Jesus was rejected in His hometown. Then He got more bad news, John the Baptist was beheaded. At least that is according to Matthew. Mark and Luke record that Jesus sent out the Twelve Apostles on their first mission and then relay the story of John the Baptist losing his head. John records Jesus snubbing some Pharisees with circular logic prior to this study, where all four Gospels then unite to tell the following fish tale.
Exodus 14:21). These mechanical details flesh out a miracle into something believable, but without them, miracles can seem a little suspect. Take the miraculous feeding of the 5000 men, for example.
Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-45, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-15 all record the miracle in essentially the same way. Jesus has compassion on a bunch of people who have come to listen to His teaching and to be healed. He asks His disciples what food they have to share with the crowd, and they answer that they have five loves of bread and two fish. (John's version has the bread and fish being supplied by a little boy; apparently he was the only one smart enough to pack food for a trip.)
So, how did Jesus feed 5000 people with a little bread and even less fish? Matthew 14:19-20 records it essentially the same as Mark 6:41-43 and Luke 9:16-17:
And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to Heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. NIVThe question still remains; how did Jesus feed 5000 people with a little bread and even less fish? Sure, it was a miracle, but what happened exactly? Did the loaves and fishes multiply right when Jesus gave thanks? Did the little broken bits of bread grow before their eyes? Did it rain manna from Heaven? Did the disciples realize that there was magically more food they were distributing than there should have been?
We have three supposedly-different accounts of a miracle without one of them describing what actually happened. Is that strange to anyone else?
John's account makes a miracle possible. In John 6:11, we find:
Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. NIVAs you can see with John's version, it seems as though Jesus is the one distributing all of the food Himself. That fixes the problems of the disciples knowing exactly when the miracle happened and seeing the bread multiply.
However, John's version has its own issues. After the feeding, John reports that the people took to heart the miracle so much that they thought Jesus was the Prophet prophesied by Moses, and they wanted to make Him their king (John 6:14-15). Yet just a scant eleven verses later, Jesus claims that those very same people are only following Him for the free food (John 6:26)!
So miracle of the feeding of the 5000 has an odd lack of details in the Synoptic Gospels, while John appears to contradict himself, but the story is not over yet. Who could forget the later miraculous feeding of the 4000?
Matthew 15:29-39 and Mark 8:1-10 both record an additional miraculous feeding, this time of 4000 people. Yet again, both accounts leave out the details of how exactly the miracle happened (Matthew 15:36, Mark 8:6-7).
It is so very strange that all of the record of these two miracles lack what should have been the most memorable detail, namely the miracle part! I cannot help but wonder if there is an alternative explanation, a less miraculous origin; or if the miracle changed in the telling. Here is a theory:
Each of these accounts record how many basketfuls of food were collected after everybody ate (Matthew 14:20, Mark 6:43, Luke 9:17, John 6:13, Matthew 15:37, Mark 8:8). Jesus and His disciples were not working, but instead were traveling the country. They needed food. They needed to survive based on offerings from others. Perhaps the original miracle was the large quantity of food all of the people left behind for the disciples; in a sense it was God providing for them. Yet that was just not awesome enough, so very soon afterward the story got jazzed up Jesus multiplying the food, but poor literary vision prevented the author/editor from inserting the appropriate miraculous details.