In the chapter we find ourselves along the shores of the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias. In the last chapter hatred aroused against Jesus because he had healed the lame man beside the pool at Bethesda on the Sabbath. Because of the violent reaction of the scribes and Pharisees Jesus cannot remain in Jerusalem and has withdrawn to Galilee. Even though in Jerusalem the Feast of the Passover is being celebrated Jesus has started His ministry in Galilee. Jesus spent a long time in His Galilean ministry as indicated in the other gospels.
Jesus preformed many signs during this time in Galilee but John chose to only describe two, the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on the water. Perhaps this is because these two signs led to a crisis amongst His followers, which resulted in a marked division and an open confession of unbelief and faith. Chapter six contains three natural divisions. One division the miracles verses 1-21, the next division the discourse verses 22-59, and the third division a dispute among the Jews in verses 60-65.
There many people traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover but the news of Jesus had come to them from His time in Jerusalem. Jesus had withdrawn to the other side of the Sea of Galilee to spend time with His disciples to teach them. But the people knew that Jesus was there and followed Him by land by going around the north side of the Sea. With those who had been following Jesus and those who turned from their journey to Jerusalem John records as five thousand. John’s count only included the men and not the women and children. John recorded five thousand but there was many more than that. They had been journeying a long time and when Jesus saw them coming he knew they would be weary and hungry.
Jesus knew that a miracle would be needed to feed so many people. Jesus knew this but wanted to test Phillips faith. Phillip was from the nearby town of Bethsaida and would know where enough food could be purchased to feed a crowd so large. Phillip searched for a practical solution to the problem. Phillip counted up the cost of feeding so many and realized that they did not have enough money. Phillip did not in his thinking include God as a solution. The lack of resources does not stop God and what He can do.
Andrew discovered a young boy in the crowd that had five loaves of bread and two fish. This was the boy’s lunch and he offered it to Andrew to help out. Andrew like Phillip did not understand what God could do. The disciples had some money for their traveling expenses and needs but they did not offer any of that to help the situation but the young boy gave all that he had.
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, thanked God for it, and then passed it out to everyone there. All were filled and satisfied with the meal from the five loaves of bread and two fish. We may look at our resources and feel they are not enough to meet the need of others and our selves. Our resources are our time, possession, and our money. We also have skills that God has given us. We may look at the needs and wonder how we can meet those needs but we must remember to consider God in our search for a solution. It is better to give God what we do have than to give Him nothing. He will take whatever we offer and do mighty works for His Kingdom. He will also bless us with abundance. There were twelve baskets of leftover food from the five loaves of bread and two fish. If we give to God what is rightfully His, He will do so much more than we could ever imagine.
The people were amazed by what Jesus had done, they knew they had witnessed and mighty sign and declared, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” The prophet they we referring to was the one whom Moses had spoken of in Deuteronomy. Moses said a prophet would come and be like him but what Moses meant was that the Messiah would come. (Deuteronomy 18:15)
Moses had led the Israelites out of the land of Egypt were they had been enslaved. Now the Hebrew nation was under the rule of the Romans. The Israelites were living in their land but they were not the rulers of their land. The Jews wanted to be free of the Roman rule. They were looking for the Messiah to come a free them and establish His government. They had seen the power that Jesus had and wanted to make Him their King. They wanted a political and military ruler who would lead them to fight against the Romans. This was their plan but it was not God’s plan so Jesus sent them away and went into the mountain to pray.
In the gospel of Mark we read that Jesus had sent his disciples ahead of Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. (Mark 6:45) Jesus went up to the mountain to pray. They had rowed about half way across when a storm came up and with the strong wind the waves were rising. The disciples became afraid even though some of them were fisherman and had fished many times on the Sea of Galilee. They were familiar with the Sea and knew how suddenly and violent the storms on the Sea could be. Then they saw what they thought to be a spirit walking on the water coming towards them. This caused even more fear to fill their hearts. Jesus called out to them saying, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Once they knew it was Jesus they bid Him to get into the boat and immediately they were at the shore to where they were going.
