The Theme of the Feeding of the 5000
According to Joseph A. Grassi, bread is a central issue in the four gospels. When Grassi concludes his book, Loaves and Fishes, the General Feeding Narratives (1991), he says this about Luke: “Luke’s Gospel deserves the title of a ‘gospel of bread.’ To establish bread’s importance, he draws careful literary parallels between the beginning, middle and the climatic end of the Gospel where the risen Lord is recognized in the breaking of bread. In addition, teachings about bread and table fellowship are found on almost every page of his Gospel, as well as frequently in the Acts of the Apostles. Luke emphasizes the Twelve as successors to Jesus in his feeding role. Jesus’ new bread is not only a means of spiritual nourishment but a physical bread that continues to be ‘multiplied’ by Jesus’ succession so there can be enough food for everyone.”
For instance, Grassi notes that Mary praises God in the Magnificat that “[God] has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty [1.53].”
Grassi essentially concludes that the miracle of the bread revealed the true identity of Jesus to Peter, and only Peter, who proclaimed it as his confession. The bookends of the inclusio emphasize this theme. Grassi is the only scholar who has addressed the theme of the inclusio of the feeding of the 5000 and his proposal is certainly provocative. Although Peter learns the identity of Jesus, there is no indication as asserted by Grassi that he also learns at the same time the meaning of the bread.
The “skimpy meal” has truly provided me with food for thought that I will ponder as I further research this inclusio.
Grassi has recently written: Social Justice in the New Testament (2003) and the Roots and Praxis of Peace in Luke (2004) that I have added to my reading list.