The disciples idea of how to get that much food was very different from Jesus's solution.
I love to read the stories of Jesus. I really like to look at all the Gospel accounts of an event, because they often provide different details, so that by looking at them all, you can get a much more complete understanding. Today, I am looking at the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. I began with Mark’s recording of the event in Mark 6, verses 30-44. “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not have a chance to eat…” (Mark 6: 30-31) Mark suggests there was a bit of confusion at the time, but doesn’t tell us why. If you look at John’s version of the event, he tells us, “The Jewish Passover Feast was near.” (John 6: 4) The Jewish historian, Josephus recorded, that at the time of the Passover celebration, more than 2.6 million people came through Jerusalem. So, when Mark tells us a lot of people were coming and going, we can certainly understand why!
Turning back to Mark, Jesus said to the Apostles, “’…Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves to a solitary place.” (Mark 6: 31-32) Mark doesn’t tell us where this ‘solitary place’ was, but Luke does: “When the Apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then He took them with Him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida.” (Luke 9: 10) Bethsaida must have been a place they would go to on occasion for a much needed break. Jesus would attract many people, so I’m sure the Apostles needed those opportunities to catch their breath. Mark tells us of another time Bethsaida was used for just this purpose. “Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, He went up on a mountainside to pray.” (Mark 6: 45-46)
Now on the occasion of Jesus feeding the 5,000, when Jesus and His Apostles made their way to Bethsaida, many in the crowd noticed them leaving and followed them. “When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.” (John 6: 5-6) Now, John doesn’t tell us why Jesus singled out Philip when He posed this question. However, if we turn to an earlier verse in the Book of John, we can get an answer. “Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.” (John 1: 44) If any of the Apostles would know where to buy bread in Bethsaida, it would be Philip. Bethsaida was his hometown.
When Jesus asked the question about where they could buy food to feed all these people, He was raising a question that the Disciples would not realize as a problem until much later. Now when the problem of feeding all these people finally occurred to the Disciples, they had a solution. “Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6: 36) Of course, Jesus had a much better idea. He told the people to sit down in groups, which they did. It was at this time that Jesus took five loaves of bread, and two fish, and fed them all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Originally from Erie, Pennsylvania, Dan is a graduate of Otterbein College (now University). He graduated with a degree in education. From time to time Dan still substitute teaches. His interest in history led him to investigate the historical accuracy of the Bible. This, in turn, led to a full investigation of Apologetics.