In John 5, we studied how Jesus healed a man who was in terrible need for 38 years. In doing this miracle, Jesus revealed Himself in an amazing way to all those who were watching, but in particular to the man who was healed. Now we see Jesus reveal Himself in a new way to thousands and thousands of people.
vs 1-4 “After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.”
In this miracle, Jesus went out to a deserted place to be alone (Luke 9:10), yet the crowds followed Him there. Isn’t it amazing that we see this same thing happen over and over again – crowds of people flocking to Jesus. We see it at His very birth in the stable with the shepherds coming in from the fields. Frequently throughout His ministry we read in all four Gospels how Jesus attracts thousands and thousands of people to Him – to the point where He has to retreat just to be alone. All the way up to His death on the cross where there were many people watching Him as He was led through the streets and crucified. God made certain that thousands upon thousands of people – Hebrews, Romans, Greeks, and many other people groups – had the chance to meet Jesus and hear Him proclaim the Truth.
This was not so that Jesus would be a 1st century rock star. God was glorifying Christ so in His death and resurrection, God would save all who came to Him.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. ~ John 17:3
In spite of the fact that Jesus was probably exhausted and wanted to be alone for a while, Jesus still ministered to the multitude with great compassion. I think of church camp. Our church participates in a ministry where we provide free camp to unchurched kids who wouldn’t otherwise ever go to a Christian-teaching camp. Sometimes, these children can pretty tough to minister to.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9
God gives us the strength of His Son Jesus to press on when we are exhausted. He will also give us rest when He knows we need it.
For I satisfy the thirsty person and feed all those who are weak. ~ Jeremiah 31:25
If we look at the same account in Luke 9, we learn more about this event:
When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.
~ Luke 9:10-11
This crowd watched His signs which He performed on those who were diseased as he also taught them.
Verse 4 here in John 6 tells us “the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.” Passover – the Exodus and God’s sustenance of Israel in the wilderness. Here God sustains the Jews again, this time with bread and fish.
vs 5-7 “Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’ But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, ‘Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.’ ”
Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat? Why did Jesus ask Philip this question? He said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Many, many times God will bring into our lives situations where He is looking for us to respond with faith, that we “can do all things through Christ”. Here we see Jesus has a plan, but Philip doesn’t have a clue!
Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient: Their problem is in two parts. First, they don’t have the cash to feed the multitude. Second, even if they did have the money it would be impossible to purchase enough bread to feed them all (two hundred denarii is more than six month’s wages).
Philip thought in terms of money; and how much money it would take to carry out God’s work in a small way (that every one of them may have a little bit of food). I often limit God the same way. Don’t we all tend to look for how God’s work can be done in the smallest way rather than to remember that we serve a really big God who has done and will do tremendous miracles?
Right here, in this moment, Philip sees a really big problem! So did David when he went to meet Goliath! So did Daniel when he was pushed into the lions den!
Remember the song “My God is so Big”? How does that go?
“My God is so big, so strong and so mighty
There’s nothing my God cannot do
My God is so big, so strong and so mighty
There’s nothing my God cannot do”
vs 8-9 “One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?’ ”
Five barley loaves: What are they among so many? There isn’t much to work with here, but God doesn’t “need” anything. He often uses the smallest and weakest of tools. He put mud over a man’s eyes to cure his blindness (John 9). He used Moses, a murderer and a runaway fugitive (Exodus 2). He used Balaam’s donkey to correct his master (Numbers 22). He can use you and I! Here is a great post from another blogger on this called “He Will Accomplish It” by Desiring to Walk Humbly With my God
When I was a young boy, around 9 or 10 years old, I was foul. I cursed and I used bad language a lot. I did things then that I’m still ashamed to admit today. I was not growing up to be a good kid and I was not a believer in Jesus. I had many people in my family – aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins – all praying for me even though I didn’t know it. I know that they were praying for my soul, for me to believe in Jesus and accept Him as my Savior. They would tell you that God didn’t need much, but He wanted them to pray. And God used them and answered their prayers.
Again, God doesn’t need any help – but He often holds back His work because He desires our participation. He is doing that to change our hearts to become willing hearts, while also using the situation in the lives of others.
