Feeding 4000

Matthew 15:29-39

29 Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, ‘I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.’

33 His disciples answered, ‘Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?’

34 ‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked.

‘Seven,’ they replied, ‘and a few small fish.’

35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterwards the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

Reflection

What’s the difference between the feeding of the 5,000 and the feeding of the 4,000?

1000, obvs. But there is more going on here.

The feeding of the multitudes was clearly important to the Gospel writers since, aside from the Resurrection, it is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels.

The feeding of the 4,000 is important because of where it took place.

The feeding of the 5,000 took place near Bethsaida, close to the Sea of Galilee. In contrast, the feeding of the 4,000 took place in the region of the Gerasenes, in the region around the Decapolis.

The first region was Jewish (5,000) and the second region was Gentile (4,000). There are some numerical clues in the text which also point to this distinction (numbers in the Bible are rarely accidental).

1. Feeding of the 5,000
In this miracle, Jesus takes five loaves and feeds five thousand, which is reminiscent of the five books of the Jewish Law (Genesis, Exodus, …). Not only that but when everyone had finished eating, twelve baskets of left-overs were collected, which was probably alluding to the twelve tribes of Israel.

2. Feeding of the 4,000
In this second miracle, seven loaves are used and seven baskets are collected. The number seven is symbolic of completeness (i.e. not just Jews but Gentiles too) and the number seven is evocative of the seven days of creation when God created all humanity.

Both miracles show God’s provision and love for all his people, both Jew and Gentile.

In these miracles, God feeds them with miraculous bread, for us God still feeds and provides for his church.

Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. – 1 Corinthians 10:17
Matt Coombs is one of the leaders at St Mary’s and is married to Pip.
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