The Book of Luke, The Feeding of the Five Thousand - Lesson 113
Luke 9:10‑17, And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. 11And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. 12And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. 13But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people. 14For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. 15And they did so, and made them all sit down. 16Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude. 17And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragments that remained to them twelve baskets.
This miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, is the only miracle of Lord Jesus Christ, other than the resurrection, which is recorded in all four of the Gospel accounts.
The four accounts basically include the same information as each other however some accounts add information not given by all the Gospel writers.
Mark in chapter 6 adds the fact that Jesus and his disciples went to the desert place by ship and they went in order to find a quiet place of rest and a place to eat.
The word desert in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s account does not necessarily mean a desert as we would describe a desert but it means a lonesome place, a deserted place, a place not populated.
Mark also adds a report that the people watched where they went by ship and followed them around the lake and arrived at the place before the ship landed.
He adds that Jesus was moved with compassion toward them because they were as sheep not having a Shepherd.
We are also told in Mark that the disciples asked if they were to go and buy two hundred pennyworth (200 denarii, about 40 dollars, the usual rate of pay for one days work was one denarius) of bread to satisfy the need for food.
So this, the earnings of a man working 200 days, was quite a large amount of money proposed for a bread purchase.
In the book of John, Philip answers this question and says that even two hundred pennyworth of bread is not enough to feed such a large gathering of people.
Mark also tells us that Jesus told the disciples to take an inventory of what food they had.
Luke records that they were to sit in groups of fifty but Mark adds that they also sat in ranks by hundreds.
John and Matthew made no mention of sitting in ranks just saying that they sat on the grass.
John is the only account that tells us that the five loaves and two fishes came from a lad in the crowd.
John adds this comment from the men who were fed: Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
The feeding of the 5000 men was of such import as to open the eyes of the men that were fed that this was the Messiah, the prophet that should come into the world.
Matthew tells us that a reason why Jesus departed into the desert place was upon receiving the news that John the Baptist had been beheaded.
Matthew also tells us that Jesus commanded that the loaves and fishes be brought to him where he blessed and multiplied them.
Matthew is the only writer to report that in addition to 5000 men there were women and children also present.
This passage begins with the news that the apostles had returned from their missionary tour throughout the villages of Galilee.
They reported to the Master all that they had done according to His authority and power (9:10).
This had been a very active period for the Apostles and therefore Jesus desired to take His disciples aside for a while, in a remote place somewhere near the town of Bethsaida (9:10).
Bethsaida, [beth-say-ih-duh; “ means house of fishing and was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip and was located on the north end of the Sea of Galilee.
But at this point it was thought necessary by the Lord Jesus Christ to get away to a deserted place and this getting away seemed to be needed for several reasons.
First, from the Gospel of Mark we learn that they were weary and they needed some relief from the crowds:
Mark 6:30‑31, And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. 31And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
Matthew’s account gives us a second reason: the beheading of John the Baptist had created a hostile atmosphere.
Luke has given us information in Chapter Nine relative to Herod’s increasing interest in Jesus Christ for his fame was spread and being spread further and further in Galilee and beyond.
Jesus and His disciples up to this point had been ministering in Herod the tetrarch’s territory of Galilee.
And this retreat was beyond Herod’s territory and by leaving, the Lord Jesus could allow the situation to cool down, and perhaps Herod’s interest in Jesus would diminish.
Jesus Christ knew when his time was to be and he was in control of the situation.
There was obviously enthusiasm in the people and efforts to make Jesus Christ king but Jesus intended for that not to happen until the time for his sacrifice.
Luke does not give us a particular reason or purpose in this retreat, but from Mark 6:31 we know that the disciples were so busy in dealing with the crowds that they didn’t even have a quiet time to eat.
When Jesus therefore invited the disciples to come with Him “to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31), it is very clear that food was a part of this plan.
No doubt the disciples had enough food for themselves and Jesus Christ but they needed to get apart to enjoy the meal together and to get some peace and quiet.
But this was not to be for we are told that the crowds would not leave them alone.
From this account it appears that the disciples saw the crowds as a hindrance to their comfort but Jesus Christ had compassion upon the people and saw them as sheep without a shepherd so he began teaching them many things.
Jesus taught and he also healed them that had need of healing, just as He had always done, and as the disciples had done in the villages.
But as the day wore on, the disciples besought Jesus to send the crowds home, so that they could obtain food.
Was this out of compassion or was this out of a desire to rid themselves of the crowds that were so widespread around their Master?
No doubt, after laboring in the villages the apostles looked forward to this retreat time and now they had these crowds to contend with.
