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Matthew 14:13-21 – Feeding the Five Thousand

Summary

When Jesus hears of the death of John the Baptist, he withdraws to a wilderness place where he miraculously feeds the crowds who have followed him with only five loaves and two fish.

Analysis

The rejection of Jesus in his home town (13:54-58) followed immediately by the story of the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod might be cause for despair. But now Jesus withdraws with his disciples to the wilderness, and there he continues his ministry and teaching, which from now on will be directed especially to his disciples. Chapter 13 ended with Matthew's narrative comment about the negative effect of the unbelief of the people. The stories that follow turn instead to focus on the faith of the disciples, culminating in Peter's confession in 16:16-18.

Now in the wilderness the disciples' faith is at risk. They can think only of the negatives: it is evening, the place is deserted, it is late, the crowds are hungry, and they are without resources-"nothing here but five loaves and two fish" (14:17). But Jesus takes charge and addresses the situation with words of anticipation and promise, "Bring them here to me" (14:18), recalling his words in 11:28: "Come to me, all you that are weary." He blesses the loaves and fish, gives them to the disciples, and through the agency of the disciples, Jesus feeds the multitudes.

Matthew 14:13-21

Feeding the Five Thousand

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ 16Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ 17They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ 18And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ 19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

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