Mohandas Gandhi, a native of India, was educated in London and then practiced law in South Africa. He led India’s struggle for independence from Great Britain in the 1930s and 40s. Concerned with the plight of the poor, Gandhi said, "There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread."
Though Gandhi was not a Christian believer, he gets at an important truth about God: throughout the ages, the God of Israel and the Father of Jesus, has made His presence known to hungry people through His faithful provision. In the wilderness, God provided manna, quail, and water. Now, on a mountainside, He would again be revealed as a provider of bread for hungry people.
The context for our passage today is the upcoming feast of the Passover. The Jews would soon be celebrating God’s gracious deliverance out of Egypt when the Hebrews fled before even their bread could rise. The annual feast reminded them of God’s faithfulness in freeing them from slavery. Preparations for the Passover would likely have been on the minds of Jesus’ audience.
The crowds were following Jesus because they had seen His works, including healing the sick. Jesus wanted to continue to provide for their bodies. Feeding their physical hunger was connected with revealing spiritual reality. Using the meager means of one boy’s lunch, Jesus miraculously provided for thousands. Amazed, and with their bellies full, the people realized that this was the One who had been sent by God, who at last would truly satisfy. Jesus had come not only to deliver bread and fish. Rather, to the hungry he made himself known as the bread of heaven, sent by God, to save a hungry world.
Apply the Word
Many of those Jesus fed misunderstood the impromptu picnic, and they saw Him as a mere meal ticket. Others, though, recognized the feeding as a sign of God’s presence. This week, whether at the Lord’s table or your dinner table, purpose to recognize God as a good Provider as He meets the needs of both your body and your spirit.