1. The miracle of feeding the thousands was a prediction and foreshadowing of the Eucharist to come. It was so important an event that the story was undoubtedly repeated many times by the faithful until different versions surfaced. Today’s reading show four thousand men and their families being fed, but earlier in chapter 14, Matthew records five thousand men, not counting women and children. This duplication is called a doublet. It stresses the importance of the lesson involved.
2. We read that the large crowd was with Jesus for three days in a relatively deserted area. The food supply was scarce and no doubt individual families had consumed what they had brought. Jesus was moved to pity. Mothers were worried about their children. Youngsters were restless and cranky. The men folk felt obliged to provide for their families.
3. This is the only gift miracle of multiplication in the four gospels as opposed to the first
4. Some scholars downplay this scene and claim that there was no miracle, only charitable sharing inspired by the example of Jesus and his disciples. But it is believed to be a genuine miracle.
5. In the feeding of the 4000, the basket that was used was called as sphurides and it was only used by Gentiles. The wonder of this story is that in these healings and in this feeding of the hungry, we see the mercy and the compassion of Jesus going out to the Gentiles. Here is a kind of symbol and foretaste that the bread of God was not to be confined to the Jews; that the Gentiles were also to have their share of him who is the living bread.
Jesus was moved with compassion. Compassion is the highest form of love. It is not merely giving food for the hungry but a display of God’s sensitivity. Jesus becomes a mother and feeds all his children. In all the cultures we have this custom of sharing food with poor and needy on some special occasions. But sometimes we do it for the sake of doing without any manifestation of love. We go out for dinner to some big restaurants paying hundreds of rupees for a single dish, but find it difficult to give some food for the needy. Jesus is teaching us a great lesson on compassion. It is good now and then to think also with our hearts.
A Marginal Jew Series
William Barclays Commentary