The Need for Daily Food
Now the day was ending, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat; for here we are in a desolate place.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat!” And they said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” (For there were about five thousand men.) And He said to His disciples, “Have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” They did so, and had them all sit down. Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people. And they all ate and were satisfied; (9:12–17a)
Luke’s narrative now turns to the actual miracle. His simple, unadorned account, framed in straightforward language, should not be allowed to obscure the staggering implications of this creative miracle.
As the day was ending (lit., “began to decline” after the the sun reached its highpoint at noon) and the afternoon wore on, the apostles became concerned. Focused as they too often were on earthly things, the twelve came to Jesus and brashly, almost impertinently said to Him, “Send the crowd away, that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside and find lodging and get something to eat.” They wanted the Lord to disperse the crowd before it got any later because, they informed Him, “Here we are in a desolate place.”Erēmos (desolate) does not refer here to a desert, since there was abundant green grass (Mark 6:39), but rather to an uninhabited place. Evening was approaching, and there was nowhere for the crowd to acquire food.
The apostles’ concern once again exhibited their lack of faith (cf. Matt. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). They had a disconnect from all the miracles they had seen and they themselves had performed on the just-completed preaching tour. They might also have recalled that God had miraculously provided food in Israel’s past:
Now a man came from Baal-shalishah, and brought the man of God bread of the first fruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat.” His attendant said, “What, will I set this before a hundred men?” But he said, “Give them to the people that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’ ” So he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord. (2 Kings 4:42–44; cf. 1 Kings 17:10–16)
Incredibly, even after this amazing display of Christ’s divine power, the apostles’ faith was still weak. While Jesus, Peter, James, and John were on the mountain for the transfiguration, the nine who had not accompanied them were unable to cast out a demon because they failed to pray in faith (Luke 9:37–40). Exasperated by their continual lack of faith, Jesus sharply rebuked them, calling them an “unbelieving and perverted generation” (cf. Matt. 17:17). Rather than trust Jesus to deal with the obvious need for food, the apostles thought only of a human solution.
Jesus’ response, “You give them something to eat!”, seemingly detached from reality, must have amazed and surprised them. Incredulously they protested, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish. Andrew, anticipating the problem, had taken an inventory of what meager food the crowd possessed (John 6:8–9). Then somewhat sarcastically the apostles added, “unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.” Perhaps playing off their remark, the Lord asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” (John 6:5). Aghast, “Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii (nearly a year’s pay for a common laborer) worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little’ ” (v. 7). As Luke’s parenthetical note indicates, there were about five thousand men present. Including the women and children (Matt. 14:21), there could have been twenty to twenty-five thousand people present. The five loaves (small biscuits or crackers) and two small dried fish were obviously intended as a protest if not a mockery of the Lord’s request.
Their amazement must have turned to complete shock when the Lord commanded the apostles to “have them sit down to eat in groups of about fifty each.” Mark 6:40 notes that they “sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties.” Organizing the crowd like that would have made it easier to serve them. But the obvious question that would have arisen is, “Serve them what?” The apostles had just finished telling Jesus that they had nothing with which to feed them.
Despite their misgivings, the disciples obeyed the Lord and had the people all sit down. It was spring, just before Passover (John 6:4), and as previously noted there was plenty of green grass for the people to sit comfortably on. When all were seated, the Lord took the five loaves and the two fish, and then doing what every Jewish father did at a meal, looking up to heaven, He blessed them. By looking up to heaven, Jesus acknowledged God as the source of all provision. There was nothing mystical or spiritual that happened to the food by the Lord’s blessing; eulogeō (blessed) simply means that He gave thanks to God.
Then, also doing what a father would do at a meal, Jesus broke the loaves and fish. But unlike any father had ever done, He kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people. In that understated way Luke described this astonishing display of Christ’s power to create ex nihilo—the same power He used to create all things from nothing (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). There was no doubt as to the source of the food; it was obvious to all who saw that it was being created in the Lord’s hands and then given to the apostles to distribute to the crowd.
The people did not merely receive a minimal snack, but in keeping with God’s bountiful grace, they all ate and were satisfied. Satisfied translates a form of the verb chortazō, which was originally used to describe fattening animals, who gorged themselves until they could eat no more (it is so used in Rev. 19:21). The people ate their fill until they were satiated.
