Yesterday we finished John 5 and today we move into John 6. The Passover Festival looms large in the background of John 6. The Jewish Passover Festival commemorated Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The imagery of bread and water and the references to Moses in the chapter suggest that Jesus is greater than Moses and is leading his people in a new exodus. This chapter contains four scenes: Jesus’ feeding of the multitude (the fourth of Jesus’ seven signs), his walking on the water (the fifth of Jesus’ seven signs), a lengthy discourse as his response to the people’s request for more demonstrations of power, and various responses to Jesus’ words.
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.—6:1-4
The feeding of the five thousand made a deep impression on the early church; it is the only miracle expect the resurrection described in all four Gospels. Verse 2 is John’s first reference to large crowds following Jesus. The reference to the Passover in verse 4 is both a chronological and theological marker. The Jewish people celebrated and still do celebrate Passover in the Spring (March-April). John mentions three Passovers during Jesus’ ministry (2:13; 6:4 and 13:1). The reference to the Passover brings to mind the image of the exodus from Egypt. As chapter 6 unfolds, John depicts Jesus as greater than Moses and as leading his people out of the bondage of sin and death. Only in this Gospel is the Sea of Galilee also called the Sea of Tiberias. By the time John wrote his Gospel, this was the normal designation of this body of water.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”—6:5-9
When Jesus saw the crowds approaching, he asked Philip where they could buy bread to feed them. Jesus was testing Philip, but Philip failed the test. Andrew, on the other hand, Brough a boy who offered his five small barley loaves and two small fish. Andrew is again referred to as Simon-Peter’s brother. Andrew however, makes a similar mistake as Philip by assuming what was and was not possible for Jesus. Jesus already knew what he intended to do to feed the crowd.
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”—6:10-12
At this point Jesus took control, much like the head of a family or the host at a banquet. The people were instructed to sit down. The fact that there was much grass (v.10) confirms that the season was springtime, before the summer burned it. John indicates that there were 5,000 men present, which makes the total people fed that day between 10,000 and 20,000 (that is including the women and the children who would have been present). Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and distributed it. He did the same with the fish. This was the fourth of Jesus’ seven signs.
So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.—6:13-15
Not only was there enough for everyone to eat to their fill, Jesus instructed the disciples to collect the left-overs. They gathered 12 basketfuls of left-overs, which was enough left-overs for each disciple to have a basketful. The crowd declared Jesus to be a great prophet. Jesus perceived that they wanted to make him their king, even if they had to do so by force. He quickly quenched that dangerous idea and talk by withdrawing alone to the mountains. And we will pick from here tomorrow we discuss Jesus’ walking on the water.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Samuel 14, John 7:31-53, Psalm 109:1-31 and Proverbs 15:5-7
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