Loaves, Fish, and Jesus’ Free Gift

Of all the miracles Jesus performed, my personal favorite is the feeding of the five thousand. Do you remember that story? After a long day of teaching in Galilee, Jesus noticed the people were getting hungry. Rather than send them into a seaside village to scrounge for food, he accepted a little boy’s sack lunch of five barley loaves and two small fish. He thanked God for the food, then began to break the bread and the fish, handing it out to the disciples, who distributed it among the crowd.

People were invited to eat “as much as they wanted” (John 6:11), and when it was all over, there was more food than when Jesus began. It was the first meal in history where the leftovers amounted to more than the original meal itself! “So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten” (John 6:13).

The response was electric. “When the people saw this miracle and tasted the food, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (John 6:14). Some even tried to forcibly make him king right there. Jesus had no choice but to withdraw from the mob. His time had not yet come to publicly announce his kingship.

I’m not sure why this miracle is my favorite. Maybe it’s because it is the largest scale miracle recorded in the Gospels. More eye witnesses saw this event than probably any other in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Maybe it’s because I like to eat, and I think it’s cool that Jesus cared about the hunger of his listeners. Maybe it’s because of the underlying spiritual lesson that Jesus is the Bread of Life, and if you want to have your spiritual hunger satisfied, you must trust in him alone.

There’s one more reason I like this miracle so much, and it goes back to a childhood memory. When I was in second grade, the teacher at my little Christian school conducted an experiment to show us how big the number 5,000 is. She sent home a letter instructing us to collect as many aluminum soda can tabs as possible (“pop” can tabs for all of us in Michigan). By next Monday, kids were already pulling Ziploc-bags out of their backbacks that contained soda can tabs. We huddled close, counted them up, then listened to them clink into an empty metal desk at the front of the room. Week by week, the desk began to fill more and more, until it reached the brim, and the desk lid would barely close. Still more tabs were brought and placed on top of the desk, until finally, we reached our goal of 5,000 soda tabs. The class went wild. We had done it! And that staggering number of aluminum can tabs represented the same number of people Jesus fed with a little basket of five loaves and two fish.

The feeding of the five thousand is just one of the many amazing miracles or “signs” Jesus performed, proving he is the Son of God. These were not cheap magic tricks or legendary fables. They were real-life events that defied the laws of nature and became indisputable proofs that Jesus was sent from God. The people who ate that meal were right to acknowledge, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” What about you? What will you do with Jesus? Are you willing to check out his claims for yourself — or maybe even accept his free gift of eternal life?

This article first appeared in the Minister’s Message of our local newspaper, The Hi Desert Star.

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