John: Feeding Thousands

Read John 6:1-15

The commentators recommend reading the entire chapter to get the complete understanding of John’s perspective. The essence of the chapter is being fed by God, both physically and spiritually. We start with physical nourishment, but Jesus uses this miracle as a huge teaching point that most, including those closest to Him, cannot understand. Just thinking about it in these terms causes me to pause and wonder. When we look at this quick outline of the chapter, I think I can understand why:

Notice that Jesus recognized and participated in Jewish traditions. He was all about change, but He respected the feasts and other events that were part of Jewish culture during His time on earth. Most of these feasts were established during the time of Moses.

The references to Moses are not random or arbitrary. These people revere Moses as one of the most important men in history. He led them through the Red Sea; Jesus walked on water. The people complained and through Moses, they received manna (from God, of course); Jesus fed thousands from little. The people remember that Moses was the leader who stood up to Pharoah, but Jesus will not be seen as the leader these people expect.

One of my motivations for blogging through the Old Testament a few years ago was the need to understand the history that was in the minds of the disciples. They knew the old stories well; I did not. When Jesus makes tangential references to Moses, Elisha, etc., we can understand the concept much more when we have a grasp of the whole story. My goal here is to motivate you to read the Old Testament through this perspective if nothing else! Here are a few links:

Read the whole chapter with these thoughts in mind, then come back and consider the first part.

Feeding Thousands

One of the rare parallels through all four gospel records includes this miracle. Some suggest that John used Mark’s notes to write this section. That may be the case, but what is significant to me is the fact that all four include this narrative: Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:35-44, and Luke 9:10-17.

In John’s account of this miracle, Jesus does more than just feed people, He tests Philip (and likely the other disciples who weren’t about to jump to Philip’s aid).

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. John 6:5-6

Philip has no idea how to answer Jesus; the task is far too daunting. Andrew chimes in with an idea, but he’s cautious:

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?” John 6:8-9

Did they actively search the vast crowd? In my imagination, I can see the disciples trying to help Philip out, looking for an answer that might come close enough that their Master would fill in the gaps. Andrew takes the bold step with a caveat to save himself from certain embarrassment.

Side note: John points out that the bread Andrew found was from that of a boy and that it was made from barley. Commentators report that barley loaves were considered poor man’s bread, something like our present day pita bread. The reference to a boy is not unique, but it brings to mind the contribution of children to the kingdom. The vast majority of secret churches in China are run by teenage girls. Who would have thought boys and girls would play such important roles in advancing the kingdom? End of side note.

Jesus blesses the bread and fish and thousands of people are fed. Five thousand men were not alone. The total crowd size would have likely exceeded 10,000 people. This isn’t the point. Even if it was only 5,000 the miracle is far beyond any expectations. The crowd is moved by the miracle. Something special is going on here!

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” John 6:14

It’s interesting that there’s no reference to the teaching that Jesus no doubt provided. Such a large crowd must have included a worship band, prayers of the people, and of course, a sermon! Sorry, I’m a bit cynical. Forget that last part.

The food provided a sign that His message must have indicated. They heard His words, I’m sure of it, but more than that, they saw His hands perform a miracle. This is what they’ve been waiting for.

Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:15

Jesus and the disciples were way outnumbered. He escapes and sends the disciples out by boat. We’ll cover that story next!

Jesus is Not an Idol

We cannot put Jesus on display as our personal Lord and Savior — He’s not an idol to put on a mantle. He will not be placed in a box, not with a fox, not in a house, not with a mouse. No Sam I am, He will not. Ah, the wisdom of Dr. Seuss and Green Eggs and Ham.

Jesus withdraws from the crowd that wants to be led from the tyranny of the Roman empire. While this is a noble cause, it misses the point that we’ll discover as we continue reading.

Lord, help us understand the whole story as we wrestle to appreciate each piece!

Thoughts about serving others

This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

My prayer is for you to join me on this journey. Subscribe to this blog below to get an email when a new post is available.

Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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