How to View Miracles Like Jesus

What Feeding the 5,000 reveals about Jesus’s priorities

Oct 11, 2023

Paul David Tripp

Guest Contributor

The fame of Jesus was spreading like wildfire. 

No one had performed wondrous miracles like this man (John 6:2), and no one had spoken with authority like this teacher (Mark 1:22). People everywhere wanted to be in the presence of Jesus, either to reap the physical benefits (like healing), the spiritual benefits (like preaching), or the social benefits (it was the most popular thing to do). 

Jesus was tired, physically and emotionally. Remember, He was a man—having large and demanding crowds follow you must have been exhausting. To find respite and to spend time with His closest friends, He went to the other side of the Galilee and up a mountain (John 6:1-3). 

That didn’t work—the crowd followed Him up the mountain! But Jesus, being the compassionate Savior that He is, didn’t try to escape. He began to make arrangements for the organized chaos that was about to ensue. 

Jesus sees needs

Jesus first saw that the crowd was hungry. Back in this day, there were no shopping mall food courts, service plazas, or fast-food drive-thrus. These men, women, and children had been following Christ for a long time, and they had physical needs. 

Jesus also recognized that these people had larger spiritual needs than a one-off meal. Even though they didn’t know it, they were following Jesus because their hearts were empty. Yes, they were physically hungry, but they were spiritually starving to death. 

Finally, Jesus knew that the occasion of the crowd’s hunger and the timing of His provision would offer an opportunity to declare who He was. He also knew that this would give Him an opportunity to shape His disciples’ faith (John 6:6). 

This story is a great reminder for us to have eyes like Christ, always on the lookout for opportunities to care physically and spiritually for those in our path. 

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The crowd was physically hungry, but they were spiritually starving to death.

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Jesus grows faith

With the crowd approaching, Jesus turned to Philip and asked, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5). 

Philip responded, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (John 6:7). This is what I think Philip meant, because this is how I would have responded: “You have got to be kidding me, Jesus! Do you see the size of the crowd? We don’t have that kind of money. There’s just no way this is going to happen!” 

But Jesus knew exactly what He was doing when He asked Philip the question, and right on cue, Andrew located a boy carrying around a basket with five barley loaves and two fish. Just like Philip before him, Andrew analyzed the scenario with great doubt and asked, “But how far will they go among so many?” (John 6:9).

Jesus multiplies gifts

Whenever we learn about the feeding of the 5,000, we typically hear about Jesus, the crowd, or the disciples, but we neglect a central character—the boy who gave his food to Jesus.  

No one in the crowd would have thought that this boy mattered. No one would have imagined that what he was carrying in his little basket would not only be the provision of the moment, but the basis of one of the most significant sermons Jesus ever preached. 

This was one little boy in the crowd, with a little bit of seafood and bread. He had been chosen by God to be a significant piece of the Messiah’s redemptive plan, not only for that day, but for the rest of human history. The gospel writers recorded their experiences for Christians to read for generations. 

Here’s what I’m trying to say: we will never know which little person God will use, and how. That means that we’re never just lost in the crowd. We’re never without anything to offer. We never know who the Lord will claim and use in ways that we can’t predict or haven’t intended. 

The Lord knows us all. He knows where we are, what we have, and how we can be used. He is the Divine Author over each and every moment, writing our stories. He can do eternally amazing things with the little fragments of our lives that we’re carrying around and that we tend to think aren’t worth much. 

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We will never know which little person God will use, and how.

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Jesus invites our response

Whenever I think about this passage of Scripture, I always find myself wondering: what if that little boy had said no to the stranger who came and said that Jesus wanted his food? What if he had run as fast as he could into the crowd and disappeared? What if his parents had said, “That’s our food—leave us alone!” 

But the story didn’t happen that way. The boy selflessly gave up his little meal, and Jesus did with it what only the Son of God could do. By divine power, a crowd of thousands was satisfied by physical food (with plenty of leftovers!) and simultaneously pointed to the eternal source of spiritual food that satisfies the soul. 

What an amazing story! Christ did the impossible through an unremarkable kid in the middle of a very big crowd. This boy never received glory—only the Messiah did—but what he carried in his basket had bigger and more lasting implications than he would ever have been able to grasp. 

We just never know what God will ask of us. We never know when He will ask it. We never know ahead of time what will happen when He does. We never know how the Lord will redeem our little bits and pieces and use them to give grace to the hungry. 

That’s just the way our God works. 

About the Author

Dr. Paul David Tripp (M.Div, Westminster Theological Seminary), a longtime fan of BSF, is a pastor, speaker, and award-winning author known for the bestselling everyday devotional New Morning Mercies. He and his wife, Luella, recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. They live in Philadelphia and have four adult children and six grandchildren.

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24 Comments

  1. I have to give God the glory for an answer to prayer that opened me to higher giving. I promised to stop coloring my hair and use that money to support a boy in Africa. He has given me a color my hair cut lady says people spend lots of money to get a color like what mine is doing naturally. My sis in law says it is miracle hair at 71 years. God changes us to bless others, even when vanity was holding me back.

