AHC A Feeding the Five Thousand Ordinary 18 - Hebrew Catholics

Association of

Hebrew Catholics

New Zealand Branch

Feeding the Five Thousand

Ordinary 18     Year A

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

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St. Matthew 14: 13 — 21



After our Lord’s major teaching by parables in chapter 13, He retired back to His own area only to find He was causing an unwelcomed stirring among the locals. They were uncomfortable with His air of authority as well as the miracles He performed declaring: “We know His family and circumstances; where did He get all this?” And because of their unbelief, He did not work any miracles there.

St. Matthew moves on into chapter 14 with an account of St. John the Baptist’s wonderful witness to spiritual values of the Kingdom of God and his grizzly, completely unjust execution for the sake of the fickle daughter of Herodias. Our text follows on from this sad but inspiring incident.

Click here for a printable copy of our text


Some Reflections on the Text

Verse 13

When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted
place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him
on foot from their towns.

When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the
crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for

When Jesus heard about Herod’s interest in Him and His ministry, he took a boat from wherever He was (we are not sure where) across the Sea of Galilee to a favourite “deserted place”, to be alone. We do not know when and how He was joined by His disciples, but we know Jesus regularly took time apart, in quiet for prayer and solitude. On this occasion particularly, upon hearing of the cruel death of His cousin in the foul prison of Herod’s fortress, Machareus, Jesus just simply wanted to be alone for a while.

Word spread quickly that Jesus was in the vicinity, and those who desperately wanted healing from various ailments and afflictions, rushed round the lake in the direction Jesus was moving.

Verse 14

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was
moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.

When Jesus stepped out of the boat, a crowd had already assembled and looked eagerly upon Him, hoping He would not be offended, and would cure them. Sure enough, Jesus took one look at them and was deeply moved by their faith as well as their needs. He responded immediately and healed all the sick who were brought to Him. This continued all day without any break.

Verse 15

When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the
crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for

As a matter of interest, the Hebrews distinguished two evenings:

•    first:          3 p.m. — 6 p.m. when the sun began to decline.
•    second:   6 p.m. — 9 p.m. after sunset.

In our text, it is the first evening that is referred to.

As evening began to fall, and Jesus had completed His healings, His disciples came to Him and remarked that He should send the multitudes away. After all, they were in the ‘middle of nowhere’, and while it was light the sensible thing to do was to send them off to the nearest villages to buy food for themselves. Jesus shares their compassion for the huge crowd, but He has a special purpose in mind.

Although not a desert, it is a “deserted place,” and He is about to re-enact a new feeding of God’s people in the wilderness (as at Sinai) with a kind of “new mana” which would prefigure the gift of His own body for the life of the Church.

Verses 16 — 18

(Jesus) said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”

But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we
have here.”

Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”

We note how quickly the disciples replied, implying: “What do you expect us to do with five barley pancakes and two little dried fish?” Jesus simply replied, words to the effect, “Just bring me what you have“.

Verse 19

and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to
heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave
them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.

Our Lord then performed five distinct actions:

•    He took the five small loaves (or flat bread rolls, as we might
      think of them) and two fish.
•    He looked up to heaven.
•    He blessed God in the traditional and beautiful Jewish custom
      as recorded much later in the Talmud:
                “Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe,
                who brings forth bread from the earth.”

•    He broke the loaves into pieces.
•    He gave the broken loaves to the disciples, who were then able
      to fulfil His earlier command: “You give them something to eat”.

The scholars, ancient and modern, tell us that verse 19 is no ordinary piece of descriptive prose. By the time this Gospel account was written, the pattern and form (or order) of the Sunday Eucharist service had taken shape, and was adhered to with very great attention to detail. The first Christians soon came to understand that several times during His public ministry, our Lord performed actions which reflected elements of what later became the Christian memorial of His passion, death, and resurrection (that is, the Eucharist — the Great Thanksgiving).

This incident is one of those special moments. There is no mention whatsoever of any wonder or amazement. Nor, incidentally, is there any inclusion of the two dried fish after Jesus “took them”. So Jesus did not set out to stir the crowd into some ecstatic frenzy by a fantastic miracle. On the contrary, He — ever so quietly — laid the foundation for the central action to take place at the Last Supper. And even the Last Supper itself was to link back with the Sinai Covenant and point forward to the final culmination of His redemptive work in the end-time banquet of the Messiah:

“Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast
of the Lamb”                                                         (Revelation 19: 9).

