For Jesus, it was about so much more than just bread and fish. For the crowd? That is a bit more debatable. And for us? That is to be decided by those of us who take the time to investigate what we find here in John 6.
If there is any doubt at this point in the Gospel of John that Jesus is gaining a uniquely special reputation, what we find in John 6 should put that all to rest. Because after the events unveiled in John 5, we see this John 6:1-2 (ESV):
After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following Him, because they saw the signs that He was doing on the sick.
Shortly thereafter, we see something miraculous, again: Jesus feeds 5,000 … men (Jn. 6:10) (meaning that when you include the women and children who were also present, would have numbered thousands more.) What would have seemed impossible to accomplish with “five barley loaves and two fish (Jn. 6:9)” was more than just … enough. It was abundant.
Jesus then took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, He told His disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. (Jn. 6:11-13, ESV)
So impressed by what they witnessed from Jesus, we even read that the crowds present “were about to come and take him by force to make him king (Jn. 6:15).” And Jesus was forced to withdraw to the mountain and hide at that moment. Lo and behold, His plans for what He was really trying to accomplish by that miraculous moment was about to be revealed. Jesus puts it this way in John 6:26-29 (ESV):
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.’ Then they said to Him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’
Jesus wanted them to know that He is indeed the bread they truly need, and nothing else, no matter how abundant, would suffice. What Jesus offered to all who would come to Him only He could provide. Nothing else would do.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. … For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (Jn. 6:51, 55-56, ESV)
Where Jesus’s fourth sign had now officially been accomplished, those who continued to seek Him out would have to provide some completely new answers to some of Jesus’ most stirring questions yet: “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? … Do you want to go away as well? (Jn. 6:61-62, 67, ESV)”
And in response, we discover that we too must reconcile the very same thing that Peter does at the end of our stop in John 6: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God (Jn. 6:68-69).”
QUESTIONS TO PONDER AS YOU STUDY:
- What do you find most interesting about Jesus and His fourth sign in this chapter?
- What sort of significance do you see in how Jesus goes about accomplishing this latest miracle?
- What do you see Jesus communicating to both His disciples and the crowds through this miracle?
- What is the kind of work Jesus calls us to?
- How does Jesus connect the Jews and Old Testament history to the new thing He’s doing during His earthly ministry?
Our study of the GOSPEL OF JOHN in review: