Feeding the Multitude

Feeding of the Multitude, Duc de Berry

This past fall, our stake president introduced me to a new way to look at the miracles of Jesus feeding the multitude, which I wanted to share here. The feeding of the multitude is the only miracle that is mentioned in all four gospels, and in Matthew and Mark, there are multiple versions of the miracle. It has obviously touched the hearts of the early Christians for it to be recorded so often, and is dear to us today.

To feed thousands of people to the point of being full with only a few loaves and fish is huge and with baskets of leftovers is huge. To try to figure out how you’d have to physically do that (would you re-arrange the molecules? beam extra loaves in from a hidden teleportation device?) is mind boggling. We don’t know. My stake president offered another idea.

Who was in the multitude? Probably a range of people of different socioeconomic status, families, tribes of Israel. Perhaps there were people in the crowd who had brought some extra food in their own bags. Perhaps, when the basket came around, they saw that the crowd was huge and they had a little extra, and maybe moved by the compassion and healing miracles they saw Christ demonstrate or the teachings of love and charity they heard, or the example of Christ’s examples in giving all their own bread and fish, they took from their own bags and placed their extra into the baskets.

And thousands of people were fed. And there was plenty left over.

I don’t believe that this version makes the miracle of feeding the multitudes less miraculous. It is a miracle to have power over the physical world, but I think it may be even more of a miracle to have the power to change the hearts of human beings.

Do we have extra in our bags that we can put into the baskets and share with our community? Does Christ inspire us to action?

“Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” John 6:14

This Christmas, as we celebrate the man who changed the hearts of millions of people, let’s remember to let him change ours as well.


TopHat is putting her roots down in the Bay Area with her husband and three children. She loves the earth, yarn, and bicycling.

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14 Responses

  1. Téa says:

    In my favorite movie, Danny Boyle’s film “Millions”, St. Peter tells the miracle of loaves and fishes in roughly the same manner, that the people who had food only pretended to take from the baskets and/or put some in there so that when the basket came back to Jesus it was still full and then some.

    • TopHat says:

      I’ve never seen that movie. Maybe I’ll look it up, thanks!

      • Téa says:

        It also has Mormon missionaries as minor characters. It’s a funny and touching film. If you do watch it, don’t be turned off by the scene involving one of the brothers looking at swimsuit models. It turns into a discussion about breastfeeding. =)

  2. DefyGravity says:

    That’s beautiful! I’ve never heard that interpretation before, and I love it. The idea that the miracles of Christ were to insight compassion in others makes so much sense with what is taught in the New Testament, and is extremely applicable today in ways that some interpretations are not. We can see compassion as a route to Christ in our lives. Thanks for sharing!

  3. galdralag says:

    Beautiful! I had never heard this before – I love this interpretation. Thanks for sharing!

  4. alex w. says:

    This was one of my favorite Bible stories when I was a kid, but I’ve never thought about it this way before.

    “It is a miracle to have power over the physical world, but I think it may be even more of a miracle to have the power to change the hearts of human beings.” is beautiful.

  5. TopHat

    You’ve posted the best message I’ve heard this Christmas season.

    Many thanks!

  6. Miri says:

    That’s a really lovely interpretation. I’m pretty sure I like it much better than a rearranging molecules theory–not that that isn’t miraculous enough. But I think I agree that touching hearts and inspiring charity is a far more beautiful miracle. Thank you for this!

  7. EmilyCC says:

    Well, that makes me sit at my computer and cry. A powerful lesson at this time of year. Thanks, TopHat!

  8. Caroline says:

    This is a terrific post. I love this interpretation of feeding the multitudes.

  9. Libby says:

    Oh, wow. Somehow that’s an even greater miracle. Even better, it allows us mere mortals to participate in the miraculous.

  10. Jessica says:

    I love it!

  11. wendyl says:

    I really love this also. I agree wholeheartedly that changing and healing hearts is as much a miracle as having power over the physical world. This is something I have been thinking about intensely lately. Thank you for sharing this!

  12. Susan Adams says:

    “Changing bodies or protecting temples are miracles, but an even greater miracle is a mighty change of heart by a son or daughter of God (see Mosiah 5:2). A change of heart, including new attitudes, priorities, and desires, is greater and more important than any miracle involving the body.” Dallin H. Oaks, Miracles, Ensign June 2001

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