Scripture Reading: Matthew 14:14-21, Luke 5:4-11, John 21:1-11, John 2:1-11
Food is an unmistakable theme in the miracles of Jesus. There is no aspect of humanity that Jesus ignored, including our need for food.
Jesus ate. He drank. He attended dinner parties—lots of them. The beginning of His earthly ministry included the miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding reception (John 2:1-11). And before He ascended back into heaven, He cooked His disciples breakfast with fish He’d miraculously jammed into their nets (John 21:1-14). In today’s reading, we see that He also supernaturally fed tens of thousands of followers.
This helps me to see the practical side of Jesus more clearly. Sure, His supernatural nature is awesome, and we’re keenly aware of our need to see His hand in the “big stuff.” But we tend to whizz right past the fact that He sees and responds to both our extraordinary and our ordinary needs.
In Matthew 14, we find one of Christ’s most famous miracles, what’s known as the “Feeding of the Five Thousand.” But this was actually a miracle on a much grander scale. Scripture says five thousand men were present “besides women and children” (v.21), meaning there were likely closer to 15,000 people gathered around Jesus—and He fed every single one of them until they were full (v.20).
These were people shot through with grief and sorrow. John the Baptist, one of their spiritual heroes, had just been brutally beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12). At the news of His dear cousin’s murder, Jesus retreated to a desolate place to mourn, but the grieving crowds followed Him, desperate for hope in the midst of hurt, for light in the darkness.
As their Maker, Jesus knew the crowd’s deepest needs were spiritual, yet He did not race past their immediate physical needs. In verse 14 we catch a glimpse of a thread that weaves throughout the miracles of Jesus: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them.”
Compassion motivated Jesus to feed the crowds. He satisfied their physical hunger so they could see that He alone is capable of satisfying their spiritual hunger.
In Mark 8:1-10 we see that another crowd tracked Jesus down and remained with Him to hear Him teach for three days—without food. If He sent them home, some would faint on the way (v.3). Again, He responded with compassion, meeting their physical needs so they could digest the spiritual truths He desired to teach them. He gave them bread and fish so that they could “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
Perhaps food is just a tether keeping us close to the truth that we are not our own sustainers. Is it possible that God hard-wired our physical needs into our DNA to teach us of our bigger, constant need for Him? What if every meal were a parable teaching us that Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35), the True Bread from Heaven (John 6:32), the Grain of Wheat (John 12:24), and the Living Water (John 4:10-11).
Jesus’ miracles are never about the miracle itself. They’re about Jesus. He doesn’t intervene in our lives primarily for our comfort, but for His glory, that we would turn to Him. Every last one of our needs points to and is met in Him.
Erin Davis is an author, blogger, and speaker who loves to see women of all ages run to the deep well of God’s Word. When she’s not writing, you can find Erin chasing chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.