17 Jesus’ Encounter with the Five Thousand


This encounter, the feeding of the five thousand, is the only encounter that is found in all four gospels. It must be important to bear mention in all four – Matthew, Mark, Luke AND John! What is so special about it? Well, let’s get into the study.

Matthew 14:13
When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.

  • What did Jesus just hear about? John the Baptist had just been killed, beheaded.
  • Matthew 14:10-12
    10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison. 11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. 12 And his disciples came, and took up the body, and buried it, and went and told Jesus.
  • He went out to a desert place – a place where He could be alone. He needed space. He needed a quiet place to mourn. He just needed some time alone as we all do when we suffer loss.
  • But Jesus was too famous already at this time. People heard where He was going, and they went out and followed Him to wherever He was going. They came from everywhere following Him by foot.
  • Look, you have to remember that this is the time where there is no phone, no internet, nothing of that sort. Yet Jesus attracted such large crowds that He didn’t even have time to be alone even when He wanted to be alone!
  • The only time He had to Himself was early, early in the morning when everyone was sound asleep and He could spend time with His Father.

Even though He wanted to be alone, He never turned anyone away. He understood His mission. He knew the reason for which He came to this earth.

  • Matthew 14:14
    And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
  • Even when Christ needed compassion Himself, someone to give Him a hug and tell Him it would be OK, He still had other people in mind. People came looking for Him. Why?
  • John 6:2
    And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
  • Some came because they saw that He was a miracle healer. They wanted to be healed, they knew someone that needed to be healed, or they wanted to watch Jesus healing! Nonetheless, Jesus was famous! And not even a moment to grieve. Yet Christ’s heart was bound up with even those that were following Him.
  • Mark 6:34
    And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
  • Christ’s heart even went out to every single person He saw. He was moved with compassion even when He needed to compassion Himself. But He didn’t think of self, yet went about being busy healing and teaching the people.
  • Without realizing it, the day was coming to an end. The busyness of Christ just made the day, and probably each day, just zoom by!

And so His disciples comes to Jesus:

  • Mark 6:35-36
    35 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: 36 Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.
  • Jesus, it’s time to send everyone away! Let them go and buy their own food! It was obvious that the disciples were not prepared to feed this whole crowd! But Jesus does not let them go so easily.
  • John 6:5-6
    5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
  • He intentionally asks the disciples – where can we buy bread from for everyone? Christ was saying this intentionally to Philip, and of course really all the disciples as they must have all been standing around listening. He was testing the faith of the disciples. He wanted to teach them a very important lesson.
  • You know sometimes God brings us into difficult places intentionally just to test us. He wants to see how we react. Just like how the Israelites were led by God to the red sea, a dead end. He wanted to prove them and test them to see if they would trust Him or not.
  • Jesus was now doing the same with the disciples. He already had a plan in mind, but He was testing the faith of the disciples.

How did Philip respond?

  • John 6:7
    Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
  • He obviously did not know that Christ was testing him. He just answered with human eyes. 200 pennyworth is not enough! Maybe that was all that they had in their bank account. 1 penny was worth 1 days wage. So they probably had around RM20,000. They didn’t have enough to feed everyone there!
  • It was an obvious answer.

John 6:8-9
8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

  • First, credit to the boy who was willing to share his food with Jesus and the disciples. It was because of his willingness that he, and us today, were able to witness an amazing miracle.
  • Yet the disciples were still doubtful. How do we know? They ended by saying – what are they among so many? Even though the disciples still had doubt, at least they were still willing to bring this little food to Jesus.

What does Jesus do next?