That’s a lot to think about, but for this reason, the feeding of the five thousand has always held a special place in all the teaching materials and sermons of the Church from its earliest days.

Thus Jesus was not only fulfilling the Ancient Scriptures, but was, Himself, performing actions which prepared the way for transformation later into important religious teaching and practices. The Feeding of the Five Thousand was therefore a foreshadowing of the Last Supper a year later. It prefigured in some aspects only, the Eucharist in which the Lord would give Himself in the form of bread and wine.

Verses 20 and 21

They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the
fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full.

Those who ate were about five thousand men, not
counting women and children.

There were about 5,000 men in the crowd who had been fed. The women and children present may have taken the numbers as high as 10,000 or even higher.

Everybody ate as much as they required to be filled. Twelve baskets were filled with uneaten fragments collected after the meal.



Nowhere do we find Jesus explaining the meaning of this miracle, not even to His closest disciples. Understanding would follow, especially as the infant Church looked back on this miracle and on the Last Supper and all that followed. This is reflected in the Gospel accounts.

We may find ourselves wondering why our Lord didn’t just produce food “out of the blue”. Why take a hungry boy’s lunch? This is God’s chosen way, to take what is offered to Him, no matter how humble or inadequate, and to make up the difference Himself. And He uses the vast discrepancy between the boy’s lunch and the volume He supplied to illustrate His point.

There can be no doubt that the miracle of the loaves and fishes was an act of creative power. Yet, great as it was, it seemed to pass largely unnoticed by the crowd, until the other events took place which gave it more meaning.
We call this very great event the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, knowing that this number accounted for only the males 13 years and over. It will help us to remember that it really only showed a tiny glimpse of what He is doing all the time: providing the necessities of life for all creatures. It was a privileged but momentary window of opportunity to take a glimpse beyond “time” as we know it. For those of us involved in regular meditation on the Scriptures, the opportunity remains open for us to honour this privilege by reflecting on the miracle and allowing ourselves to be drawn into it.



Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource on
the readings for the Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading, just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:


 This website is highly recommended:


Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature

(Mark 16: 15)

The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!

Let us remember God’s teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
so, remain close to Him. The following are only examples illustrating
how you can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going

Feeding The Five Thousand.

Ordinary 18 Year A                 St. Matthew 14: 13 to 21

1.    For many Christians this Gospel account of our Lord feeding the 5000 (in fact
10 to 15 thousand) is just a miraculous event, although of huge proportions. They
know about it, but do not actually think about it very much.

It may be helpful for us to recall that this is an intensely Hebrew occasion. In a
year’s time, Jesus will assume before His Apostles, the role of priest of the order
of Melchizadek, and offer bread and wine in fulfilment of the Passover ritual. For
now, Jesus, whom they called Yeshua, just seeks to demonstrate to the people
that, as their Messiah, He cares for them and wishes to show it. He chooses to
perform His miraculous provision of food, in a family setting, surrounded as He
is by hungry families. He takes the role as head of what could be any household,
and blesses God, “who brings forth bread from the earth”. Then He breaks the
bread for His family, and asks His assistants to pass it around, just as is done in
any home. As in the case of most large families, what is left over must be put
aside for use later. Nothing can be wasted.

This is a Hebrew story, and St. Matthew allows the words and actions of the key
people to tell their own story. Christian commentaries focus largely on the text
as text. We can be very grateful for the help they give us, but let’s not overlook
the supremely simple and homely setting. Our Lord demonstrated that the size
of the crowd was immaterial. They did what He asked and thus shared in His compassion.

The occasion turned out to be a foreshadowing of the benefits of belonging to
His Household, and the sense of sharing therefore in His hospitality and caring,
as well as the powerful experience of unity with His family.

These wonderful benefits help explain what it means to belong to the Household
of God; and this is an important part of our Lord’s plan.


2.    Within the family setting, despite the huge size of the family, our Lord —
without fuss, comment, explanation or hardly raising His voice — performed the simplest, most basic and most common homely Jewish ritual which featured in
every evening meal:

He took bread — looked up —blessed God — broke — and
gave to all
who were hungry.

Our Lord Yeshua chose to lay the foundation, in this setting, for the momentous
ritual of His Last Supper, as Matthew 26 demonstrates. On that occasion He
repeats the same customary ritual just before walking over to the Garden of Gethsemane.

