The supernatural

Merriam-Webster defines supernatural as that which is “of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe especially of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil; departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature.” Some people associate the supernatural with magic and believe that it involves incantations or requires some sort of special power beyond this world for it to occur. Jesus demonstrated that supernatural feats can be performed by human beings who merely believe they are possible. Jesus told his disciples the reason they could not perform miracles was their unbelief, and said to them, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).

Only part of Jesus’ ministry involved performing miracles; his primary focus was teaching people about the kingdom of heaven. Sometimes the two were intertwined, but for the most part, Jesus performed miracles only on an individual basis for those who demonstrated belief in his ability to do such things. After John the Baptist was beheaded by King Herod, Jesus took his disciples by boat to a place described as “a desert place” where they could “rest for a while.” Mark said the reason for their departure to an isolated location was because “there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 6:31). Tired, and most likely discouraged by the death of his cousin John, Jesus decided everyone in his company needed a break, and would benefit from a short period of isolation. Unfortunately, Mark tells us:

And the people saw them departing, and many knew him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto him. And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. And when the day was far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. (Mark 6:33-36)

From Mark’s account of the incident, we know there were at least 5,000 men there listening to Jesus preach (Mark 6:44). Matthew stated there were “about five thousand men, beside women and children” (Matthew 14:21). What is clear about the situation is that there was not enough food available to feed the people. One of Jesus’ disciples estimated that it would take “two hundred pennyworth of bread” (Mark 6:37) or the equivalent of 200 days of wages in order to feed them. After searching for available resources, the disciples found only five loaves of bread and two fishes (Mark 6:38). Mark’s account of what happened next showed no evidence of anything mysterious or mystical happening, only that Jesus “brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all” (Mark 6:41). From this meager portion, Jesus was able to supernaturally feed everyone, and afterward, “they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes” (Mark 6:43).