These last several weeks, we have been going over the remarkable ministry of Jesus Christ. And last week, Phil talk about how Jesus was asleep on the boat with his disciples. And a storm came. It was a great windstorm. And the waves were beating into the sides of the ship. And the ship became full of water. So much so, that the disciples thought they were going to perish in the storm.
And so the disciples went over to Jesus. Jesus was asleep on a pillow. And the disciples woke him up, and said to Jesus, “do you not care that we are about to perish!” And immediately, Jesus arose, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still”. And the wind stopped. And there was a great calm in the sea.
In my Bible, I have underlined the phrase, “great calm”. So not only did Jesus stop the storm. But he immediately created such a peaceful and tranquil scene around the boat, that Peter felt obligated to write, “there was a great calm”.
Do you know what the doldrums are?
In the ocean, near the equator, there are these spots that have no wind activity. And sailors will get stuck in these doldrums, sometimes for days, just waiting for the wind to pick up so they can sail. Some sailors have described the ocean waters in these doldrums as being perfectly still. Not even a ripple, or a subtle wave can be seen. But it looks as still as a painting. And so when Peter writes about “a great calm”, I imagine there was peace and calmness in the sea of Galilee that day, like there has never been before.
And these miracles, and the nature of these miracles, is what is causing Jesus’ popularity to sore in Israel. Phil last week also talked about how Jesus healed a man who was possessed with some 2,000 demons. And the healed man had told everyone in his area of all the great things Jesus had done for him. And the result was, that wherever Jesus went, many people gathered unto him, because of these miracles.
Now this sets up the next miracle that Jesus will here perform. And this miracle is significant because there is a very important teaching that goes along with it. And it is the only action of Christ’s life that is recorded by all four of the gospel writers. And so we as students should pay special attention to this miracle, and the teaching application behind this miracle.
So let’s begin with our reading. John 6:1-4
1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.
4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.
So the writer John tells us why the great crowd started following Jesus. “Because they saw his miracles”. The Scripture says Jesus had compassion on the crowd, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And so Jesus began to teach them many things. And we see here an instance of the patience and love Jesus had for the people, for he was willing to stay with them until it was quite late. Sometimes for me, after two hours, I have to get back to work, or to family. But not so for Jesus. He was at work. And he was with family. Calling those who would be called the children of God.
So seeing the large crowd, Jesus went up on the mountain and sat down with his disciples. Now, because the Passover was near, there were many people traveling for the annual Jewish festival, celebrating the Exodus Passover. This Passover festival was instituted by God to be a reminder for the children of Israel of their deliverance out of Egypt. So because of the timing of things, there were larger crowds than usual at this time.
Then we read versus 5-7:
5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come to him, he said unto Philip, Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
6 And this he said to prove him (or to test Philip): for Jesus himself knew what he would do.
7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
So we see here, God is interested in testing people, in proving people, and to see what’s in their hearts. In the Exodus, God led Israel for forty years in the wilderness, which the Scriptures say, was to humble them, and to test them, to know what was in their heart, and to see whether they would keep God’s commandments or not.
And so Jesus here is testing Philip. Testing the faith of Philip. For John writes that Jesus himself already knew what he would do. It’s also interesting that he choose to test Philip out of all the disciples. Philip was one of the early disciples that saw Jesus turn water into wine, which was Jesus’ first miracle. Since Philip saw Jesus turn water into wine, when he was asked by Jesus, “Where shall we buy bread to feed so many people”, Philip should have remembered how Jesus turned water into wine. And Jesus did this first miracle for a large wedding party. So now we have a similar scene. There is a large crowd, but instead of not having drink, they have no food. Philip should have said, “Lord, you turned much water into wine. There is no way for us to feed this large crowd here. But you Lord can turn these stones into bread.” If Philip had responded like that, I’m sure Jesus would have been pleased with his confidence and faith in Him.
Jesus had also tested the disciples collectively as a group. The disciples wanted to send the large crowd away so they could go to the surrounding villages and buy themselves food. But Jesus challenged them, “You give them something to eat!”. And the disciples again responded incredulously, and in a very natural and human way, said: “Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them enough food to eat?” So Jesus asks them, “How many loaves do you have? Go check and see!”