The Need for Provision for His Servants
and the broken pieces which they had left over were picked up, twelve baskets full. (9:17b)
In His lavish provision of food, Jesus did not forget His own. After the meal was over, the broken pieces of the loaves and the fish (Mark 6:43) which the crowd had left over were picked up by the apostles. In the Lord’s precision, nothing was wasted; the amount of leftover food was exactly enough to meet the needs of the Twelve.
There is a sad postscript to this remarkable story, which John records. The next day the crowds, thwarted in their attempt to make Him king, followed Jesus back to Capernaum (John 6:22–25). They expected Him to provide more food (v. 26), but when He refused and instead presented Himself as the Bread of Life come down from heaven (vv. 27–40), they rejected Him (vv. 41–66). So do all sinners who spurn God’s generosity, compassion, and kindness (cf. Rom. 2:4–5).
Believers need to proclaim the Lord’s power and mercy to those who need relief from life’s physical and emotional struggles. But supremely, we must present to them the Savior who alone delivers from sin. It is our task to point them to the all-sufficient Bread of Life, the Lord Jesus Christ, the embodiment of God’s compassion. Only through the salvation that He alone provides will lost sinners find eternal blessing and rest for their souls (Matt. 11:28–30).
Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Baskets
And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. (Luke 9:16–17)
Sometimes I forget how to follow Christ and have to learn all over again. If it has happened to me once, it has happened a thousand times: I learn some basic lesson in Christian discipleship, but soon I forget, and then I find myself struggling spiritually. When I stop to ask why, I discover that I have been missing one of the basics—something I already know but somehow have managed to forget, again.
What are some of the basic lessons that Christians sometimes forget to remember? We forget to study the Bible, not remembering that God’s Word gives us life. We forget the power of prayer, not remembering that God’s blessing is ours for the asking. We forget that we cannot make it on our own, not remembering our deep dependency on the Holy Spirit. We forget that we do not have to work our way to heaven, not remembering that God has accepted us in Christ. We forget how much God loves us, not remembering that we are his sons and daughters. We forget that our Father knows best, not remembering to trust his sovereign plan for our lives. And we forget that God will provide, not remembering his promise to give us our daily bread.
Whenever we come down with this kind of spiritual amnesia, we go into spiritual decline. Our relationship with Christ ceases to be a joy and starts becoming a chore. Instead of being carried along by the wind of the Spirit, we trudge along under our own power, weighed down by the guilt of unconfessed sin. We experience unnecessary feelings of loneliness, doubt, discouragement, and anxiety. Very soon, unless we learn how to follow Christ all over again, we will be ineffective in our service to God. How quickly we forget, and how badly we need to remember.
A Retreat Interrupted
The apostles had the same problem. They seemed to forget almost as much as they learned from Jesus, especially in the early days of their discipleship. There is a notable example of this in Luke 9, where Jesus feeds the five thousand. This is one of Jesus’ most famous miracles—one of only two miracles to appear in all four Gospels (the other is the resurrection). It comes near the end of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, at one of the climax points of the Gospel. Soon Peter will make his confession of the Christ. But first Jesus had one last great miracle to perform in Galilee, at the world’s most famous picnic.
Everyone knows the story, but people do not always remember the context. The apostles had just completed their internship, so to speak. They had been preaching the kingdom and healing people all over Galilee—an amazing experience of God’s power and provision in ministry. Now it was time for the disciples to go on a retreat and report on their short-term mission trip. According to Mark, they had not even had a chance to sit down and eat, so Jesus invited them to come away and rest (Mark 6:31). They must have been exhausted. What they needed most—and what we always need the most after a busy time in ministry—was time away with Jesus.
Jesus and his disciples were hoping to enjoy a little privacy, away from the public eye, but they could not escape for long: “On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing” (Luke 9:10–11).
This is a powerful witness to the compassion of Christ and his servant-hearted ministry. The hordes of people that followed Jesus were invading his privacy and disturbing his rest. Most people would have been tempted to ask them to come back later, or to send them away altogether. But Jesus welcomed all comers. He was willing to be inconvenienced and interrupted, as long as he had an opportunity to preach the kingdom and perform its miracles. The way Jesus welcomed these people reminds us that we can go to him at any time; he will listen to our cry for help. It also sets the pattern for our own ministry. Even when we are tired and weary, wanting to take a break from other people and their problems, we need to be ready to give them the gospel and to help them in any practical way we can.
