1. Exposition

Is Jesus blessing the food or is he giving thanks?

Mark 6:41 (ESV)

41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all.

Jesus performs this divine, creative miracle in unity with his heavenly Father. Before he breaks and shares he looks up to heaven (a sign of prayer). Then he blesses bread and fish. Many exegetes think that it is not a matter here of the blessing of the food but of the normal giving of thanks before the meal.1 Now this giving of thanks undoubtedly took place, as was evident from Jesus lifting his eyes up to heaven. The question, however, is whether thanksgiving is also meant when it is subsequently said that Jesus “blessed” (εὐλόγησεν). The more common verb for the giving of thanks is eucharistein (εὐχαρίστειν) (Acts 27:35). We find it also in John’s story about the multiplication of the bread (John 6:11): his mention of Jesus’ thanksgiving can be in essence parallel with Mark’s mentioning of Jesus’ looking up to heaven. That is confirmed by Luke’s account: with him it is very clear that the blessing is a separate element, next to the giving of thanks (“And taking the five loaves and two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves,” Luke 9:16). From Luke’s report it is probable that Matthew 14:19) and Mark 6:41, which are not as explicit, nevertheless also mean that the giving of thanks was involved in the looking up to heaven and that then the blessing of bread and fish followed. When the disciples can hand out the food without end, that is thanks to Jesus’ blessing on the food. His word of blessing is a creative word!2