Why Did Jesus Use Fish In “Feeding The Multitude”?
The “Feeding of the multitude” is a well known miracle of Jesus Christ mentioned in all four gospels in the bible. It’s the miracle where Jesus multiplied a few loaves of bread and fish to feed a crowd of people who followed him for his healing and preaching.
We commonly talk about the significance of bread in this miracle but not so often about the fish. The multiplication of bread signals that Jesus is both the messiah and high priest who’s destined to offer bread to his people. He’s seen looking up to heaven and gave thanks before having his disciples distribute the loaves to the crowd. His ability to do this parallels with what God did for the Israelites during their stay in the desert as they await their entrance to the promised land. That is, feeding them with multitudes of bread which came down from heaven.
But what about the fish? What does fish have anything to do with this miracle and why not any other kinds of meat?
The meaning of fish in Christ’s miracle
The fish in the “Feeding The Multitude” simply means that God has finally satisfied the cravings of the Israeltites. The cravings for newness and pleasing divine providence.
Going back to the time when the Israelites and the foreigners who were among them were awaiting their entrance into the promised land (Numbers 11), the people were eating manna as sustenance (bread which came down from heaven) on a daily basis. Eventually, the people became famished for lack of meat in the desert and grew tired of eating this bread. They started having resentments for leaving Egypt and were reminiscing about their lives there thinking for themselves that those days were far better than where they are now. They say that at least in Egypt they were able to enjoy eating fish for free.
When Moses saw how discontent the people were, he exclaimed to God how fed up he was with them. The people complained to him and demanded meat for food. Because of this, after gathering an assembly of elders to share Moses’ load of work, God promised Moses that he’ll feed his people only meat for the entire month. There will be so much meat to eat for a whole month that it’ll come out of their nostrils and become loathsome for them too.
Moses then questions the possibility of this promise and even asks God if all the fishes in the sea were caught, would it even be enough to feed all of them including six hundred thousand of their soldiers. God confidently answers him “Is this beyond the Lord’s reach? You shall see now whether or not what I have promised you takes place.”
Eventually the Lord fulfills his promise and and sent quails as meat for food to them at their camp site. But when he saw how greedy the people for meat were, he struck them with a great plague. This plague which might have come from the quail’s meat probably caused sickness to the people. Making consumption of it lethal for their health causing them to vomit after consuming. Thus fulfilling the other promise of the meat coming out of their nostrils.
God remembers this part of his people’s history and trully whishes to satisfy them out of compassion. That’s why when Jesus prepared his people for the entrance to the kingdom in heaven just as Moses prepared the Israelites for the promised land, Jesus ulitimately fulfills his people’s craving for newness and satisfaction with his providence. Jesus could have used any kind of meat, but the fish is more significant because it’s what the Israelites from the time of Moses craved for.
The fish had a memorable moment in the plight of the Israelites in the Old Testament that God uses in the New Testament as a sign of peace with his people. Notice that in the feeding of the multitude, the people were described as “filled” after eating the fish. The deeper meaning of this is that Jesus wishes and can please us even in the most impossible of situations. He does not forget our struggles, thoughts, and complains no matter how long the times have passed. He will surely deliver us. All we have to do is hold on to his word.