January 6th 2010

Feeding The 5000

A Free Lunch Beneath Nelson’s Column 

“Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you….”

John 6:27 (NKJV) 

On December 16, 2009, London’s Trafalgar Square was the scene of a publicity campaign with a difference: the offer of a free hot meal for all comers under the heading of “Feeding the 5000.” As many hundreds queued in the snow for a hot vegetable curry and free fruit & veg, campaigners highlighted the amount of food that is wasted in the UK, and suggested ways of channelling surplus food to people in need.

 Less waste, more use of fruit and veg in irregular shapes and sizes, more help for the hungry. All worthy causes, but is that what the original “feeding the five thousand” was all about? 

As he sometimes did, Jesus was trying to find some peace and quiet. But the crowds wouldn’t leave him alone. They gathered nearby in large numbers to see and hear this new-found celebrity. When he saw them, Jesus didn’t think of himself. He was “moved with compassion for them.” (Matthew 14:14) His response was to heal the sick and preach the Gospel. Food was not an immediate issue. It was only later on that the disciples drew this to his attention. Even then, at first he invited them to solve the problem. 

When they demurred, he performed the great miracle that has become something of a cliché today—he fed over 5000 people with only a few pieces of bread and fish. He did not deny the physical need, he responded powerfully to the request for help. Only when people had eaten their fill were they sent away. But what happened next put it all into quite a different perspective—and one that people today often forget when they think of this great miracle. 

John 6 shows that Jesus once again tried to escape the crowd, but they were determined to follow him. When they caught up with him, he said, “you seek .….because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labour for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you” (Verses 26-27). 

This was a completely different perspective—a foreign concept. As they struggled to grasp it, the crowd could only think back to the miracle of manna, which fed their forefathers in the desert. But they still didn’t get the point. So Jesus went on: “…my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…. I am the bread of life.” (Verses 32-35)

 In other words, there’s more to life than filling your stomach. Yes, God is concerned for the poor, and feeding the world is important , but it won’t solve all the world’s problems. Only Jesus can really do that.  We need to eat, but we have other needs too that we don’t always recognise. Most of all, we need Jesus, because he alone gives us the full quality of life and personal fulfilment we really want. 


Great Father, we do thank you for providing our daily bread and all that we need. Please give us and our leaders wisdom in how we use the earth’s resources. Better still, help people see that Jesus is the true bread of life—he is the only lasting solution.


Study by Gordon Brown