Jesus multiplying 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5000 families is the only miracle that is mentioned in all four Gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-
14). Furthermore, Matthew and Mark also have the story of feeding 4000 families with seven loaves and a few fish. This sounds so familiar that it can be easy to let this slide without looking at it very closely.
But, as always with the Bible, it is worthwhile to look a little closer. It hearkens back to Exodus and manna in the desert, looks forward to the Last Supper and therefore the Cross.
This story is in Matthew 14. Chapter 13 ended with Jesus being rejected by His own people in Nazareth. Then Herod hears about Jesus. This is the son of Herod the Great, who caused
so much trouble in the beginning of Matthew. The story of the birth of Jesus in Matthew has echoes of the story of Exodus, and Herod’s slaughter of the innocents echoes Pharaoh’s
killing of the first born of the Israelites. Then we are told the story of the death of John the Baptist, which foreshadows the death of Jesus. All four gospels mention this is a deserted
place, reminding us of the desert the Israelites crossed, and where God fed them with manna. John will drive home the comparison with Moses and manna.
Matthew mentions Jesus has the people sit down in the grass. Mark mentions that it is green grass (sorry to you Blue Grass fans). John mentions “Now there was a great deal of grass in
that place (6:10).” I asked myself why, and then thought, “Who makes us recline in green pastures?” (See Psalm 23). Mark mentions that when Jesus “disembarked and saw the vast
crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd (6:34).” John will get deeper into the idea of Jesus the Good Shepherd in chapter 10. See
also Isaiah 40:11 and Ezekiel 34.
After the Passover, the Israelites flee Egypt crossing the Red Sea. After the feeding of the 5000, the next thing is the story of Jesus walking on water (Moses parts the water. Impressive. Jesus walks right over it. So there). We will get further into that next week.
As we reflect on Jesus’ mighty miracle, we consider the long stretch of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt, the Passover and Exodus, the trek into the desert, sustained by manna and
quail, and the entry into the Promised Land. Brant Petre in “The Jewish Roots of the Eucharist” teaches that the Israelites’ expectation of the coming of the Messiah included an
expectation of a new Passover, a new Exodus and new manna on the way to a new Promised Land. How does that shed light on our journey?
Men, watch for something called “Into the Breach.” The Church needs good men. The
world needs good men. More on this later.