Matthew 14:13-21 – Feeding the Five Thousand


Matthew 14:13-21


When Jesus hears of the death of John the Baptist, he withdraws to a wilderness place where he miraculously feeds the crowds who have followed him with only five loaves and two fish.


The rejection of Jesus in his hometown (13:54-58) followed immediately by the story of the death of John the Baptist at the hands of Herod might be cause for despair. But now Jesus withdraws with his disciples to the wilderness, and there he continues his ministry and teaching, which from now on will be directed especially to his disciples. Chapter 13 ended with Matthew’s narrative comment about the negative effect of the unbelief of the people. The stories that follow turn instead to focus on the faith of the disciples, culminating in Peter’s confession in 16:16-18.

Now in the wilderness the disciples’ faith is at risk. They can think only of the negatives: it is evening, the place is deserted, it is late, the crowds are hungry, and they are without resources–“nothing here but five loaves and two fish” (14:17). But Jesus takes charge and addresses the situation with words of anticipation and promise, “Bring them here to me” (14:18), recalling his words in 11:28: “Come to me, all you that are weary.” He blesses the loaves and fish, gives them to the disciples, and through the agency of the disciples, Jesus feeds the multitudes.