Some people are uneasy at the mention of ritual and its use. Hebrew members
of the Church, however, look upon ritual action in worship as something they
have proudly gifted to the Church. It enshrines special respect to be paid to God
in His Presence; it allows us to focus intensely on God without undue emphasis
on what we think we should be doing; it provides a framework in which we can
employ actions, words and values graciously handed down to us by those who
have gone before. Some of the rituals which take place in the Church trace their
origins back to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, to Moses and Aaron, as well as to the
great Prophets and later to our Lord, and the Apostles. True ritual is therefore a
living process whereby we enter into the celebration of the family events in the Household of God, and learn to share them with one another, in a beautiful sense
of unity and to share the blessings even beyond the family circle.


3.    The feeding of the 5,000, as we call this event, was a preparation, a
foreshadowing of the Last Supper — also known as the first Eucharist. It
prefigured the offering of the Eucharist for and to the world. Whilst fulfilling the magnificent Biblical prophecies (Isaiah 25: 6. 62: 8 — 9. 65: 13 — 14. Jeremiah 31: 12 — 14
and Ezekiel 44: 16)
it also points to the final fulfilment as recorded in
Revelation 19: 7 — 9.

The point of our reflection is how our Lord constantly directs our attention
towards His return and the final completion and perfection of His Kingdom. We
have a tendency to draw back from meditating on His Glorious Return: after all,
it hasn’t happened in 2,000 years, so there’s a bit of time for us to get ready for
all that.

Be that as it may, our Messiah, Yeshua, the Lord Jesus earnestly urged His
followers to take great care to watch and to be ready for His Return. This
requires sustained effort and application. That is achieved by simple
straight-forward daily prayer, reflection, and attention to our customary religious practices. It is something well within the grasp of each of us, but can be much
assisted by doing things together as family, and helping one another, as well
as anyone else we find who needs us to embrace them and include them in the
family circle.

Blessed be God who, through His Son, Yeshua, our Messiah,
commands us to seek out the lost, the hopeless, the wayward,
the ignorant and the confused, and to welcome them into our midst.

Let us pray for one another that we will play our part in helping these instructions to
be carried out.



Click here for a printable copy of these Reflections


Matthew 14: 13 — 21

Ordinary 18     Year A


13     4 When Jesus heard of it, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted
         place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him
         on foot from their towns.

14    When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was
         moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.

15    When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
         “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the
         crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for    

16    (Jesus) said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
         give them some food yourselves.”

17    But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”

18    Then he said, “Bring them here to me,”

19    and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking 5
        the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
        he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the
        disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.

20    They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the
        fragments left over 6  – twelve wicker baskets full.

21    Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting
        women and children.

4 [13-21] The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle of Jesus that is recounted in all four gospels. The principal reason for that may be that it was seen as anticipating the Eucharist and the final banquet in the kingdom (⇒ Matthew 8:11; ⇒ 26:29), but it looks not only forward but backward, to the feeding of Israel with manna in the desert at the time of the Exodus (Exodus 16), a miracle that in some contemporary Jewish expectation would be repeated in the messianic age (2 Baruch 29:8). It may also be meant to recall Elisha’s feeding a hundred men with small provisions (⇒ 2 Kings 4:42-44).

5 [19] The taking, saying the blessing, breaking, and giving to the disciples correspond to the actions of Jesus over the bread at the Last Supper (⇒ Matthew 26:26). Since they were usual at any Jewish meal, that correspondence does not necessarily indicate a eucharistic reference here. Matthew’s silence about Jesus’ dividing the fish among the people (⇒ Mark 6:41) is perhaps more significant in that regard.

6 [20] The fragments left over: as in Elisha’s miracle, food was left over after all had been fed. The word fragments (Greek klasmata) is used, in the singular, of the broken bread of the Eucharist in Didache 9:3-4.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,
revised edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian
Doctrine, Washington D.C. and are used by permission of the
copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American
Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing
from the copyright owner.


Priestly Ministry: Old and New

A supplement for Hebrew Catholics and Christians interested in the origins of the priestly ministry.


The text of St. Matthew 14: 13 — 21, Feeding the Five Thousand, represents a foreshadowing of the Last Supper. It can be helpful to see it also as a corresponding preparation by our Lord for fulfilling the Jewish priestly role and establishing its counterpart in His legacy to the Church. For during the Last Supper, He very unobtrusively extended His priestly dignity to His Apostles, thereby making them priests of the New Covenant, with authority to pass this on to future generations. In this way He provided the means whereby all His future followers could participate, in precisely the same way, in the celebration of His redemptive sacrifice, until He returns in glory.

