What Really Stands Out To Me From Jesus Feeding 5000

Jesus feeding 5000

I just read John 6 today and the same verse stuck out to me that usually does. It is  a verse that doesn’t really seem like it should make sense, but for that reason just the fact that Jesus said it makes it all the more important for us to understand and live by. I don’t think I have ever heard a preacher talk about the verse, even though I have heard this story mentioned many times – as it is one of the more famous ones.

The verse was the first thing that Jesus said after he performed a miracle and fed 5000 from a few fish and loaves. So Jesus, took a few loaves and fish and turned it into thousands of loaves and fishes to feed all these people – without even breaking a sweat. It was not difficult for Jesus to accomplish, and if it was anything like some of his other miracles it may have been as simple as Him believing and speaking it into existence.

But even with as seemingly simple as it was to feed these 5000 people, after they ate He immediately told the disciples to:

“Gather up the leftover fragments that nothing may be lost John 6:12 NASB

What is so interesting to me is that if I had a party and fed 5000 people, I would expect there to be a lot of leftover food. I would probably try to save some of it, but realistically I would expect there to be a lot that would go to waste and I would just figure that to be appropriate given the size of the group.

Even if I would have personally spent 3 days preparing food for the people and invested dozens of hours of my precious time into it, I would still be okay with some waste just thinking it comes with the territory of feeding this many people.

But Jesus treated this situation completely different:

  • He didn’t spend any time (from what we can tell) preparing it. If he had spent  3 days preparing it, it might make a little more sense if He said something like, “I just spent 3 days and thousands of dollars to get this food for you – therefore I don’t want any of it to go to waste. But instead, it was more like the bread continued to pour out of a never-ending basket.
  • Even though waste should have been expected (for a crowd of 5000) He made sure there wasn’t any.

If I were one of the disciples I probably would have thought to myself, “Why are we picking up these scraps? He just created thousands of loaves and fish out of thin air – do we really need the leftovers?”

Clearly the Lord was trying to make a point.

My Takeaway

As an American I am part of a society that, because we are rich, we waste a lot of stuff. In fact, 1.3 BILLION tons of food get wasted each year. And what I have noticed in my own life is that when I have more, I care less about wasting stuff.

In my own life I try to, regardless of how things are going financially, keep this verse in mind. It is a bit easier when money is tight, but when things are going better it can be really difficult to care about the “small change”. But clearly the Lord wants us to minimize waste whether we have to work hard for the excess or whether it comes easily.

Keeping things balanced

It can be easy to take a verse like this and go to the extreme, but I really do believe that keeping it in balance is key. On the other end of the spectrum in Matthew 26:6-10 we see Jesus defending what the disciples view as waste with the woman with the alabaster jar. In this passage Jesus defends the woman and says that what she is doing is “beautiful”. So, it seems to me that there are appropriate times to spurge and appropriate times to save.

What do you think?

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  1. Peter

    What I also get out of the verse is that there needs to be a practical application to our faith as well. While Jesus was willing and able to feed the 5000 as a miraculous sign, it was also important for the disciples, and us, to have our faith in action, to do God’s work – to be his hands. It can be easy to have all faith, but no action or all action, but no faith. To me this shows how we need to have both, have faith that God will work in our lives, while at the same time working hard to further his kingdom in practical and concrete ways. 🙂

    Isn’t it amazing how the Bible can speak to each of us in such different ways, and give us equally valid lessons from one verse?

  2. Bob

    Right on Pete!

  3. When I read that scripture, I look at it as a lesson in stewardship. In a way, Jesus is showing us how to be careful with our resources even when we have an abundance of it. I think he would have still taken one basket of leftovers to illustrate the fact that we shouldn’t be careless with the blessings we’re given from God – whether it’s food, time, money, or anything!

  4. Mayor of Humbleville

    I’ve also never heard a pastor preach on that particular part of that verse, but those few words seems to speak so boldly. There’s a lot of areas in the Bible that refer to waste that’s it’s really amazing to me that we do so little to stop it, even in our own households. “So what if I have to throw out the cantaloupe in the fridge… It was only $1.50. I’ll just buy another one.” It just never crossed my mind how little heed I gave to what the Bible says about waste. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Excellent article, I will definitely be passing it along. God Bless.
    Humbly Yours,
    The Mayor

  5. David

    Great thoughts, Bob! Thanks for imparting wisdom through your blog each day!

