To read the texts click here: Isa 25: 6-10; Mt 15:29-37
While in a similar context, Mark narrates the story of the healing of a deaf man with an impediment in his speech, (Mk 7:31-37) Matthew omits this miracle and instead, introduces the miracle of the feeding of the four thousand. While the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle narrated by all the four Gospels, this miracle is narrated by Mark and Matthew. While it is clear that Mark wanted to show two separate feedings, the first and more abundant for the Jews (Mk 6:35-44) and the second and less abundant, for the Gentiles (Mk. 8:1-10), this cannot be Matthew’s intention, because in his Gospel, there seems to be no scope for a Gentile mission. This is why Matthew has altered Mark substantially. All of Mark’s references, to show this as a Gentile feeding, have been omitted or altered by Matthew. Thus, Matthew omits Mark’s Gentile location in the Decapolis, as well as the Markan note that some had come from a great distance. Matthew’s picture is thoroughly Jewish—the “God of Israel” who is praised in Matthew’s conclusion, is not a Gentile acclamation but is in the language of Israel’s own liturgy (Pss 40:14; 71:18; 105:48; Lk 1:68). In addition to preserving it simply because it was in Mark, Matthew seems to welcome another picture, useful in this section that portrays Jesus acting compassionately for Israel while in conflict with the Jewish leadership. In Matthew’s retelling, the two feedings have been assimilated to each other, so that he emphasizes the similarities between the two feedings rather than the differences between them. The Messiah of Israel, typically, almost stereotypically, heals and feeds.
A number of interpretations have been given to explain this miracle. The main ones are:
(1) A miraculous event of feeding hungry people actually happened in the life of Jesus. Jesus was such a charismatic figure that people went away from his presence healed and filled.
(2) A symbolic meal was conducted by Jesus for his followers, foreshadowing the messianic banquet. This was later elaborated into a miracle story in which the numbers were exaggerated.
(3) Jesus gave the people a lesson in altruism or unselfishness by sharing with others the little food that he and his disciples had with them. This action of Jesus motivated others to do the same and there was enough for all.
(4) The story is not fact, but symbol. It summarizes the life of Jesus. His was a life of selflessness and service, a life of giving to everyone who was in need.
However the story may be interpreted, what comes across strongly is the concern and compassion that Jesus has for the crowd. It is a practical concern, one that shows itself in action.
The abundance of the remains, even after such a large number of people have been fed, stresses the generosity of God, revealed in Jesus. Our God is a generous God who gives not only bread to the hungry, but even his very self. He showed this through the Incarnation and the ministry of Jesus. However, this was shown in the most perfect of ways on the Cross. The miracle is thus a call to accept the generosity of God and to show that we have accepted it by the generosity we show to others.