Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty.” They did so and made them all sit down. Then taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing over them, broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.
Most Believers have a sense that there are a lot of Spiritual references in the Bible with numbers (e.g. 3, 7, 12, 40, etc.). Many numbers repeat time and time again and, at times, can be a very direct Message from God or, at other times, can be very mysterious Messages from God. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus asks the Apostles and Disciples with Him to feed 5,000 folks with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Jesus then has them separate the people into groups of 50 – making about 100 groups in total. The number 50 (which is found 154 times in the Bible) represents the coming of God’s Holy Spirit. It was at Pentecost (which comes from the Greek word for 50th) that the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and other Disciples of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1–31). In Jewish tradition, the 50th day (known as the Festival of Weeks or Shavuot; see Leviticus 23:9-11, 16) was a time when Jews (and others) from all over the world descended upon Jerusalem to celebrate the wheat harvest bringing their “first-fruits” from their farms in order to honor and thank God. Jesus tells us in John 12:24 that, “unless a [grain] of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Jesus became the Eternal Grain of Wheat (or “First-Fruit”) by allowing Himself to fall to the ground and die in order to bear much Fruit. The Eternal Harvest (from His First-Fruit) expanded via His Apostles and Disciples at Pentecost – where the Holy Spirit came and gave them tongues of fire as the “Lord of the harvest, [sent] out workers into His harvest” (as Jesus had predicted in Luke 10:2). The 3,000 folks who converted to Jesus Christ at Pentecost (Acts 2:41) became the “First-Fruits” of God’s Spiritual Harvest of people. So, when we come across numbers in the Bible, we should be encouraged to see how those numbers relate to each other and to other numbers, stories, items, etc. The groups of 50 were some of the “First-Fruits” when Jesus was on earth and, then, on the 50th day after He became the Eternal “First-Fruit”, His Workers found 3,000 Grains of Wheat (“First-Fruits”) in Jerusalem and honored and thanked Him accordingly. God is the Master Author and His Word is so full of mysteries that it baffles the human mind. There is great comfort in knowing God more-fully through numbers, as well as through His Word(s). It’s often very difficult, but we can take great comfort in our struggles to know His Word more deeply by remembering what St. Thomas Aquinas said about continuing to write after seeing a vision of Heaven, “I cannot, for everything I have written seems to me like straw.”