We will see Jesus do a miracle here using a small lunch. He does that not only to bless the 5,000 people there, but so that the Apostles can also see Him work in an incredible way to provide for a people He loves. Not only is the crowd fed, but the Apostles hearts are changed and encouraged.
vs 10 “Then Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.”
Jesus here takes authority as the Lord; as a loving shepherd, He makes His “sheep” to lie down on green pastures. He fulfills Psalm 23:1-2: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” Also remember, He is also taking the time to teach them here.
vs 11 “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.”
Jesus takes the food into His hands. The miracle resided in the hands of Jesus. Jesus does the same with us when we accept the free gift of salvation. We become His (in His hands), and He can do GREAT THINGS with us as simple people.
This bread came from barley, which is a seed that can reproduce and we get more barley plants from one simple grain. But when it is made into bread, the barley is crushed and broken, making it “dead” – no one ever grew barley by planting barley flour. But Jesus can bring life from death. He does the same with us. We are dead in our sin, and He was crushed for us, and then He rose again to new life! He offers that life to us who are still dead. He also allows us to be crushed at times – disappointed, hurt, even physically injured or sick, to allow His purposes to shine through us. (Joni Eareckson Tada and Corrie Ten Boom are two great examples)
vs 12-13 “So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.’ Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.”
Jesus used His disciples even though they did not understand – they got to participate in the miracle. Jesus demonstrated to them the giving character of God – the same character God desires to build within us.
There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.
~ Proverbs 11:24
This bread was multiplied as it was “scattered.” God will use what little we have to offer and make it something really great, He will multiply it! Yet if we hold back (money, time, or our skills) the verse in Proverbs says that leads to poverty. Maybe not poor in the bank account, but poor in heavenly treasure.
vs 15 “Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.”
They wanted to make Jesus king because they thought He was the Messiah they wanted. The Jews expected that when the Messiah came, He would renew the giving of manna, that He would provide everything they needed. This crowd was willing to support Jesus so long as He gave them what they wanted – bread. For ages the Jews had been waiting for a King. Jesus was performing miracles, giving them food to eat, healing the sick – surely He must be the king and He will fulfill all their dreams and they’ll get a free paycheck every month and all the food they want and be able to do whatever they want without those pesky Romans over them and they’ll all live in Disneyland’s castle! That kingdom was not part of God’s plan.
Yes – heaven will be incredible and more wonderful than we can imagine, but we get there by humbly asking Jesus to forgive us and take away our sin and unrighteousness and by believing and accepting His gift of eternal life.
vs 16-20 “Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. But He said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ ”
Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid. Are we still afraid? Yes we are! What are we afraid of? I’m afraid of everything! I get so stressed out about so much in my life, but God wants me to trust in Him. He is saying to me “It is I; do not be afraid”. I am afraid of being embarrassed, I’m afraid of doing the wrong thing in my job, I’m often afraid I won’t be able to provide for my family, I am sometimes afraid of standing in front of a group and talking (like Sunday School!) I am often afraid God will allow something terrible in my life like sickness or death. God is saying “Trust me, I’ve got this”.
Do you remember the Disney Aladdin movie? There is a point in the movie where Aladdin stretches out his hand toward the princess, and she is getting ready to leap and says “Do you trust me?” That’s what God is doing with us. He is not only asking us to trust, He is pushing the limits of our faith to get us to surrender and trust.
vs 28-29 “Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.’ ”
In order to “work the works of God”, in other words to do God’s will and His work, we have to first believe in Jesus. If we don’t believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, we cannot do the work of God.
vs 34-35 “Then they said to Him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never
God can and will provide for our needs when we ask because He cares. Now, sometimes it doesn’t seem like He is listeming, caring, or providing; but in those times He is teaching us what faith means. He is deepening our faith and our trust in Him. He is on the throne and in control. What pot says to the potter “Do you really know what you’re doing?” (Isaiah 45:9)
vs 40 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
God’s desire is certainly that we will believe and that we will have eternal life with Him! All we need to do is trust and follow Jesus. Trust and follow. Trust and follow.