    It is true that as Americans we’re pretty wasteful. I’m trying to cultivate stewardship w/ my four young kids every night as we finish meals by saving leftovers, especially if they come back in an hour saying they’re hungry.

    With this passage and then later the convo that follows w/ some of the crowd wanting more bread, I’m wondering if there’s also a link to manna, Moses, Exodus 16, and the command of “saving whatever is left.” In the left-overs, we might also have provision for the day when we’re called to rest. Not letting anything go to waste could just be the provision we need on the day when there’s no manna on the ground, an emergency arises, or an opportunity for generosity. In practical terms, I collect all my change throughout the year and “cash it” around Christmas. Whether it’s buying something for family, giving to the church, or giving to a charity, the left-overs add up! Just some thoughts.

  6. Pat

    Great article! This has always been one of the most meaningful Biblical stories for me, but I guess I never thought about what Jesus said in John 6:12 this way.
    Really enjoy the insight, definitely a principle that Americans and the world at large could learn and benefit from!

  7. Nathan

    I have always focused on the miracle of the amount of food from so little. I never really thought about how Jesus had the leftovers gathered so there would be no waste. Just one more facet of my Savior that I love.

  8. Kristi

    Good insight. When I ponder the idea that there is a time to save and a time to spend extravagantly, I think of time on my hands. With 5 minutes to spend throughout the day, I could waste many of those eating junk food or gossiping ….or I could leisurely spend those same 5 minutes if it is daydreaming positive thoughts about my husband or adoring my newborn or in awe of the blessings of God at work in our lives.

  9. [email protected]

    Hi Bob, I think this passage gets passed over because Matthew never tells us what was done with the scraps. It’s a solid bet they were given out to others, partially consumed by the disciples, and maybe left in a conspicuous place for travelers or the poor. And I think your interpretation is consistent with the fact that God wastes nothing.

    But like most passages in the gospels, there are probably multiple events and meanings. I’m guessing that he’s also witnessing to the disciples–they never truly believed until the resurrection, and there’s a pattern of him witnessing to them constantly.

    So we have verses 5-6 where Jesus is framing the situation, asking Phillip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He already knew what he would do, and the passage even said “He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”

    At the end he directs the disciples to gather up the scraps, and they come up with 12 basketfuls–one for each disciple. So maybe here he’s showing them that he can fill their cup to overflowing, as evidence of the filled baskets after he fed 5000 people. There maybe two things going on here in addition to the teaching to not waste–moving the disciples closer to complete faith and a demonstration of “give and it will be given unto you” (the overflowing baskets).

    As I said, each Gospel passage has multiple events and meanings.

  10. Matt Jabs

    Good stuff Bob. Thanks for bringing attention to this topic, especially… because of the rampant waste in our country.

    To encourage people to waste less I suggest making a compost pile or even a vermicomposting worm farm. They’re both easy to DIY… in fact just the other day I picked up 4 pallets for free from a local store and will be using them, and a few zip ties, to make a compost bin for extra food scraps.

    For those who aren’t familiar, the compost pile will break down naturally and can be used as organic fertilizer on our gardens! Good stuff… and praise God for His Word!

  11. Mortgage Nerd

    I loved this article! I love how the scriptures teach about temporal things as well, or even teach us that temporal and spiritual things can go hand in hand at times. I think that probably a lot of the parables that Jesus taught have some underlying lessons about resourcefulness and not wasting.

    I love the stoy of Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus. Jesus didn’t move the stone blocking his tomb with his priesthood power, which he could have easily done. Instead, he asked the people there to move it where their own hands.

    This might sounds stupid but the story of Lazarus makes me think twice about using the handicap button for opening doors. I think that Jesus would probably prefer that I save the electric power and open the doors under my own power.

  12. Kristin

    This website is really helpful in helping me to pay down my debt 🙂 Thanks for this website 🙂 It helps me put things in perspective and reminds me that I am a steward of God’s possession 🙂 Blessings.

  13. CraigB


    Thanks for the insight. So many times I just read over the familiar stories in the scriptures and miss those important verses. This gives me a new perspective on the story.

    I am constantly amazed at how focused Jesus is in all He does. He never wastes a minute or situation to instruct.

