I’m not ashamed of the Gospel
Here we have one of the best known of Jesus’ miracles and our reaction to this can mean we sometimes gloss over passages like this quickly because we have read them so many times before. This miracle is mentioned in Matthew 14, Mark 6 and John 6. Having mentioned before that Luke was writing eye-witness facts for accuracy to Theophilus, we find he doesn’t give as much detail as some of the other accounts in his writing. Luke doesn’t even mention the small boy who brought the loaves and fishes in his account.
If you read through quickly you can miss the nature of Jesus ministry here! In verse 11, Jesus welcomed the people, he spoke to them of the Kingdom of God and he healed them. Nothing has changed since then; we are called to carry on this ministry in the power that Jesus gave us through the Word and the Holy Spirit working together.
Jesus during this miracle was increasing the disciples training and understanding. As we have seen at the beginning of chapter 9, Jesus had sent the disciples out to minister and they have returned to him for debriefing. The detail that Luke does mention is that Jesus told the disciples to sit the people in groups of fifty each; they obeyed and did as asked which is always the requirement if you want to learn and grow with Jesus. Obedience is a necessity!
The relevance of fifties in the grouping – Jesus was revealing his Kingship to Israel, not the military leader they were expecting but the true Messiah. In Exodus 18:21 and 25 we see Moses being instructed about leadership qualities and setting leaders over groups including fifties. In Deuteronomy 1:15 Moses obeys these instructions. Then in 1 Samuel 8:12, God details the nature of the King who would reign over Israel, part of which would be to appoint captains over groups including fifty in number. This was the King who Israel requested but God was also describing the future King, the son of David – Jesus.
Jesus, therefore, is partly showing the disciples the future when he is no longer with them, although they don’t understand all yet; and he is also showing us the way forward for church growth and leadership. When Jesus blesses the bread, breaks it and distributes it he is foreshadowing the Lord’s Supper signifying his death and resurrection and the coming into his Kingship.
With the 12 baskets collected afterwards he is reminding Israel that God supplied the 12 tribes of Israel manna (bread) in the wilderness when freeing them from slavery in Egypt. The foretelling of his death upon a cross in v 21 – 27 explains that Jesus as God’s Son and King will bring His Kingdom to all who receive him and believe in him. Jesus as the bread of life supplies the physical and spiritual completeness in our lives, and frees us from captivity.
Obedience to follow Jesus will not leave us ashamed!
To sing with Delirious’ Martin Smith – I’m not ashamed of the Gospel I’m not ashamed of the one I love.