There is a contrast to this sign and the sign given at the feeding of the five thousand. Here Jesus is not perceived as a political leader with power in an earthly place but a divine Creator who has authority over the natural laws of the universe. Jesus does not suspend the natural law but shows that He is superior to the natural law. Jesus also shows His ability to be independent of time and space, as when He enters into the boat they instantly reach the shore.
This is an example that if we trust in Jesus that even as we face the storms of life, face the loneliness and opposition along the path, that He is with us and we can enjoy the safety and gladness of a divine fellowship with Him.
Another picture is that as Jesus was praying on the mountain to the Father and then appears with His disciples to rescue them from the perils of life. This is where Jesus is today at the right hand of the Father interceding for us and some day will come again to rescue us from the trials of this world. (Roman 8:33-34)
Jesus is with us always even to the ends of the earth. (Matthew 28:20) Trials and tribulations come upon us quickly in this world, like the storm on the lake. We may feel that we have no control over our situation. We may think that we are struggling alone with our problems. But sometimes Jesus comes to us when we do not expect him. He may surprise us by the way that he comes to us. But Jesus can do anything! He protects us from bad things. We know that we are safe with him.
The crowds had seen the disciples leave in the boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and they knew that Jesus had not gone with them. So when they realized that neither the disciples nor Jesus was there they also got into boats and crossed over to the other side to Capernaum seeking Jesus. When they arrived on the other side and saw Jesus there they wondered how He had gotten there. But Jesus did not answer them to this question but only said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.”
Jesus then began to teach the people the meaning of the feeding of the day before. We are reminded that all of the miracles of Jesus are acted parables. The signs not only served an immediate need through grace and love but also have a divine message of spiritual truth. The people were only thinking of their physical need for food but Jesus wanted to point out their true need of spiritual food, the spiritual food that only He could provide. He warned them to not work for the food which will parish but for the food which leads to eternal life. Jesus could give them the spiritual bread that would lead to eternal life because the Father had placed His seal upon Him. The essence of His lesson can be found in His words, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”
They had asked for a sign much like the manna that Moses gave in the wilderness. As the bread that Moses gave came down from God in Heaven, Jesus said that He was the true bread from God in Heaven. That He has come down from the Father and is the manna given for the life of the world. The body of Jesus was to be broken and His blood shed and then to ascend back to Heaven. His gospel is that all who trust in Him He will give present satisfaction, future resurrection, and eternal life.
The language of eating His flesh and drinking His blood stresses the completeness of the faith we are to have in Him. As we walk in faith with Jesus, we must have an absolute dependence upon Him, as a crucified, risen, living, divine Lord. Our identification is with Jesus Christ and we are to bear His image, a light unto the world, that through us His truth may be seen in a darkened world. (Matthew 5:14)
Jesus is concerned with our physical needs, as He fed the five thousand, but the flesh is passing away it is the spirit that is eternal. Jesus did not preach on the physical needs of the world but on the need for spiritual life.
Faith in Jesus is not only for healing, but for the nourishment of our spirit. Previously Jesus had healed the lame man but here He is sustaining the strong. It is not only the immoral and sick that need Jesus but also the purest and best of men.
Faith in Jesus is a necessity not a luxury. The people were given the simplest of food and would have fainted without it. The Christian life is not something which may or may not be added to our blessings in life, without faith in Jesus there is no life either here or hereafter.
Our faith is to be in Jesus only. It is not found in the acceptance of a creed or in the performance of a ritual, but is the surrender of our self to a personal loving Savior. We must follow Him in devotion and trust.
Faith is not tasting or admiring but is consuming. Faith is having a complete identification with Jesus Christ. We must allow Him into every part of our life. His Word and will must become every part of our life.
Faith results in service towards Him and to our neighbor. It is a life of sharing, not keeping. His Word is to equip us to share the gospel message with the world. Our resources may seem inadequate but by allowing the Master to bless them we have the possibility to serve thousands.
Faith in Jesus will bring us satisfaction, not just temporary relief. Jesus is not a simple meal but an abundance that His true disciples find. Faith brings an abiding, abounding, eternal life through Jesus. No hungering soul turns to Jesus in vain.
Deuteronomy 18:15, Mark 6:45, Matthew 14:26, Roman 8:33-34, Matthew 28:20, Matthew 5:14