  14. Joe Plemon

    Thanks for the insightful thoughts. Because others have done so well commenting on the “leftover scraps”, I will touch on the other so called waste you mentioned: the woman who poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. In my opinion, although Judas protested that the perfume could have been sold and the money used for the poor, the woman’s use of the perfume was not wasteful because one can never be too extravagant about worshiping Jesus. It is a matter of perspective: valuable perfume … worshiping Jesus. No comparison. Oh that WE could worship Him with our most valuable possessions!

    • Bob

      Good point Joe!

  15. Pam McCormick

    At this time in our world regardless of your religion or beliefs this story of bread and fish is just so perfect.I was raised Catholic as a child and never did anyone focus on the scraps AND yet as I have lived my life it always seemed important to me not to waste,although I have at times.Just really a good reminder and a thought on where the world would be if we all chose not to be wasteful as many times as possible.Food for thought.Thank you

  16. Jenny

    Thats a good summary to say that God is interested in what we have left over to give to others (if not to provide first for others and save the left overs for us). Even the little we have, be it, material or spiritual, we have something to share –

  17. Dennis Botz


    Thanks for sharing this story of one of Jesus’ many miracles. This just happens to be my favorite one in particular of late. Since our (not God’s) economy has been influenced by fear and government mismanagement, the Lord has frequently brought this story and the feeding of the 4000 back to my attention, and for good reason.

    Mark presented both of the situations in chapters 6:30-44 & 8:1-21 in such a way that we can feed off them for quite awhile and not plumb all their depths.

    Actually, we CAN get to the place in our walk with Christ that we can do the same thing today that Jesus did with those loaves and fishes in His day. Do you remember in Mark 6:37 after the disciples were discussing with Jesus the challenge they were up against in trying to feed all those people that late in the day? And Jesus calmly said, “You give them something to eat!”

    He fully intended them to use “their faith” and take “that experience” to live from as a new standard (or template if you will) in their lives of what God could and would do through those who’ll only believe. Jesus doesn’t tell us to do anything that He has not already empowered us to do or else modeled it before us.

    I like your take on waste and investment and I believe it’s right on and biblical. But in the coming days when our money fails–and it’s pretty apparent that “paper” currency is on the way out–it would benefit us all as Christians to know how to tap into unseen and unlimited heavenly resources just like Jesus did here and many other places in the gospels. Because His economy does not operate on paper, stocks or gold, but on child-like, unquestioning faith.

    In Luke 18:8 Jesus said, “When the son of man comes, will he really find faith on the earth?” I wonder?

    How DID He do all these miracles anyway? First of all, Jesus was constantly living life vitally connected to the unseen realm where His Father instructed Him from (see John 5:19-21). He had no concern whatsoever about whether or not His Father could or would supply the need.

    He knew His Father loved humanity and wanted to meet their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Secondly, Jesus was not full of mixture–doubt, unbelief, double-mindedness, fear, unbelief, and/or religious tradition which tends to make doctrines and theologies from things that “don’t happen” when people pray.

    In short, He walked in love all the time which made it so easy to operate in an unswerving faith (see Gal. 5:6) that also allowed Him to have His eyes open in the spiritual realm to carry out every command of His Father perfectly.

    Do you remember the verse in John 14:12 that says, the works that I do, you will do even greater works if you just believe in Me (my emphasis).

    If you’ll study chapters 6 & 8 of Mark about these feedings, you’ll find out they were into human reasoning, unbelief and some lack of discipline mentally and Jesus asked them, don’t you understand, are your hearts still hardened?

    The Holy Spirit has to compete with Herod’s leaven (the ungodly world “system) and the leaven of the Pharisees (religious and denominational traditions of men) so that it’s no wonder we’re not doing what Jesus did, even though we have the very same Spirit that raised Him from the dead and gave life to our mortal bodies.

    I went on longer than I should have. But I hope this challenges your thinking, because there are miracles happening just like this one, right now in the U.S. and around the world. And their happening through the hands of people who aren’t even preachers or spiritual leaders. They’re just people who are hungry to demonstrate the power of God for His glory and the benefit of those He died for.

    Religion is cold, harsh, restrictive, and terribly limits the freedom that Jesus died for us to have…spiritually, mentally and physically.

    Let’s all make an effort to trust Him more with each of our lives so that “we” can hear Him say to us, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”.

    God bless you,