"Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, 'I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.' Then His disciples said to Him, 'Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?' Jesus said to them, 'How many loaves do you have?' And they said, 'Seven, and a few little fish.' So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and the fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitude. So they all ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets full of the fragments that were left. Now those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. And He sent away the multitude, got into the boat, and came to the region of Magdala" (Matt. 15:32-39).
According to Jesus, their activity on the mountain continued for at least one full day and parts of two others (i.e., three days in the Hebrew method of reckoning time). The people would have used up whatever food supplies they may have carried with them. Jesus tells His apostles that He would not "send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way" home. Truly, Jesus is compassionate.
Surely Jesus was disappointed with the response He heard from His apostles - "Where could we get enough bread in the wilderness to fill such a great multitude?" They had just witnessed three days of miraculous healings and on an earlier occasion they had participated in the miraculous feeding of an even larger crowd than this (cf. Matt. 14:14-21). Since the apostles are not looking for miraculous relief, it is likely that they had probably been hungry on many other occasions and had long ago stopped expecting supernatural aid in such circumstances. It isn't that they doubt Jesus' miraculous abilities. The problem is that they are strictly thinking in physical terms (cf. Num. 11:21-23).
The patience of Jesus with His apostles is certainly worth noting. This should be a lesson to all preachers and teachers. No matter how many times you've explained something to someone, sometimes people are forgetful and slow to see what is right in front of their face. Be patient and show them the truth again as clearly as you can. Sometimes it takes people a while to assimilate the truth. "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient" (II Tim. 2:24).
The multitude is fed miraculously from seven loaves and a few little fish. What a sight this would have been to witness! After everyone was full, there were seven large baskets of leftovers (considerably more than what they started with). These baskets were different from the ones used during the feeding of the five thousand (the Greek words used are different). It is likely that the baskets used on this occasion were much larger (e.g., Acts 9:25).
It should also be observed that the numbers given in this narrative clearly distinguish this miracle from the feeding of the five thousand.