1 After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 And a huge crowd was following Him because they saw the signs that He was performing by healing the sick. 3 So Jesus went up a mountain and sat down there with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, a Jewish festival, was near. 5 Therefore, when Jesus looked up and noticed a huge crowd coming toward Him, He asked Philip, “Where will we buy bread so these people can eat?” 6 He asked this to test him, for He Himself knew what He was going to do. 7 Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread wouldn’t be enough for each of them to have a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish—but what are they for so many?” 10 Then Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, so they sat down. The men numbered about 5, 000. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and after giving thanks He distributed them to those who were seated—so also with the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were full, He told His disciples, “Collect the leftovers so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they collected them and filled 12 baskets with the pieces from the five barley loaves that were left over by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign He had done, they said, “This really is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” 15 Therefore, when Jesus knew that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself. 16 When evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 Then a high wind arose, and the sea began to churn. 19 After they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid!” 21 Then they were willing to take Him on board, and at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading. 22 The next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea knew there had been only one boat. They also knew that Jesus had not boarded the boat with His disciples, but that His disciples had gone off alone. 23 Some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord gave thanks. 24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?” 26 Jesus answered, “I assure you: You are looking for Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27 Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” 28 “What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked. 29 Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the One He has sent.” 30 “What sign then are You going to do so we may see and believe You?” they asked. “What are You going to perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat. ” 32 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said, “Sir, give us this bread always!” 35 “I am the bread of life,” Jesus told them. “No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in Me will ever be thirsty again. 36 But as I told you, you’ve seen Me, and yet you do not believe. 37 Everyone the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” — John 6:1-40
Responding Appropriately to Jesus’ Signs and Miracles
by Steve Smith
This passage provides the accounts of two of Jesus’ miracles found in the Gospels. Interestingly, the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all four Gospels. This story marks a high point in His popularity, as is evidenced by the number of people who were now following Him.
But while the people initially came to Jesus to hear His teachings and witness His miracles, eventually they became distracted by their hunger. And although they didn’t think to ask His for help with something like that, Jesus understood and had compassion for their physical need for food. He also had a greater purpose in performing this miracle: the desire to lay a foundation for teaching them that He was the bread of life (vv. 22-40).
There are many messages we can get from the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, including the significance of the twelve baskets that were left over, perhaps representing Jesus’ ability to supply the needs of the twelve tribes of Israel. But in this story the key take-away is that while Jesus often does miracles to provide for people physically, there is also the intent to show that He desires to be trusted for spiritual needs as well.
As this passage moves along, we see that the crowd was confused about where Jesus had gone when He retreated. They also could not understand how He got to Capernaum, which is where they found Him on the other side of the sea (vv.22-24). Jesus took this opportunity to question their motives. He used their desire for food to answer a question they were not asking, telling them that He was the spiritual nourishment that endures to eternal life.
Could it be that these people, like some believers in our day, were following Jesus only for what they could get out of Him? It was not wrong for them to be hungry, but their questioning of whether the food Jesus provided them was greater than the manna Moses provided in the wilderness was misguided. Physical bread was not the issue, rather spiritual bread, the bread of life, which Jesus would soon point to as being Himself.
- When we seek Jesus, what are our motives? Do we want what He provides because of His mission or because of our own desires and agendas?
- In this passage there is a theme of “seeing is believing.” For the Jews of that day, faith would not come unless Jesus could prove to them what He claimed. They did not grasp Jesus’ message that “believing is seeing.” In what ways do we often expect Jesus to “show us” so that we may believe, rather than placing our faith entirely in Him?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.