Matthew 14:15-16 — When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”
The feeding of the 5,000 — or likely the 10,000 to 15,000 if the women and children present had been counted — is justifiably one of the most well-known episodes of the Gospel. Feeding the multitude from five loaves and two fish is a powerful demonstration of Christ’s divinity, and of Jesus’ divine compassion as the Word made flesh.
But if we are not careful, we can see this, and the other miracles of Scripture, as nothing more than a divine magic show, to think of Christ as some sort of divine vending machine, doling out gifts at our whim.
The meaning of this passage, though, goes beyond the surface, and our worldly concerns. After all, several hours after this miracle, those who witnessed it were again hungry. So, what is the lesson that lives beyond this miraculous meal?
To understand the answer, we must first embrace the fact Christ did not become flesh, God did not choose to suffer what we suffer, just to put on a magic show. Christ took up the cross and suffered death to forever conquer death, and to lift us from sin. But what comes after that?
Two chapters after the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Jesus gives us this answer: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” What comes after the cross is, we are called to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We are called to learn from and follow the example of Christ.
Listen again to the words of Christ to His disciples — and to us: “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” When we find those who hunger, physically or spiritually, Christ teaches us: “give them some food yourselves.”
The greater and lasting miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand is when human hearts begin to yearn not for themselves, but to follow Christ, to love, care for and feed — spiritually and physically — those in need around them.
This — the path of the cross — can feel overwhelming. But, as St. (Mother) Teresa reminds us, “If you cannot feed one hundred, then feed just one.” When we do this, when we feed, and love, and lift up those around us with what we have, we begin to follow the true lesson of this miracle, and we begin to live the miracle that is the Kingdom of God.
Lord Christ, give us eyes to see those in need, ears to listen to their cries, feet to draw us closer to them, and closer to you, hands to lift them up, and hearts that burn with the fire of your selfless love. Amen.