  • John 6:10-11
    10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
  • It is from this passage that we see that Jesus actually fed five thousand people. So Jesus takes the bread and from Him He gives to the disciples and from the disciples it is given to the people.
  • This is the order:
    • From Jesus to the disciples.
    • From the disciples to the people.
  • God has order and system in the way that He works. He could have just gotten everyone to just line up, or gone around and passed to everyone Himself. But instead He chose to work through His disciples.
  • God still works in the same way today.
    • Revelation 1:1
      The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
    • The Revelation came from God the Father, then to Jesus, to the angel and then to John. And of course, John gives to us today.
    • Amos 3:7
      Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
  • God wants to work through humanity today. He can do it Himself or through His angels. But He’s left a work for us to do so that we can be partakers of that same blessing. It is more blessed to give than receive. It is health for the soul when we learn to come out of our own selves and be a blessing to someone else.
  • All nature lives to give. ALL nature. From the ant, to the tree, to the stream. They all give. All, except the human heart. We are so caught up with our own selves, our own lives. Mostly all we think is about our own selfish lives.
  • Christ gives to use the bread of life, the word of God. And instead of just keeping it to ourselves, He expects us to share in the blessing that we have received. All those that are united to Christ will receive from Him the bread of life. But we won’t just stop there. We won’t keep the blessing to ourselves. We will also learn to impart it to others as well. But in order for that to happen, we must first see it as a blessing ourselves! We must have a personal experience with the Bible if we wish to be partakers.
  • I want you to think about previous encounters that we have studied.
    • The demoniac whom Jesus healed – afterward he became a great witness!
    • The woman who touched Jesus’ clothing to be healed – she came forward to confess of Christ’s goodness.
    • The woman that Jesus met by the well in Samaria – she went to the whole town to tell them about Jesus!
  • If our hearts have been truly touched by Christ, we will come out of our shell of self and tell others about Christ’s goodness.

We don’t know how long it took to feed 5000 people, but they must have been there for a few hours.Anyways, people were finally fed. Everyone had more than enough to eat.

  • John 6:12
    When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
  • Jesus commands them to gather up all that remained. There was definitely more than enough to go around to the extent that there was leftover. How much?
  • John 6:13
    Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
  • There were 12 baskets leftover. We can help but notice a little bit of significance in this number. It could not have been by accident.
    • 12 baskets leftover. 12 disciples. Each disciple could see the leftover and there was more than enough. Jesus didn’t really need to depend on their money – 200 pennies. He could have just fed them at His will. But not only did He feed them, He fed on top of that 5,000 people and there were 12 baskets leftover! More than enough!
  • Oh why do we worry about our temporal needs? We need not to worry! We don’t need to focus on what we shall eat and what we shall be clothed with! Jesus was more than able to provide! He wanted the disciples to be focused on providing the bread of life to people.

What was the purpose of collecting the 12 baskets full of food though?

  • Was it just to collect to throw away? Definitely not! The people would have come to take from the basket to bring it home to give to others. And you can imagine that when they got home and others inquired about where this bread came from, they would have related the miracle, they would have spoken about Jesus, they would have talked about what He was sharing about. That day would have been a day to remember for a very long time!
  • So it is with us. We do not understand the far-reaching results of just feeding people, of being a blessing. It goes further than just the person that we see stand before us. It multiplies into a blessing beyond!

Now let’s come to the end of the story:

  • John 6:14-15
    14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. 15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
  • After this miracle people believed even more that Christ was that prophet! That He was the Messiah! But they took it one step further. They were ready to make Him king!
  • Last week we saw how John the Baptist had misunderstood Christ’s mission. Now we see all the people that were fed – they were ready to make Him king too! And not just the people, but the disciples were ready to do it as well.
  • Matthew 14:22
    And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
  • Jesus goes about to break up the crowd and dispel the notion of making Him king.
  • Oh how easy it is for us to misunderstand Christ. I mean He was the perfect person to lead them into battle against the Romans. They would have their armies but Jesus could heal them and feed them! They would go forth conquering everyone!

It is so easy to misunderstand the gifts of God isn’t it? He gives us riches, and we think of personal, temporal gain. We just think of what our eyes can behold but not of spiritual things, the spiritual blessings that Christ longs to give us.

I want to end with one last thought as well. The boy who provided the bread and the fish. You know sometimes we think that the little that we have to give to Jesus is insignificant. How could it possibly even feed Jesus and the 12 disciples? Yet Christ fed 5000 men besides women and children!

No matter the size of your gift, it doesn’t matter. It is dependent on the heart of the giver. The widow threw her 2 mites, 2 little pennies into the treasury of the temple. It seemed little and insignificant, but Jesus noticed it. She had thrown in all her living. And in doing that, it would also multiply into a great blessing in the future.

Let’s learn to give God our very best. But let’s also learn to give God even the little things that we have. It may seem insignificant, but not the sight of heaven. May God bless each of you as we learn to serve God in the big and little areas of our lives, for truly it all matters to God!

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