Biblical Events Interpreted as Metaphors
In the Bible, there are two records of Jesus feeding multitudes of people; one 5,000 and the other one 4,000. As mentioned, Scriptures have multi-level meanings, and historical events can also be interpreted as metaphors (See "The Bible - My Treasure Hunt Map and My Treasure". In this post, we will attempt to provide one possible interpretation of the symbolic meaning of Jesus miraculously feeding thousands..
Jesus Feeding 5,000 People
Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14
Where and Who were Fed?
This event happened in the land of Judah, therefore the 5,000 people were Jews. This symbolises that salvation (food) was first provided to the Jews as prophesied in the Scriptures.
Food Given for Multiplication
Five loaves and two fish were provided by one little boy for multiplication. The little boy symbolises Jesus, the loaves as usual symbolise His body, and the fish which is life, symbolises His blood. This view is further supported by the Scripture mentioning that this event happened right before Passover (John 6:4). This shows that Jesus gave His body and blood to His fellow Jews even before His Last Supper with the disciples.
The leftover filled 12 baskets. This symbolises that after the Jews had been filled with the promise of salvation from Jesus, His 12 disciples will continue to carry the message of salvation to all peoples around the world.
Jesus Feeding 4,000 People
Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-13
Where and Who?
After feeding the 5,000, Jesus travelled through some Gentile areas so many of the 4,000 people who followed Him were Gentiles. Jesus even commented that "some of them have come a long distance” (Mark 8:3).
Food Given for Multiplication
This time the food was given by Jesus' disciples. As mentioned, salvation was first provided to the Jews (5,000), and the "leftover" would be carried by His 12 disciples (12 baskets) to other believers. The disciples provided 7 loaves of bread and some small fish, symbolising that salvation and spiritual food will be provided to 7 churches in Gentile areas as described in Revelation Chapters 2-3. It is also noted that the bread and the fish is not divided this time because they were collected from the leftovers, and were distributed by the disciples.
Another thing to note is that these 4,000 people had followed Jesus (and fasted) for three days before receiving their "food". This may also symbolise that the Gentiles who had been practising idolatry had to empty themselves of their idol worship before receiving the salvation of Jesus.
The leftover filled 7 baskets after feeding 4,000 people. This indicates that the 7 Gentile churches will continue to preach the Gospel to all nations in the world as commanded by Jesus.
If You Love Me, Feed My Sheep
The multitudes who had been fed by Jesus were those who believed in His words and His miracles, healed by Him, and had been following Him for days (His sheep). Likewise, there are many people today who are grieved by the sins of this world, who want to do good and who want to follow Jesus (also His sheep).
After resurrection, Jesus said to Peter three times, "If you love Me, feed My sheep" (John 21:15-25). I believe this equally applies to everyone who has received Jesus Christ as his or her Savior today.
Therefore, if anyone has received the fullness of salvation through Jesus Christ, and if they truly love Jesus, let them give true testimonies and feed the Word to His sheep! Because,
Faith without works is dead. James 2:17