Understanding the Loaves and Fishes Miracles


#1

I feel my mind has taken me down a dangerous path. Every time I read or hear the loves and fishes miracles I dont see how it happened.

did all of the sudden all these baskets appear full?

was it like cell division in science?

did it happen right in front of people or in private?

was it “magical” in the sense it was broken into microscopic
pieces and that 5000 people could be full by eating a microscopic piece? (Then the leftover baskets part wouldnt make sense)

I tell myself and pray that I believe 100% sure that the multiplication miracles really did happen. Is this a big deal, am I looking at irrelevant details…Do all miracles have that unknown uncomprehendable supernatural attribute?


#2

I’m not an apologist, I’m here asking questions just like you. I’m replying mainly to bump this question back up the list, because I’d like to see replies.

To me, the loaves & fishes miracle is important, because it’s a “foreshadowing” of Jesus establishing the Eucharist: We never run out of the Eucharist, even though Jesus’s human body was finite.


#3

I heard an interesting talk about this by a Cistercian monk. I don’t think his claim was that this is what really happened (since we weren’t there and couldn’t possibly know), but offered it as a likely possibility. It’s been awhile since I heard it so I may not get the details right; nevertheless I will try to give an overview.

Essentially his idea was that the many people who had traveled to hear Jesus weren’t traveling empty. Most of them carried packs in which they had food, but were not about to open their packs in such a crowd because nobody had enough they felt they could share. When they saw the faith of Jesus and the boy who gave up his loaves and fish for the cause, they were moved to break open their own packs and share, and as it turns out they had nothing to fear because they had plenty for everyone.


On the surface, this story, if true, may seem to relegate the incident to a non-miracle, but the way he framed it I got the impression it was highly unusual for the people to behave that way in a crowd. The miracle was the stirring in their hearts that caused them to open up. Personally I think if this explanation were true it would speak a great deal of Christ because it shows that Christ inspired the people in the crowd to get over their fears and use the God-given resources they already had. That could be a much more useful miracle for a Savior of souls to perform than to simply “conjure up” some grub and feed them for one meal; this way He is teaching them with His example rather than dazzling them with His magic.

Alan


#4

If God could create the universe out of nothing, why could he not multiply fish and bread?

We don’t have the details of how it happened exactly, we are simply asked to believe that God could provide for all those who came to hear Him preach.

He provided manna in the dessert that just appeared every morning for the Israelites.

He is present in every Catholic Church throughout the world in every tabernacle.

Why is this particular miracle so difficult?

Maybe you’re getting too bogged down in details. Perhaps the phrase “The devil is in the details” is true in this instance?


#5

[quote=Didi]If God could create the universe out of nothing, why could he not multiply fish and bread?

We don’t have the details of how it happened exactly, we are simply asked to believe that God could provide for all those who came to hear Him preach.

He provided manna in the dessert that just appeared every morning for the Israelites.

He is present in every Catholic Church throughout the world in every tabernacle.

Why is this particular miracle so difficult?

Maybe you’re getting too bogged down in details. Perhaps the phrase “The devil is in the details” is true in this instance?
[/quote]

Dear Didi,

I think you make some really good points. As for having this discussion at all, I did not take the OP’s question as disbelief or even a challenge, so much as a yearning to know what it would have been like to actually be there when it happened.

If I knew there was a miracle to be performed, I’d want to go see it. Hearing of a miracle that was performed, I imagine myself being there and wonder what it was like. I have wondered about this since for maybe 35 years, since I first learned of it in grade school, but never heard it preached on until a couple years ago.

I was about five years old when Mary Poppins came out. When I first heard of the loaves and fishes my mind conjured an image very similar to Mary unloading her bag – for those who haven’t seen the movie, when she moved into a home as a nanny she amazed the children by opening her bag and withdrawing many things from it, some which were much larger than the bag.

As far as “devil is in the details” I also think you made a good point, with which I fully agree. In the case at hand, I don’t think we will ever know the real answer, as you said. (As you can tell, though, I’m not against speculation.) In many other cases, though, I have been anywhere from confused to amused at many of the “details” that are taken very seriously by many Catholics. Example: if you pray X a certain number of times under Y conditions, then Z days (years, etc) are taken off your time in – or Z souls are released from – purgatory. To me this stuff sounds like pure manufactured information that tries to reduce the Good News to a mathematical formula. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but I can hardly imagine Christ setting up some sort of spiritual obstacle course that if we run through it a certain number of times we get goodies. Hey, I just made the Sign of the Cross twice – can I trade that in for 20 years off in purgatory?

