During this special Year of the Word: The God Who Speaks, we are going to have a regular series of reflections published on our website which will prompt us to reflect on important passages of St Matthew’s Gospel, and learn more about them. We are very grateful to Dr Natalie Watson, a contemporary theologian and writer, for offering these reflections for our community.
The story of the Feeding of the 5000 in Matthew’s Gospel is one that looks both back and forward: it reminds us of God feeding the people of Israel with manna in the wilderness, and points towards the end of time when God will prepare a great feast for all the nations.
The way Matthew tells the story is straight and to the point: Jesus is trying to withdraw to a deserted place, but he encounters a great crowd who had been looking out for him. Jesus speaks to them and heals the sick among them. At the end, everyone is tired and hungry. The disciples are trying to be practical and want to send the crowd away, but Jesus instructs the disciples: ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ God wants us to work with him – and he uses the resources we have to do so. In this case, there are five loaves of bread and two fish, basically a packed lunch. Jesus asks for them to be brought to him, and he blesses them. The little food available is enough to feed a large crowd of 5000 people and their families. And there are even twelve baskets of leftovers. God blesses and gives in abundance.
The Feeding of the 5000 looks back and it looks forward, but it is also present among us. Every time the Church celebrates the Eucharist, we look back to Jesus eating with his disciples on the night before his death, and we look forward to when we will partake in God’s great feast in heaven. But we are also blessed for our journey of discipleship and to follow his call to feed those whose needs we encounter.
God, you fed your people with manna in the wilderness and provided food for the 5000 in the desert, help us to share in your work and feed the hungry.