This Multiplication of Loaves (Matthew 14:13-21) makes us recall the experience of the first feeding of the multitude that had once wandered in the desert (Exodus 16), for whom God rained down bread from heaven.
However, this only came about when people had started bugging Moses that they were already dying of hunger.
Hence, the marked difference between these two feedings is that in the presence of Jesus, food is already on its way even before the people start to feel the pangs of hunger.
When the disciples realize that a logistic problem is brewing since (1) it’s already night time, and that (2) they are in the wilderness and most importantly (3) feeding the multitude is going to be a nightmare. Hence, to prevent a looming crisis, those who were around Jesus thought of the most practical way to solve the problem: send home the crowds.
But Jesus is not buying the proposal; He who is called the ‘Emmanuel’ lives up to His name: He is with them. Sending the people away is a violation of this pact. He does not only feel with the people, He fills them up.
Earlier on, He saw the large crowd; He pitied them, and healed their sick. Consistent with that attitude, He told the disciples, ‘There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.‘
I can just imagine how His disciples feel upon hearing this. Their proposed solution was not acceptable. The people are not going anywhere. The problem, now a real one, threateningly stares on their faces: food must be served, and benefactors are nowhere to be found.
The distraught disciples must have been flustered upon hearing this. But they did not have any choice, the Master had spoken.
Their thorough search, yielded a measly five loaves and two fish.
But Jesus is steadfast, ‘Bring them here to me.
After the disciples did their part. It was now the turn of Jesus to do His. And boy, this Jesus’ act, like all the previous ones, goes beyond any measure. The looming crisis became an opportunity for a bold banquet. The problem is providential to prove God’s greatness.
The two fish and the five loaves went a long way to fill up over five thousand individuals who shared in that meal.
The episode concludes with a happy note: ‘They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps left over, twelve baskets full.’
The crowd followed Jesus because He healed them and just what like this episode narrates, He could even nourish hunger in epic proportions.
Whereupon Jesus “took, thanked, broke, and gave” in this episode of the multiplication of loaves we are invited to look forward to that sublime event of His last supper (Matthew 20) where He utters again these verbs, and even immortalize them, as He commands us to do this to remember Him.
We remember His act of healing so that when we health is nowhere to be found, fear and uncertainty have no place in our hearts as we pin our hope in Him: He will heal our sickness.
We remember His strong desire to be with us so that even when we are all by ourselves, all gloomy and hopeless, we know that He is with us.
We remember His act of generosity, so that when we go hungry, we remember that there were twelve-baskets of left overs: He will never get tire in feeding us.
The list of reminiscing goes on and on, but I have to conclude somewhere; I am going to end here.
And so, finally, we remember that He commanded us to remember His deeds; but surely, this is not an end itself: We remember all these in order that we may remember Him.