Contemplating Jesus


Posted on by Lucinda M. Vardey

The miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes to feed thousands is reported similarly in all four gospels.   Jesus had compassion for the people and ordered them to be given something to eat, the apostles first asking him how they could do such a thing with no practical resources.  In John’s gospel there was a boy nearby with 5 barley loaves and two fish and that’s where Jesus began, first with his concern for the hungry and then with a prayer of gratitude for what was offered.   From that prayer and the subsequent extraordinary abundance of food – 12 baskets filled with leftovers – lay some significant messages imbedded within the numbers.  5 ( loaves) +  2 (fish) = seven.    In Hebrew numerology #7 is associated with completion:  a favourite religious number which typified the covenant of holiness and sanctification. It was through this doorway that Jesus led his followers and to which he questioned their comprehension in Mark 8:17-21 after similarly feeding another crowd in the desert.  This time there had been 7 loaves and a few fish reported, and the remains still filled 12 baskets.  After enquiring of his followers about the numbers, Jesus said, “Do you still not perceive or understand?”

The numbers that appeared throughout all the food miracles were 5 and 7 and 12.    Number 12 then was the common summation in all the stories.  So what was the significance of 12?  The most obvious is the 12 tribes of Israel and Jesus’ appointment of 12 apostles.  Yet where did the 12 baskets of leftovers fit into the equation?

Food was central to Jesus’ ministry.  He sat at the head of many tables, as would any father in a Jewish home, eating and drinking while providing for the nourishment of the children gathered around him.   Jesus introduced an entire new way of devotion to God.  Instead of focusing on tribe affiliation as a marker of belonging, everyone who did the will of God were relatives and kin.   Providing for the basic everyday needs of the family were far more urgent than upholding tradition.  Yet the bounty of God knows no limits.  Not only did the feeding of the thousands illustrate the depth and width of Divine love and providence in providing for each member of God’s family, but additionally God’s abundance was such that the leftovers were greater than the original provision.   Was this a sign of passing from the old covenant (given to the 12 tribes of Israel) into a new covenant through Jesus’ incarnation and his 12 apostles?  And could it also have been a sign that what would evolve from a few eventually nourish billions?

This entry was posted in The Life. Bookmark the permalink.