Jesus feeds five thousand

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  • Key ideas about the miracle of Jesus feeding five thousand, described in all four of the gospels. Extracts from popular books about Jesus.

The story shows no effort to exploit the extraordinary aspect of the miracle. In particular, it says nothing about how the miracle was worked. We know only that the guests ate and were filled…

The episode is calculated by its very nature to recall the miracle of the manna in the wilderness (Ex 16:1-18) and to elicit the question of the kingdom and the identity of Jesus. At the same time, however, it is important to observe that although Jesus is conscious of his messiahship, he dissociates himself from the idea of a political Messiah that was current in Israel.

To make clear his opposition to this idea he avoids the attempts of the crowd to make him king, and withdraws alone to the mountain to pray. He thus breaks with the ancient and current conception of the Messiah and the kingdom. The inability of the disciples to understand is likewise in contrast with the status of the apostles in the Church.

The points that call for explanation are these:

(a) Why was Jesus considered, after this event, to be a great prophet (Mk 8:29), and even as the prophet whom the entire nation was awaiting (John:14) and whom it wished to proclaim king (John 6:14-15)? Why this dangerous explosion of political messianism?

(b) Why did Jesus compel the disciples to embark immediately, while he was dismissing the crowd, as though forcing them to abandon something (a dream!) very dear to them (Mk 6:45)?

The Miracles of Jesus and the Theology of Miracles, Rene Latourelle, p.76

Today the attitude of the majority of men to Christ and His Church varies in different situations –

  • there are places where to be a Christian means the bearing of a real cross of suffering in contempt and isolation
  • but there are also other lands where the Church enjoys great prestige among eager crowds of people.

The testimony of many ministers for instance, in the new housing areas of our own land is that, where an approach is made to men and women in the name of the Gospel of Christ, the crowds will tend to gather with eagerness to be taught and led.

Such popularity may be as superficial as Jesus’ popularity was in His own day. It may be a danger and temptation to the Church. It certainly faces the Church with a real challenge, and in the midst of it, even more than in the midst of unpopularity, the Church needs guidance from Christ as to how to act and shape its policy.

Quoted from The Gospel Miracles, Studies in Matthew, Mark and Luke, Ronald S. Wallace, Oliver & Boyd, 1960, p.89

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