Jesus was always ready to receive people in need, and when he received them, he was always able to help them. Luke tells us that Jesus cured anyone and everyone who needed healing. There was not one single case that he could not resolve. This is a powerful testimony to his grace. There is hope for everyone in Jesus, because he is able to save anyone who comes to him for help. This is as true for us spiritually as it was for the crowds medically. By the power of his grace, Jesus is able to forgive our sins, renew our spirits, and comfort our sorrows. He is able to touch the wounded places in our hearts and make us whole.
All of this provides the background to a very practical difficulty: “Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, ‘Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place’ ” (Luke 9:12). The sun was going down in the desert. The hour was late, the shadows were lengthening, and before long it would be getting dark. As the day wore on, the disciples began to have some logistical concerns. They wondered where everyone would get something to eat, not to mention a place to stay. They were out in a remote area, far from anything resembling a roadside hotel, and it was hard to imagine where so many people could find room and board.
Apparently the disciples were thinking about others, but the way they approached Jesus seems a little suspect. They were hungry too, and one wonders how much this had to do with their request, especially since it was more like a demand. Basically, the disciples told Jesus to get rid of the crowds. That way, everyone else could look after their own needs, while the disciples had Jesus all to themselves. But there were some things that they were forgetting and needed to remember.
Jesus Tests His Disciples
Jesus responded with a demand of his own. It was a test of their fitness for ministry—the final exam for their internship. Jesus said to his disciples, “You give them something to eat” (Luke 9:13).
This was a command, not a question. But what are we to make of it? Was Jesus serious, or not? Maybe he was trying to get the disciples to recognize their own inadequacy. On this interpretation, he wanted them to see that they were unable to give people something to eat, in the hope that they would remember to depend on him to supply whatever was needed.
This may be the right interpretation, but there is another one that we should at least consider. The statement Jesus made was emphatic, and the emphasis fell on the word “you.” Jesus was putting the onus on the apostles. He was saying, “You give them something to eat.” They were the ones who noticed what the people needed, and who wanted to send them away to get it. They were also the ones who had a responsibility to provide. Jesus was insistent: “You feed them!” Here it helps to remember the context. The apostles had just completed a short-term missions trip on which they had performed many miracles. Could it be that in the name of Christ, they also had the power to feed the hungry?
We will never know, because the disciples never obeyed Christ’s command. Instead, they said that they were powerless to help: “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people” (Luke 9:13). The very idea sounded absurd, especially when we learn that “there were about five thousand men” (Luke 9:14), not including the women or children. How could the disciples provide food for so many people? All they had was five loaves and two little fish—hardly enough to go around. Nor did they have the money to buy what was needed. Feeding everyone would have cost a fortune (eight months’ wages, according to Philip; see John 6:7), especially for men traveling without any money. The only reason the disciples even mentioned the idea of buying groceries was to show how impossible it was, and perhaps to show how ridiculous it was for Jesus even to suggest such a thing.
The trouble with the disciples was that they were looking at things from a merely human perspective. They were acting like men without a God, thinking only in terms of what they had on hand and what they had the ability to provide from their own resources, not considering the power and the providence of their God. David Gooding remarks that Jesus’ question ought to have “startled them into thinking that there might be more to the kingdom of God and the powers of Jesus than they had yet realized. Instead of that, the highest their thoughts could rise to was the possibility of going to the nearest merchants (wholesalers, of course) and of buying the necessary quantity of food.” The disciples were forgetting that they had a God, not remembering his power to provide.
At the very least, they should have asked Jesus to supply what they were unable to give. To be sure, the disciples had never seen this kind of miracle before. Jesus had been unveiling his powers gradually, healing one person at a time. He had not yet demonstrated his divine power to give people the bread of life. So we can understand why the disciples did not anticipate this miracle in advance. Yet by now they should have learned to expect the unexpected from Jesus, and to ask for his help whenever things were humanly impossible.