There is much misunderstanding and unfortunate suspicion about the priestly role and how it is exercised in the Church. We have therefore printed an extract below to show the progression from Aaronic priesthood to the priestly ministry centred in Jesus, out Lord.

The Common Priesthood of the Faithful
Excerpt from The Mystery of Israel and the Church — Volume II, Things New and Old.
by the Hebrew Catholic Theologian, Dr. Lawrence Feingold. Miriam Press 2010.

Christ wanted to give His sacrifice of Calvary to His Church, so that all the faithful could offer it to the Father with Him, at the hands of His ordained priests.

In theological terms, this participation of the faithful in the offering of the sacrifice of Christ is an exercise of their royal priesthood deriving from Baptism, and which must be clearly distinguished from the ministerial priesthood deriving from the sacrament of Holy Orders, which alone gives the power to consecrate the Eucharist in the person of Christ.

Vatican II, in Lumen gentium 10 # (see Footnote 1) teaches: “though they differ essentially and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are none the less ordered one to another; each in its own proper way shares in the one priesthood of Christ.”

The expression, “royal priesthood” (or common priesthood) uses
the term “priesthood” in a figurative or analogical sense.
The expression comes from Exoidus 19: 5 — 6, in which God tells
the people of Israel: “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant,
you shall be my own possession among among all the peoples; for
all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests
and a holy nation”. Even though the descendants of Aaron were
ministerial priests, the entire people of Israel exercised a “royal
priesthood” in that they were to offer the interior sacrifice of their
heart through obedience to God, through faith, hope, and charity,
and through interiorly offering themselves to God with the ritual
victims. This text of Exodus 19 is quoted by St. Peter in 1 Peter 2: 9:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s
own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who
called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” The whole
Church is spoken of as having a royal priesthood, because Christ
gave His sacrifice to the whole Church to be her dowry and greatest
treasure. All the faithful share in Christ’s priesthood in the sense
that they are called to offer up the interior holocaust of their hearts
in union with the sacrifice of the Sacred Heart of Christ made
present on our altars in the Holy Mass, * (See Footnote 2), and
together with the immaculate Victim, to call down Blessings upon
men. Pius XII explains the participation of all the faithful in
offering the sacrifice of the Mass in Mediator Dei 98 — 99 **
(See Footnote 3)

In order that the oblation by which the faithful offer the
divine Victim in this sacrifice to the heavenly Father may
have its full effect, it is necessary that the people add
something else, the offering of themselves as a victim . . . . .
For the Prince of the Apostles wishes us, as living stones
built upon Christ, the cornerstone, to be able, as “a holy
priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to
God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2: 5). St. Paul the Apostle
addresses the following words of exhortation to
Christians . . . . . , “I beseech you therefore, . . . . . that you
present your bodies, a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto
God, your reasonable service” (Romans 12: 1). . . . . .
With the High Priest and through Him they offer
themselves as a spiritual sacrifice, . . . . . and each one
should consecrate himself to the furthering of the divine
glory, desiring to become as like as possible to Christ in
His most grievous sufferings.
(Footnotes follow)

Footnote 1. Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium” Section 10.
Vatican II is short for the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s —
a council of bishops from around the world. Lumen Gentium
is the name of one of the most important documents on the
nature of the Church. The name in English is Light of the Nations.

Footnote 2. Holy Mass
The term Eucharist, the Thanksgiving, was used in the infant
Church as a name for the gathering of the faithfull to obey the
Saviours Command: “Do this in remebrance of Me . . . .”
At that time Greek was still the “universal” language outside
the Holy Land. As the common language transitioned to Latin,
the Eucharist gradually became referred to as “Missa“, in
English — the Mass. This came from the closing words of the
Latin Liturgy where the faithful in attendance were addressed
(if we may paraphrase) by the presiding presbyter:

“Ite, missa est.”
“The celebration has come to an end.
As the Body of Christ, you are sent forth into the world to share
the blessings of Christ’s Kingdom with all whom you meet.”

This comand is, in fact, a commission to every person present
at every re-presentation of the Eucharist throughout the world,
and it conveys the power to carry it out in the Name of Christ.

Footnote 3. “Mediator Dei,” Sections 98 — 00
In 1947 Pope Pius XII issued this document, one of the most
influential of the 20th Century, which restored the Liturgy of
the Eucharist to its more ancient mode of celebration.

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