Rightly Seeing the Glory of Jesus’ Feeding the Five Thousand

Setting the Stage

Recorded in Mark 6:30-56 are the trifold miracles of Jesus feeding five thousand men with five loaves and two fish, Jesus walking on water, and Jesus healing the sick.

Oftentimes, this text, and its parallel accounts in Matthew, Luke, and John, are preached with the conclusion that Jesus is our Shepherd Provider (feeding of the 5k), our Comforter (walking on water), and our Healer (healing the sick). While these conclusions are true, they are also penultimate, or secondary in the text – they are not the main point the author is trying to convey.

Rather, Mark helps us to see the point of these miracles – and the feeding of the five thousand in particular – when he tucks away a small verse at the end of his narration of Jesus’ walking on the water. Upon entering the boat to comfort his disciples, Mark tells us that the disciples were astonished (in a confounded manner) at Christ, “for [because] they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”

This little note by Mark begs the question; what were the disciples supposed to understand from Jesus’ miracle with the loaves? Furthermore, what are we supposed to understand from this miracle?

The Aim of Mark’s Gospel

In the opening verse of his gospel narrative, Mark makes it clear what he’s trying to accomplish; Mark is solely concerned about establishing Jesus’ identity as the Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1).

As we read the opening chapters, Mark draws our attention to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies (1:2), God the Father’s affirmation of Jesus as his Son (1:11), demons shrieking at the sight of Jesus and calling him “the Holy One of God,” and “Son of the Most High God,” (1:24, 5:7), Jesus’ performance of miracles galore (i.e., 1:21-2:12), and Jesus forgiving a man of his sins – an act the Jews questioned him for as they rightly said only God can forgive sins (2:5-7). In the midst of all of this, we see that Mark is drawing evidence and arguments for the opening claim of his gospel; that Jesus truly is the Christ, the Son of God and not a mere man alone.

One of the conclusions we can make from all of this is that Mark details the miracles Jesus performs in order to validate and convey Jesus’ divinity; the fact that Jesus is himself God in the flesh.

Therefore, when we come to Mark 6 and see these three miracles, we should be floored and rightly understand – where the disciples were confounded – that these miracles vindicate and authenticate Jesus’ identity as God, for no man can do the miracles he is performing (cf. John 3:2). But if we stop here, we actually miss the particular beauty of Christ that Mark is showing us; this is only half of the pie, or bread loaf (I’m sorry, I had to try).

An Inspired and Inerrant Commentary

Oftentimes, those who teach the Bible will consult with commentaries to see how scholars and theologians interpret a given text. However, every (good) preacher understands that even the best commentaries are still fallible and prone to error more or less. However, there is one commentary on Mark 6:30-44 (the feeding of the 5k) that is in fact inerrant, perfect, and free from error. No, it’s not by D.A. Carson, but from Jesus himself in John 6:22-59.

John himself records the miracles of Jesus feeding the 5k and walking on water in 6:1-21 before transitioning to detailing the sermon Jesus gave “on the next day” (6:22). This sermon, Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse, is based off of the previous day’s miracle with the loaves (6:26), and is where Jesus makes the claim that he is the bread of life (6:35).

Here Jesus speaks to his Jewish audience and tells them that they are seeking him, not because they saw signs, but because they ate their fill of the loaves the previous day, referring to the feeding of the 5k (6:26). Jesus then exhorts these Jews not to merely seek bread for their bellies, but for the bread which the Son of Man gives which leads to eternal life (6:27). Jesus dialogues with the crowd more before stating “If anyone eats of this bread [referring to Jesus], he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (6:51).

Jesus, commentating on the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, states that He is the bread of life. He contrasts their desire for physical food with their need for spiritual food.

Are the dots starting to connect? Is the link still a little staticky?

If the connection is still hazy, let’s end in Mark 14. As he and his disciples sit together during the Last Supper, Jesus takes bread, and when he had broken it, he says to his disciples, “Take; this is my body” (14:22).

  • In Mark 6, Jesus takes 5 small loaves of bread, breaks them, and feeds a multitude.
  • In John 6, Jesus narrates this miracle, saying that the crowd that ate the loaves is in need of the true bread from heaven and claims that he himself is this bread, the bread of life.
  • In Mark 14, Jesus takes bread, breaks it, and tells his disciples “this is my body.”
  • Finally, in Mark 15, Jesus goes to the cross, his body is broken, and now multitudes of nations come to him for eternal life as they feed on him by faith.

Conclusion

Yes – hallelujah and amen – Jesus is our Shepherd Provider, he is our Comforter, and he is our Healer. Matthew 6:25-34, Hebrews 4:14-16, and Psalm 103:3 attest to this, accordingly. But this conclusion of the text is again penultimate. Ultimately, Mark 6:30-56 and the miracles of the loaves, the walking on water, and the healing of the sick convey the divinity of Christ and anticipate his redemptive work on the cross.

Jesus breaks the bread and feeds the five thousand, but the disciples don’t yet understand (Mark 6:52) that this miracle communicates that Jesus truly is the Son of God. That this God has taken on a body in order to go to the cross and be broken so that every man, woman, and child who comes to him in faith will be fed with food that does not perish, but food that leads to eternal life.

Have you tasted this bread?

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