Day 9

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

from the John reading plan


John 5:31-47, John 6:1-21, Numbers 11:21-23, 2 Kings 4:42-44

BY Melanie Rainer

When I read the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand, the first thing I always think of is a Sunday School teacher reading the passage, then exclaiming, “But wait! There’s more!” like a television infomercial. “Did you catch that? The men numbered five thousand. There must have been triple or quadruple that when you add the women and children!” 

To my Sunday School teacher, this information served to amplify the already stunning miracle, adding to our awe of Jesus. Feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish is impressive enough, but what if it were really fifteen or twenty thousand? 

But for me, one of the best gifts of reading Scripture, especially familiar stories, isn’t these amplifications. It’s how new things rise to the top when we read and reread. In today’s reading, the parallel stories of Numbers 11 and John 6 stopped me in my tracks. I’ve read both of them dozens of times, heard them taught from my earliest Sunday School days, and yet, the way they mirror each other captivated me today. Scripture is such a sprawling web of connections and references and adjunct stories; beginning to untangle it never gets old. 

In Numbers 11, the Israelites have fled from slavery in Egypt. But when they are alone in the desert, they have nothing. Nothing to eat, nothing to drink, no schedule or plan or anything. So they, naturally, begin to complain and ask Moses if there’s a plan. Moses presses the Lord for a response:

“But Moses replied, ‘I’m in the middle of a people with six hundred thousand foot soldiers, yet you say, “I will give them meat, and they will eat for a month.” If flocks and herds were slaughtered for them, would they have enough? Or if all the fish in the sea were caught for them, would they have enough?’” (Numbers 11:21–22). 

Jesus and the disciples share a similar back-and-forth. Philip says, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little” (John 6:7). Then Jesus takes the five loaves and the two fish and feeds everyone, with abundant leftovers. 

We often bring our own needs before God with the same doubt and scoffing as the Israelites and Philip. We ask for much with little faith. In these two stories, we see the Lord provide because our God is a God of abundance, not scarcity, He cares for us lavishly. He doesn’t offer the bare minimum, only what we need to survive. He provides “everything required for life and godliness” through the gift of Jesus (2Peter 1:3). 

Post Comments (96)

96 thoughts on "Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand"

  1. Erin King says:

    I always appreciate parallels in scripture, especially considering that within this story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, he mentions Moses to those who were firmly relying on Moses at that time.

    Snap to the verses from Numbers and we see that very same Moses struggling with exactly what Jesus would do thousands of years later with apparent ease—feed thousands (and did you catch that there were just enough baskets left over for each disciple to get one?? We see you, Jesus.)

    23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm weak? Now you will see whether or not what I have promised will happen to you.” – Numbers 11:23

    In Moses’s doubt, The Lord reminds him that He is a promise-keeper. How unbelievably fitting that Jesus reminds the disciples (and the whole world) that He is indeed the perfect picture of his Father, and that he, too, to the point of death, keeps His promises. Feeding so many people was just another VISUAL reminder that Jesus came to keep the promise of his Father to save and provide for all people.

  2. Erin King says:

    I always appreciate parallels in scripture, especially considering that within this story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, he mentions Moses to those who were firmly relying on Moses at that time.
    Snap to the verses from Numbers and we see that very same Moses struggling with exactly what Jesus would do thousands of years later with apparent ease—feed thousands (and did you catch that there were just enough baskets left over for each disciple to get one?? We see you, Jesus.)

    23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm weak? Now you will see whether or not what I have promised will happen to you.” – Numbers 11:23

    In Moses’s doubt, The Lord reminds him that He is a promise-keeper. How unbelievably fitting that Jesus reminds the disciples (and the whole world) that He is indeed the perfect picture of his Father, and that he, too, to the point of death, keeps His promises.

  3. Erin King says:

    I always appreciate parallels in scripture, especially considering that within this story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, he mentions Moses to those who were firmly relying on Moses.
    Snap to the verses from Numbers and we see that very same Moses struggling with exactly what Jesus would do thousands of years later with apparent ease—feed thousands (and did you catch that there were just enough baskets left over for each disciple to get one?? We see you, Jesus.)

    23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm weak? Now you will see whether or not what I have promised will happen to you.” – Numbers 11:23

  4. Erin King says:

    I always appreciate parallels in scripture, especially considering that within this story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, he mentions Moses to those who were firmly resting in who Moses was at the time.
    Snap to the verses from Numbers and we see that very same man struggling with exactly what Jesus would do thousands of years later with apparent ease—feed thousands (and did you catch that there were just enough baskets left over for each disciple to get one?? We see you, Jesus.)

  5. Erin King says:

    I always appreciate parallels in scripture, especially considering that within this story of Jesus feeding the 5,000, he mentions Moses to those who were firmly resting in who Moses was at the time.

  6. K D says:

    I love the parallel between the two stories. God truly is so faithful!

  7. Shannon Lowry says:

    Love love love this reading today

  8. Krista Vangsgard says:

    Ruth, this was exactly what I needed to read tonight! It popped out to me as I was reading John 5:39-40 also — but now it really hit me in the heart. Thank you! I too have looked at my Bible to avoid Jesus’s eyes. I will be praying over your words and ask that God fills us (and everyone reading this) with that expectant joy of friendship with Jesus and for the hunger for quality time with Him, no matter what that may look like.

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