The price of food materials is increasing everywhere in the world along with that of oil. Inflation is a regular phenomenon in countries like India and people are afraid of starvation. Economists and scientists suggest many ways to control inflation and to put an end to the rise of price for essential commodities. In places like Kerala the governments are thinking about developing a Food Security Project (Bhakshya Suraksha Padhati) so that this issue can be dealt with for a long time. In this background let us have a new study about the Feeding of the Five Thousand.
This miracle is recorded in all the four gospels (Mtt 14,13-21; Mk 6,32-44; Lk 9,10-17; Jn 6,1-13) and in Matthew and Mark there is a second account; the Feeding of the Four thousand (Mtt 15,32-38; Mk 8,1-13). Whether the first was done in a Jewish territory and the second in a Gentile land is a matter of debate. Some people think that Matthew and Mark give a duplicate account of the same miracle.
Both these reports have many things in common; only the place of happening, the number of loaves, the number of people gathered and the number of baskets are different. This miracle happened in a place near the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus got big crowds always. According to Luke this happened in a place called Bethsaida and John says that the season was that of Passover. The reason for a big gathering might be the increasing popularity of Jesus due to the healing miracles he was performing and because of the wonderful sermons he was delivering. Jesus is accompanied by his twelve disciples and the event becomes a practical class for them. Good teachers use always teaching aids and they choose good locations to make their ideas more concrete. The Feeding of the Multitude teaches the disciples as well as the people gathered the salient features of the Kingdom of God. They are the following:
1. God acts when his people suffer
Spirituality is not only about nourishing the “spirit” but also about addressing the needs of the “body” and “mind”. Since the spirit finds its home in the body, physical needs appear also in the divine plan of salvation. God is concerned about the material requirements of his people and he intervenes in history whenever there is a heavy need. He had answered the cries of Moses and the Israelites during their desert life and He had provided the Manna. According to the fourth Gospel this same God is active in the feeding of the five thousand. Jn 6,25-59 gives us a detailed exposition of the report of the feeding and there Jesus compares the event with that of the time of Moses.
The pain of the people was always disturbing Jesus. He was healing “the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, who were laid at his feet” (Mtt 15,30) and the people were amazed at his divine power and they said: “this is a new teaching”. Yes, the healing and the teaching were two sides of the ministry of Jesus and these happened together. Jesus had compassion to the crowd which spent three days with him in a remote place. It is interesting here to note that even though the hungry people did not make any uproar Jesus understands their pain and he expressed his compassion towards them.
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