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Exploring the Bible

Lessons from the feeding of the 5,000

I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the feeding of the 5,000 about a million times before, and I think sometimes these stories that we hear all the time can get a bit watered down. We assume we know what it’s all about so we skim over it, rather than really thinking and reflecting on what God is saying through this story. But the Bible is alive and active, and all of it is useful for teaching us, and correcting us, and guiding us.

Even if you have read this story a hundred times over, have you seen it re-enacted by penguins? Because now you can.

So, can we learn some more lessons from the feeding of the 5,000?

Do you seek after Jesus like the crowd did?

It’s easy to think that the people of Jesus’ time had an advantage. Jesus was there with them, surely that makes it easier? OF COURSE they followed Jesus. But really, we have the much greater advantage of hindsight. The people at the time saw and heard something special in Jesus and had to trust in what he said. We have the benefit of seeing what happened next – that he would die for our sins and rise again. We have seen that demonstration that he really is the son of God. So, why aren’t we like the crowd in this story? They seek out Jesus, they don’t wait until he comes to them but go out and find him. And then they stay and listen all day long. They don’t rush away but prioritise listening to Jesus above all other things – even food! How does this compare with how you follow Jesus?

God is compassionate

When you’re studying any story in the Bible, a great question to ask is: what does this story tell me about God? This story demonstrates a number of different attributes of God, and one of the main ones I see is his compassion. The reading specifically says that Jesus had compassion upon the crowd when they came and found him, so he healed the sick among them. Plus, later when the disciples want to send the crowd away, Jesus again is compassionate to them – he doesn’t want to send them away but wants to provide for their needs.

Nothing is too big an obstacle for God

One of the reasons this miracle is so impressive, is that it’s the feeding of the 5,000 – not the feeding of the 10 or 20 or 50 (and even that would have been pretty impressive). No, Jesus fed 5,000 people – which may have only counted the men, so it could have been even more. That’s huge. And to the disciples tasked with feeding the crowd, I can see why that would have seemed so impossible. Can you imagine looking out at a crowd of 5,000 people and being expected to feed them all? Sounds pretty daunting to me. But not to God – nothing is too big an obstacle for him, not even 5,000 hungry people.

God multiplies our offerings for his glory

Can you imagine being the young boy in this story? Bringing your food forward to the disciples? Firstly, how generous to choose to share that at all rather than just eating it himself at the end of a long day with no meals in sight. But also, look how far that small offering went. He gave all that he had, however small it was, and God took that and multiplied it for the benefit of all those people – and for his glory. And this happens with whatever we offer to God, whether our money, our time, our energy, our worship. God takes our small offerings and multiplies them for his glory.

God is generous beyond our needs

I mentioned earlier that this story reveals a number of God’s characteristics, and another of these that I wanted to mention is his generosity. God took that offering of bread and fish and multiplied it as we mentioned before to feed all 5,000 people. But he could have stopped there. He could have made sure everyone had enough to eat and left it there. But he didn’t. He took this offering and multiplied it so much that there were 12 baskets of crumbs. He made sure everyone had their fill, not just the bare minimum. He was generous and poured out his provision for them with abundance.

Are there any other lessons from the feeding of the 5,000 that we can learn? Let us know in the comments!

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