The feeding of the five thousand reminds us not to forget that God is not limited by our inadequacies. Rather, our very limitations can display the glory and the grace of Jesus Christ whenever he does what we are unable to do: His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
One man who understood this principle well was Robert Morrison, the famous missionary to China. In 1805 the London Missionary Society recruited Morrison to go to China. It was the time of the Napoleonic wars, however, and the only British ships traveling to China belonged to the East India Company, which refused to transport missionaries. So Morrison went to the United States, hoping to book passage to Canton. When the owner of the ship heard about Morrison’s plans, he was skeptical. “And so, Mr. Morrison,” he said, “do you really expect that you will make an impression on the idolatry of the great Chinese Empire?” “No, sir,” Morrison quickly replied, “I expect God will.” Through Morrison’s ministry, in all its weakness, God did make an impression on China’s idolatry, with spiritual results that last until the present day. It is when we know that we are at the end of our own resources that we are ready to see what God will do.
In this particular case, what God did was to make a miraculous provision, through his Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ:
And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” And they did so, and had them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. (Luke 9:14–17)
Everyone was astounded. Most Christians have heard this story so often that we forget how utterly amazed the people must have been. The tense of the Greek verb indicates that Jesus kept breaking and breaking the bread. The more he broke it, the more there was for everyone to eat, until finally everyone was satisfied. Five loaves were multiplied to feed five thousand. To put this miracle into perspective, imagine the logistics involved in planning a meal for five thousand people. Better yet, try to imagine having five thousand people show up unexpectedly for dinner. Then imagine trying to feed them all from the leftovers in the refrigerator!
The feeding of the five thousand was truly a miracle. This may seem obvious, but it needs to be said, because people sometimes deny the miracles of Christ, and this miracle has been treated with as much skepticism as any of the others. What some people doubt is that Jesus had the power to do anything that went beyond the ordinary laws of nature, as this miracle obviously did. By multiplying the loaves and fishes, Jesus was making new matter, which the skeptic says can neither be created nor destroyed.
So what really happened? Skeptics often say that everybody shared. They were so inspired by the person who contributed the five loaves and the two fish (a little boy, John tells us; John 6:9) that they all opened their bags and began to share whatever they had. The real miracle, some people say, was a miracle of generosity.
Such an interpretation robs Jesus of his glory. Curiously, it also requires nearly as much faith as it takes to believe in the miracle itself. Where would people who ran after Jesus on the spur of the moment get so much food? If they had brought their own food, then why were the disciples worried about them? And what would be the point of passing it all in and then having Jesus pass it all out again?
The real difficulty, however, is that a merely natural explanation contradicts what we read in Luke and the other Gospels. The Bible gives four different accounts of what happened that day—two that come directly from eyewitnesses (Matthew and John)—and they all agree on the basic events. Jesus did this miracle out in the open, where everyone could see it. To their complete astonishment, people saw Jesus give them more and more food from the same five loaves and the same two fish. It was so impossible that none of them could explain it, but none of them could deny it either: it was a real miracle.
The Meanings of the Miracle
The most obvious meaning of this miracle is that God will provide. As he provided for his people in the wilderness, so he will provide for us—not in the same miraculous way, perhaps, but by the same powerful grace.
We need to remember this because sometimes we are tempted to forget. God has promised to provide for our needs, both as the church and as individual Christians. He will give us our daily bread, providing food, clothing, and shelter. He will meet our needs for friendship and fellowship. He will give us the guidance that we seek in faith. He will provide a way for us to serve him. And when God gives us the opportunity to serve, he will give us all the resources we need to fulfill our calling. We are not limited by what we have on hand, or by what we are able to provide for ourselves; we are enabled by the power and providence of God.
God’s provision is abundant. The disciples kept going back to Jesus for more food, and every time they went back, there was always more. In the words of Alexander Maclaren, “The pieces grew under his touch, and the disciples always found his hands full when they came back with their own empty.” Even after everyone was fully and finally satisfied, there was still more left over: twelve full baskets of broken pieces (Luke 9:17). In other words, there was one basket of leftovers for each and every disciple. This was a powerful object lesson in the abundance of God’s grace. The weight of those baskets would help the disciples remember that Jesus had provided far more than they ever expected.
