The Meaning of the Loaves and the Fishes

Scripture Reading

And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake [them,] and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.

Matt. 15:36

Acts of Compassion

This Bible study called the meaning of the loaves and the fishes, illustrates the incredible compassion Jesus had on the multitudes during his earthly ministry. In fact, he said this very thing at the beginning of this passage, “Then Jesus called his disciples [unto him,] and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” [Matt. 15:32]  It would have been easier for him to continue on his journey in preaching, teaching and healing the people but it is notable that he took the time to ensure the well being of the people who were following him.

Perhaps it was fitting for Jesus to take care of the people in this manner since he used the metaphor of hunger and thirst for those who seek after righteousness during his sermon on the mount. It was clear that Jesus was teaching the multitudes about the kingdom of heaven and that they were finding rest in him as part of his compassionate ministry.

And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken [meat] that was left seven baskets full.

Matt. 15:37

Doubting Disciples

But despite this, even his disciples cast doubt upon the request from Jesus to provide enough food for such a large number of people as they responded by saying, “And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” [Matt. 15:33]  There is somewhat of a sense of humor that comes out of the response from Jesus when he asks the disciples how many loaves they have, as if that were of any concern for the Lord Jesus who could create anything out of nothing (Col. 1 :15-17, John 1;3).

After the disciples told Jesus that someone had seven loaves and a few little fishes, he told the multitudes to sit down on the ground. Following this, he gave thanks for the food and then gave it to his disciples who in turn distributed it to the multitudes. But here is where the miracle took place from the Lord Jesus as recorded by Matt. 15:37, And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up the broken [meat] that was left seven baskets full. That is indeed worth reading a second time, not only did everyone eat but they were filled and there were still leftovers!

Miracles of Jesus

This amount of food materialized from a mere seven loaves of bread and a few little fishes. You may be asking, well how many people actually were there who ate the food? The scripture records there were four thousand men. But then it subtly adds, “…beside women and children.” [Matt. 15:38b]  Presuming many of them were married since it indicates both women and children, this could have also included sisters, aunts, grandmothers, sons and daughters, etc. Truly, this was a miracle from Jesus to create so much food from such little provision. If there ever was a time for seekers of faith to believe in the Lord Jesus, this was the opportunity for he was no mere man with just an intriguing message of saving grace and faith in him. Jesus was the very Lord himself (Acts 2:36).

It is also worth noting the tremendous act of compassion and other miracles that preceded this event when Jesus conversed with a woman from Canaan. Here was a woman coming to him in contrite humility and faith pleading for him to heal her daughter who was vexed with a devil. Be sure to read this inspiring Bible study as it will surely bring new hope to your walk of faith. This clearly made an impression upon the people with the healing of the woman’s daughter because the next passage of scripture documents what transpired after that event.

And great multitudes came unto him, having with them [those that were] lame, blind,, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.

Matt. 15:30-31

Yes, it was the Lord Jesus who healed them all, blind, lame, maimed, dumb, no one was beyond his ability to heal both physically and spiritually.

Face Value Meaning

This Bible study called the meaning of the loaves and the fishes does not really need to delve into any deep complexities of doctrine or theology. It is rather an example of how Jesus lived while on earth with his compassion toward people. It is therefore not necessary to seek some sort of hidden meaning behind the scriptures, rather accepting them at face value is more than enough to draw inspiration from this passage for your faith.

Time for Contemplation

Therefore, to close off this study on the loaves and the fishes, ask yourself these questions. When you spend time reading the Bible do you stop and give contemplation to such acts of compassion from Jesus? Do you take the time to consider how Jesus cares for you as a believer in Christ for the scriptures tell us that we should be, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” [1 Pet. 5:7] Do you marvel at the Lord Jesus’ omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience as Lord of all creation?

Or do you simply gloss over such scriptural passages and doubt their veracity or authenticity? If so, it is recommended first to pray for such doubt and to seek the Lord’s wisdom to better understand the scriptures. In addition, seek out a good reference Bible or study Bible where cross references help to support the same or similar verses. By doing this, it often helps to support and affirm through multiple authored accounts the events and miracles in scripture.

The Bible tells us that, “All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” [2 Tim. 3:16-17] Nothing in scripture is superfluous or irrelevant. Granted, some scriptural passages are far more important and compelling than others. Some offer more profound meaning and intent in reference to Christian doctrine.

All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

2 Tim. 3:16-17

Three Takeaways

But this simple passage on the meaning of the loaves and the fishes represents three takeaways for seekers of faith. First, Jesus is a God of compassion. Second, Jesus is a God of miracles. Perhaps the third takeaway is that the acts of Jesus stirred up the darkness of this world like nothing has ever done before him. We shall soon see in the next Bible study how this was so with the religious leaders called the Pharisees and Sadducees who approached him seeking a sign from heaven. 

Although they had been witness to the many miracles of Jesus as recorded thus far in scripture, they were still in darkness. This was written about by the apostle John when he stated this about Jesus, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” [John 1:4-5]

Dear reader, seek out the Lord Jesus will you still can, don’t fall peril to the trappings of this world and to what the world calls wisdom, don’t be like the blind and hypocritical Pharisees. Rather, come to him in humility, and in faith now and be inspired by his love, compassion and mercy as the eternal atonement for your sins.

Bible Study Questions

  1. How does it help seekers of faith to understand that Jesus was compassionate toward people who followed him?
  2. In this study on the meaning of the loaves and the fishes, why do you think the disciples doubted how the multitudes could be fed?
  3. This miracle in feeding thousands of people gives evidence of the fact that Jesus has power over material things, true or false?
  4. From this study, can you name another miracle that took place from the information provided? Hint, woman from Canaan.
  5. Why is it important to view these events from a literal perspective without re-interpretation of them from a theological approach?
  6. In the Time for Contemplation section from the meaning of the loaves and the fishes, which person do you relate to the most and why?
  7. Have you ever fallen into the trap like the Pharisees in wanting to see a sign from Jesus? If so, how could you approach this differently for your faith next time?

WORD GUIDE – . * (loaves – bread) * (brake – broke) * (multitude – group of people) * (whence – where) * (multitude – large group of people)

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