Does the feeding of the 5,000 show we should feed people when we teach them?


Matthew 14 says Jesus fed and healed the 5,000. He said they do not need to go away hungry, give them something to eat. Should we take this literally as an example and feed, help, and teach the lost?


You are seeing what you want to see in this example instead of what actually happened.

People traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 6:1) heard that Jesus was in the area of Bethsaida. They took a detour to see the man they heard so much about. "And the apostles, when they had returned, told Him all that they had done. Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida. But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing" (Luke 9:10-11). So notice that they weren't coming because fliers were sent out offering free food to any who came. There wasn't even an appeal to come and get healed. People came to see the man everyone was talking about. He preached to them the gospel. He proved that his words were from God by healing the sick among them (Hebrews 2:3-4).

When it became late in the day, the disciples suggested that the people be sent away to find food in the neighboring villages (Luke 9:12). Jesus took advantage of this suggestion to teach a lesson and demonstrate the power of God. The miracle that Jesus did is reminiscent of the miracle of the flour and oil done by Elijah (I Kings 17:8-16) and the miracle of the oil done by Elisha (II Kings 4:1-7). The difference is the scale in which this was done and the number of witnesses to the event.

But when people later chased Jesus down in hopes of more free food, Jesus turned them down. "Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled"" (John 6:26).

The lesson is that we teach the lost. The attraction is the message, not physical benefits. If I was teaching someone all day, it was getting late and I suggested we get something to eat before the local restaurants closed down and even offered to pay for the meal, that is my generosity. It has nothing to do with "buying" people to come and hear the gospel. The miracle that Jesus did was to further prove that he was the Messiah. It is clear that Jesus did not want people who came because they knew they would be fed.