Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men. Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray. When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
This familiar story of the feeding of the five thousand is preceded by a few verses about what the apostles have been doing. They have literally been following in Jesus’ footsteps, traveling about in pairs teaching and healing.
In verse 30 we are told they have gathered with Jesus to report in. Jesus invites them to go away for a rest, as they have apparently been working so hard that they hardly had time to eat. However, the people guess where they are going and get there ahead of them. Jesus ends up teaching all day. Can you imagine the apostles during the day, watching Jesus and wondering if they really will get to rest? When it gets late and the apostles suggest sending the crowd away to find some dinner, I can’t help thinking that they are the ones who are hungry and tired. It’s no wonder that they sound a little peeved when Jesus tells them to give the crowd something to eat. The day has turned out so differently from what they had expected.
Are we different from the apostles? Or do we require a miracle to be startled out of our self-absorption?
– Submitted by Pat Hitchcock