he feeding of 5,000 men plus an unknown number
of women and children marked another year in Jesus’ life and ministry (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13). It is generally agreed that this miracle
occurred sometime between the first one to one and half years of ministry; however, some believe that another year had elapsed. This is the only miracle that is recorded in
all four gospels. This suggests that the miracle is highly unique among the miracles, wonders, and signs that Jesus performed. Why was this one so important? Why was only this
one recorded in all four gospels? We will discover that the miracle was visible to more than just the disciples. At least 20,000 people were present who would have witnessed
the impossibility of this event. That was an unbelievable miracle.
Background. This miracle occurred after Jesus’ disciples returned from their mission of preaching and healing in Israel (Matthew 10:1-42)
and gave their report to Jesus (Mark 6:30-32; Luke 9:10-11). The disciples’ report was simple. They told Him what they had done and taught (Mark 6:30). That is all that
the scriptures say, and so that is all that we know. Jesus’ popularity was so great that people were constantly seeking and coming to Him. As a result, Jesus had few opportunities
to rest and was forced finally to seek a secluded place where they could rest (Mark 6:31).
And He said to them, “Come away by yourselves
to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people
coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) (NASB) Mark
They attempted to escape the crowd by getting into a boat and sailing
across the Sea of Galilee to the coast near the city of Bethsaida (Mark
6:32; Luke 9:10).
After these things Jesus went away to the other side
of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). (NASB) John 6;1
. . . Taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to
a city called Bethsaida. (NASB) Luke 9:10
But somehow the crowds knew that Jesus had slipped away.
Some of them knew that Jesus and the disciples had left for Bethsaida,
so they followed. How did they know? Had someone overheard Jesus telling
His disciples that they were going to Bethsaida? We do not know. But
somehow they knew, and Mark 6:33 tells us that the news that Jesus was
going to Bethsaida spread everywhere from city to city.
The people saw them going, and many recognized them
and ran there together on foot from all the cities, and got there ahead
of them. (NASB) Mark 6:33
People were running from many different cities to Bethsaida
in order to see Jesus. This is an incredible picture of the passion and
excitement that these people had for Jesus. They really wanted to see
and be with Him. The gospel of John says that people were seeking Him
because of the signs that He had performed.
A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs
which He was performing on those who were sick. (NASB) John 6:2
While they did not know who Jesus truly was, they at least knew that
He was like no one they had ever experienced. As a result, some of the
people arrived before Jesus arrived in Bethsaida. The news spread faster
than a wild fire.
Early in the Day. When Jesus and the disciples
arrived, they saw a crowd of people waiting for Him. Jesus graciously
welcomed them because He felt compassion for them and because they were
without a spiritual shepherd who truly cared for them (Mark 6:34). He
did this even though He wanted some rest (Matthew 14:13-14). Jesus was
When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt
compassion for them and healed their sick. (NASB) Matthew 14:14
Then Jesus went up on a hill and sat down with His disciples in preparation
to teach the people. We are told that He taught them about the kingdom
of God and healed many.
Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat
down with His disciples. (NASB) John 6:3
. . . He began speaking to them about the kingdom of
God and curing those who had need of healing. (NASB) Luke 9:11
It appears that He started teaching early in the day; and then sometime
later in the day, another large crowd came. Apparently, people just kept
coming throughout the day, some groups being larger than others. Some
of these people may have been travelers who had come for the Jewish Passover
feast that was approaching. When they heard that Jesus was near, they
stopped to see Him.
Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. Therefore
Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to
Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these
may eat?” (NASB) John 6:4-5
John’s Prison. What follows next in
both Matthew and Mark is a parenthesis or an explanation as to why Herod
had beheaded John the Baptist. It is a cruel story.
For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and
bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip,
because he had married her. (NASB) Mark 6:17
Mark 6:17 tells us that Herod the Tetrarch had John arrested and imprisoned
because of his wife Herodias, who was actually the wife of his brother
Philip. Josephus tells that John was imprisoned on top of Mount Machaerus.
Herod had built a fortress on top of Mt. Machaerus at an elevation of
1,000 feet. The fortress measured about 300 feet (100 m) long, 200 feet
(60 m) wide. The fortress had three corner towers, each sixty cubits
90 feet (30 m) high. Then Herod built a palace in the center of the fortress.
The fortress was located on the northeastern corner of the Dead Sea.
John was in a dungeon somewhere within the fortress.