In addition to mass-produced bread, many grocery stores now also sell artisan bread, which has been baked by a trained craftsman. And a renewed interest in ancient grains such as spelt has increased the kinds of breads that are available. Bread still tends to be an incidental part of meals for most of us, but in the ancient world it was a staple of most people’s diet. Bread was not something you ate on the side. It was the meal.
Jesus multiplied bread and fish in one of His most famous miracles, which is the only miracle described in all four Gospels. The miracle was also a test for the disciples, intended to reveal Christ’s power.
Philip interpreted Christ’s question as His intent to feed the large crowd of more than 5,000 people (v. 6). A realist, Philip quickly calculated how much money would be required. It would cost at least 200 denarii, the equivalent of nearly eight months’ wages. Next, Philip assessed the resources that were at hand. They amounted to one small boy with two small fish and five small barley loaves. This was the diet of the poor. Philip concluded that what Jesus was asking was impossible.
Jesus took the boy’s small lunch and miraculously distributed it to the crowd. Far from offering only a mouthful, the multitude ate until they were full. When they were finished there was enough bread left over to fill 12 baskets, one for each of the disciples. The crowd recognized that something remarkable had taken place but did not fully grasp the implications of Jesus’ actions. They saw this miracle as the sign that a great prophet had come (see Deut. 18:18) and tried to make Jesus king by force. Jesus eluded them by retreating to the solitude of the mountain.
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