To read the texts click on the texts: Num 4:4-15; Mt 14:13-21
The miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish in which five baskets are gathered is the only miracle that Jesus worked that is found in all the four Gospels (Mk 6:32-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-15).
In Matthew, Jesus withdraws after hearing about the death of John the Baptist. However, as he did earlier (12:15), the withdrawal is not out of fear, as is clear here from the fact that even in his withdrawal he is able to reach out to the multitudes and satisfy their hunger. The crowds follow Jesus and when Jesus sees them, he reaches out to make them whole. Unlike in Mark where the disciples are shown in a bad light in their sarcastic response to Jesus’ charge to them, “you give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37), in Matthew they are not. In Matthew, it is the disciples’ lack of faith, which is brought to the fore. In Matthew, the words and actions of Jesus here, resemble more closely than in Mark, the words and actions at the scene of the Last supper (26:20-27). The people eat, are satisfied and there is food left over which highlights the abundance and extravagance of the miracle. Matthew adds “besides women and children” (14:21) to Mark’s “five thousand men” (Mk 6:44) in order to expand the numbers and emphasise again the abundance of the miracle.
Many like to see this miracle as one in which selflessness is at the core. Seeing Jesus share his own meal so freely, others were motivated into sharing what they had so that there was more than required. It is in giving that we receive and more than we ever expected.
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