Jesus mostly avoided the big cities, and instead held his mass rallies in the countryside where he was free of interference from the Romans and their Sadducee collaborators. He became a wanted man, and was constantly on the move: “The birds have their nests, and the foxes their dens, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
His message was always the same: the unity of the Jewish people, the need for purification and submission to the will of God. And he made his points by stories (parables) and by vivid events (stage-managed miracles).
When he preached in the countryside he could attract crowds of up to 5,000 people. Obviously he didn’t just start talking, and have that many people show up spontaneously. These were publicized events. As at an outdoor event like Woodstock, some people would have brought food and drink with them, and others wouldn’t. But here there was nowhere to get food if you needed it.
Having preached to a large crowd, he would have a small boy come up and offer to share food – “five barley loaves and two small fishes”. He would praise the spirit of the boy, and ask everyone to sit down where they were, and for those who had brought food to share with whoever they were next to. They were all Jews, they were all God’s children, they were all one family. Jesus and the disciples and the whole crowd would share food between them as a communal celebration for one large family, and reinforce his teachings and their bonds as a single chosen people.
The miracle was in getting 5,000 people to share their food with strangers.
(And it was all done without rock music or recreational drugs.)
Who says there weren’t recreational drugs?
Point taken, Carla – there are ALWAYS recreational drugs!
The feeding of the 5k and 4k stories were metaphors for conscripting soldiers for Jesus’ army.
The five loaves and two fish of the feeding of the 5k refer to the provinces and city states on the west side of the Jordan River extant during Jesus’ time: Judea, Galilee, Samaria, Perea, Idumea, and the seaports of Sidon and Tyre (the bread was a euphemism for David’s kingdom, i.e.: Bethlehem or ‘House of Bread’, where David was born; the fish for the seaports). These geographic areas made up a large portion of David’s original kingdom. These were populated largely by Hebrew speaking people.
The seven loaves and some small fish in the feeding of the 4k refers to the seven provinces and city states and port cities on the Lake of Galilee: Decapolis, Auranitis, Batanea, Trachonitis, Gaulanitis, Iturea, Abilene, and most probably the ports of Hippos, Gadara, and Bethsaida. These areas comprised the geographical limits of David and Solomon’s kingdom east of the river Jordan. They were largely populated by Helenized Jews who spoke Greek.
So these various areas were expected to each conscript 5k and 4k, respectively, men of military age. The western provinces were being asked to supply roughly 35k (5k each for the five provinces and 5k each for the two cities= 35k) men, while the eastern provinces were expected to supply over 30k men (4k from each of the seven provinces and city states and 4k from each of several cities on the lake= 30k or more), giving a total of over 65k men.
Three things need to be known to understand this. In the feeding of the 5k, a Greek word of Hebrew etymology, ‘kophinos’, is used to describe the basket used to pick up the leftovers. In the feeding of the 4k, the Greek word ‘spuris’ is used to describe the basket. Kophinos would have been used by the Hebrew speaking people of the west, while spuris would have been understood by the Greek speaking peoples of the east. This tells you who Jesus’ message was intended to reach: Hebrew speaking Jews of the west and Greek speaking Jews of the east.
In these stories, Jesus has the disciples seat the people in ordered groups of ‘about fifty’, a military organization which is similar to the army designations in the War Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Perhaps coincidentally, Herod Antipas was removed from power in 39CE because a secret stash of weapons, enough for an army of 70k (according to the First Century historian Josephus) was discovered and attributed to him, though he denied it. These could have been the arms for Jesus’ army.