Animals, Colors, Metals, Numbers and Signs in Scripture.
Matt. 14:13 "When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. 14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. 15 And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. 16 But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. 17 And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. 18 He said, Bring them hither to me. 19 And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. 20 And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. 21 And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children."
A lot of emphasis is placed on the events that took place in this passage. The events of this passage are recorded in all four gospels. It is one of the very few things that are recorded in all four gospels. Thus, the Lord is showing us the great importance of what took place in this passage. The account is also found in Mark chapter 6, Luke chapter 9, and John chapter 6.
First, we notice that a great multitude had followed Jesus out to the desert place where he and the disciples had gone. The Lord described this multitude in Mark 6:34 as follows: "And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things." There are many responsibilities that a shepherd has toward the sheep. He must watch over the sheep. He must protect the sheep from predators. He must nurse the sick sheep. He must see that the sheep are fed and watered. It is this latter responsibility that the Lord is manifesting to us in these passages of scripture.
At the same time that the Lord was seeing that the multitude were fed and watered, he also taught them many things concerning the kingdom of God and he healed all that needed healing. Most people never get past natural healing in the study of the scriptures, but internal healing is often more needed by God's people. Often we need to be healed of the hurts, pains, difficulties, and troubles of this life. The Lord provides such healing to us through the preaching of the word.
Next, we notice the place where this feeding took place. In all four accounts, it is described as a desert place. A desert place is not where you would normally go to find food to eat. We associate barrenness with a desert place. This world is a spiritual desert place to the child of God. The world cannot provide spiritual food. Spiritual food must come from the Spirit. As born-again children of God, we need spiritual food. Our souls become very hungry without this spiritual food. In John 6:10 we are told there was much grass in this place. Now that is unusual in that you do not normally associate much grass with a desert place, unless it is an oasis in a desert. When the children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea and had gone out into the desert, they came to a place where there were 12 wells of water and 70 palm trees. They rested and refreshed themselves there in that oasis. However, this place where Jesus was with the multitude was a desert place yet it was also a place of much grass where the people could rest and refresh themselves. The Lord's church is described as being in a wilderness:
1. Acts 7:38
"This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel
which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received
the lively oracles to give unto us:"
The disciples wanted to send the multitude away that they might go and buy food through their own efforts. The gospel is not for sale. You do not buy the gospel. The gospel is a gift of God. God gives it to us. The food that the multitude ate was free to the multitude and they did not have to provide it themselves.
In Mark chapter 6 the Lord told the disciples, "He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes." In John Chapter 6 Philip said even two hundred pennyworth was not enough: "Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little." The number of people to be fed was 5000 men besides women and children. Conservatively, there were probably at least 15000 to 20000 people to be fed. If 200 pennyworth was not sufficient that all may have a little, then how could this multitude be fed with five loaves and two small fishes?
Furthermore, we note that the five loaves was not the common bread made of wheat, but it was barley bread: John 6:9 "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?" Barley was the bread of the poor people. God's humble people in the church are an afflicted and poor people: Zep. 3:12 "I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the LORD." The gospel is designed for those who feel themselves afflicted with sin and poor in spirit. It is spiritual food to the poor and afflicted.
There were five
loaves. Five is associated with the covenant death of Jesus Christ. This
five-part covenant is set forth in Rom. 8:29, 30, "For whom he did
foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his
Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom
he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he
also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." This
covenant of redemption is spiritual food for the consumption of God's
poor and afflicted people. It satisfies their longing soul and reveals
to them that they have a savior who has saved them from their sins and
has quickened them into spiritual life and prepared them for and given
them a promised home in heaven. It is rest for the weary souls and food
for the spiritually hungry.
Before the Lord fed the multitude, he had them to sit down in companies of 50 and 100 on the green grass. The Lord's local churches are not large, but rather are of a size such as 50 to 100 members in number that can be served by an under shepherd (pastor). Churches with membership larger than 100 will often be too large for a single under shepherd (pastor) to serve adequately.
How can a gospel minister take a subject or a passage of scripture and feed a congregation of people? He generally knows not what the people in the congregation need. How can he even know what subject to preach?
The Lord took the 5 loaves and 2 fishes and blessed them and break them and gave them to the disciples who gave the food to the multitude. The Lord must first give the message he wants the preacher to preach to the preacher. It does nobody any good for the preacher to choose out his own message. The preacher must wait for the Lord to give him a message. Next, the Lord must bless the message before the preacher can deliver it to the congregation. Without the Lord's blessing and breaking (opening up the message to the preacher's and the congregation's understanding) the message, it would not be beneficial. As preachers of the gospel, we are dependent upon the Lord to give us the messages we preach, to open up our understanding of the message, and to bless us to deliver the message. Furthermore, the congregation must be prepared to receive the message. This work is also dependant upon the Lord.
When the Lord blesses the 5 loaves and 2 fishes, it is sufficient to feed to the full the entire congregation. The Lord, regularly fulfills what would seem impossible to us. This, indeed, was a notable miracle that the Lord did in the sight of the people. Similarly, every time the gospel is preached in power and demonstration of Spirit, a miracle of feeding the congregation takes place. The very little that the gospel minister knows himself to have, the Lord blesses and multiplies so as to prepare a feast to God's waiting people.
The Lord told the disciples to gather up the fragments that remained after the people had finished eating so that nothing be lost. Through the preaching of the gospel the people are filled and there remains spiritual food for the coming days that God's people may feast upon. This happens often when the gospel is preached. People are fed by what is preached and then they go home and meditate upon it during the week and study upon it, so that their souls are continuously fed throughout the week.
They picked up twelve baskets of fragments that remained over and above what the people had eaten. Twelve is a representative number in the scriptures. This teaches us that the gospel is sufficient to feed all of God's people when not only it is first preached but also with the fragments that remain after the preaching service is over.