Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Matthew 15:32–39

Matthew 15:32–39 (ESV): Jesus feeds four thousand men (plus women and children)


In 14:13–21, a very famous incident, Jesus fed 5,000 men (plus women and children). In this passage he repeats the miracle, and the scene is very similar to what happened in the previous passage:

  • Jesus tells his disciples that he has compassion on the crowd, and doesn’t want to send them away “lest they faint on the way” (verse 32 (ESV))
  • The disciples ask him where they could possibly get enough bread to feed the crowd
  • Jesus finds out how much bread and fish they have (seven loaves and two small fish), gives thanks, and distributes it to the disciples who in turn distribute it to the crowd, which eats and everyone is satisfied
  • We are told that there are 4,000 men present (plus women and children)


A lot of Christians don’t read through the Bible in a straight path, they get led hither and thither on the whims of their devotional books. That’s great for getting into various parts of the Bible, but it tends to make you miss certain story points; this particular one is a point that I’d missed, when first starting to read the Bible—I didn’t realize for a long while that there were two feedings, one of 5,000 men (plus women and children), and then this second feeding of 4,000 men (plus women and children). Frankly, I thought this was one of those “inconsistencies” that people are sometimes talking about—sometimes the Word says the feeding was 5,000 men (plus women and children), and sometimes it says 4,000. But if you read through Matthew from beginning to end, you come across both feedings.

Which makes the reaction of the disciples kind of baffling, when you get to the second feeding. Jesus has already performed this miracle once. In fact, not only has he already performed it, he performed it by feeding more people, with less food. When Jesus tells the disciples that he has compassion on the crowd because they’re hungry, I’m thinking that the disciples’ reaction should have been something like, “Good idea, Jesus, we’ll get the bread and fish and you can help us distribute it to the people!” Instead, the reaction is:

And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” (verse 33 (ESV))
I’ve always been baffled by the disciples’ reaction in this situation, after having already been present at the feeding of the 5,000 men (plus women and children), however, I also notice that there is no record of Jesus getting exasperated with them, so I might be judging them too harshly.

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