The Boy With Fish and Loaves
Open Your Bible
John 6:1-14, John 6:22-40, 2 Kings 4:42-44, Matthew 5:6
On my birthday, my team at work went to lunch. After the burgers and fries, and while I sipped a delicious peanut butter milkshake, they asked me the annual “birthday questions”: What surprised you most this year? What was the hardest part of the year? The best? What did you learn about the Lord this year?
I’ve learned many things about the Lord this year, but when I surveyed the last 365 days, it was encouraging and humbling to see a silver thread, a theme woven throughout the choices and challenges my family had made and experienced in 2019. The thread? His provision. His bountiful, beautiful, magnificent provision. He made a way in every desert (Isaiah 43:19). Every valley had a way out, every mountain had a gentle slope down.
Jesus provides beautifully and bountifully in today’s story about the boy who had five loaves and two fishes. We discover very little about the boy from the text itself, just that he was young (anywhere from a child to a man in his twenties), and that he was likely poor because the bread is described as being made of barley, which was common to the poor. But there’s another interesting detail tucked in there: it was almost Passover (John 6:4)—the Jewish holiday and feast celebrating God’s provision as He delivered His people from Egypt, the manna and quail they feasted on in the desert, and the promised land they inherited.
Bread is a silver thread running through Scripture, a reminder of God’s provision: manna in the desert (Exodus 16), Elisha’s miracle (2 Kings 4), and the provision of wheat for Ruth (Ruth 2). This event with the boy’s bread and fish took place shortly before Passover, and afterward, Jesus taught that He was the bread of life, sent from heaven (John 6:35). “This is the work of God,” Jesus said, “that you believe in the one he has sent” (v.29).
A few chapters later, during Passover, Jesus and His disciples broke bread together (John 13). While John doesn’t record the conversation where Jesus blesses the bread and the wine and institutes the Lord’s supper, the other three Gospels do. Jesus, who had a short time before taught His disciples that He is the very bread of life, now broke a loaf, blessed it, and shared it with them.
And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them,
and said, “This is my body, which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).
After He is risen, He provides again through bread. He walks the Emmaus Road with two disciples, who do not recognize Him, and they invite Him to stay with them that night. And “it was as he reclined at the table with them that he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” (Luke 24:30–31). The disciples race to Jerusalem to find the rest of the disciples, describing “how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (v.35).
How many times throughout Scripture has God made Himself known through the breaking of bread? The Israelites, wandering through the desert with more manna than they could eat. Widowed Ruth’s overflowing baskets of wheat. Elisha’s miracle. A poor boy and his five loaves, multiplied to feed thousands.
Jesus is the bread of life, and He died on the cross in the ultimate act of bountiful and beautiful provision. And we, the communion of saints, have the privilege of sharing in that bread every time we partake in the Lord’s Supper. May Christ, our bread of life, always be made known through the breaking of the bread, the sign of God’s abundant provision to His people, throughout history and today.