Then we read in verses 8-9:
8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said unto Jesus,
9 There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
So what was barely enough to feed the 12 disciples with one small meal, for Jesus, was more than enough to feed the large crowd.
Then we read:
10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
Matthew tells us in his gospel, that there were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. So the total number of people fed is estimated to be around 20,000 people.
And then we read
11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed the bread to the disciples, and the disciples distributed the bread to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they wanted.
12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.
And so this was the miracle that Jesus performed. He multiplied the two fish and the five barley loaves, and fed 5,000 families. Remember what the Devil said to Jesus during Christ’s temptation? “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Do you think Jesus could have commanded stones to become bread? The Devil certainly thought so. We see in the Old Testament, God causing Manna, or bread, to rain down from heaven to feed the Israelites in the wilderness. We see God commanding Moses to strike a rock in the desert, and causing much water to flow out, supporting the life of some 2 million Israelites during the Exodus. Moses even questions how the LORD God would feed the Israelites in the desert with meat for a whole month. But God did it.
And consider all the miracles Jesus has performed up to this point. Jesus turned water into wine. He healed the sick. He healed the lame. He opened the eyes of a man born blind. He cast out demons. He raised the dead. He calmed a storm. And now, in our text, Jesus multiplied the fish and the bread, and fed 5,000 families. These miracles are just as impressive, maybe even more impressive, than what we see God doing in the Old Testament. The man who was born blind, when healed, he told the Pharisees, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” When God rained down manna, or bread, from heaven, the Israelites had to go and gather the grain, and then grind it into flour, and then bake their bread. But here, Jesus miraculously produced fully baked bread for the large crowd to eat. And this should be a sign for us of Jesus’ divinity. For Jesus is doing miracles, that are just as impressive, just as unique, as what we see God doing in the Old Testament.
During the Exodus, God told Moses why He performed all those miraculous judgements upon Egypt. Gold told Moses, I have hardened Pharoah’s heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show my signs before him, and that you may tell your son and your son’s son, of the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done, that you may know that I am the Lord.”
So that was God’s end goal for why He did his miracles in Egypt. Now look how the people here in our text respond after seeing this miracle feeding by Jesus.
14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.
This is why Jesus performed miracles for the people, and had them recorded for us to read. It is so that we will believe in his message. These miracles are important because they establish a foundation from which we can put our faith on. I’m not going to believe in the testimony of a man, especially a man claiming to be God, who does not first reasonably prove that He is God, or comes from God. And we see God in the Bible, giving us overwhelming evidences, and proofs, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh. So this miracle feeding had its intended effect. The people said, “This is truly that Prophet who is to come into the world.”
The people were referencing what Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 18:13, The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him. The crowd is now starting to say, this is that Prophet that Moses said would come.
Now the response we see from the crowd, in what we read next in our text, is a completely different response to a mircale, than to all the other miracles previously seen.
In verse 15, we read:
15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
So why did the crowd now all of a sudden try to take him by force to make him king? This was not the first miracle Jesus performed. Remember, Jesus has already healed the sick, he healed the lame, he open the eyes of the blind, and he raised the dead. What makes this feeding miracle so much different, that the crowd now wants to take him by force, and make him king? Jesus will tell us shortly.
Let’s keep reading our text. Verses 16-21:
16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea,
17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.
18 Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.
19 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.
20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
So Immediately after the feeding of 5,000, Jesus dismissed his disciples, and told them to go over to Capernaum across the sea, while Jesus himself went up into a mountain to pray. And Jesus was up in the mountain for a long time. So much so, that the disciples got on the boat, and left without him. This set the stage for Jesus to perform another extraordinary miracle.
