Read John 6:1
1 After this, Jesus crossed over to the far side of the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias.
This passage possibly takes place about six months after the previous passage, which was set in the Feast of the Tabernacles.
*How much time do you think had elapsed since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry?
About one year, as this is the second “Passover” (John 6:4) mentioned, so Jesus is one-third into His three-year ministry. This Passover is also six months after the previous “feast of the Jews” mentioned in John 5.
Read John 6:2
2 A huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miraculous signs as he healed the sick.
*Would have liked to have seen these miraculous signs? Would you have liked to follow Jesus around?
In verse 2, John told us why the crowd was there. They had seen or heard about Jesus’ healings. Many wanted healing for themselves. Others just wanted to see Jesus do a miracle with their own eyes.
Read John 6:3&4
3 Then Jesus climbed a hill and sat down with his disciples around him. 4 (It was nearly time for the Jewish Passover celebration.)
*What is the Jewish Passover? This celebration started during the time of Moses. This festival represented when the Jewish people came out of slavery in Egypt.
*How is this miracle of feeding of the 5000 like the Passover?
Jesus crosses a body of water • A crowd of large crowd of needy people following Him • He leads them to a wilderness with no apparent way to sustain them • And then Jesus retreats up the side of mountain leaving the people below • And all these things are happening in conjunction with the time of Passover, which is a memorial of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt
*How does Jesus fulfill the Passover? as the Lamb of God sacrificed for the sins of the world • John has already made that connection for us through the words of John the Baptist • we see Jesus completing the picture in His death on the cross • But now John is working to really bring Jesus’ connection to the Exodus account into clear focus
Read John 6:5&6
5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”
6 He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
*Think there were supermarkets there? They probably had markets then, but not big ones.
*Why do you think he was testing Philip, what was the test? I think the test was whether the disciples were recognizing the picture of the Exodus that Jesus was carefully orchestrating around them
*Was Jesus’ question, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” (John 6:5) to Philip intended to start a private chat? Since at least one other disciple, Andrew, also replied to the question, it was heard by more than just Philip, and probably by many, if not all of the twelve disciples.
*Then why might Jesus have addressed the question to Philip?
John 1:44 says, “Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.” Since Bethsaida was only about 15 miles northeast of where they were Philip would have known the area well and could attest to the fact that there is no source of food in the immediate vicinity, setting the stage for the miracle Jesus was about to perform.
*Since Andrew and Peter were also from Bethsaida, why was the question addressed to Philip?
Philip just may have been standing nearer to Jesus than Andrew and Peter were at that moment.
Read John 6:7
7Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!”
*How much of today’s money do you think it would take to feed a crowd of people? There were 5000 men, and maybe 5000 women, and then children. Maybe around 12,000 people, $5 a person to feed, $50-60,000. 200 denari represents about 8 months salary for a working man
*Do you think Philip a matter-of-fact assessment of the situation shows his lack of faith? • There is no spiritual dimension to his answer • He doesn’t consider supernatural possibilities • He’s thinking only of what men are capable of doing to solve a problem of this magnitude • And since the disciples lack the capability, he reasons the situation is hopeless • Matthew’s Gospel adds that the disciples went a step further at this point and recommended that Jesus send the people away since they had no solution
*How is Phillip’s response similar to the way the Israelites felt in the desert?
They told Moses that they expected to starve in the desert • And in their case, they blamed their predicament on God’s incompetence
Read John 6:8&9
8 Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. 9 “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
*How would you characterize Philip’s and Andrew’s response to Jesus’ request? Are they different?
Andrew’s suggestion is so pathetic, it seems almost nonsensical that he even raised the option in the conversation. Philip looked at the task and gave up (John 6:7). Andrew was a bit better (John 6:8).
*How many men do you think would be fed on 5 loaves and 2 fish?
*Think there is any significance in 7 items? Seven is a number meaning the total or complete or fulfilled number of something – Today, we would say “100%” to mean the total of something – The Bible uses the number “7” to mean the same thing
Read John 6:10-13
10 “Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus said. So they all sat down on the grassy slopes. (The men alone numbered about 5,000.)
