We will look now at the specifics what Luke serves up to us in this story. His story is the most strongly connected to what has gone before it. The grammatical construction of Luke’s opening for this section makes it clear it is connected to what went before it. Various versions give us “And having returned . . .” “And returning . . .” “And when they returned . . .” It is clear that Luke is continuing the themes and the lessons of the previous segments.
Look at the uniquely Lukan elements that appear in this pericope.
- Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.
- He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing.
- We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people.
- 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 . . . blessed . . . broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people.
I commented two days ago on the fact that Jesus instructed the disciples to go preach and heal but to take no resources with them. When they returned He made no response on their report but withdrew, along with the disciples to Bethsaida. Only Luke refers to the destination as the town / city of Bethsaida. This has prompted debate over the contrast between town or remote area as the location of the feeding of the 5000. The fact that Luke refers to both the town and the remote area is no problem. He is not necessarily saying that the Feeding took place in Bethsaida but near there. In fact he adds via the disciples mouths “for we are in a desolate place”. I am convinced the reason Luke refers to Bethsaida is not to focus on the location of the town but to link the action to the “House of Fish”. It’s a thematic reason not a locational one.
Note too Jesus told the guys to preach about the Kingdom of God and heal and then when they returned Jesus was the one in focus preaching and healing. That is not a throw away line. Everything about this story is important to the training of the disciples. Note too the next element that is specifically Lukan: We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless perhaps we go and buy food for all these people. Think about what has happened and the context in which this is being said. There are huge implications lying behind this statement. This statement comes from the disciples who have been told to take no food and no money. Lord, do You have another plan? We have no money and we don’t have bread. Yes we together have 5 small loaves of barley bread from the boy’s lunch (a la Matthew). But Lord, that is a drop in the ocean in this sea of need. Yes Lord, you showed us how God provides for just the twelve of us. But Lord look at all those around us. This is another matter altogether. And this time we are not near the town and the people’s homes who welcomed us the last time we were out on assignment. What is going to happen this time? Where are the resources going to come from?
- Notice the chain of command in the next two Lukan distinctive elements. He said . . .
- They did so and they (the people) sat down.
- He took and passed on . . . they took and passed on.
Question: is it just food that is being passed on here? Or is there a deeper significance? Given also the biblical significance of bread and the fact that man should not live by bread alone. I will leave you to ponder on these things. If nothing else these disciples are being trained for higher things. If you think how God looked after you twelve guys was special, take in the magnitude of this event. 5 small loaves in this case feed 5000 people. The barley loaves were poor people’s bread, inferior and smaller in size. One loaf had to feed 1,000 people. That is purely based on the numbers given to us. 5 loaves : 5.000 men. The loaves were the smallest there were. And the men had women and children with them to feed as well. The mathematics of the situation shouted “impossibility”. Ah but God was there! The Bread of Life was there in the House of Bread. Anything is possible. Once you understand who this One is, there are no limits. All limitations have been shattered and anything is possible.
This is why Luke arranges his account to include the discussion and debate as to who Jesus is. The revelation is an on-going one. Just as it was for the twelve disciples so it is for you. Our appreciation of who Jesus is and what He can do comes in stages. This time when the disciples comment on the lack of food, Jesus tells the disciples “You give them something to eat.” You disciples can do it. You give to them from the God’s storehouse. The Bread of Life and the Bread that came from Heaven [Manna] came from above. Notice Jesus takes the five small barley loaves and looks heavenward and gave thanks. it’s not hard guys, when you have the right perspective. A heavenly perspective, a God-ward gaze. Nothing is impossible when He is the source.
There is an interesting element used in both Mark and Luke. He looked up to heaven, he blessed it, gave thanks for it and then kept giving them to the disciples to give to the people. The distribution was not just one time. Hey there were only 5 loaves. How many times can you give five loaves to 12 disciples? Well five times if you give them whole to five of the disciples. Or 12 times if you break them in half and a little more so that each disciple gets a portion. But no, the text is particular where it is recorded “and he kept giving it to them”. It was an on-going, continuous supply. That is what it takes to satisfy 5,000 men and their women and children and still have enough for 12 baskets of left overs.
Ask yourself about the maths of how 5 loaves and 2 fish can produce 12 basketfuls of left overs and upward of 7,000 people are fed to the point of being satisfied. The leftovers were more than what they started with. How does that work? What is so significant about 12 basketfuls of food left over?
I will pick up the pieces in the next Gem and give you the insight I have just had from God I believe – but you be the judge.
You regularly trust power you cannot see to do work you cannot accomplish. Jesus invites you to do the same with Him.Max Lucado
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.Corrie Ten Boom
Trust Him so completely that you are unafraid to put yourself in situations where you will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.Ian Vail
You grow in trust each time you obey and see Him do what He said He would do.Ian Vail
Do you realize you are in training much like the disciples? If you are a disciple of Jesus then you a WIP, a work in progress. Accept it, make progress and work it out.Ian Vail
God only gives us what we can handle, but sometimes I wish he didn’t trust me so much!Anon