I’ve read this story dozens of times. I think it is a pivotal biblical account because if it’s true, then there should be no doubt that Jesus’ power was miraculous. Certainly, there are plenty of other Jesus’ miracles described in the Bible- He turns water into wine, He heals sick people, He even brings dead people back to life. This is all pretty dramatic stuff. But the loaves and fishes miracle somehow resonates with me.
The setting is in a grassy field, near the hill where Jesus was teaching. There are over five thousand people present; they’ve been listening to Jesus speak. But then, something strange happens. Jesus asks his disciples if there is any place where they can buy all of these people food. It’s strange because (1) it’s doubtful that there is a Sam’s Club nearby, with enough provisions to feed this many people; and (2) it’s even more doubtful that his disciples had enough money to pay for this much food.
If you’ve read the Bible carefully, you may realize that when these seeming anomalies occur, it’s usually because Jesus is making a point. Humans generally have a hard time seeing beyond the distance of an inch or so, which is also the length of the human nose. Jesus, on the other hand, had a cosmic, eternal perspective. So, sometimes He would say things to make a point. In this case, the point was simple. There was no way to feed this many hungry people, absent a miracle. He was introducing that miracle.
His disciples find a small boy who has a few fish and some bread. Jesus blesses the food. And then, somehow, the fish and bread are multiplied. To be clear, we aren’t talking about supersizing a meal. We are talking about a radical, unexplainable, incredible miracle. Somehow, the equivalent of a small town is fed to its satisfaction.
But there’s something else.
And you have to read the account in John’s gospel carefully to pick up on it. Each gospel is a slightly different perspective on the same set of events. Four people observed the same thing, but each reports it slightly differently. In some cases, the accounts are very close, so close in fact, that some biblical scholars argue that the accounts were copied from each other. I won’t get into that argument here, but I will say that in other cases, the gospel accounts differ. And I believe these differences and similarities underscore their validity. People’s perspectives differ and they observe and recall the same things in different ways.
John’s gospel, more than any other gospel, clearly describes Jesus’ deity. It begins with describing the Word and then telling us that Jesus was that Word. It’s an almost metaphysical description of Jesus. John, who also wrote Revelation, was a “psychic” of sorts. He dreamed dreams and wrote about them. But the focus of his gospel account is the Jesus as God.
And here’s the strange thing. In John’s account of the loaves and fishes, there is one small postscript, not reported in any of the other three gospel accounts. After everyone has been fed, Jesus tells his disciples to do something. He tells them to gather up the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve read about the loaves and fishes many times. But somehow, I had missed this small footnote to the story. I had always focused on the power of the miracle itself. But I had also missed an important point in this story.
Jesus was God. And Jesus was a Man. God, who has everything at His disposal, can do anything. He can heal the sick and raise the dead. But these are really small parlor tricks in His repertoire. He can also create galaxies and universes. And He created life. In this story, Jesus/God miraculously multiplied the food. But Jesus/Man wanted to make sure that none of it was wasted. John's gospel focuses on Jesus/God, but it's also the only one that capture this small detail of Jesus/Man.
There are a couple of morals to this story.
First of all, it is an affirmation of faith. It’s written in such an unobvious way that the addition of this one small fact makes the story incredibly real. It describes the way a God/Man would act. It does it in a way that is genuine and believable. And it does it in a way that can withstand scrutiny on several levels, but in a non-defensive way. In other words, the story is the story. But the interpretation of the story is what provides its believability. No writer could have planned that.
There is another moral. And it’s a really important one. Jesus, who had access to anything that a God/Man could create, was concerned about waste. God will give us whatever we need, if we ask. And God’s gifts are available to Christians in many ways in addition to answered prayer- through the sacrifice of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, through His Word, and through the fellowship of other believers.
Let’s not waste these gifts.
 Matthew 14, Mark 8, Luke 9, John 6.
 John 1.
 John 6:12.