This edition of Bible 911 is from Luke and is found in the story of the feeding of the five thousand. Why would Jesus feed 5,000 people and then feed 4,000 more soon after that? How does this miracle fit into the Kingdom timeline of Jesus heading to Passover? What does each Gospel add to the narrative to form a “big picture”? Whom did Jesus want to perform this miracle?
A Little Background
Luke was a Greek doctor that was known as a traveling companion of Paul. He wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts for a person known as Theophilus. Since “most excellent Theophilus” means “strongest God friend” I have to wonder if that was a play on words or some hidden meaning. In Luke 1:1-3 he makes it clear that he has done a lot of research and feels he should write an account of what he knows. It seems that Luke follows the basic timeline in Matthew and Mark but puts events and stories together differently to achieve a smooth tale for Theophilus.
Luke is the only writer to include the narrative about the 72 disciples who were sent out. I think because of this, a tradition was started that he was part of those 72 disciples. We do not know this as a fact.
Feeding the 5,000
Luke 9: 11 And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing. (KJV) Luke’s telling of this miracle starts in verse 10 and runs through verse 17. The story of feeding the 5, 000 is one of a few events that make it into all four Gospels. The stories are basically the same. They are found in Matthew 14, John 6, and Mark 6.
John adds about the little boy’s lunch (In my tradition, that is John Mark, his nephew.) People have picked Feeding to be one of the seven miracles that show Jesus as Lord. Really, John has more miracles than just seven, but this sign was given for a reason. I think it mirrors the feeding of Israel in the wilderness, something tradition said the Messiah had to do to prove Himself. It is possible that Jesus added the feeding of the 4,000 after He refused to give the Pharisees a sign, just because He was Jesus.
I wish to highlight that this period was part of Jesus’s final push before He went to Jerusalem to die. Luke 9:11 says that He welcomed the people, taught them about the Kingdom, and healed those who needed it. The pattern of teaching about the kingdom of God/Heaven and healing the sick is well established in the Gospels and Acts. It makes you wonder what happened.
This list is compiled from all four Gospels. It may be missing parts from your favorite telling, just include them for your study. In my long-running study of the Kingdom, I noticed that in Matthew, mentions of John the Baptist and blocks/levels of specific teaching on the Kingdom go hand-in-hand. Here are twelve events that are associated with the feeding of the 5,000 and His preparation for Jerusalem.
- The Twelve are sent out and John the Baptist is killed.
- Jesus is seeking quiet time and feeds 5,000+ people.
- Jesus walks on water.
- John 6:15 The Bread of Life.
- Questioned about clean and unclean practices, and His authority.
- The group goes to Tyre and the Decapolis for specific healings.
- 4,000+ are fed.
- Matthew 16:1 is a demand for a sign.
- Yeast of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod.
- Peter’s confession and Jesus predicts His death.
- The Transfiguration for the inner circle, while talking to Moses and Elijah.
- 72 are sent out to prepare the way to go to Jerusalem.
As Master Teacher, Jesus provided hands-on learning opportunities and evaluation experiences for His students. The Twelve being sent out filled both of these learning events. In Luke 9:13 it is clear that Jesus wanted them to feed the crowd, that is a master-level evaluation. The students did not pass that test. So, Jesus began a reteach by feeding the 5,000 and walking on water. (A miracle to rival opening the Red Sea.)
Jesus was preparing the Disciples for the “ride into Jerusalem” and Pentecost. (Remember, Judas Iscariot, was present for these events.) Jesus still had His time on the East Bank and then the trek to the Mount of Olives and His Sermons on the Two Mounts.
Observations, Questions, and Comments
- What did Jesus do when the disciples were out on their missionary trips? Search and see if you can find any clues.
- Jesus did reach out to Gentiles during His trips to Tyre and the Decapolis. These stops foreshadowed the work the Disciples were charged with.
- 5,000+ people eating without washing their hands, which must have aggravated the Pharisees.
- Jesus told the disciples many times that He was to die. Not sure they listened well.
These are two sites from a web search about events in all four Gospels. I am adding these for reference.