January 26, 2021
Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments that remained (Matthew 14:19-20).
This miraculous feeding of the 5,000+ is also recorded in Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17; and John 6:4-13. Jesus commanded the people to ‘sit down’ on the grass. The words mean to ‘recline’ or to lie down to eat their meal. The Jews never sat, as we do, at meals, but reclined or lay down, usually propped up on one elbow. Mark and Luke add that they reclined in companies of fifties and hundreds. The orderly arrangement made it easy to count and to feed them.
Jesus stood at the top of the gently sloping hillside where everyone could see Him bless the food, break (tear apart) the thin Jewish cakes of bread (like tortilla bread) and the dried fish, then give it to the disciples to give to the multitudes. This is a miracle some people find hard to believe. But it is recorded by all four Gospels. It was impossible for the crowds to misunderstand and to be deceived.
Luke 9:16 tells us that Jesus ‘blessed’ the food before giving it to the crowd. The word ‘blessed’ means to give thanks, to pray for a blessing, i.e. to pray for the divine favor, to pray that what we do may meet God’s approval. In asking God’s blessing on our food we are asking that it may be made nourishing to our bodies and that we may express our gratitude to God for providing the food for our consumption. It is to pause before eating so that we will remember the Creator of our food while we eat the abundance of His provision.
Jesus always asked the Father’s blessing on His food. He, then, becomes our example. What He did we should do. It is only right that we seek the blessing of God upon what He has provided for us. He daily opens His hand to satisfy our needs, so it is appropriate that we should acknowledge His goodness and mercy toward us.
Asking God’s blessing upon a meal was a universal custom among the ancient Jews. The form they used in blessing their food in the days of Jesus has been preserved in the Talmud (the collection of Jewish civil and religious law and tradition completed ca. A.D. 500). It goes: “Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, the King of the world, who hast produced this food and this drink from the earth and the vine.”
“Father, it is no small thing that we should express our gratitude to You for all the provisions we enjoy in life. We take it for granted the daily ministry of providing the food we eat, often thinking we are the ones who provide it. But every good and perfect gift comes from You and is intended for our benefit. May we never forget to thank You and to ask Your blessing upon all that we enjoy in life. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”