Despatches from the front line of the Church
There are a few subtle differences in the Gospel accounts of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Maybe this is what really happened.
Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said.
There was a pause.
“All of them?” said one.
Jesus looked at them. “Yes, all of them. All five loaves and two fish, please.”
There was another long pause. Somebody shuffled their feet.
“Is there a problem?” asked Jesus.
“Er, Lord,” said Matthew. “It’s just that we don’t have much bread and fish… the economy and that… we’ve already given quite a bit. If we give up this then we won’t have anything. What will we eat?”
“I gave one of my loaves to an old lady earlier,” said John. “I’ve made my contribution.”
“I gave a kid an M&M,” said Thomas.
Jesus rubbed his temples. It was getting late. “Gentlemen, this is not a difficult concept – give me the bread and fish. Seriously.”
“Lord,” said James, who was notably clever. “If we surrender all our possessions, then we will starve, and then we won’t be able to give on a more regular basis. Surely long-term sustainable provision of food security is preferable to this random act of self-deprecation?”
The other disciples looked impressed. James had been to college. He had a BTEC.
“If I may,” said Judas. “Strictly speaking we are only required to donate ten percent, aren’t we? So how about we cut off a bit of fish and a bit of bread and give you that for the people?”
Andrew was looking out at the crowd. “Some of them are quite well-dressed, you know. Should the wealthy not give more? If they’ve got lots of money maybe they should be buying the dinner.”
“Also, Lord,” said Thomas, “this much bread and fish isn’t going to solve the problem, anyway, is it?”
“Well, Thomas,” sighed Jesus. “You’d be surprised.”