Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Understanding And Applying the Text
When Jesus heard of John the Baptist’s death He went off to a desolate place. The accounts in Mark and Luke imply this was not a solo trip. He took both His and John’s disciples. The reason for the trip may be to grieve.
He went by boat but the crowd followed Him via land. This implies the boat never lost sight of the shore. The crowd left the towns and followed Jesus into the desert. Jesus’ fame had spread in every direction.
Once they put ashore Jesus saw the crowd. He had compassion for them. Mark says Jesus had compassion on them because he saw they needed direction. They were like sheep without a shepherd. (Mark 6:34) They had no direction. They had no purpose. They were wandering around aimlessly.
That is our situation today. We are born. We live. And we die. Many buy into evolution. We emerged from the slime with no purpose. We are an accident. When we die we no longer exist. And according to that theory, humans will evolve into something else. From a rational view, man has no purpose, no value. What difference does it make if one accident oppresses another accident? There is no value in either.
Yet men claim purpose and value. We claim human rights and dignity. Where does this value come from? We come into existence with no purpose. We die with no purpose. Yet human life is supposed to have great value. Where does this value come from? We are like sheep without a shepherd. Our value must come from something outside of us. To instill that value that something, or someone, must have greater value than us.
The disciples tried to show compassion to the people. It was getting late. The people needed to eat. They assumed Jesus lost track of time. They needed to remind Him of the time. Or so they thought. They believed the right thing to do was to send the crowd away. The people could find food in the neighboring villages.
But Christ was aware of the situation. His delay was intentional. Christ’s response was not only strange it seemed unreasonable. Jesus must have lost His mind. He said they don’t need to go anywhere. You feed them. The language in the Greek makes the pronoun “you” is emphatic. YOU feed them. Don’t pawn them off on someone else to feed.
The disciples’ response was what our response would have been. “With what!?” The account in John has Philip saying (paraphrase) “Do you have any idea how much money that would cost. Do you know how much money we don’t have?” (Sarcasm added. I think Philip was sarcastic about it) (John 6:7)
Again according to John the bread and fish came from a little boy. (John 6:9)
When Andrew (John 6:8) told Jesus they only had 5 loaves and two fish. Jesus’ response was not “What am I going to do with that?” His response was “That’ll do.” They had no idea what was about to happen.
I have read many commentators trying to explain away this miracle. They usually start off with “Here is what happened… .” They all try to explain away this remarkable feat through natural means. Some claim the little boy’s act of sharing his lunch inspired others to share. Others claim Jesus had a secret stash of food in a cave. Why is it so hard to believe God, the one who created all the universe, could not make a few morsels of food?
Jesus lifted His eyes toward heaven and said a blessing. Paul tells us all the food God gives us is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1Titus 4:5) Raising His eyes towards heaven indicates an earnest supplication.
Jesus gave them more than they need. They eat to their fill and there was still more. Christ had created what was necessary for their immediate need. But there was also enough for future needs.
Of course, Christ does not multiply our bread every day, Nor does He feed us without our labor. But the benefits of this story extend even to us. It is God’s blessing that multiplies the grain so we can have food. If we do not recognize it, it is because of our own indolence and ingratitude.
As God provided manna for Israel in the wilderness. So Jesus provided bread for the people in a remote place. The crowd missed this point. A little later this same group of people asked, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (John 6:30b-31). They asked for the very sign they had already received. Do you what evidence that miracle will not convince anyone? Here it is.