Alan


#6

The same miracle has occurred in the monasteries of Mount Athos on a number of occasions, where there was insufficient food for the number of guests who had arrived on the monastery’s feast day. After seeking the intercession of the saint who was being celebrated that day, they found that upon serving out the food they had more than enough. The same also with the miracle of the woman filling many empty oil jars from the contents of one oils jar. The Pantocrator Monastery had run out of oil and was cut off during winter. After seeking the help of Mary the Theotokos, one of the monks noticed oil running from under the door of the storeroom where they kept the empty oil jars and inside found one of the jars overflowing with oil.
http://www.clarte.gr/pr_images/replicas/02636.jpg
Copy of the icon Panagia Gerontissa from the Monastery of Pantocrator on Mount Athos


#7

The Miracle of the Multiplication of the Loaves is one of my favorites!

The reason is that we would all find this miracle easier to digest if Jesus had looked at the measly five loaves and said something like: “I don’t see five loaves … I see five hundred loaves!” And poof! A puff of smoke clears and there are five hundred loaves where there were but five before … “CAN I GET AN AMEN???!!!”

But that’s not what He did. Think about it. Imagine yourself among the thousands on this grassy plain. Someone on your right hands you a fragment of a loaf. You take it with your right hand, break from it, and pass the remainder to the person on your left. What you don’t realize in doing so is that the loaf you passed with left hand was greater than the loaf that you took with your right! And that the same miracle happened hundreds, perhaps thousands of times yet no one sounded an alarm or even took notice!

Now that’s a miracle! We can more easily discern how Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. But then that’s what makes this miracle so special.

The multiplication of common bread is symbolic of nature of the Eucharist. A body is ordinarily a finite thing, but Christ’s flesh “for the life of the world” (John 6:51) is superabundant. From a finite source, that is His flesh, He feeds the world such that even the remnants are greater than the sum:

When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that none may be lost”. (John 6:13)

And when they did this, the fragments filled twelve baskets.

The point is this: Even if the people were not aware that that the loaves had been mysteriously multiplied, they should have figured out something when the scraps filled twelve baskets. But only the disciples discerned this. We know this because the very same crowd later hounded Jesus for a sign (John 6:30) having missed the one given them the previous day!

This is the nature of the Eucharist. I have read many refutations of the Real Presence that point to the finite nature of Christ’s flesh and thus the insufficiency for all to partake. Perhaps they would believe if given a sign … but then from the Catholic perspective the doctrine is clearly taught in the Bible – they just missed it! It is ultimately discerned only by His disciples. See the connection?

One more point … Some commentators, mostly Protestant, have taken to calling this instead the “miracle of sharing”. Perhaps it is because it is hard to fathom. Perhaps it is because the miracle would infringe upon their theology. Whatever the misgiving, I think the “miracle of sharing” is unfounded. Where else in the Bible is the benevolence of the masses manifest? The Bible is about God’s goodness, not mans’.


#8

[quote=Didi]If God could create the universe out of nothing, why could he not multiply fish and bread?

We don’t have the details of how it happened exactly, we are simply asked to believe that God could provide for all those who came to hear Him preach.

He provided manna in the dessert that just appeared every morning for the Israelites.

He is present in every Catholic Church throughout the world in every tabernacle.

Why is this particular miracle so difficult?

Maybe you’re getting too bogged down in details. Perhaps the phrase “The devil is in the details” is true in this instance?
[/quote]

Good points.

We tend to question everything, and in the end we end up with nothing.

Can we use logic for instance to explain how bread and wine turns into the body and blood of Christ?

How can physics explain to us Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead? Can we extract the square root of an imaginary number, multiply it by Phi, and raise the dead back to life again?

Can we use Calculus to determine how the Word assumed human flesh and dwelt among us?

Can we examine God under a microscope, and conclude He doesn’t exist, because our instruments are pathetically incapable of examining Him?

Faith and love begins, where logic and science ends.

