Jesus Fed The Five Thousand

One of the most fascinating stories in the gospels happened when Jesus miraculously fed more than five thousand people. We can find this event recorded by all four of the gospel writers.

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”  John 6:8-9

Actually, Jesus fed two large crowds. The other group consisted of more than four thousand people. Only two of the gospels, Matthew and Mark recorded that event.

Fortunately, Jesus mentioned both of these times in a conversation He had with His disciples. If it wasn’t for that, scholars may have disputed how many crowds He fed, one crowd or two.

Don’t you remember the five thousand I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? Or the four thousand I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? Matthew 16:9-10

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The Lord didn’t plan on feeding the more than five thousand people, but then nothing took Jesus by surprise. He and His disciples were going to a place where they could spend some time alone.

The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile. Mark 6:30-31

In fact, three very significant things happened just before Jesus fed these five thousand people.

  1. The apostles returned to the Lord after completing their ministry tour. Luke 9:10
  2. Herod had John the Baptist killed by beheading him. Matthew 14:6-12
  3. Jesus revealed to the Jewish leaders that He was the Son of God. John 5:16-30

A Time to Get Away

So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. Mark 6:32

At least that was the plan. At this point in His ministry, His popularity grew beyond measure. This made “alone time” for them almost impossible.

But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them.  Mark 6:33

After the Lord and His disciples sat down, the huge crowd soon approached them. Of course, Jesus addressed their immediate need and then posed a question to Philip.

Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” John 6:5

The next verse says that Jesus only tested Philip. It also mentioned that He already knew how He would fulfill their need. The disciples, however, suggested that the crowd find their own food.

Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, “Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.” Luke 9:12

Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “You feed them.” In their minds, that was preposterous. They said they’d have to work for months just to make enough money to feed them.

Only John’s Gospel mentioned where they got the food for Jesus to have fed the five thousand.

Yet because it was such a small amount, Andrew asked a question we all might have asked.

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up.“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” John 6:8-9

What Jesus Didn’t Say

Jesus Fed

We all need to pay close attention to the next part of this story. Not what Jesus said, but what He didn’t say. He didn’t explain Himself nor did He write out a plan. He simply instructed them.

The Lord doesn’t ever owe us an explanation of the “how, when, or why’s” of anything He does. This valuable observation should stand as a lesson for us to always trust Him.

First, the Lord asked for God’s blessing on the food. Then Jesus handed it to His disciples until the more than five thousand people were fed.

After everyone had their fill, He instructed His disciples to gather all of the leftovers.

So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. John 6:13

After Jesus Fed the Five Thousand, Who Got the Leftovers?

Over five thousand people being miraculously fed by Jesus is a wonderful story. But without a life-changing application, that’s all it is, a story. Trusting the Lord is one lesson we’ve learned.

But I don’t think that is the only lesson that should apply to our lives. The second lesson started with the disciples collecting twelve baskets full of leftover food.

I’ve heard it taught that each disciple got to keep one of the baskets of food. I don’t agree with that conclusion. Why? Because they gave nothing.

The bread and fish came from a little boy. We can assume his mother packed him lunch because he wanted to see this man called Jesus.

You see, this boy gave more than just an offering that day, he gave everything he had. What principle did Jesus teach about giving? He said …

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. Luke 6:38

Let me tell you my theory about why 12 baskets full were gathered after Jesus fed the five thousand.

We’ve already read that all the disciples agreed they should send the crowd to nearby villages. That way everyone could get their own food. 

Besides the fact that Jesus fed these five thousand people, His disciples saw firsthand this little boy’s blessing. They each had the opportunity to present a basket of blessing to him.

Therefore, because of his sacrificial giving, his gift returned to him pressed down, shaken together, and running over.

When You Don’t Think You Count

When you stop to think about it, the reported five thousand that Jesus fed didn’t include women and children. In other words that number neglected to count that young boy.

But he certainly did count when it came to those who counted. Anytime we think that we don’t matter or we don’t count, remember how God used this young boy.

Lord, thank you for not only sharing this wonderful story but for its applications as well. Help us during the times when we need to be reminded to trust you and sacrificially serve you.

Check out some other posts related to miracles.



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