In Part one we ended with the question, who fed the five thousand, Jesus or the Disciples?
The Scripture seems unclear on the question. In some versions of the Gospels it is the disciples handing out the food, in others it is Jesus.
We know that not one word of Scripture contradicts any other, so the answer must be that both accounts are true. But how?
We won’t know until we join Jesus in Heaven, but here is how I picture it having happened, based on what the Bible tells us about faith and God’s miraculous power.
Like the Apostles our faith is limited by our human understanding but Jesus expects more.
Let’s look at this from the point of view of the disciples.
They had spent the day listening to Jesus preach in the blistering desert heat. Surrounded and overwhelmed by a crowd of 5,000 men, with wives and children some estimate as many as 20,000 may have been gathered there. At a time when the total population was only a few hundred thousand. All of them listening but getting agitated for food as anyone would. The disciples would have shared this human need and went to Jesus.
His disciples came to Him, saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” Matthew 14:15
They wanted to solve the problem in a worldly way. But Jesus said to them,
“They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:16
We know the disciples went out into the crowd after dividing it into groups. So there are Jesus’ disciples each responsible for feeding hundreds of people. And with only a tiny portion of food in their bag. It is in this moment, when the disciples approach those they must feed that the miracle is performed by Jesus.
What has Jesus said about faith?
“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Mark 11:24
This is mirrored later in the New Testament,
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
I believe that Jesus performed the miracle as a fulfillment to meet us in our faithfulness. The disciples are not passive in this. On the contrary, I believe their commitment to tzedakah, biblical righteousness, and faithfulness is critical to this story.
Imagine how worn out and hungry the disciples would have been after spending a day without eating in the desert heat wouldn’t you be hungry too?
But the words of Jesus blessing over the bread, a blessing that wouldn’t just be giving thanks to God but reminding the crowd all they have belongs to Him, for His ends. The disciples didn’t feed themselves first, but showed their compassion for the crowd and their knowledge that the food is really God’s, made them feed all the hundreds gathered before thinking of themselves.
They had shown a commitment to God’s commandment of tzedakah, righteousness, in caring for the gathered crowd.
Then the disciples showed their faith in Jesus. When the disciples reached into their baskets I believe there was only the small offering provided by the child but when they reached into the basket their faith was rewarded and Jesus provided more to be shared with the rest of the crowd. God is multiplying the miracle!
I have seen this as well in my work with Leket Israel: the National Food Bank. Our founder, Joseph Gitler began his mission to feed the poor of Israel delivering food out of his Subaru. Now, 20 years later, we are able to feed over 200,000 Israelis in need each week. Every dollar we receive allows us to source $4 of food, allowing our donors to see their contribution multiplied. Our Christians supporters can be part of the miracle of modern Israel.