Lesson 58: Feeding the Five Thousand
Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. Welcome again! This is Lesson # 58. How many weeks the apostles had been traveling over Galilee in pairs, we are not told. The arrangement Jesus made with them to reassemble again is not reported. But, they ultimately came back two by two and reported to Jesus. They must have had some very fascinating experiences to talk about considering the fact they were given power against unclean spirits and told to teach and heal freely. But, the H.S. did not see fit to inform us about the results of that mission. Let's read one more verse from EACH of the synoptic writers to connect this to our last lesson. Let's start with Luke. Luke 9:10. Please turn to that. Luke ch. 9, let's read v.10. "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." We learn about four things in the verse we just read: (#1) the apostles returned, (#2) they told Jesus what they had done and what had happened on their mission, (#3) Jesus took them aside to a desert place, and (#4) we learn that uninhabited place was near unto .Bethsaida, city #7 on your map, which was the ancestral hometown of Peter, Andrew and Philip and most likely James and John. NOW! Mark 6:30. One verse! Let's read v.30 in Mark ch. 6. Ready? "And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught." O.K. this seems to connect with v.29, and the death of John the Baptist. Now, let's go to Matthew. Let's read v.13 in ch. 14., i.e. Matthew 14:13. Let's read. "When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities." Alright, Matthew definitely connects this event to the time when Jesus got the news of Herod killing John the Baptist. Jesus was informed by the disciples of John, according to the preceding verse. The news of John must have shook the whole community. Many, in their grief about John; when they heard that Jesus was in the area went out to get Jesus' reaction.
This is where the book of John picks up again. Let's read four verses at the beginning of John chapter 6th. John 6:1-4. Are you ready? Let's read. "After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, the feast of the Jews, was nigh." O.K. now, on your map you should make a note that the Sea of Galilee was also called the Sea of Tiberias. I trust you remember that Tiberius Caesar was the Roman emperor at that time, according to Luke 3:1 and had been the emperor for more than 15 years. Thus, we can see they played political games back then, like name it after the president and maybe we can funnel in a little more tax money. But, what else did we learn in these four verses? First, that desert place near to Bethsaida where Jesus took the apostles for a little privacy was on a mountain. Second, John called that crowd a multitude. Thirdly, "the passover...was nigh." And that's an interesting bit of information. We can't be absolutely sure; but, I am assuming the passover of AD 32, i.e. assuming Jesus was born in AD 0. Thus, that was one year BEFORE Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. AND about one year AFTER the apostles had been appointed on that mountain in Galilee at the time of the sermon on the mount (Luke ch. 6). So, the apostles must have re-assembled with Jesus about March or April the way our calendars are made. Now this is not said; but, if you put two and two together, I think it is only reasonable that Jesus must have given instructions for the apostles to return a certain number of days before the passover for a little retreat, to discuss their mission and answer a few questions that naturally had arisen during their two by two door knocking campaign over Galilee. This was the natural time to come back together and rest up a day or two before heading out to Jerusalem, you see. The news of the death of John the Baptist and the passover coming up may account for that unexpected multitude that showed up on the mountain.
So, let's do some more reading. We'll take it in order Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Now, while your getting to Matt. 14:14, let me say we have a good deal of reading to do and this material is very self-explanatory, fortunately. And, I won't have much time for commentary at the end; so, hang on to every word. Let's read, beginning in Matt. 14:14. "And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time in now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves vituals. But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. He said, Bring them hither to me. And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children." O.K. did you get that? Five thousand men plus women and children. What a feast! Let's move to Mark ch. 6. We're going to start in v.31. Are you ready? Mark 6:31, let's read. "And 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. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of the cities, and out went them, and come together unto him. And Jesus, when he came out saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered and said unto them, give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. And when he had taken the five loves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men."
O.K. we're going to stop in Mark 6:44 and move on to Luke's account. Luke's account is the shortest. It begins in Luke 9:10; but we've already read v.10. So, let's begin in Luke 9:11. Have you got that? Let's read. "And 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. And 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. But 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 these people. For they were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, Make them sit down by fifties in a company. And they did so, and made them all sit down. Then 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. And they did eat, and were all filled: and there was taken up of fragment's that remained to them twelve baskets."