Now there is an interesting lesson we can draw from this account. The disciples found themselves in a very difficult situation, trying to row against high winds. And they were following Jesus’ commands to go over to Capernaum. Now in Mark, Chapter 6, which has a parallel account of this miracle, we read that “Jesus wanted to get in the boat with them, but he was going to pass by them”. So Jesus is testing the disciples again. We are seeing a theme here, where Jesus likes to test and prove his servants. He wanted to test the disciples faith, so Jesus walked toward the boat, and then deliberately changed course and came parallel to the boat, intending to pass by them, and to see if they would recognize him, and recognize his supernatural abilities. But the Disciples did not immediately recognize him, but thought him to be a ghost. Jesus had to say to them, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped, and Mark says, the Disciples were utterly astonished. And then Mark tells us why they were so astonished. And this comment is really interesting. Mark said: “For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.”
The disciples misunderstood the real significance of the feeding miracle, and they could not grasp here Jesus’ supernatural character as displayed in His power over the water, to be able to walk on it. They were seeing Jesus do amazing things. But they were not understanding Him to be God and Creator of the universe. Philip, later on in our text, asks Jesus, “Show us the Father”. Jesus responded, “Have you been so long time with me Philip, and you do not know me? If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” But as it was, their hearts were hardened, and they did not grasp fully who Jesus was. At least not yet.
Now Jesus is setting everything up for an important teaching moment. So let’s keep reading.
22 On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone—
23 however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks—
24 when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?”
So even the crowd recognized the impossibility of Jesus being at Capernaum. Little did they know that Jesus had just walked on water.
Then we read, starting at verse 26:
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.
Jesus knows their hearts. And the crowd here was not following Jesus because they wanted to know more about Jesus being the Messiah. But instead, in their hearts, they were interested in following a person who would give them more food, and provide for their physical needs.
Then we read in verse 27. Jesus says:
27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
Jesus is here calling them, and us, not to make our worldly pursuits our main care and concern. This does not forbid us to labor for food that we need. The Lord does teach us to pray for our daily bread. But the Bible tells us to make no provision, make no preparation, for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. Don’t labor for food which will perish.
Jesus says labor for the food which endures to eternal life. This life that we now live is temporary. Maybe you will live 60, 70, or 80 years. Only a few decades. But eternity is forever. And eternal life is as real as the house you live in, the air your breath, and the car you drive. Everything in this Bible, all the communication that took place, all the histories written, all the prophecies, all the miracles, they all plainly tell us that there is an after life. And that this after life is for eternity. It last forever! And the only man who has the authority to tell us anything about the after life, about eternal life, is the person who was with God from the beginning. The person, whom the Bible tells us, created all things. The person who has proved himself to be God, by His many miracles. And so Jesus is imploring us, labor not for food which perishes. But labor for food which endures to eternal life.
So the crowd hears that they must labor. And then they respond. Verse 28:
28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?”
The large crowd asks about the works of God, plural in number. The Jews have always been careful about many things in keeping the commandment of God. But Christ here directs them to one work. To one singular work. One work that is necessary for the acceptance of all other works.
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
This is the crux of our reading today, and the very important lesson here that Jesus wants everyone in the world to know. Believe on Him, whom God has sent, so you can obtain eternal life.
God has designed a way to distinguish between those who belong to God, and those who don’t. And it is called faith. God makes it very clear, that anyone who tries to justify themselves as a good person, justifying themselves under some moral law, will be judged by God’s law, and will fall short of keeping God’s standard. The Bible says “There is none who does good, not even one.”
Very simply, we need to have faith to please God. God tells us that it pleases Him that we believe in Him even though we cannot see Him. Yet God gives us ample evidences of His invisible attributes. But we need to have faith in God’s son, and in His promises, and in what he commands us to do. And His commands are not difficult. Jesus simply asks us, to repent. To acknowledge our sinful nature in light of God’s law. To examine our heart, and understand, that we have this rebellious sin nature, so easily led away to break God’s commandments. We all have, in varying degrees, propensities to lie, to cheat, to steal, to kill, to covet, to blaspheme, to forsake the Sabbath, to worship false gods. Jesus wants us to plainly acknowledge what is so clearly present in each of our hearts, and then to humble ourselves, and turn away from it all, and to trust in Jesus alone for our righteousness. When you have that kind of faith in God’s Son, then you can trust in the promises He has made in the Bible that you will be saved. And that you will inherit eternal life. The Bible says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Now, the crowd in our text did not have that kind of faith. At least not yet. And we see how they respond in verse 30:
30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?