Gerry :slight_smile:


#9

I suspect that the multiplication of loaves and fishes happened much like the jar of meal and cruse of oil of the widow in Zarephath in the time of Elijah the prophet, below. Whenever the Apostles reached into the basket for a loaf or a fish there was always some in there.
10So he [Elijah] arose and went to Zarephath; and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” 11And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a cruse; and now, I am gathering a couple of sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13And Elijah said to her, “Fear not; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the LORD the God of Israel, `The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the cruse of oil shall not fail, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” 15And she went and did as Elijah said; and she, and he, and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of meal was not spent, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD which he spoke by Eli’jah. (2 Kings 17:10-16)


#10

[quote=nobody]I’m not an apologist, I’m here asking questions just like you. I’m replying mainly to bump this question back up the list, because I’d like to see replies.

To me, the loaves & fishes miracle is important, because it’s a “foreshadowing” of Jesus establishing the Eucharist: We never run out of the Eucharist, even though Jesus’s human body was finite.
[/quote]

I agree. The loaves and fishes miracle has always made me think that it was a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. In John, it starts chapter 6 and leads right into the Bread of Life Discourse.I think it was placed there on purpose so the two would be connected.


#11

I used to belive in the miracle of the loaves. I belived that, the miracle was everyone brought some bread with them and that when it came time to share. Everyone brought out a loaf and shared it.

Now I am older I belive in Miracles of God more. I belive the miracle was. They had a basket with 5 loaves and as they handed out each loaf. It was replaced in the basket. The same so with the fish.


#12

there have been a lot of posts here that have helped me. but at the same time i am seeing a lot of this
" the miracle was not really a miracle, it was a community picnic " or "everybody shared"
this stuff really disturbs me. this is so disturbing i dont know where to start. here is my view of what this is saying:

1)the people who came with a lunch have no need for Jesus. (they were self sustaining.)

2)the people who didnt have a lunch (have nots) were less fortunate and had to rely on the “haves”. (the miracle is that everybody is a “have not”, only the power of Jesus can fix this.)

3)Jesus plays a passive role. he is no longer God, but a humanitarian. (one of the worst thing that happened in the world is when these “humanitarians” took on a secular role and threw out its very foundation, Christianity. that is why morals and faith are going in the dumps because people are becoming mainstream to the point where everything is relative and not based on Christ.)


#13

the theory that the real miracle was “sharing” the food the people had brought with them was propounded in a homelitic magazine for priests about 20 years ago, the source being the Jesus Seminar which exists for the sole purpose of denying the divinity of Christ by denying his miracles and the resurrection itself. You either believe the gospel in its entirety or you don’t. The miracles happen because Jesus did them, there were witnesses, their testimony was remembered, compiled, handed on and written down in the form of 4 gospels. The miracles are exactly what John calls them, signs that Jesus is who he says he is, the Son of God.

As to the mechanics and logistics, what difference it makes to belief is hard to see, unless someone is bent on quibbling with intent to deny or explain away the miracle on some natural grounds.

3 years ago in helping to serve a community Christmas meal to the poor at a nearby Church, my sister, two nephews and I witnessed such a miracle. We could clearly see the containers of prepared food and how much they held, could see the bottom of the pots of the rice and beans being scraped. The crowd was double what it had been the year before and had been planned on. My dear nephews wanted to go out with their own money and buy pizza for everybody, bless their hearts. But we told them to pray and keep serving.

We found that we were able to continue filling plates for more than an hour after we had been scraping the bottom of the pans. the desserts had been gone for some time, yet the boys kept going back to one nun, who had been slicing the cakes, and one beautiful fruit and cream cake of normal family size provided at least 100 servings. what happened was the monsignor came to see how we were doing, to say grace and greet people. He prayed over the food in the kitchen and the volunteers and asked God to feed all those present, and so He did.


#14

that was a cool story. now when you said that your nephews wanted to buy everyone pizza you mean they were so young they had no idea what they were saying?i have seen that heart/kindness in kids as well. then again didnt Jesus say “unless you become like children”


#15

they were in high school and knew perfectly well what they were saying. they wanted to give up all the money they had saved for their vacation on South Padre Island and side trip to Mexico, and spend it on food for the poor. Our habit has been, since my own kids were small (they are now all grown) to spend Christmas day and Thanksgiving day at a center serving a meal to the poor. My cousin and her husband were the officers in charge of the Salvation Army shelter in Cleveland for many years, so we went there to help with the dinner, clean-up, and playing board games with the residents of the shelter. when they moved, we helped at hunger centers in oakland county MI and portage county OH. Now they do the same with their own kids, I am happy to say.

What I hoped would happen did happen, by being given the chance to serve the poor, my nephews who tend to be a bit spoiled, saw the face of Jesus and responded with love.


