The Significance of Jesus’ Feedings

The physical bread represented only a part of the feeding events. In fact, it wasn’t even the most significant part. The bread was only symbolic of a much greater spiritual Bread, the Word of God.

There are several proofs of this. First, there is the spiritual representation

of Jesus in John 1:1 and 14 as the Word of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God – – – And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”.

Jesus, in fact, considered the material world, including physical bread, to be of little value. According to John 18:36a,

“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world;”

But even before He made that statement, He was more direct in John 6 regarding the relative importance of bread and His Word”

“’Jesus answered them, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labor not for the food which perisheth, but for that food which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you; for him hath God the Father sealed.


“’Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God. Jesus answered, and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said, therefore, unto him, What sign showest thou, then, that we may see, and believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.


“’Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.’”


The Miraculous Element of the Feedings

The element of the feedings that is the simplest to grasp is the miracle itself, as it simply mimics the process of the Word’s propagation from ear to mouth without loss. After having been blessed by Jesus, the bread returned to wholeness every time it was broken. That’s all there is to it. The rest of the process involves the mechanics of the distribution.

The leaven of the Pharisees that Jesus warned His disciples to beware of referred to the distortion of the Word and its consequent corruption as it was propagated by the religious leadership.

Preliminary Facts About the Feeding Process

Not having access to detailed eyewitness accounts of the feeding events, we can’t be certain how the feedings actually took place. But enough information can be gleaned from Scripture to suggest that the process was an orderly one, at least in the spiritual domain regarding the feeding of the Word.

According to Mark 6:39 and 40, the men being fed were grouped into companies, where the size of each company was either 50 or 100 men.

“’And [Jesus] commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.’

Given that information, a typical company of 100 might be arranged in the 20 by 5 configuration shown in Figure 1 below, and a company of 50 might be half that size, or 10 by 5. These particular arrangements will be justified through Scripture later.




                 Figure 1

Typical Company of 100

According to Matthew 14:19, the feeding was initiated first by Jesus, who blessed the bread, and second by His disciples, who then gave the loaves to the multitudes:

“And [Jesus] commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and broke, and gave the loaves to His disciples, and the disciples gave them to the multitudes.”


It will be assumed here that when Jesus broke the loaves, the two halves remained attached to each other as He handed them to His disciples. Each disciple, in turn, handed a loaf to one member (perhaps the captain) of the group of fifty or one hundred nearest him. This group will be called the frontmost group. As there were five loaves in the feeding of the five thousand, five disciples were involved. But there also were seven loaves associated with the later feeding of four thousand, which involved the remaining seven disciples, such that each of the twelve disciples (apostles) was involved once in the two feeding events.

A mathematical analysis was performed on the information in Scripture regarding the feedings. A reproduction of the analysis is beyond the scope of this essay and involves Scriptural information beyond that which has been presented to this point. Nevertheless, useful as it was toward the development of an understanding of the feeding process, it is not necessary for the reader to refer to it to acquire his own understanding, as such may be achieved merely by inspecting the pattern. One item of that analysis is helpful, however: if the number of fragments from the feeding of the menfolk is constrained to be the same for both the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand, then the analysis demands that the number must necessarily be five. Therefore, it will be assumed that there were five fragments of leftover loaves due to the menfolk in each basket.


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