Feeding of the 5,000 – Luke 9:12-17

by | Updated February 18th, 2023

In Luke 9:1-6, the disciples had just returned from preaching, exercising authority over demons and healing the sick. They came back excited about what God had done through their large, exciting, flourishing ministry. Similar to the way it feels when planning a modern day crusade, outreach or concert. We prepare for the meeting or event, then the time arrives and it’s a big success. But, if lasting fruit is to exist, we must go back to our grass roots, day-to-day ministry.

Our day-to-day ministry may not always be as exciting and glamorous as a special event or crusade, but it’s very necessary. The ministry of the local church is a lot of work, but extremely important. Regular, daily ministry is what Jesus brings the disciples back to after they return.

Watch the Message

Below are a few insights and applications from the feeding of the 5,000 in Luke 9:12-17:

A Spiritual Drought

In the last phrase of Luke 9:12 the disciples say, “We are in a desolate place.” If that was ever true it is today. We are in a spiritual desert place. Many of our churches have become dry and lifeless. A good church’s goal should never be to take people away from another Bible preaching church (proselyte), but if they are in a desert place, go get them! New ministries should be started to bring a refreshing to God’s people.

Peter said, “Repent therefore and return, (be converted) that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Jesus said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink….and out of his belly (innermost being) shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). The church is to point people to Jesus and get them into the presence of God so their parched, thirsty souls might be quenched (Psalms 42:1-2).

Time is short

“The day began to decline” (Luke 9:12). Time is running out. There’s a sense of urgency in that statement and it rings true today like never before. Paul said, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11-12a). Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him that sent me, as long as it is day, for night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4).

A time of darkness is coming when we won’t be able to minister as freely as we do now. That time is near. We must get busy and do what we can for God today while we still can. “Say not ye, there are four months, and than cometh harvest. Behold, I say unto you, lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, for they are white already for harvest” (John 4:35).

Shirking Our Responsibility

“Send the multitudes away” (Luke 9:12). Let someone else do it. We’re always waiting for someone else to do what God told and called us to do. We think if someone else does it we will be relieved of our responsibility. Let someone else give, teach, start a church, witness, get involved, etc.

The disciples wanted Jesus to send the people to the surrounding villages where they could find lodging and get something to eat, not realizing Jesus could take what little they had and make something great out of it. We pray, “Lord, send someone across their path to witness to them, bring someone along who can teach that class, etc.” Let’s stop expecting someone else to do what God has called us to do. God has a job for you and if you don’t do it – it won’t get done.

Give Them Something to Eat

In Luke 9:13, Jesus tells the disciples (and us today), “YOU DO IT!” The disciples pointed out they only had five loaves and two fish which wasn’t enough to feed all the people. Have you ever felt you just don’t have what it takes? Anyone who has ever been used of God has felt this way at times. We are all inadequate in ourselves, but I have good news! The Bible says, “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). He makes up where we lack.

God never asks about our abilities, but about our availability. If we’ll take what we have and give it to God, He will do the rest. If He called you He will enable you. It wasn’t Jesus but the disciples who were to give them food. He gives to us so we can share with others. Don’t wait for someone else to do what He has called and enabled you to do. He has your back, “Faithful is He that calls you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

Organize for Success

In Luke 9:14-15, Jesus tells the disciples to divide the 5,000 into groups of fifty. If we’re going to minister properly to the people God sends our way we must organize. We will never have lasting success without it. The church is the only institution that is qualified to meet the needs and adequately minister to every age bracket.

Para-church organizations have done a great job ministering to certain groups, but it stops there. For example, I worked for three youth ministries in the past and once the kids became a certain age they moved out of my ministry. With the church they are able to transition from one ministry to another within the church’s ministry structure. The need for good churches is enormous – there can never be enough.

God’s Power and Blessing

“He took the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven, He blessed them” (Luke 9:16). I was saved in the midst of the Charismatic movement. During that time there was an extreme emphasis on getting God’s blessing. In the words of Keith Green, “Bless me, bless me, that’s all I ever hear but no one aches, no one cries.” The extremity of that time caused me to stray from seeking God’s blessing. However, I have come to realize that I can’t accomplish anything for God without His blessing.

Jacob wrestled with God all night and refused to let go until he had received His blessing (Genesis 32). Without God’s blessing everything we do is in our own strength. The disciples were blessed with His power and authority over the spiritual realm before being sent out (Luke 9:1-2). Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5). Jesus Himself didn’t begin His public ministry until the Holy Spirit had come upon Him (Luke 3:21-3). We desperately need His power, blessing and anointing if we ever hope to accomplish anything for Him and His glory.