*How many people do you think were there? When John says, “so the men sat down, about 5000 in number,” he’s only listing the number of men (households). The actual number of people was 15,000-20,000.
*Why do you think Jesus instructs the people to sit in the grass? • In Mark’s Gospel we’re told they sit in groups of hundreds and fifties, which simply means into small, manageable groups • If hungry people see food coming their way, they tend to rush toward it to make sure they get a share • Making them sit ensures orderliness and also imparts confidence that there is a plan to ensure everyone is fed
*Know any scripture that we are asked to sit or lie down? Psalm 23 • The Shepherd is the One Who causes His sheep to lie down in green pastures • The Shepherd cares for His sheep and makes sure they receive their rations – Sheep don’t have the ability to find their own green pastures
Read John 6:11-13
11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted. 12 After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.
This is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels
*How do you think the disciples felt as they gathered up all that leftover food?
*What might the twelve baskets of bread in the Jewish region represent? Food for the twelve tribes of Israel.
*What did Jesus refer to Himself as? “I am the bread of life,” (John 6:35 below)
*What part did the disciples play in this miracle? The disciples couldn’t make the food multiply on their own • They didn’t possess magic baskets • They were simply waiters o On the other hand, their role wasn’t irrelevant • Jesus designed the miracle so that it depended on the disciples delivering the food to the people
*What does that teach us about serving? No one ministers to God’s people by virtue of brilliance or training or experience or sheer force of our personality.• Successful servants of God only deliver what Jesus provides for His flock • What He gives us tends to run out pretty quick • So we have to return time and time again – Return to His word – Return to Him in prayer – Return to Him in repentance and humility
*What is the lesson of the boy giving up his whole lunch?
If you want to serve God, hand everything you have over to Him
*Could Jesus have fed the crowd if the boy hadn’t volunteered his meal?
He created the universe with just His words. Jesus doesn’t need anyone to work His will. When He has us play a part in His work, it’s a blessing and a favor from Him to us, not vice versa.
*How long do you think it took to feed all those people? Hours
*Think there is any significance in that the disciples were required to collect the food? The Lord could have simply multiplied more food for each • But it was also a provision intended to meet the needs of those disciples who had just worked to serve the people • Notice that the amount collected was exactly twelve baskets, reflecting the 12 apostles who had served the people
Read John 6:14&15
14 When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” 15 When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.
*What did the crowd call Jesus after being fed? “the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
*Why “the” Prophet? They were referring to a specific prophet – the one Moses had said would be like him: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear…” (Deuteronomy 18:15) – also because of the Mana God provided rained down from Heaven
*What had Moses done with the Israelites?
God had used him to free the Jews from the bondage under the Egyptians.
*What did the crowd around Jesus want to do after the feeding miracle?
“Take Him by force and make him King.” (John 6:15) They wanted a political leader who could provide for them, bless the economy, and deliver them from Roman oppression. They didn’t really care about his teaching. They just wanted him for what he could do for them.
*So that He can do what for them? Free them from the bondage under the Romans, as they had been freed from the bondage under the Egyptians.
*Where did Jesus go? Why? “to the mountain by Himself alone.” (John 6:15) He wanted to pray: “And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:46)
*Why might He have wanted to pray upon perceiving that they wanted to make Him king?
If He were to become king and free Israel from Roman bondage, He would be able to avoid crucifixion, so He may have felt tempted: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14-15)
*How does prayer help against temptation? “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Peter 2:9).
- How do you think the boy felt when his lunch was miraculously magnified to feed everyone until they were full-with lots of leftovers?
- Why did Jesus test the faith of His Disciples? How has He done this with you? Does this concern you or help you? How have you been blinded with wrong expectations?
- This is the only miracle, besides the resurrection, that is recorded in all the Gospels. What does this say about its importance?
- What can you do to make sure that you never take God’s provision for granted or waste it? How has Jesus met your needs? Seeing this, how can you now trust Him even more?