Long have I puzzled over the significance of the 12 baskets of left-over fragments of bread in the feeding of the 5000 (John 6:1-15). Of course, the number 12 has obvious connections to other parts of Scripture (e.g. 12 sons of Jacob, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles). But what of the left-over fragments of bread gathered by the disciples?
Teaching this pericope to my Bible class today brought fresh insights to mind. For example, the theme of ingathering is strong in the Gospel of John. There seems to be a deliberate effort to show that the Feast of Tabernacles (among others) is being fulfilled in Christ (See John 7-8). Christ is the source of the living waters, and is Himself the living bread which comes down from heaven. Christ even says that when He is lifted up He will draw all men to himself. Ingathering. He is the Temple, to which all shall go to drink and not go thirsty, and eat and not go hungry.
Here is where the 12 baskets of left-over fragments come in. Could it be that these left-over fragments being gathered by the disciples into 12 baskets represent the scattered people of Israel and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning the return of these scattered folk from all the nations to which they were exiled? It seems to fit the general theme of the Gospel of John.