Bible Study Series On Miracles: Feeding 5,000

Symbols in Miracles
How the Miracles Jesus performed relate to Christian Living
Week Two: “They were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)
Feeding 5,000
May 3, 2011

Reference Verse: John 6: 1-14.

Summary: Many people had heard that Jesus could perform miracles and had healed many of the sick. Jesus had gone with His disciples to a mountain off the shore of Sea of Tiberias to find solitude after learning that John the Baptist had been beheaded by Herod Antipas, who ruled Galilee and Perea. As He arrived, multitudes of people approached Him and the Disciples to see if what they had heard was true. A crowd of 5,000 had traveled a long way to see Jesus and His Disciples suggested to Him that He turn them away, but He insisted that they be fed. In John 6:9, Andrew (Simon Peter’s brother, says “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”. Jesus directs the people to sit and distributes the fish and the bread after He blesses it. Once everyone present has food, Jesus directs the Disciples to gather the left over and twelve baskets of food are accounted of as being left over.


-The number of people present is clearly a conservative estimate. We often forget that during this time, women and children were not very well accounted for or included in government bodies.
– John 6:10 says “about five thousand men were there.” (NIV). That is just the men. We have no way of actually knowing how many women or children were there, but if we were to assume conservatively that each man either had one woman or one child with them, the number of people present could have easily topped 10,000, if not much more.
– Knowing this, how does it change the magnitude of this miracle?
– The miracle itself is accounted for in each Gospel. The only variation is the number of people present. This is acceptable because it is doubtful there was a guestbook keeper signing people in and out during the miracle.
– The twelve baskets that remained are said to represent the twelve tribes of Israel, but nobody knows for certain.

What Does It Mean?

For starters, it is IMPOSSIBLE for man to take two small fish and five barley loaves and feed 50 people, let alone 500 or 5,000 people. The number of people present is not as important as the miracle itself. To say 5,000 were present was just as big a deal as saying 4,000 were present. What it means, is that, there was a vast amount of people present to see the miracle take place.

The miracle represents what we, as Christians, are called to do with the Word of God. Jesus was the living, breathing Word of God who not only blessed the food before He distributed it, but He distributed in excess of twelve baskets. In that respect, the abundance of food left over represents the abundance of the Word of God. Let’s examine statistics. There are 31, 103 verses PLUS 137 verses that are unnumbered. (Psalms). There are roughly 774,746 words present depending on the version you use. How abundant is that? And this is only a fraction of what the Word of God is.

Lets face it, the Word of God is infinite. The Bible was written with God’s influence, but man could not possibly understand each and every sign, miracle, parable, or intervention that God performed. The book of John even says that there were numerous other miracles that Jesus performed that were not even documented. That means that even Jesus performed His miracles and signs abundantly.

As Christians, when we dedicate our lives to God, His Word becomes the bread and the fish. There are millions of people out there who do not know the Word of God or have heard false teaching of the Word of God who are hungry for something greater in their lives. People are starving for food that will not only fill their very souls, but cleanse them too. We are called to witness and give testimony about Jesus and we sometimes worry that we don’t know what to say to someone who seems hesitant. The fact is, the word of God is so abundant and so infinite that we can never run out of things to say about Him. The things He does in each person’s life are extremely unique and no blessing is ever the same for two people.

Look at John 6:14: “After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”. The people took in the miracle and took in Christ through it. Christ revealed Himself to them through the food He dispersed. Their souls were confused and starving, “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36).

John 6:26-27 “Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Questions For Discussion

1)The Disciples acted like they had never seen Jesus perform a miracle when they asked Him to turn the crowds away due to their lack of food. When you are up against a difficult situation, how hard is it for you to remember how God has helped you through tough times before?

2)What is your biggest roadblock in witnessing to someone who does not believe? Or to a person of another faith?

3)Imagine yourself in that time. You are in the very back of the crowd, but you receive the same amount of fish and bread as everyone else. What is the first thought going through your head?


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My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. I post theology and have leaned towards an emphasis on domestic violence and forgiveness. I serve as Ambassador for the state of Virginia in the National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse. I hold a Masters of Divinity from Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor from Liberty University. I have studied in the two “major fields” of theological thought. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

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