Today we read Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5,000. There are only two miracles that are recounted in all four(4) Gospels: The Resurrection and the feeding of the 5,000. Seems to me that that fact alone might imply some major significance to the event?!
I encourage everyone to go back and read the original post “Day 26 – The Feeding of the Five Thousand”.
Now that we are 100+ days into reading the bible we can look at the story with a little more context and background. First, Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves recalls the Manna in the desert, when God feeding his people, the Israelites, during the Exodus from Egypt. It identifies Jesus as the New Moses, one of the indications that he is the promised Messiah. This is also reflected in the fact that the people are divided up into groups encircling Jesus, just as they were divided into tribes surrounding the Ark of the Covenant.
Note that Mark, recounts the miracle in EXACTLY the same manner as the previous account we read in Matthew. He uses the same phraseology:
And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people.
Both recount that Jesus Takes, Blesses, Breaks and then Gives. This is the same way the distribution of the bread will be recounted at the Last Supper, indicating the two events are connected. Significantly, notice again that the bread is not distributed directly by Jesus to the people. Distribution of the bread is mediated through the Apostles.
One part that Mark adds is some information that occurs after the event, after Jesus is seen walking on water. The sea is rough and Jesus walks out to the boat and calms the sea. Then we are told:
And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
In the first instance we should ask ourselves, “What is not to understand about the loaves?” People are hungry and Jesus fed them all. Yes, it’s a miracle but there is nothing particularly complicated about it. What’s not to understand? The answer will come in the Gospel of John. It is John who recounts the “Bread of Life” discourse that happens immediately after the feeding the 5,000. John will explicitly tell us that it was a difficult teaching and that they did not understand. This line by Mark directs us to the passages by John.
With the context we have been building we can start to see this theme or thread of bread running through the Bible. Remember that the first punishment of Adam was that he would have to labor to get grain from the ground to make bread. Remember that Abraham’s first victory was celebrated with an offering of bread and wine at Jerusalem. Remember the unleavened bread of the Exodus at the Passover. Remember that God fed his people with the Manna in the desert. Remember the Bread of the Presence (aka The Bread of the Face of God) was kept continuously in the Temple in front of the Ark of the Covenant. We see this feeding of the 5,000. Note how many times Jesus called himself the bread, we can recall how many times he refers to grain, seed or wheat. We can recall that at the last supper, Jesus takes bread and says, “…this is my body” and “Do this in remembrance of me.” We know that Paul talks about Christian worship centered around the breaking of the bread.
We can see that this is all part of story that God is constructing. Jesus is the bread and Christian worship is centered around this mystery. The spiritual life is substantial and real. A personal intellectual, emotional and prayerful relationship with Jesus is vital and important. But Jesus takes it to the next level. Humans are tangible physical beings. Therefore, He provides outward signs to signify and substantiate himself for us. To connect our generation with every other generation that came before us and that will come after us. For if the bread is the Lord then, as there is only one Lord, there can only be one bread and the bread of today must be the same bread of yesterday and tomorrow. We are all together joined as one family by partaking of the same bread. This is exactly what St. Paul will say:
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)
And if the bread is the Lord, then by partaking of the one bread we are joined to one body, which is the Lord. It is almost too powerful and infinite to comprehend. However, if you pray about it and think about it and consider it you can catch, if only for an instant, the staggering implications. This is difference between Christianity and all other religions of the world. Our God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, humbled himself to become man and be with us but he did not stop there. He said that we would be with us always until the end of the age. And so, he humbles himself again. He makes himself available to each and every new generation, to each and every person that hears and accepts his word, in the breaking of the bread. The one bread forms the one body, in an intimate personal relationship that is more real that we can truly appreciate.