It was a normal request for them to ask Jesus to dismiss them so that the people could go get food.
They expected Jesus to come to the same conclusion they had reached.
It was time to tell the people to go home, as far as the Apostles were concerned.
They had interrupted the disciples’ retreat and had delayed their dinner with their Master.
Jesus had ministered to their spiritual needs and their physical needs.
They certainly could take care of their own need for food.
It was time for them to go home!
Be careful disciples, for you do not have a very good track record when it comes to advising your Lord.
Too bad they did not know of Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians in:
1 Cor. 2:15, But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.
But they were coming with what they thought was a reasonable solution.
In fact it seemed to be the only possible solution and it also seemed to be a compassionate solution.
The Apostles were on the cutting edge of compassionate conservatism.
Weren’t they just looking out for the people and with pure motives at that!
Don’t you suppose they expected to hear from Jesus’ mouth an agreement with their idea?
But here again we see an example of the scripture that tells us that God’s thoughts and God’s ways are higher than our thoughts and our ways.
Jesus Christ was not about to send this multitude away, whom he had taught and healed, without extending hospitality to them.
So he said to he Apostles, who I imagine were shocked by his words. “Give ye them to eat.”
No doubt the emphasis was on the word “ye.”
Picture the situation. 5000 men besides woman and children facing you with growling stomachs!
The disciples thought that getting their own food was the people’s problem.
But Jesus told the disciples that it was their problem.
Have the disciples yet learned that behind every command of God is God’s omnipotence?
This lesson certainly was to be taught them by this experience.
Jesus was holding His disciples responsible for meeting the physical needs of this huge crowd.
These same disciples had just spent several weeks, living by the hospitality of the people of the villages and now Jesus Christ reverses the table giving them opportunity to be hospitable.
“Give ye them to eat.”
Now the Apostles first response to this command was how most of us would respond.
Look at our food inventory! That’s not enough!
We will have to go into town and buy the necessary food!
“Give ye them to eat.”
This command was given to his disciples in order to get them involved in the ministry and to know that behind God’s commands there will be God’s provision.
God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth of every mine and he wishes to share that with his children.
Jesus Christ knew what would take place.
He could have had everything ready and just had the disciples pass out the food.
But the principle that he exercises is that his disciples are to be co-laborers with God.
They were expected to do what they could do and expect God to do the rest.
I remember the story of George Mueller, who lived from 1805 to 1898, who founded many orphanages in England.
In the early days of his work he and his wife found themselves without any food to feed the children and no source to go to for food.
His response was to have the table set, gather his children around the table and expect God to provide and God always provided.
This is an excerpt from the booklet, The Life and Ministry of George Mueller by Ed Reese about one of those times.
One morning the plates and cups and bowls on the table were empty. There was no food in the larder, and no money to buy
food. The children were standing waiting for their morning meal, when Mueller said, "Children, you know we must be in
time for school." Lifting his hand he said, "Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat."
There was a knock on the door. The baker stood there, and said, "Mr. Mueller, I couldn't sleep last night. Somehow I
felt you didn't have bread for breakfast and the Lord wanted me to send you some. So I got up at 2 a.m. and baked some
fresh bread, and have brought it." Mueller thanked the man. No sooner had this transpired when there was a second knock
at the door. It was the milkman. He announced that his milk cart had broken down right in front of the Orphanage,
and he would like to give the children his cans of fresh milk so he could empty his wagon and repair it.
The lesson here is that George Mueller did what he could, he had the plates and cups and bowls on the table, he had the children assembled and then he asked God to provide.
In other words he did what he could and God did the rest.
He extended his arm the full reach that he had and then expected God to span the remaining gap.
This is the teaching of this miracle. This is what Jesus Christ wanted his disciples to learn and what he wants us to learn.
While the Lord is the One who fed the five thousand plus, it was the twelve disciples were very much involved in the process of the feeding.
They were to survey the crowd, seeking to discover what their resources were.
They were to have the crowds sit down in groups of 50, so that they could eat.
The disciples passed out the food which was being miraculously multiplied as it was given out.
From George Mueller of Bristol and
his witness to a prayer-hearing God, 1899, by Arthur T. Pierson,
God has His own
mathematics: witness that miracle of the loaves and fishes. Our Lord said to His
disciples: "Give ye them to eat," and as they divided, He multiplied the scanty
provision; as they subtracted from it He added to it; as they decreased it by
distributing, He increased it for distributing. And it has been beautifully said
of all holy partnerships, that griefs shared are divided, and joys shared are