Five thousand men were in attendance one day when Jesus was teaching on a hillside, and most scholars estimate that the entire crowd, including women and children, could have been closer to fifteen thousand people. Seeing such a multitude, Jesus told the disciples to give them something to eat.
An unnamed disciple suggested, “Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (verse 36). You can hear the guardedness, fear, and scarcity mentality in the suggestion. Yes, the disciples had seen Jesus heal an individual person here and there. A lame man walked. A leper’s skin cleared up. But this? Thousands of people were pressing in all around them. Fifteen thousand empty bellies were growling. Surely not even Jesus had enough to handle this situation.
Another disciple brought a new twist to the story: he found a boy with five loaves and two fish. That might have been a generous dinner for one person, or perhaps the child was carrying a meal for his family, but what could so little do for thousands of people? How could something so small possibly be enough?
But the Son of God accepted what he was given without recorded comment. He instructed the crowd to sit. Then he took the food, and he blessed it, broke it, and gave it.
And all the people ate.
The people of first-century Israel, like the people of today, lived with scarcity and fear. The Jewish people were heavily taxed and strictly ruled. Famine was often a problem. And so it’s even more miraculous that the Gospels tell us they ate that day until they were full. And not only that, but twelve baskets were left over.
All from a single lunch.
No wonder the story is included in each Gospel. That Jesus cared enough about the curious crowds of people to meet their physical needs with abundance illustrates the true nature of his message—in relation not only to the promise of eternal provision in heaven but also to his concern for their practical provision on earth.
The same is true for us today. When we’re faced with an antagonistic society, a lack of resources, and a deep sense of insecurity and uncertainty, Jesus’s miracle on the hillside offers a picture of God’s abundant provision.
Pray for God to multiply little into much for you, your loved ones, and the needy on your heart.