    Reply
  2. What I have is worth giving even if it is little and insignificant in my eye. Because GOD can use it for his better plan.

    Reply
  3. Loved reading this! Thank you!

    Reply
  4. How can I listen audio and hear the whole message

    Reply
    • Dear Christina – we don’t offer audio for the blog at this point, but we are grateful for your interest!

      Reply
  5. Thank you for sharing your story on Jesus feeding the 5,000 people. I enjoyed what you had to say about that the little boy gave of his lunch willing to help in spreading the gospel. What a miracle that was!!

    Reply
  6. As often as I have read this scripture, I never thought much about the little boy and his two fish. It is amazing who God will and can use to meet the needs of others.

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  7. I never know what God will ask of me or when He will ask it. But when I surrender myself to Him, He can take my humble offerings and work miracles through them, bringing hope, provision, and grace to those around me. May this story inspire me to trust in God’s plans, knowing that He can use even my smallest acts of faithfulness for His greater purposes.

    Reply
  8. It encourages me the way our God works – never too young or never too old physically and spiritually – to be part of God’s plan and purpose.

    Reply
  9. My thoughts 👇🏼

    When we give whatever little we have of not only possessions, but of our TIME & TALENTS too…in *RESPONSE to HIS call*; HE is able to multiply it, make it a blessing to unimaginable numbers & draw many to HIM.
    WE might not have a vision of HOW He will multiply it. Our’s is not to question why? how? etc etc.
    Our’s is to RESPOND in obedience to His call & *GIVE our all, joyfully, generously, immediately!*

    Consider this. What if the boy had said, “No, so many others out there. Ask one of them!”? The Lord would have done just that & WHO would have missed out?

    The one who says, “No. I have already dedicated my time & effort to ventures of MY OWN calling!” & is deaf to the LORD’S calling, would LOSE out on *being a part of* unimaginable blessing to countless others.

    Reply
  10. I am reading Dr David Tripp’s devotional New Morning Mercies every morning this year. God is using it to touch my soul. This article is great and ties in greatly with BSF study of John

    Reply
  11. I have never thought about the little boy but without him this miracle would not be possible. Everyone has something to offer just listen for God word.

    Thank you for BSF it it so wonderful.

    Reply
  12. Our walk in Christ is our responsibility to protect and serve the community , churches and Gods truth . We must continue to honor all we do to reach his eternal reward.

    Reply
  13. Praise the Lord! The miracle worker. As I read again the story of the feeding of the 5000, I got very excited because, many times I have read this story or heard it preached, people only focus on the multiplication of the fish and the bread; they don’t focus on the multiplication of the basket the small boy was carrying. Where did they get the 12 baskets to put the left overs? I also thing the baskets were bigger than the one the little boy carried. This story has a lot to teach us. We are not to waste anything that the Father has provided. I

    Reply
  14. These articles helped me understand more about our faith and how it works. Very grateful. Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Good comments n the little boy and an encouragement to give what little I have for God’s kingdom.I’m also encouraged by Jesus example of not complaining over the little food available for the hungry multitude.Instead he gave thanks and the miracle happened .Therefore let’s follow Christ’s example of contentment and gratitude and dependence on the Father to supply all we need.

    Reply
    • Praise the Lord! The miracle worker. As I read again the story of the feeding of the 5000, I got very excited because, many times I have read this story or heard it preached, people only focus on the multiplication of the fish and the bread; they don’t focus on the multiplication of the basket the small boy was carrying. Where did they get the 12 baskets to put the left overs? I also thing the baskets were bigger than the one the little boy carried. This story has a lot to teach us. We are not to waste anything that the Father has provided.

      Reply
  16. Loved how you mentioned the little boy. I’ve wondered what he might have thought. Did Jesus talk to him afterwards? Did he and his family follow Jesus and their group? I appreciated your perspective.

    Also, Congrats on the 50 years anniversary. That’s awesome!

    Reply
  17. Hello. I am trying to understand if Jesus’ performance of miracles and the visible things that He does in our lives and the lives of others have any connection with our belief in Him as the Messiah. Does our belief comes only by faith in Him? If so, is the faith that we have inspired only by God? If so, what about those who are not inspired to believe?
    What caused Nicodemus to believe?

    Reply
    • Whether saving grace is irresistible has been debated among Christians for centuries.

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  18. Thank you,. I love that you brought out the giving jto Jesus of the small portion of food that the boy had, and how giving that up was such an important part in the miracle of feeding the 5000.

    Reply
  19. Wow! I never thought about the boy & his family!!
    What a great way to bring this story onto our level. That could be me or my child being asked to be a part of Jesus’ ministry miracles. I’ll be more watchful, now, for His tap on my shoulder.
    Thanks for opening my eyes & my mind to His calling on me.
    This is really exciting!!!

    Reply
  20. Thank you for your take on this miracle. I have never focused on the boy in this strory. it makes me think how will I respond if
    God asks something of me. I hope I will be prepared to answer his call.

    Reply
  21. Thank you so much for offering this Bible Study.

    Reply

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