Luke 9

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Feeding the 5000

Parallel accounts of this event can be found in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30, and John 6:1-15. This is one of the very few events other than Passion Week that is recorded in all four gospels. The wording, especially among the synoptics, is remarkably similar.

Verse 10: When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, (NIV)

  • This is a purposeful retreat from other people so Jesus and his followers could have some time just them.
  • Mark mentions that they left to get rest after their journeys.
  • This is purposefully called a town by Luke, though Mark has it being in “a solitary place”, and here in Luke the disciples seem to indicate in their speech of verse twelve that they are a long way away from anything.
  • Bethsaida is recorded by Josephus as being a new town built by Heord Philip at the head of the lake of Galilee (Marshall 359). Bethsaida in Mark is where the disciples went after this miracle, not where it happened.

Verse 11: but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. (NIV)

  • The crowds are probably local people gathering, but some have suggested that this was a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover that happened to run into Jesus (Marshall 359).
  • ”He welcomed them” is an astounding thing. They interrupted his time away from people, they followed him when he wanted to be alone and yet he welcomed them. Jesus changed his plans here, and took care of people he had been trying to avoid.
  • This wasn't a welcome that Jesus made by words and then ignored them, these people were treated the same as if Jesus had sought them out, with teachings and healings.

Verse 12: Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” (NIV)

  • As Mark and Matthew record the disciples needing rest, there could be a selfish element to their request, wanting Jesus to withdraw his welcome and send the people away.
  • More literally, the day “was far spent,” sometime before sundown but close (Marshall 360). This would be the time when the evening meal was normally eaten (Stein 273).
  • That the disciples were in such a remote place speaks to Jesus' desire to get away from it all, and to the desire of the people to hear from Jesus wherever he goes.
  • Though food is provided by the end of the account, we have no idea how the lodging that the disciples were worried about was accomplished.

Verse 13: He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” (NIV)

  • It is unclear why Jesus said this to the disciples.
    • Did he expect them to have more food on them? Or to do a miracle themselves? Or to admit this was bigger than them?
    • Probably this is to highlight human inability to provide in a situation like this.
  • There is no young boy mentioned here as being the provider of this food, it apparently comes from the disciples themselves.

Verse 14: (About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” (NIV)

  • This is specifically men, women and children are not counted here. It isn't just a masculine ending that could indicate all genders, but the literal word “men.”

Verse 15: The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. (NIV)

  • This is an example not only of delegation but of the reality of life without sound systems. Jesus could not be heard by thousands of people, so he sent people out as messengers, and they carried it out.
  • The disciples at this point had not idea why people should be sitting, or what would happen yet.
  • By the disciples going to carry out Jesus' directions this verse also sets the stage for the disciples delivering food, but it not being their power. It is Jesus' miracle being done through the, like this message being carried out through them.

Verse 16: Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. (NIV)

  • ”Gave thanks” is not a standard term for prayer, but one of blessing or praise (Liddell 327). It is about calling down God's power (Arndt 322), generally with regards to a person.
  • There is no prediction or huge promotion over what would happen.
    • He did not tell the disciples that everyone would be fed.
    • Jesus simply told his disciples to do something and they did it. The understanding apparently came afterwards.

Verse 17: They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. (NIV)

  • A variety of explanations have been put forth for what happened here.
    • Some ideas are that the miracle was in getting all the people to share with others what they had already brought, that's why there were leftovers.
    • Another idea is that Jesus just kept breaking off pieces and passing them around until everyone was satisfied (Geldenhuys 270). This is because the words for Jesus breaking the food and the “broken” pieces left are related.
    • The main idea of course, is that the fish and bread multiplied as they were being passed. This causes a problem, however, as there were not exclamations of surprise or awe from the people. This happened very subtly.
  • ”Baskets” has caused a lot of problems.
    • It is used only in the story of the 5000, and as a basket for manure in Luke 13:8 (Arndt 447).
    • In the Septuagint, the term is also used in Judges 6:19 of a basket to place meat in, presumably a large one.
    • Josephus mentions this basket as being a large one carried by soldiers for their rations and equipment (Marshall 363).
    • Other opinions, seeking to explain the story without a miracle, put forth the idea that this was a small pouch that each of the disciples carried with them sort of like a modern wallet or purse.
  • ”Broken pieces” is the same term used to describe the pieces of the Lord's Supper by some early Christian writers, indicating that this account was taken as prefiguring the Eucharist (Stein 275).
  • There is no indication that this picking up was environmentally motivated. It is used as a plot point to show that not only did Jesus provide, but provided amazingly more than was needed.

Message Ideas/Scripts/Liturgy That Use This Chapter

Puppets:Did Somebody Say Lunch10-14Some characters discuss food and how food can't be spread further than it was intended for.Feeding the 5000ChildrenChildren's ChurchDramas
Thanks for the Small Things10-17When we have the least is when we most need to be giving thanks to God.ThankfulnessAdultsGeneralMessage Idea
Tried to see Jesus7-9To Jesus, all people are of equal importance, and they should be to us too.EvangelismGeneralGeneralMessage Idea
Walking in Obedience23Mary and Joseph surrendered their rights in order to serve God. We must follow God with the same passion.Obedience
GeneralAdventMessage Idea