Reflections on Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand — The Most Impressive Cookout in History

This denarius is inscribed with Emperor Tiberius’ profile. Tiberius was the Emperor of Rome from 14 A.D. to 37 A.D., which covers Jesus’ adult life. It’s also the coin Jesus uses to tell people to pay their taxes. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” — Mark 12:17

Jesus feeding the five thousand continues the series of miracles Jesus performed after He began His ministry on Earth. See John 6:1–15.

“Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” — John 6:5

Jesus continued to gain followers because of the miracles He performed and the word of mouth that continued to spread. Jesus saw an opportunity to teach and to show his disciples with the crowd. It’s why He asked them in verse 5, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Jesus already knew what he was going to do. Philip gave Jesus the opening He was looking for when he said, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to get a little.”

Our modern language reflects Rome’s influence through Latin roots. The denarius, made of silver, was the standard coin for the Roman Empire, and ten denarii made up one as. Over time, the Romans devalued the denarius by lowering the amount of silver the money contained, so we’re not really sure how much a denarius was worth. But if we estimate how much the denarius was worth based on today’s exchange rates and the amount of silver the coin had in Jesus’ time on Earth, we come up with a value of about $2. Philip’s estimate that the crowd wouldn’t be fed with 200 denarii would be like us estimating it would take more than $400 to feed the crowd. With a conservative inflation rate, that puts the cost at over $2,000! Feeding a group that size with one small lunch was an absolute miracle. Two hundred denarii was a lot of money then, and it’s a lot of money now.

At any rate, Jesus using a kid’s lunch to feed this crowd is yet another miracle. Jesus broke the bread, gave thanks, and shared the bread with the group. He did this to provide for His followers. It’s also notable that the leftovers made up 12 baskets — one for each tribe of Israel. These were signs that Jesus was the Messiah they were waiting for. In stories like this, I find it very easy to see myself in one of the disciples. In this case, I can easily see myself in Philip’s shoes, and that’s where I begin to take a couple of lessons away.

In Philip’s Shoes

When we don’t know what to do, bring it to Jesus. In the same way, Philip took the question to Jesus, we should bring our challenges to Him. When things seem overwhelming, like the 5,000 did to Philip, Jesus can make what feels impossible, reality. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will give us a prompt or a nudge towards the solution, and hopefully, we take the bait like Philip.

Stay the course. Don’t let internal and external pressures shake you from your path. After Jesus fed the crowd, rather than allowing the group to crown Him at that moment, Jesus went away because the time wasn’t right. Think back to what Jesus said to Mary at the wedding,

“Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4).

Jesus knew the timing of everything and the proper order of things. These are two examples of Jesus staying the course to fulfill God’s plan. We may not know what that plan is, but we have to be confident in God’s plan for us and His timing for things. Being optimistic in that timing requires us to get comfortable being uncomfortable. We also need to get into the word to understand when God is speaking to us, so when we have our ‘Philip moments,’ we recognize what’s happening. Jesus feeding the five thousand wasn’t just a fantastic cookout; it was also yet another lesson for us.