O.K. One more time, John 6:5. We've already read the first 4 verses. Beginning in v.5. John ch. 6. Are you ready? Let's read. "When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 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. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mount himself alone."
What can I say? What a miracle? Jesus fed five thousand men plus women and children. In Mark 6:31, Jesus told the apostles, "Come ye yourselves depart into a desert place, and rest a while..." The last of that verse says, "they had no leisure so much as to eat." So, at Jesus' invitation the twelve enter a little boat and headed across the lake to a mountain some place near to Bethsaida for a little retreat. But, before they could relax and give those muscles even one hour of rest; the crowds began to collect around them. Mark said in v.33, "the people...ran afoot out of all the cities." You see, on a clear day, people could see those little ships from a number of places along the shore. So, they could see where Jesus and the apostles were headed. And, this may have been a side trip for some already head for the passover and Jerusalem. Then, Look at v.3-4 in Mark, Jesus was moved with compassion. They were as sheep not having a shepherd. Matthew gave us that thought at the end of ch. 9. The news about John's death may have contributed to the confusion as well. But, as tired as Jesus and the twelve must have been from their journey over the hills of Galilee; they didn't say, GO AWAY, WE'RE TIRED. They didn't say, come back some other day! Luke in v.11 said Jesus RECEIVED THEM, and spake unto them — guess what Jesus spoke to them about? Have you got any idea? Send me a dollar, just like those healing T.V. evangelists, today, right? I'm afraid not! Luke said, he "spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing." So, CAN YOU visualize what a great gospel meeting that was on the hill over by Bethsaida? It lasted all day long .with an attendance of more than 5000. Undoubtedly a beautiful spring day. And, the people stayed until late afternoon. Finally, the sun was beginning to touch the mountains across the lake on the west and those apostles were getting restless. Surely, I don't have to tell you there were no street lights. Transportation was what my grandfather used to call "shank's pony," better known today as walking. Those apostles were trying to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. Why did so many follow Jesus? John answered that question in v.2, "BECAUSE, they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased." Did you notice in John 6:10, there was much grass in that place? The grass is always most beautiful about April when it first springs up. A beautiful place for a picnic. But, how much would it take to feed 5000 hungry men plus a few women and children? Now, tune in that little dialogue where the apostles interrupted Jesus and pleaded to send the crowd away. Look at Mark 6:35! "his disciples came unto him and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away..." Then in John 6:5, Jesus looked at Philip and said, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" Can't you just see Philip's expression? Lord, "two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient." I don't know how many dollars that was; but, I get the impression it sounded like an awfully lot to Philip. But, even if they had the money; where could they buy the food? There wasn't any fast food places down at the closest interchange. Then look a v.8-9 in John's account. Andrew chimed in with a little information and said, "There's a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?" Remember, Andrew was a fisherman, and he said two SMALL fishes. So, I'll take his word for it. We don't know who that lad was, he may have been the boy who invented the concession stand, I don't know. Maybe he had already tried to sell Andrew. And, barley loaves were a little INFERIOR as bread. Do you get the point? But, John said, Jesus ALREADY KNEW what he would do. Now, those apostles had been given powers to heal and to cast out demons before they went on that teaching mission over Galilee, two by two. But, that apparently didn't include miraculous feedings. Jesus had told them to eat with the people they taught. But, the prospect wasn't very good that evening, you see. So, Jesus just gave the whole crowd a miraculous picnic. Can you imagine how that affected the crowd when they sat down and saw all that food being distributed over the mountain. Boy, there's nothing like a fish sandwich when you're really hungry. So that barley-fish sandwich MUST HAVE hit the spot that day. And, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Have you heard that? A hot dog'll do it every time. When our belly is full, we think different. So, look at v.14 in John! "those men, when they had seen the miracle...said, This is of a truth that Prophet..." Now, they had stood there all day while Jesus preached about the kingdom that was coming. Did any one repent? I don't know. But that fish on barley done it! Some of those rascals decided to take Jesus by force and make him their king. When they saw miraculous bread they were ready to revolt against the Romans. You see, what they wanted was political salvation. They were not all that interested in Jesus' kingdom. So, after Jesus had provided a miraculous picnic, He had to sneak out the back way, when those rascals were not looking, to keep from being made a king by force. So, as that crowd was dispersing, we'll bring this lesson to an end. Have a good day.