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Loaves and Fishes

QUESTION: Loaves and fishes: How did Jesus do it?


The biblical account of the feeding of the five thousand with loaves and fishes is one of the few stories that are recounted by all four of the Gospel writers. Each of the accounts contains a verse similar to this one found in the Book of Matthew: "They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children" (Matthew 14:20-21).

How did Jesus do it? To answer this question, we must look at two obvious points that are crucial to an understanding of this great deed. First, the act that Jesus performed was humanly impossible. Without any contradiction, a lunch of two fish and five loaves of bread, while more than enough for a young boy, was insufficient to feed upwards of 12,000 individuals (taking into account the fact that there were women and children besides the 5000 men). Second, Jesus of Nazareth was more than a man. His disciples, who played a key role in this happening, were not yet fully aware of who Jesus really was though they had already seen His power.

By now, Jesus had taken authority over the elements, healed a paralyzed man, and raised a dead girl. Nevertheless, they had not understood that the things that He had done, including this deed, were only things that could be done by God Himself. They had not realized that Jesus was actually God come to earth in human form. We know this is true from Christ's conversation with Philip: "Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.' Jesus answered: 'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"?" (John 14:8-9).

The feeding of the five thousand or the multiplying of the loaves and fishes was a miracle. How did Jesus do it? He did it by the power of God. This is a simplistic statement, but carries an enormous truth. It is not so much that the power of God is beyond human power as that the power of God is other than human power. That this "other than human" power is indefinably great is evident. We may know what kind of power it is through the things that He has created, from the unique pattern of every snowflake that falls, to the ability of birds to fly in defiance of the laws of gravity. These are miracles we see everyday.

God's power is unfathomable; this miracle is a clear example of this. Consider what was done: "'Bring them here to me,' he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people" (Matthew 14:18-19).

Somewhere, between the time that Jesus received the food and the time that He handed it back to the disciples to feed the people, the meal had multiplied. Here is the invisible interaction of heaven and earth, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of natural things, Jesus Christ, God, and man. It is similar to the miracle of the water turned to wine. The jugs contained water, but when the liquid was poured out, it was good wine. When did the change take place? How did the multiplication occur? Miracles are only miracles to we humans; miracles are what God does by virtue of who He is and the power inherent in His being. Jesus saw a need through His eyes of compassion; the people were hungry and needed food. He, through the power of God simply did what needed to be done. There is always the two-fold significance to the acts of Jesus. He meets a need and He shows forth the glory of God. It was done by the mingling of love and power.

Learn More About the Miracles of Jesus!

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