Matthew 15:33-34 33 And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

So how can the disciples ask a question like this when in just one chapter earlier they were basically in the same situation.

Matthew 14:16-18 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me...”

This seems quite implausible to me that they were really this dumb, especially after Peter's leap of faith in even trying to walk on the water with Jesus. I'm very happy to entertain alternative explanations or at the very least help me understand how these guys could plausibly be so clueless. What say you?

  • 3
    I don't think it's really a problem to say that the disciples were dense and never understood what Jesus was telling them, just as long as we don't think we would've done any better in their shoes! Everything is clearer after the resurrection.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 26, 2021 at 6:27

2 Answers 2


Failing to put two and two together, to come up with the right answer, is not necessarily a matter of being dense. It is more like a case of not realising the need to do that. Had they compared the previous miraculous feeding of the crowd with this new situation, they might have considered the possibility of another miraculous feeding, but after three solid days of being involved with Jesus’ miraculous healings of so many people, they were likely tired out and ready to see the vast crowd dismissed.

An interesting point in chapter 15 is that the multitude had great faith in Jesus, “and they glorified the God of Israel” (vs. 32). They had chosen to be with Jesus rather than at their employment, they had used up all the provisions they initially brought with them, yet they were thrilled at the spiritual provisions freely given to them. Perhaps Jesus chose to disregard the disciples’ dismissive attitude because the verse also says, “I have compassion on the multitude.”

Jesus had earlier stated (with regard to food and clothes etc) that people who “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” would have all those other things added to them (Matthew 6:33). Jesus chose to demonstrate the truth of that, and so to further bolster the faith of all present, including that of the disciples.

He may also have been testing the disciples, and he may have been giving them an opportunity to put two and two together. The fact that they failed may say more about their own weariness after three solid days of dealing with multitudes than about being ‘dense’.

Jesus did not rebuke them or express exasperation with them. He proceeded to involve them in another miracle, to reinforce their understanding of just who he was. A little later, they had a clash with the Pharisees and Sadducees who wanted “a sign from heaven”. Jesus rebuked them then, privately, told his disciples

“Beware, and take heed of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” and they were reasoning in themselves, saying, ‘Because we took no loaves.’ And Jesus having known, said to them, ‘Why reason ye in yourselves, ye of little faith, because ye took no loaves? Do ye not understand, nor remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many hand-baskets ye took up, nor the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? How do ye not understand that I did not speak to you of bread – to take heed of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?’ Then they understood that he did snot say to take heed of the leaven of the bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Mat. 16:1-12 YLT)

The disciples were not seeing matters, or hearing Jesus’ words, with faith. They were not applying spiritual understanding to matters. No wonder Jesus told them that they lacked faith! The ‘eyes’ of faith see everything differently, even mundane, every-day matters like eating food. The question is, would we have been any different? Or is our faith in Christ such that we know that those who seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness will have all necessary ‘other things’ added to them?

  • +1 Good answer.
    – Austin
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 13:49

It is easy to judge the disciples since, after all, they were with Christ, so why on earth should they worry about getting food when they have no money.

Except, of course, so are we:

"Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." 1 John 4.17

and in John 14.12-14:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Yet as modern believers experience lack, surrounded by others who are the image of Christ in the world, they also encounter doubt constantly as to whether God will really provide for them. We are anxious about tomorrow. So this passage shows the disciples' humanity, struggling with all the things that everyone else struggles with, and rather than judging them, we should understand that we are no different than they are.

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