Multiplication of the loaves

Published July 25, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Manila Bulletin


JOHN 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

The lord feeds the hungry

In succeeding the prophet Elijah, Elisha, son of Shaphat, receives a double portion of his spirit. He is reported to do more miracles than the great Elijah, yet does not equal the latter’s stature. In today’s First Reading, he multiplies 20 barley loaves which, to the mind of his servant Gehazi, is not enough for a hundred men. But the word of the Lord to some left over” (2 Kgs 4:43).

Today’s Gospel introduces the theme of Jesus as the Bread of Life as developed in chapter six of John. It begins with the multiplication of the loaves which is recorded in all four Gospels. In John, this “sign” or miracle of Jesus who gives bread to the hungry prepares for a far better bread, the bread that does not perish and gives life to the world.

There is a literary affinity between the descriptions of the multiplication of the loaves. First, the sources of loaves are mentioned: a man from Baal-shalishah and a boy pointed out by Andrew. Second, the kind of bread is specified: barley loaves, the loaves of the poor and ordinary people. Third, two persons doubt if the loaves are enough: Gehazi and Philip. Lastly, there are leftovers after the people have eaten.

The multiplication of the loaves points to the giver of bread. In the case of Elisha, it is the Lord who fulfills his word to the prophet. In the Gospel, it is Jesus, the Son of God, whom the people see as the Prophet, the one they expect to come into the world.

As noted, the multiplication of the loaves in the Gospel of John serves as the launching pad for further and deeper revelation of Jesus that will culminate in his claim as the Bread of Life. As the people expect more from Jesus and so seek to carry him off to make him king, we open our hearts for further revelation of Jesus as the Bread of Life.

SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2021,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: