Study 6 FEEDING THE FIVE THOUSAND
OUR LORD’S MIRACLES
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portions: Matthew 14: 15-21; Mark 6:34-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-14)
This miracle of our Lord is the only one recorded in each of the four Gospels, and the key-verse for our study will be found in Matthew 14:16. All our Lord’s miracles were illustrations of His power, His grace and His mercy. He wrought miracles in the natural realm to show us what He is able and willing to do in the spiritual realm, so this miracle is a parable of spiritual truth.
Here was a large crowd of people in great physical need, and Jesus, by His mighty power and with the co-operation of His disciples, met that need. In the world today we see a vast multitude of men and women who are in desperate spiritual need, which the Lord waits and wants to meet; but His plan is to do it with the co-operation of His disciples. See this in the incident before us, and notice:-
1. THE CROWD THAT HE SAW
Matthew 14:14-15 tells us two things about the crowd: first, its size – “a large crowd”; second, its condition – it was evening, the people were weary, they were in a desert place and they were hungry. The word “perishing” describes their condition. Here is a picture of humanity without God, of men and women who are in desperate need of the Bread of life. As to the size of the crowd, there are millions of people today who are in this state of need; as to its condition, they are spiritually hungry, in a desert place, and they are perishing (John 3:16). This is what our Lord saw when He faced that crowd. Do we see the Christless crowds around us in this way? Oh, the desperate need of the multitudes…perishing…and in a desert place!
2. THE COMPASSION THAT HE FELT
This is brought before us in Matthew 14:14 and 16. The disciples wanted Jesus to send the multitudes away, but He said, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat!” The disciples felt powerless to help in this situation, and they had no deep concern for those around them. But Jesus was moved with compassion towards them. How guilty the Church has been in her attitude to the spiritual condition of the lost! Perishing souls have often been sent away empty and unsatisfied simply because the Church has been so preoccupied with other things. We Christians have often been so busy and so content to feed on Christ ourselves that we have ignored the need of the perishing millions around us. We have said, “Send them away!” But our Lord, filled with compassion, still says, “They do not need to go away!” If we had a compassion like His for the souls of men we would obey His command.
3. THE COMMAND THAT HE GAVE
This is mentioned in verse 16: “You give them something to eat.” These words constitute the all-inclusive job of the whole Church in this age. This is what evangelism is; it is giving the multitudes the Bread of life. This is why the Church is here, to give the Bread of life to the multitudes – Matthew 28:19. Why are we so slow to obey the Lord’s command? Perhaps we look at our own inadequacy, instead of at His power and sufficiency. We look at our five loaves and two fish, and we say, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6-7), or Gideon (Judges 6:15-16), we fail to remember that all God’s commands are God’s enablings. Just as truly as the Lord commands us to take the Bread of life to the perishing souls around us, so He guarantees that He will give us the enabling to do it if we will step forth in obedience to His command. In other words, He will do the work Himself, through us. This is what real Christian service is: it is the Lord doing His work through His people, and that is exactly what happened in our story. Look at verses 18-19, and notice:-
4. THE CO-OPERATION THAT HE NEEDED
He performed the miracle, He supplied the food, but it was conveyed to the hungry multitudes by the disciples. They were the instruments He used. He needed their co-operation before that great crowd could be fed. He ordained it that way, and all that is true today. His miracle-working power is adequate to meet the need of the souls of men, but He is dependent upon our co-operation if the multitudes are to be fed. Notice the three ways in which the disciples co-operated for the feeding of the multitude:-
- 1. They surrendered their inadequate resources to the Lord. Think of it! Five loaves and two fish – and that was all they had! Jesus said, “Bring them here to me”; and if we would place what we have fully at His disposal, He would soon work the miracle and the multiplication. The history of the Church is filled with stories of men and women who have brought their little to the Lord, and He has done His great work of multiplication which has resulted in the salvation and blessing of multitudes. Do you say, “I have so little to give Him”? Well, place yourself and your all at His feet, and He will do the rest.
- 2. They trusted the Lord to do His mighty work. They may not have had much faith, but they had enough to obey His command and place their inadequate resources into His hands, and when they did that He performed the miracle – Matthew 14:19. Do we really believe in the miracle-working power of the Lord? We quote Romans 1:16, but do we really believe this – or is it true today as it was many years ago? Matthew 13:58.
- 3. They were active in their service for the Lord. See what the last part of verse 19 says, and then face this question: What am I doing to bring the gospel to the lost? Am I doing anything? Then see how the story ends in Matthew 14:20-21.