What does Matthew 14:17 mean?
ESV: They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”
NIV: We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,' they answered.
NASB: They *said to Him, 'We have nothing here except five loaves and two fish.'
CSB: "But we only have five loaves and two fish here," they said to him.
NLT: But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!' they answered.
KJV: And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.
NKJV: And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”
Verse Commentary:
Jesus has told his closest disciples to do an impossible thing: give the crowds of people gathered in this desolate place something to eat. This is not merely a large gathering; the total number of men, women, and children in this space might have been as many as 15–20,000 (Matthew 14:21).

The disciples likely have only enough food for themselves to eat. Beyond that, at best, they've located five loaves of bread and two fish. These were acquired by Andrew, who received the donation from a boy in the crowd (John 6:8–9). That would make for a meager meal even if no other people were with them, let alone the thousands gathered in this empty country.

Perhaps the disciples thought that when Jesus had the facts, He would change His mind and agree to their plan. There is no question that they lack the physical resources to do what's being asked of them. This is not a question of being frugal, clever, or resourceful. Jesus is literally asking them to accomplish a task their current abilities will not achieve. It was impossible…for them. Part of the point of this miracle, in fact, is that nothing is impossible through the power of God.
Verse Context:
Matthew 14:13–21 begins with Jesus and His disciples leaving behind the crowds to escape by boat to desolate place. Instead, they find the crowds waiting there for them. Jesus heals people and eventually tells the disciples to feed everyone. The disciples have no food beyond five loaves and two fish. Jesus miraculously feeds more than 5,000 from that simple meal. Twelve baskets full of leftovers remain after everyone has eaten as much as they want. This miracle is recorded in all the four Gospels (Mark 6:30–44; Luke 9:10–17; John 6:1–14).
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 14 begins with a backstory about the arrest and execution of John the Baptist by Herod the tetrarch, the Jewish ruler of the region. Jesus and the disciples take a boat to a desolate place only to find crowds waiting. Jesus heals many and then feeds as many as twenty thousand people with five loaves and two fish. Later, the disciples row against a strong wind until Jesus walks on the water to meet them and calm the wind. Peter walks on water briefly and then doubts and begins to sink. The disciples worship Jesus. On the other side of the lake, Jesus continues to heal the sick.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 13 included more of Jesus' parables and an unfortunate incident where His own hometown rejected His ministry. Chapter 14 begins with news that Herod the tetrarch—the man who killed John the Baptist—is aware of Jesus' fame and power. Jesus and the disciples intend to withdraw to somewhere desolate, but a crowd is waiting for them. Jesus heals people, miraculously feeds thousands, and walks on water. When they reach the other side, Jesus heals more people. Chapter 15 sees Jesus once again debating with His critics and performing more healings.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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