The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle to appear in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:5-15). In each gospel’s account, Jesus utilizes five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16; John 6:8, 11) to feed 5000+ people (Matthew 5:21; Mark 6:44; Luke 9:14; John 6:10). Matthew specifies that the figure did not include women and children (Matthew 14:21). Not only were all fed and satisfied, but there were twelve baskets left over (Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:13).
Why do you think that this is the only miracle to appear in all four gospels? What makes this incident important to each evangelist?
There is no waste at the meal as the surplus of twelve baskets was collected. Why twelve? Practically speaking, perhaps so that each disciple could eat. The baskets may have been the disciples’ own. Symbolically, twelve is often said to represent Israel making the miracle indicate God’s ability to provide for the nation. This is supported by the fact that in the similar feeding of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:32-38; Mark 8:1-9), a meal more associated with Gentiles, there are seven baskets of leftovers, a number also more associated with Gentiles (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8).
Jesus is able to meet a massive need with very limited resources. The story reminds that there is enough. God gives abundantly and in spite of common perception, there is enough for everyone. The belief that God has given all that is needed and that there is indeed enough is often known as a theology of abundance.
The alternative is a theology of scarcity. With a theology of scarcity comes the belief that there is a finite pool of resources from which to draw. People with this mind set often see life as a cosmic zero-sum game. If another has more, it automatically insures I have less.
“People with a scarcity mentality tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. There is only so much; and if someone else has it, that means there will be less for me. The more principle-centered we become, the more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe their success adds to…rather than detracts from…our lives.” - Stephen R. CoveyDo you view the world through a lens of scarcity or abundance? If you have a theology of abundance, how do you maintain it when life’s circumstances do not appear to support it?
“Abundance, not scarcity, is the mark of God’s kingdom. But that abundance must be made manifest through the lives of a people who have discovered that they can trust God and one another.” - Stanley Hauerwas