The fishes and loaves bible story is one that is commonly heard in the world today.
Quite often the fishes and loaves bible story is cited when people have somehow fed a large number of people as Jesus fed the multitudes in this section of Matthew. Or when people say they have sufficient food to “feed the five thousand”.
But there are deeper meanings to the fishes and loaves bible story that show other aspects of Jesus’ ministry.
Fishes and Loaves: Jesus’ Compassion
Jesus had gone to a remote place after the beheading of John the Baptist. But the crowds heard of it and followed him. Out of compassion for the people, he healed their sick and he taught them about the gospel and the Kingdom of God well into the evening.
The disciples were trying to be considerate of the people by saying to Jesus to send the people away into the villages so they could buy food to eat. They were aware that the people had been there all day and needed food.
But Jesus said to the disciples that they need not go away but for the disciples to give them food. The disciples responded saying they had only five loaves and two fish, which they brought to Jesus. Jesus took the fishes and the loaves and looking up to heaven he blessed and broke them. The disciples then distributed the food among the people.
Five thousand men, plus women and children ate and were satisfied. And there were still twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.
The Miracle of the Fishes and Loaves
Jesus performed a remarkable miracle on that day.
In this story what actually happened was that Jesus created matter in the form of the fishes and loaves. He literally created this food from thin air, something created from nothing. Just imagine, as he broke a piece of bread or fish off the main lump, it grew back or reappeared. And then he would break it off again, multiplying the food to feed the five thousand plus people there.
We have seen through the ages people searching for a way to create or transform matter. Alchemists in the dark ages tried to turn lead into gold. Today scientists have just discovered how to clone cells to grow tissue. But Jesus did not clone the food; He instantaneously created the food from nothing.
But why did he do this? It was to show several things to the disciples and the people.
First, they had no need to worry about the resources available to the Lord. He knows that we need to eat and have food, and he is able to provide food from nothing. We see this same principle in the Old Testament. Ravens brought food to Elijah each morning and evening. (1 Kings 17:6) also when Elijah went and stayed with the widow from Zar’ephath the Lord refilled her jars of meal and oil for many days, perhaps several years, during the famine of the time while the Lord withheld the rains.
Again in this situation, the Lord created food from nothing. (1 Kings 17:8-16)
Spiritual food as well as loaves and fishes
But the fishes and loaves bible story shows us also that he feeds us the spiritual food.
Jesus had been teaching the people all day giving them the spiritual food that would lead to life. And in compassion, he showed that you need both and he provided both.
This was a lesson to the disciples. They would have sent the people away. But Jesus showed you cannot give only the spiritual food when there is also a need for physical food. They needed to give both. You cannot expect people to accept spiritual matters while there is a concern for physical well-being.
James also showed the pointlessness of saying, “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16) Part of the compassion and caring of the New Covenant is in ensuring that the people of God have what is needed for the spirit as well as the body.
Seek the food of the Spirit
However, Jesus also taught in another version that the people had been more focussed on the physical food than the spiritual food.
Although they needed to eat, they needed to learn more. Jesus said, “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” (John 6:26-27)
So likewise we must not spend our energy labouring for the things of this world, but rather we need to study and learn the things of the spirit that will lead us to life with Christ.
If we trust in the Lord he will provide our physical needs. So we have no need to worry. We can take comfort from this knowledge knowing that in the fishes and loaves bible story there is evidence of the providence of the Lord.
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