Every time God meets our needs, we should savor the abundance of his provision, so that the next time we find ourselves in need, we do not forget to trust in him. Even if we have learned this lesson before, there are times when we need to learn it all over again. God has provided for us in the past, and he can be trusted to provide for us again in the future. How long will his provision continue? All through life, and then on through eternity. In the words of one little poem, “Yesterday, God helped me, / Today He’ll do the same. / How long will this continue? / Forever—praise his name.”
When we think of the feeding of the five thousand, we probably think first of material provision. That is not the only meaning of this miracle, however. Jesus really did meet the material needs of the people who listened to him preach, and unless he did, there is nothing else for us to learn from this miracle. The only God who can help us is a God who is able to provide. Nevertheless, meeting people’s physical needs was not the miracle’s only purpose. Like all of his miracles, the feeding of the five thousand teaches us even deeper truths about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
To begin with, the miracle testifies to the deity of Jesus Christ. When Luke describes the location of this miracle as “a desolate place” (Luke 9:12), he calls us to think back to Israel’s wanderings through the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land (see Ex. 16). This connection is made even more explicit in the Gospel of John, who tells us that after Jesus performed this miracle, people asked him about the manna in the wilderness (John 6:31). They were making a connection between what Jesus provided for them and what God had provided for his people during the exodus from Egypt. This was the right connection to make. Just as God had provided daily manna in the days of Moses, so now once again God was providing bread in the wilderness, in the person of his Son.
Incidentally, this provides a clear answer to Herod’s earlier question (Luke 9:9): Who is this Jesus? The answer is that he is God the Great Provider. This is something to remember, and not to forget: Jesus is one and the same as the God of the Old Testament, who cares and provides for his people.
What else does this miracle teach? The power of prayer. The feeding of the five thousand teaches us to trust God for what we need, not worrying about how we will get it, but asking God to provide. Here Jesus is our great example. The disciples were anxious about where people could get some food. But Jesus was not worried at all; he simply prayed. Thanking God, Jesus “looked up to heaven and said a blessing” (Luke 9:16). In contrast to his disciples, who were only looking at the difficulties of their situation, Jesus looked to his Father in heaven. Perhaps when he blessed God he used the ancient Jewish table benediction: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who bringest forth bread from the earth.” But whatever he said, Jesus said it with his eyes turned to his Father, in dependence upon his grace.
We can turn in the same direction. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Now, whenever we find ourselves in any need, we remember to turn to our Father in prayer, trusting him to provide. Then we turn to him again in thanksgiving, as Jesus did, blessing him for our daily bread.
This miracle also shows that we have a part to play in the work that Jesus is doing on earth. Jesus was the one who broke the bread, but he gave it to his disciples to distribute. Of course Jesus could have handled the distribution himself. If he had the power to produce the bread, then obviously he had the power to pass it out as well. Instead, “he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd” (Luke 9:16). Earlier Jesus told the disciples to give the people something to eat, and now they were doing it. They could not provide the food themselves; only Jesus could do that. But there were some things that they could do. They could recognize people’s needs; they could give Jesus what they had—the loaves and the fish; and they could give away what Jesus provided. Thus the people would be fed through their ministry.
This miracle is virtually a parable for Christian ministry. From time to time we see what people need, spiritually and otherwise. Whatever we have to give is woefully inadequate, but we offer our time and our talents, the best that we are able to give. Then Jesus takes it, and by the supernatural power of his grace, he uses it to help people. He also uses us in the process, so that we join in the work of his kingdom. This is what the apostles experienced in the early church. God gave them gifts of preaching, prayer, and evangelism. In their own strength they would have accomplished nothing, even for all their gifts. But they offered themselves in ministry to the service of Jesus Christ, and by the provision of his grace, they were able to spread the gospel all over the world.
We need to remember that we have the same privilege today. God is using us to teach his Word, share the gospel, and demonstrate the love of Christ through deeds of mercy. Even if we do not feel that we have very much to offer, God can multiply our ministry. We must never forget to give what we have for the work of God’s kingdom, and then ask God to use it for the glory of Jesus Christ. Norval Geldenhuys comments:
It is vain for us to attempt by ourselves to give real food to needy mankind with our five little loaves and two fishes—the insignificant gifts and powers possessed by us. But when we place at His disposal, in faith and obedience, everything we have received from Him, He will, in spite of our own insignificance and poverty, use us nevertheless to feed souls with the bread of eternal life. He sanctifies, blesses and increases our talents and powers, everything consecrated by us to His service.
