48. This miracle of the bread is one of those which have puzzled commentators, and diverted the imagination of the incredulous. Without giving themselves the trouble to look for the allegorical sense of it, the latter have seen in it only a puerile history; but the greater number of serious men have seen in this recital, although under a form different from the ordinary one, a parable comparing the spiritual nourishment of the soul with the nourishment of the body.
One can see in it, however, more than one metaphor, and admit at a certain point of view the reality of a material effect, without resorting to belief in the miracle of it. One knows that in great preoccupation of mind, caused by giving undivided attention to a certain thing, hunger is forgotten. Now, those who followed Jesus were people greedy to hear him. There is nothing astonishing in the fact, that, having been fascinated by his words, and perhaps also by the powerful magnetic action which he exercised over them, they had not felt the need of eating.
Jesus, who foresaw this result, has been able to tranquilize his disciples by saying, in the figurative language which was habitual to him, that they had really brought some bread with them, and that this would satisfy the needs of the multitude. At the same time he gave to the latter a lesson: “You give them something to eat,” said he. He taught them by that, that they also must nourish them by the word.
Thus, beside the moral allegorical sense, he has been able to produce a well-known, natural, psychological effect. The wonderful part in this case is the great power of his words, which have captivated the attention of an immense crowd to such a point as to make them forget the necessities of the body. This moral power testifies the superiority of Jesus much more than the purely material fact of the multiplication of bread, which must have been considered as an allegory.
This explanation is found confirmed by Jesus himself in the following passages: