All four New Testament Gospels tell the account of Christ feeding his five thousand followers with only five loaves of bread and two fishes. Examined more closely, we can learn a lot about the Atonement and how truly wonderful it is from this experience.
After the beheading of John the Baptist, Christ boarded a ship with his apostles to seek refuge in a desert place in Bethsaida. When the people saw Christ departing, they followed him on foot. The apostles told Christ to send them away as the day was far spent and they needed to go into the villages to get victuals, or food.
Christ had compassion on the multitude and instructed the apostles to feed the followers themselves. They quickly told him there were five thousand people and they only had five loaves and two fishes. They could go out and buy food, they seem to say almost incredulously. Instead, Christ tells them to bring what they have. He then blesses their small offering and divide the people into groups of fifty. They then take the baskets and began to pass out food to the multitude. Miraculously, all five thousand are not only fed, but they “were all filled” and twelve baskets full of food were leftover.
In the scriptures, the number seven is used to represent completeness and perfection. In essence the number can also represent Christ. With five loaves and two fishes, there were seven pieces of food available. As Christ broke the bread and divide the fish, he was making a symbolic gesture of his mission. In a very short amount of time, he would break himself. He would suffer through unimaginable agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and endure a horrific death on the cross. A perfect life, God’s perfect Son, would be physically broken apart so that all mankind could be saved.
However, we are not only saved. We are not even symbolically filled to capacity. We receive so many blessings that it will seem there are some leftover.
In our weakness and “hungers”, it can be hard to feel hopeful. However, Christ is able to take our small offering of obedience and effort to make miracles happen. If we follow him, even into the wilderness, he will look upon us and have compassion. The people likely had no idea they would be treated to such a miraculous meal. They ventured out, knowing only they wanted to be near Christ. As we do the same, we will experience miracles of our own.