#16

I agree with Catholic Dude that the “sharing,” story of the miralce of the loaves and fishes destroys the point of emphasis of Jesus performing the miracle and its placement in John 6, leading into the Bread of Life discourse. He presents Himself to each one of us every time we receive the Eucharist, just as the hungry multitude received some bread from the five loaves.
Puzzleanie,
Thank you for informing us that this “sharing” nonsense came from the Jesus Seminar. That explains the visceral anger I get every time someone mentions it.
Didi is right. As with so much in Scripture (for instance, exactly what Jesus looked like), the exact details of the mulitplication of the bread and fish is inconsequential. The point is that it happened, miraculously. Beyond that, we don’t need to know.
While it can be interesting to speculate, its just not pertinent.


#17

[quote=Strider]I agree with Catholic Dude that the “sharing,” story of the miralce of the loaves and fishes destroys the point of emphasis of Jesus performing the miracle and its placement in John 6, leading into the Bread of Life discourse. He presents Himself to each one of us every time we receive the Eucharist, just as the hungry multitude received some bread from the five loaves.
Puzzleanie,
Thank you for informing us that this “sharing” nonsense came from the Jesus Seminar. That explains the visceral anger I get every time someone mentions it.
Didi is right. As with so much in Scripture (for instance, exactly what Jesus looked like), the exact details of the mulitplication of the bread and fish is inconsequential. The point is that it happened, miraculously. Beyond that, we don’t need to know.
While it can be interesting to speculate, its just not pertinent.
[/quote]

And, not only that, it’s quite obvious from Matthew that he intended to describe a supernatural event, not a humanitarian one. Take the text present in Matthew 15:

Matthew 15:32
Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.”

There’s just no way to read that passage and come away with the notion that people pulled loaves from their cloaks and shared with those around them. Matthew is painting a picture of thousands of hungry people with no food nor easy access to it.

Finally, I’d say that if you can accept that the Son of God became man and died for our sins and was resurrected three days later, it should be no mean stretch to accept this miracle, as well.

Catholic Dude, I will be praying for you, my brother.

Peace and God bless! :slight_smile:

Eric


#18

catholic dude and others seem to be arguing with a statement that isn’t made on this thread.

the idea of the miracle of ‘sharing’ was brought up a few times, but i think (unless i missed it) that it was refuted in each post where it appears. is there one i missed?

the miracle of the loaves always puzzles me, too. just in that, i wonder HOW it happened. i believe it DID happen, but i don’t understand the logistics.


#19

one thing that kind of shed some light on this issue was when i was reading the Bible yesterday. i read that part where Peter and his brother were on a boat and they couldnt get a fish all day, then Jesus said to throw the net out one more time. and they got so much fish that the net was weak they needed help. so from zero to abundance all at a single command.


#20

[quote=jeffreedy789]catholic dude and others seem to be arguing with a statement that isn’t made on this thread.

the idea of the miracle of ‘sharing’ was brought up a few times, but i think (unless i missed it) that it was refuted in each post where it appears. is there one i missed?

the miracle of the loaves always puzzles me, too. just in that, i wonder HOW it happened. i believe it DID happen, but i don’t understand the logistics.
[/quote]

Since first mentioning the sharing I believe the “sharing” story v. any other scenario no more or less. I’m not claiming it happened that way, but nor would I be quick to dismiss it. For goodness sake, I wasn’t there and neither were any of the rest of us, and none of us has conversed directly about it with the original participants.

Please allow me to pontificate for a moment on making assumptions. Why do some of us think that every miracle God performs has to be a big glorious deal, worthy of the finest stage magicians and more? Do we have God in such a box that we will not allow Him to work His miracles in men’s hearts with subtletly? As far as “believe the Bible or not” a reasonable person can read the Bible and from the text be left uncertain. It simply does not say what the mechanics are. Why do we assume that they have to fit any particular format? It is an interesting discussion and hypothesis that the “sharing” idea is out of line, but if insist that God must have said “alakazam” and done it in grand style and stake our faith on that fact, then we are presumptuous and perhaps a bit idolatrous of the graven image we have made of God.

It just like people saying that evolution is contrary to the story of God; we have God in an intellectual box and limit His tools. We are His tools, and it is through our hearts and our actions that God typically works on this world. That is, unless we think the only childbirth that God ever had anything to do with was that of Jesus.

Alan


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