John 6:1-5 tells us the story of the feeding of the five thousand, the fourth of the ‘signs’ recorded in John’s Gospel and a miracle that features in all four gospels (see also Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44 and Luke 9:10-17). Once again, we see how the miraculous is earthed in the ordinary (one boy’s five loaves and two fish going on to feed five thousand men),rooted in thankfulness (there are no magic incantations used by Jesus, simply thankfulness to God and trust in His provision). This miracle of provision defies our usual understanding of mathematics (five and two just don’t ‘go into’ five thousand!) and shows us not only what God can do, but who Jesus is, for He goes on to teach that He is the bread of life who satisfies all our spiritual (as well as our physical) needs. (John 6:35)

The miracle shows us that Jesus had compassion on the crowds, despite having wanted to escape from the crowds to grieve the death of John the Baptist privately. Even though He would have preferred to have time alone to process what had happened, He put the needs of others before His own and stretched His disciples’ faith by asking them where they could find food for the large crowd. The disciples were unable to see beyond the impossible, but as we are repeatedly discovering, every miracle arises from an impossible situation. The generosity of one boy is multiplied by Jesus and all are not only fed but satisfied.

This miracle reminds us not only that God is our provider; He is our provision. He meets our daily needs (see Matt 6:25-34, Phil 4:19), but Jesus then goes on to explore the crowd’s spiritual needs. We need to understand that God cares for us both on a practical and spiritual level and expects us to do the same (see Matt 25:31-46, 1 John 3:17-18) Jesus said, ‘For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:40) We have to care for people’s spiritual needs as well as meeting their practical needs, because that is the Jesus way.