Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.
Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them 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 seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan
Understanding And Applying the Text
Jesus left Tyre and Sidon and returned to the sea of Galilee. This sea had two names. The Jews called it Galilee. The Romans called it the sea of Tiberias. It was a large lake. It was about thirteen miles long and 8 miles wide. It was about 33 miles around.
We don’t know where around Galilee these events occurred. Mark indicates that these events occurred in the Decapolis (Mark 7:31). It was a predominantly Gentile area.
Jesus went up on a mountain. Matthew does not tell us why He went. Matthew only tells us it was a desolate place. Jesus went there and sat down. He could have gone to pray. He could have gone to rest. He could have gone to be alone. We don’t know and any claim would be speculation. But sitting was the posture for teaching.
People followed him there. Jesus’ reputation to be able to heal illnesses had spread. As a result, people brought their friends and family to him. They did not bring people with a cold or tummy ache. These were serious physical ailments. People who could not speak, walk, or see.
When Jesus healed them, the people glorified God. But healing physical illness only addressed the symptom. Why is there sickness and death in the world? It is because there is sin in the world. (Romans 5:12) Do not misunderstand it is because of sin. It is not because of a particular sin. (John 9: 2-5) Jesus holds power over sin. (Romans 5:21, 6:23, 8:2; Galatians 3:22) And Jesus came to address the real problem, sin.
The people had been with Jesus in this desolate place for three days. The words Matthew use of words are interesting because of their vagueness. “They have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat.” Was it they had not eaten in three days. Or is it the food is now gone and they have nothing to eat on the way home.
The context answers the question. Jesus mentioned if He sent them away, He would send them away hungry. So they were already hungry.
These people were from the area so it is reasonable to assume they live within a day’s journey. You can miss a meal and not have it affect you. You go a whole day without food and not suffer. But going 4 days (3 days plus the travel day) may cause some to faint. So even though the wording is vague. The context tells us they had been with Jesus 3 days without eating.
Jesus had compassion on the people. Some of them might faint from weakness during the trip home.
The miracle Jesus performed is like the previous feeding of a crowd. It differs only in size. There Jesus fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fish. Here Jesus feeds four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish. In the former twelve baskets were leftover. Here seven baskets were leftover.
These miracles cause us to marvel. And we should. But they should remind us God is not restricted to our insignificant contribution. He does not need our help. He created all there is out of nothing but His word. (Genesis 1:1) But He allows us to take part in His work. Why? It is so we can have a relationship with Him. But He is not constrained by us or the circumstances. In the beginning, God created all things. He can do His will without the aid of anyone or anything else.
Nonetheless, we see things through our limited abilities. The disciples asked, “Really Jesus. Really! Jesus where are we going to get enough food to feed this crowd. In case you forgot we are in the middle of nowhere.” (paraphrase) Remember who these guys were. They were the same guys who pass out food to 5 thousand men plus women and children in the previous chapter. And they started with only five loaves and two fish. Now they had fewer people and more food. And they still don’t believe Jesus can feed this smaller crowd with more food. I am sorry that is not ignorance that is stupidity.
It is easy to see their stupidity. But we fail to see the same stupidity in ourselves. We serve a God who created everything. We serve a God who has compassion for us. Yet like the disciples, we are incredulous. Like the disciples, we complain, “It can’t be done.” Like the disciples, we limit God to our vision of the possible.
Jesus fed the crowd. The faith or lack of faith did not affect His ability to do so. The crowd ate their fill. Once they were full Jesus sent them home.