Focus on Jesus Series
The Multiplying of the Loaves and Fishes
Notes on Matthew 14:13-33, Mark 6:31-52, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-21
by Ed Vasicek
Jesus was not the first to miraculously multiply loaves. The prophet Elisha worked a similar miracle. 2 Kings 4:42-44 reads,
A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. "Give it to the people to eat," Elisha said. "How can I set this before a hundred men?" his servant asked. But Elisha answered, "Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: 'They will eat and have some left over.'" Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.
In Elisha's case, 20 loaves were multiplied to accommodate 100 men. Christ multiplied 5 loaves and 2 little fish to feed 5,000 men, besides women and children! In both instances, the loaves were made from barley.
A loaf of bread should not be confused with that package of Wonder Bread in your pantry. A "loaf of bread" would have been one serving of what we call "pita bread," (a round, flat bread) perhaps equivalent to at most two slices of our common white bread. If you have ever eaten a gyros sandwich, that is made with a "loaf" of pita.
The two fish the boy offered were probably small salted fish. Additionally, the barley pita bread "loaves" were designated as "small." What the boy shared was a hardy lunch for one hungry boy.
Those who do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture try to salvage a few of the Bible's miracles as historically-based events that were misunderstood. These theologically liberal people tell us that there was no miracle at all. They interpret the event as follows: people had brought plenty of food with them, but they were stingy and kept it to themselves. When they saw how generous this little boy was, they felt ashamed and contributed their food to the group. This is absolute nonsense! Like the disciples "…they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened" (Mark 6:52).
If you think about it, this liberal interpretation is based on anti-Semitism. Most cultures back then had a strong ethic of sharing. The Jews excelled in this area, perhaps more than any people of all antiquity, or even modern times, for that matter. Preachers who insinuate that these people were holding back food from their neighbors until shamed by a little boy understand nothing about Jewish ethics. This miracle was simply that: a miracle—a miraculous intervention, contrary to the laws of nature, by God Almighty.
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA