Today we read John’s version of the feeding of the 5,000 with the loaves and the fishes. Remember that together with the Resurrection the feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle that is recounted in all four Gospels. John ads an important detail:
4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
The inference is unmistakable. This is the second Passover mentioned by John. The wedding feast of Cana also occurred during the Passover season. Both are connected with the Last Supper, which is a Passover meal. Notice that John says that that the actions of Jesus (and therefore the timing) are intentional, “He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.” (Jn 6:6). Notice also that this event happens in the same place – on the outskirts of Capernaum.
Symbolism is seen in the numbers involved. The 5 loaves represent the 5 Books of the Torah. The Twelve left over baskets of bread correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel. The Apostles are told to gather up the leftovers foreshadowing their mission to go out and gather up the leftovers of society.
The feeding of the five thousand is immediately followed by the episode of Jesus walking on water. In addition to this miracle clearly establishing Christ’s divinity this too has important symbolism. Being able to cross the water without being hindered by it further establishes Jesus as the new Moses. The passing over the sea also foreshadows the passing from the Old Covenant into the New.
Finally, recall the John’s Gospel is written last. John would likely have read one or more of the Gospels of the other evangelists. John, in writing his Gospel, is likely trying to fill out details for the faithful to have after he passes. This explains in part why John devotes significant attention to what we will read tomorrow, The Bread of Life Discourse.