As the knowledge of Jesus’ ministry became more widespread, Herod increasingly saw Jesus and his movement as a threat to his power. Herod wondered whether Jesus was John the Baptist alive again though Herod had had him beheaded. Aware of John’s death and the increasing threat to his own life, Jesus withdrew onto the lake for safety and solace. Still, people followed him even into secluded places. When he returned to shore, a great crowd met him. The crowd was huge, larger than any of the towns from which they might have come. Despite the crowd, the setting is described as “ a deserted place” (14:13), remote from people’s homes.
Jesus responded to the crowd with compassion. As the day wore on, the disciples came to him concerned that dinnertime was approaching. Their solution was to send the people away, but Jesus commanded the disciples to feed the people. The disciples objected, saying that they had nowhere near enough food to feed such a crowd. Jesus told the disciples to bring what they had to him. He told the crowd to sit down – or recline for a meal – on the grass. Jesus took the food, looked up to heaven, blessed the food, and broke the loaves, giving them to the disciples to distribute to the crowds. The story says, “all ate and were filled” (14:20) and there were leftovers.
How could five loaves and two fish be enough to feed more than 5,000 people? Some say that the food was miraculously multiplied, though the story contradicts that when it refers to leftovers. Some say that people who had been hoarding food willingly shared it when they saw others doing the same. The story does not mention this. The story does tell us that when we sit down together with Jesus to eat there is enough for everyone. Indeed, there is enough left over to share with others who might come.