Brokenness – A Prerequisite to God’s Power and Blessing

“He blessed and broke them and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the multitude. They all ate and were satisfied and twelve baskets of the leftover fragments were taken up by them” (Luke 9:16). Brokenness was key to the blessing and power of God being released.

We will never see the blessing and power of God being released in our lives and ministries until we have experienced a degree of brokenness. Anyone who has been used mightily of God has had a period of brokenness in their life. When we’ve been broken the fragrance of God’s glory and power is manifest.

It wasn’t until Mary’s vase full of perfume was broken that “the house was filled with the fragrance” (John 12:3). It’s not until we have been broken that the fragrance of the Lord fills His house and the world. “Now thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ, and makes manifest fragrance of His knowledge by us in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

It wasn’t until Gideon and his three hundred men “smashed the pitchers that were in their hands” that the torches within the pitchers were released to shine (Judges 7:19)! When this took place it brought confusion into the enemy’s camp and they were defeated. It’s when we have been broken that the light of the Lord within us is made to shine for the world to see.

“We sure need a heaven-born, earth-shaking, hell-terrifying revival – and it only comes through brokenness.” – Leonard Ravenhill

Share What You Have

“He kept giving to the disciples to set before the multitude” (Luke 9:16). We need to be fed by Jesus daily. If we’re not getting bread from the Master, manna from heaven, on a daily basis, we will have nothing to share with those in the desert place. It’s important we get a daily feeding of God’s Word from Jesus, the true bread of life from heaven (John 6).

The manna in the wilderness came daily. If they tried to saved it until the next day it spoiled. It’s the same way with the God’s Word. What we take in from the Word today is only good for today – it won’t keep until the next day. We must have a daily intake of spiritual manna, sitting at Jesus’ feet listening to His Word (Luke 10:38-42).

A Continuous Flow of Spiritual Food

“He kept giving to the disciples” (Luke 9:16). God desires to give us a continuous flow of spiritual food. If we don’t have a continual flow of spiritual nourishment from Him we won’t have anything to “set before the multitude.” As we receive from Jesus we must pass it on to others. “To everyone who has shall be given, and he shall have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away” (Matthew 25:29).

God calls us to be conduits and channels of His power, Word and blessing – not reservoirs and holding tanks. If we don’t share what we’ve received from Him He’ll take it away and give it to someone who will. He blesses us so we can be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). God doesn’t want a bunch of spiritually obese followers, keeping everything to ourselves. He’s calling His people to share what He gives us, and as we do, He will keep giving to us so we are able to keep giving out to the multitudes.

Satisfaction in Jesus

“They ate and were satisfied” (Luke 9:17). It’s so gratifying when you see those who have had their spiritual desert place satisfied with food and water from heaven. There’s nothing greater to behold. God promises to bring satisfaction to our spirit and soul, as well as those to whom we minister. When we feast on what we receive from the Master’s hand and share it with others, we will find Him satisfying our every longing.

“Thy Words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by Thy name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).

“Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).

“How sweet are Thy Words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

“But He answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Reciprocity (Sowing and Reaping)

They “picked up twelve baskets full” (Luke 9:17). The teacher always gets more out of what he teaches than the students. The more you give, the more you’ll get from Him. You can’t out give God. The more you give out to others the more you’ll receive. Whatever we give outside of ourselves is sure to come back to us many times over.

“Cast your bread on the waters and it will come back to you after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). “Give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38). “Be not deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).

God will bless your efforts spiritually, financially, and in every other way. Don’t give up before your harvest comes. Paul said, “Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9). Don’t quit! It takes a lot of time working in the fields before the harvest comes, but it will come.

More articles and guides...

  • Why Christians Don’t Pray

    The average Christian spends less than ten minutes each day in prayer. Why don’t we spend more time in prayer?

  • Benefits of Trials and Suffering

    Suffering is a very real issue in the body of Christ. It’s something that affects everyone in one way or another.

  • Sources of Joy

    If God’s desire is to fill His people with joy, why does joy elude us? How can we tap into the joy of the Lord?

  • A Pastor’s Responsibility to the Church

    The privilege and responsibility God gives pastors is to shepherd those who belong to Him. It’s a great honor, and also a heavy burden. It’s incumbent on us to take our calling seriously.