It’s interesting that Jesus’ “multiplication of the loaves” miracle was first performed by the prophet Elijah. Interesting, but not surprising. In fact, much of what Jesus does in his earthly ministry is a fulfillment of the Old Testament signs.
For Elijah, the miracle was a sign of God’s love and care for his people if only they would be faithful to Him, and it was also a verification of Elijah’s authority to speak in God’s name.
What did the miracle signify for Jesus? Well, obviously the same love and care is there, in Jesus’ compassion for those who seek Him. A Jewish audience would also immediately pick up on the connection to Elijah. In fact, the people proclaim:
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
How does Jesus fulfill the miracle of Elijah? God’s care for HIs people goes beyond caring for their physical hunger. Jesus’ miracle foreshadows the gift of the Eucharist – a connection verified in the “Bread of Life Discourse” immediately following the miracle. Jesus gives us Himself to nourish and care for our souls.
I gained one more insight from our deacon’s homily today. Jesus’ command to collect the leftover food reflects His desire that “none should be lost.” The Apostles collect 12 baskets of bread, representing the 12 Tribes of Israel. This sign pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, who came to fulfill the Covenant to the 12 Tribes and to save the world so that none may be lost who turn to Him.
Those who seek Jesus out after the miracle fail to accept the signs that God was doing something greater. Jesus criticizes them,
Like these people, I think we sometimes miss the deeper meaning of our faith. To many Catholics, the mission of Jesus has become to make this world a better place. But Jesus’ mission isn’t about our life in this world. It’s about leading us to God’s love so we’ll be with him in Eternity.
Also published on Medium.