6:1-16). It recalls God’s miraculous provision for Israel in the wilderness, when manna rained from heaven for God’s hungry people (Exodus 16:4-36). It also echoes God’s miraculous provision of food in the story of Elisha (2 Kings 4:42-44). As well as showing compassion for the crowd, Jesus’ feeding of the 5000 demonstrates his identity as God’s chosen one.
- How might Jesus’ welcome to the crowds guide our response to interruptions in life?
- How do you think the apostles felt when Jesus asked them to do what seemed an impossible task? What might they have learned from this experience with Jesus?