31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’”
So you really see now their true motivation. The crowd has already seen many amazing miracles and signs performed by Jesus. Just the day before, Jesus miraculously fed all 5,000 of them. But they want Jesus to continue to feed them, and provide for their physical well being and comfort. If today’s ‘Word of Faith’ preachers and ‘Health Wealth Gospel Preachers’ were around back then, they would be all over this crowd, because this crowd didn’t really want Jesus, but instead, they wanted temporary comforts and enjoyments. But Jesus, always making the best of any situations, gives us this very important teaching.
32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.
33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
The crowd’s response once again demonstrates the blindness of the crowd, for they were thinking of some physical bread, and failed to understand the spiritual implication that Jesus was that “bread”. This prompts Jesus to speak very plainly to the crowd that He was referring to Himself as that bread.
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
Bread is considered a staple food, a basic dietary item. A person can survive a long time on only bread and water. And Jesus is equating Himself with bread. Jesus is saying he is essential for life. And the life Jesus is referring to is not physical life, but spiritual life. Jesus is the spiritual bread that brings eternal life.
Now when you eat bread, you are physically strengthened. Bread provides for your body essential nutrients and minerals in order to be strong and healthy. But you are not a body. You are a soul and a spirit. You posses a body. And when you live your life outside of Christ, you are in a sense starving your spirit of essential “nutrients” and “minerals” found only when Christ lives inside of you. When God’s Spirit lives inside of you.
When you repent, and believe on Jesus as your Lord and Savior, God will then give you the most precious gift possible, the most satisfying bread you will ever have, and that is the gift of the Holy Spirit. When you figuratively eat the flesh of Jesus Christ, and drink His blood, which Christians symbolically do when they take communion, you are acknowledging and accepting what Jesus did on the cross, being the payment for your sins once and for all. And Jesus will literally come live inside of you, through the Third Person of the Trinity, the Third Person of the Godhead, which is the Holy Spirit. And just like bread provides important nutrients for your body so you can live a temporary life, the Holy Spirit seals you with everlasting life. The Holy Spirit is an eternally living Person living inside of you, and which a person can never lose once they have it, sealing you as a permanent child of God. If you are a person concerned with getting vitamins, and minerals, and supplements, and antioxidants in you so that you can live a long temporary life, you need to be more concerned with getting yourself sealed with the Holy Spirit, so you can live an eternal life.
When you eat the true bread from heaven, this is the effect that that bread will have on you.
1) The Holy Spirit comes and lives inside of you. Being originally dead in sin, the Holy Spirit will come and create a new life inside of you. (Titus 3:5). This is the new birth Jesus spoke of to Nicodemus in John 3:1–8.
2) The Holy Spirit will confirm to you that you belong to God and that you have an inheritance in the world to come, in the New Heavens and New Earth (Romans 8:15–17).
3) The Holy Spirit baptizes you into Christ’s universal church, into one body of believers. (1 Corinthians 12:13).
4) The Holy Spirit gives you spiritual gifts so you can be a profitable servant and bring glory to Christ (1 Corinthians 12:11).
5) The Holy Spirit helps you understand and apply Scripture to your daily life so you can live a right life before God, being a child of God (1 Corinthians 2:12) (Romans 8:14).
6) The Holy Spirit helps you in your prayer life and also intercedes for you in prayer (Romans 8:26–27).
7) The Holy Spirit empowers you to live for Christ and to do His will (Galatians 5:16).
8) The Holy Spirit will work in you the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, which is self control. (Galatians 5:22–23). And everyone in this world needs self-control!
9) The Holy Spirit is grieved when you backslide into sin (Ephesians 4:30), and will convict you to confess your sin to the Lord so that your fellowship with the Lord is restored (1 John 1:9).
When you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9–13), the Holy Spirit will take up residence in your heart. The Holy Spirit will live inside of you, and connect with your spirit. And the Holy Spirit brings with Him (remember, the Holy Spirit is a person), the Holy Spirit brings with Him an entirely new life: a life of love, and relationship, and service to the Lord. A life of peace and joy and strength. God invites you now to eat this eternal bread.