The Sufficiency of Christ
These are all valuable lessons to learn. One of the reasons this miracle has such a special place in the hearts of God’s people is that it speaks to so many of our needs. But after everything else has been said about this passage, the main lesson is simply this: all we really need is Jesus.
The miraculous feeding of the five thousand met people’s physical needs. In fact, once they had tasted the bread that Jesus provided, they wanted to eat it all the time. In the Gospel of John, Jesus accuses them of only coming to him for physical food. “You are seeking me,” he said, “because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26). But if that is all that people wanted, they were missing the point. “Do not labor for the food that perishes,” Jesus went on to say, “but for the food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). In other words, the meaning of the miracle is spiritual and eternal, not merely temporal and physical.
Going back to the Old Testament, physical bread was always a symbol of spiritual sustenance. This was true of the manna in the wilderness. Moses told the children of Israel that God gave them special bread so they would “know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3). Similarly, Isaiah describes salvation in terms of eating bread that truly satisfies (Isa. 55:1–3). Bread means life, and the Bible uses this physical symbol to speak of the spiritual life that we have in God.
By feeding the five thousand, Jesus was teaching us to find our life in him. We could probably infer this from the Gospel of Luke, but in case there is any doubt, the Gospel of John makes it perfectly explicit. There Jesus says “the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), he goes on to say; “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51). Jesus is our nourishment and provision, our sustenance and satisfaction. “The heart of man,” wrote J. C. Ryle, “can never be satisfied with the things of this world. It is always empty, and hungry, and thirsty, and dissatisfied, till it comes to Christ.” It is in Christ that we have the forgiveness of sins, a new relationship with God, and all the other blessings of salvation.
Jesus gives us this life through his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave. Later he said, “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). In other words, he would offer his very body for our salvation. Jesus was speaking of his crucifixion, of the life that he gave for our sins when he died on the cross. Of all the things that we need to remember and never forget, this is the most important: the provision of eternal life that comes by trusting in Christ crucified.
What we need is Jesus. Only Jesus. The Jesus who offers his body as the true and everlasting bread. Are you still remembering this, or have you been forgetting?
Food for all (9:10–17)
Jesus had listened to all the blessings the disciples had received during their travels. Now he seeks time alone with God. Christ felt the need for private prayer, yet did not use his love of prayer as a reason to turn the crowds away, but rather ministered to the crowds in exactly the same way as he had taught his disciples. In Luke 9:2 he told them to ‘preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick’. Here he ‘spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing’ (v. 11).
As the day drew to its close, the Lord’s disciples, who had come with the multitudes, suggested quite understandably that the people find lodging and food in the surrounding villages. What he wanted to teach them, however, was that the same provision they had received during their missionary journey was available to this vast crowd. The God who sustains the universe would provide. The disciples, who had been the means of healing and blessing to others, must now give food to this crowd (v. 13).
Taking just one meal, Christ multiplied the loaves and fish, and fed the whole crowd. Verse 16 shows how the Lord looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves and fish. Twelve baskets of crumbs were left over, a further proof that nothing is too hard for the Lord. So important is this occurrence to our Lord’s ministry that this incident is recorded in all four Gospels.
For further study
- Look up Luke 9:3. Consider the many examples in Scripture of those who have denied themselves material help in order to prove the power of God: Gideon’s army reduced to three hundred (Judg. 7:3–7); David and the sling (1 Sam. 17:38–40); Ezra and a military guard (Ezra 8:21–23).
- See Luke 9:3. How far can it be said that God rewards trust in him (see Ps. 37:39, 40)?
- Consider Luke 9:3 further. It might be said, ‘The church is always strongest when free from material wealth and earthly power’. Do you agree with this statement?
- Look at Luke 9:16, 17. Elisha multiplied barley loaves and corn (2 Kings 4:42–44). What makes the miracle of Jesus so much greater?
To think about and discuss
- Luke 9:1–6. How important are years of formal training in a college for missionaries before they are sent out by a church? Are there other ways by which they can be equipped to serve God?
- Consider Luke 9:3. How far do we expect missionaries to trust God for daily sustenance? Should we expect this of all Christians?