Interesting detail here in Matthew: the crowd has been with Jesus three days before He feeds them miraculously. Now, not every number in Scripture is metaphorical or allegorical–but often enough, they are. That’s why all the 40s and 7s and 12s and so on, over and over and over. And honestly, I think that when you have a 3-day time frame with Jesus, you’re always supposed to connect the moment to the Resurrection. He’s with the maimed and sick for three days and then He feeds them: He’s with the dead and cold for three days and then, in Himself, He begins the resurrection, the culmination of human purpose, for them/us. Remember, in case this seems like a reach, that the meal Jesus feeds His followers with on the night of the arrest, the Lord’s Supper, is specifically tied to remembrance of His death. Remember too that almost every single (almost) post-resurrection appearance is tied to sharing a meal–some fish, perhaps, or bread broken at Emmaus.
There’s something about eating together that binds us together, in grief and in joy. That’s why, I think, Matthew’s hinting that we should see the joyous meal on the mountain, with miracle food and healings aplenty, as tied to the resurrection. It’s a joyful event, and it helps to heal the wound that brought people together in the first place, the maimedness and lameness and blindness that drew them to Him. Hence that almost daily bread-and-wine we share in the Eucharist. There’s something about eating with one another that prepares us for our resurrection identity, and heals us from our broken present reality.