When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
This is the only one of Jesus’ miracles that appears in all four gospels. In fact, it is so important that Jesus spends almost the rest of John 6 explaining the miracle and telling the Jews what it reveals about him (when you get the chance, read the entire chapter). Can you imagine the people wondering where all this food will be coming from as they sit in groups on the grass? Can you imagine the shock of the disciples as they see Jesus continue to hand them bread and fish to distribute, over and over again? Can you imagine how tired Jesus’ hands and arms must have been?
As Jesus later explained to the crowd, don’t follow me around hoping for more wonder bread, but look for and desire the bread of life (6:27), which is … me! I am the bread of life, who came down from heaven (6:33-35). Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have no life in you (6:53).
Did you notice how Jesus began this miracle? He took the bread, gave thanks, and then distributed it. Does that sound familiar? It is what we hear each time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper. As miraculous as his feeding of the multitude was, even more miraculous is Jesus feeding all his chosen ones his body and blood, for our salvation. As we look forward to celebrating that supper together, may we rejoice in the love and grace of this most perfect and wonderful Savior.
You are the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
your holy word the truth that rescues me.
Give me to eat and live with you above;
teach me to love your truth, for you are love. (Mary A. Lathbury)