Five Loaves and Two Fish

Sheryl Martin
5 min readApr 14, 2024
Painting by Carol Grace Bomer

The disciples were tired, hungry, and irritable after participating in three days of a rapt crowd of around 4000 attendees listening to Jesus’ teachings not wanting to leave or miss out because they were yearning and thirsting for wisdom and knowledge. They couldn’t take their eyes away from him, nor could they stop listening. Every word was like a drop of pure water refreshing their souls. How could one turn away from the Master’s teachings, when every person’s heart was resonating with the beautiful, wise Truth from a man who called himself the “Son of Man.” Surely this was the Messiah, how could it not be?

The disciple’s spokesperson, Peter, asked Jesus to send away the crowd because surely they were running out of food and it was a day’s journey to replenish their supplies. Jesus asks Peter how many loaves of bread they have and how many fish. Peter, with a dumbfounded look on his face tells him five loaves and two fish. But how do you argue with the Master who tells you to break the loaves and fish (the disciples' food), into pieces and pass it out to the crowd. Peter may have been telling himself, “Here we go again…” But Jesus did what he always does best — tossing a curve ball to the disciples and expecting them to catch it.

Five loaves and two fish to feed 4000! Five loaves and two fish that after being shared returns baskets of leftovers -how could this be? A miracle transformed a few loaves and fish into abundance so that everyone had their fill, and yet there were still leftovers. Jesus observes the crowd with love and compassion, and proud they had understood his teachings. He had held them captive with his words for three days and watched a spiritual transformation take place right before his eyes. The final test? What do you do when the Master instructs the disciples to share their meager bread and fish? What would you do?

There is a hadith about the Prophet Muhammad who is on a trade caravan with his companions moving across the desert. A discussion ensues at one point regarding possibly eating one of the camels because they had minimal rations left. However, one of the Prophet’s companions suggests they bring all of their remaining food together and split it up evenly. Yep, I am sure you can guess what happened; they had plenty of food for the remainder of the journey, and even leftovers when they returned. Now some Muslims say this was a miracle -what do you think?

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions but held everything in common. The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who had need. Acts 4:32–35

“There were no needy persons among them.” Think about this, all held everything in common, no one held on to what they owned, but willingly gave from their abundance to help others. When resources are shared, everyone obtains enough to meet their needs.

Psalm 133

How good it is, how wonderful,
wherever people live as one!
It is like sacred oil on the head
flowing down Aaron’s beard,
down to the collar of his robe.
It is like the dew of Hermon
running down the mountains of Zion.
There God gives blessing: life forever.

In Surah al-Kahf in the Quran is the story of the wealthy man who owned two gardens that had a stream flowing between them. This man had many children, but his poor friend had few children. In ancient times, the poorer families typically had fewer children because the fetus may die in utero, or the children die young due to lack of nutrition. A day came when the wealthy man went out into his gardens and congratulated himself on what he had accomplished even telling himself that God would raise him up in Paradise due to his earthly high status. Shortly thereafter, God destroys the garden with a strong storm, so his poor friend arrives to commiserate with him, but admonishes him as well by telling him that he didn’t acknowledge God for his abundance, but only acknowledged himself. If only, if only he had given acknowledgement to God repeating what his friend said to him. What is not overtly stated in this teaching is that even though the wealthy man had abundance; two gardens, he didn’t share with his poorer friend- a person whom he had intimately observed struggling to obtain the needs for himself and his small family. This appears to be symbolic of the Capitalistic mindset, that one attributes one’s success to oneself, thereby justifying not sharing abundance.

Where does all vegetation come from? When did food that grew wild and free become a commodity that widens the gap between rich and poor? Who is it that created abundance on the earth for all people, then to observe rights to ownership create starvation and poor nutrition?

Dr. Willie James Jenning writing in The Christian Imagination relays an Apache story where one tribe goes to the neighboring village to ask for food as they had a meager crop. The neighboring village had a good crop with abundance. The tribe with abundance refused to share so to protect themselves from attack told their tribe members to stay in their homes and not wander far even to defecate — they were to defecate near their homes in shady areas. However, the defecation accumulated such that the stench could be smelled from miles away. This place was then named Shades of Shit, and subsequently the place name was used as a reminder to be generous to others and was told generation after generation.

It is not yours my friends, it is God’s, and He has taught us to share. Those who leave this earth in need, will be blessed with abundance, and those who had abundance, but didn’t take care of those in need, will indeed find themselves in need when they depart from this life.



Sheryl Martin

It is suffering that shoots streams of creativity out of my heart, and the brokenness of life that explodes my heart into its soul.