Why is the feeding of the 5,000 the only miracle performed by Jesus recorded in all four Gospels?
Perhaps one reason is because this miracle so clearly demonstrates that Jesus is a king who provides for the real needs of the people of the world.
Scholars believe that 75 percent of the people in Israel during New Testament times could be classified as peasants who primarily lived in poor, rural contexts heavily dependent on the food they themselves could grow.
In the face of grinding poverty, the provision of so much food would be an overwhelming outpouring of richness and abundance. Only a king could provide so generously.
Hunger remains a powerful force. Famine, malnourishment and chronic hunger continue to stalk our world.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO), 815 million hungry people exist in the world today. This includes millions of children who are always the first victims in contexts of chronic hunger.
In Jesus’ language, these hungry persons are our neighbors.
In Venezuela, an estimated 400 children starved to death last year, and the situation is worsening.
Projections indicate inflation will reach 12,000 percent by the end of this year, and many people will continue to face significant food deficits.
With four declared famines in 2018, more people are living in famine today than at any other point since World War II.
In one affected area in Nigeria, a village elder stood with tears in his eyes and begged, “Pray for us. We are surviving by eating grass.”
We care about all people, but let us look at the impact on our global Baptist family.
Though it is not possible to know the exact number of Baptists facing chronic malnutrition, it is possible to build upon the UNFAO data to observe that 21 million Baptists live in food-deficit countries, and 57,000 Baptist churches face the reality of daily hunger in their countries.
In other words, 45 percent of all BWA Baptists live in these contexts.
The words of the Lord’s Prayer resonate for these 21 million hungry Baptists, “Give us today, our daily bread.”
Many Baptists are positively and proactively providing real response:
- Baptists in Colombia are supplying Baptists in Venezuela with food aid and assistance.
- The Home Mission Board of the Brazilian Baptist Convention recently agreed to help resettle 5,000 fleeing Venezuelans.
- Baptists in southern Nigeria are giving to make a difference in the affected areas of northern Nigeria and the Middle Belt.
- The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering has helped fund 134 projects in the last 12 months.
- Baptists in Lebanon daily facilitate food and additional humanitarian assistance to thousands of Syrian refugees.
These are just a few examples of the many member bodies, churches and individuals who are striving to make a difference.
But in the face of 815 million hungry neighbors and 21 million Baptists living in food-deficit countries, it is imperative that we continue to collaborate together.
As Jesus urges in Luke 9:13, “Give them something to eat.”
The feeding of the 5,000 is not only a demonstration of Jesus’ kingship, it is also an invitation from Jesus – an invitation to offer to Jesus our five loaves and two fish in trust that Jesus is the great resource multiplier who uses even small gifts for tremendous impact.
It is an invitation to once again follow the witness of Jesus who “welcomed” the crowds who were hungry.
As followers of Jesus, we are people of the king. As the only miracle performed by Jesus recorded in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000 is a powerful challenge to us to embrace anew the exhortation that people of the king work to feed the people of the world.
Elijah M. Brown is the general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.