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Jesus' teaching on faith - from mustard seeds to miracles

Description: Discover the connection between Jesus feeding thousands and the mustard seed of faith, and its importance in overcoming life's challenges.

Jesus' teaching on faith


The Bible accounts of Jesus feeding thousands – on two occasions – are well known, but there are many underlying principles of importance to us, as modern Christians. Before exploring them, let’s review the two miracles and the disciples’ reactions.

Feeding multitudes – Jews and Gentiles

The story of Jesus feeding a multitude of 5,000 men, plus women and children, is truly miraculous. Equally remarkable is the second miracle where Jesus fed 4,000 people, again plus women and children.

These are distinct events. Luke tells us the feeding of the 5,000 took place near Bethsaida, a Jewish area at the northernmost tip of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 9:10). In contrast, the feeding of the 4,000 occurred in the gentile region of the Decapolis, at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 8:1-10).

The disciples’ challenge and their response

In both miraculous feedings, Jesus first told his disciples to feed the crowd themselves. On the first occasion in particular, this was an overwhelming challenge, as they had only five loaves and two fish. Understandably, they balked, pointing out the high cost of buying enough food for so many. Yet, Jesus took their meagre offering, blessed it, and made it more than enough, resulting in twelve baskets of leftovers (Luke 9:10-17).

Despite having witnessed this miracle, the disciples again questioned how to provide for the 4,000 in the Decapolis. With patience, Jesus repeated the miracle, reinforcing his power and willingness to provide. In doing this, he showed his graciousness – and it has never failed, even when we don't understand, or things go wrong the first time. He’s still there for us.

Faith as small as a mustard seed

The immediate message is that God can take the little we offer and multiply it. This is where the mustard seed comes in. Matthew 17:20-21 teaches that, even faith as tiny as a mustard seed, can accomplish the impossible – like moving mountains.

It’s worth noting that, in biblical literature, many natural features are often used symbolically to convey deeper spiritual meanings. Jesus’ reference to moving mountains with faith could be taken literally, or in a more general sense to mean overcoming seemingly insurmountable problems through faith in God.

It’s our relationship with Jesus that empowers us beyond our limitations. He fed thousands with almost nothing; imagine what he can do with our small faith.

Significance of locations for modern-day Christians

These miracles, and insights already mentioned, highlight a number of significant faith points for us, as Christians, today. These include:

Universal mission

The miracles demonstrate Jesus’ universal mission, i.e., his ministry wasn’t confined to a single ethnic or religious group. This inclusive outreach is foundational for Christians today, encouraging us to extend love and compassion to all, regardless of background. Additionally, these miracles demonstrate the importance of spreading the gospel beyond familiar territories. We’re encouraged to step out of our comfort zones and engage in evangelism and service in diverse and sometimes challenging environments.

No boundaries

Jesus showed that faith and provision cut across boundaries, i.e., divine provision is not limited by geography or ethnicity. For modern Christians, this signifies that God's blessings and miracles are available to everyone, everywhere. It encourages us to trust in God’s provision in diverse circumstances and cultural settings.

Dependence on God’s provision

The disciples’ doubts in both scenarios highlight human limits and the necessity of relying on God. This helps us better understand that, in moments of insufficiency and doubt, turning to God can lead to miraculous outcomes. It reinforces the idea that faith, even when small, can lead to significant divine intervention.


The sheer abundance of leftover food (twelve baskets for the 5,000 and seven for the 4,000) symbolises God’s overflowing provision. For us, this is a reminder of God's ability to provide more than is needed, encouraging a mindset of gratitude and trust in God’s generosity.

Holistic ministry (spiritual and physical nourishment)

As well as spiritual teaching, Jesus’ concern was for physical necessities. This highlights the holistic nature of his ministry and reminds us to be conscious of both the spiritual and physical needs of others, i.e., to adopt a whole-person approach.

Jesus’ divine authority

Performing these miracles in different cultural contexts reaffirms Jesus' divine authority and power over creation. This reinforces the belief in Jesus’ divinity and his role as the Messiah for both Jews and Gentiles, a core tenet of the Christian faith.

Patience with spiritual growth

The disciples' repeated doubts and Jesus’ patient responses highlight the process of spiritual growth. We can take comfort in knowing that spiritual understanding and faith development are journeys, and that Jesus is patient and willing to teach and guide repeatedly.

Conclusion and our challenge

When faced with daunting tasks, we need only remember that Jesus is ready to help. First, though, we need his guidance to ensure our goals are in line with his. Clearly, we can’t expect divine support if we’re solely focused on personal ambitions while neglecting what he wants us to do.

The feeding miracles and mustard seed example remind us of the boundless potential of faith and the importance of trusting in Jesus. By offering what little we have and aligning our hearts with God's, we too can witness his extraordinary provision and power in our lives. With Jesus, nothing is impossible.


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