John 6 – The Crowd Presses In
According to the list I looked through, there are a total of 37 miracles recorded in the Gospels, and there are different miracles emphasized by each of the Gospel writers. Interestingly, the Feeding of 5000 here in John 6 is the only miracle that appears in all four gospels – it must be really important! We have noted the seven miracles John focuses on, as he surely saw key truths in them individually and as a group. We have already studied the first three miracle “signs” in John: 1: the wine at the Cana wedding; 2: the Nobleman’s son healed; 3: the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda healed. In John 6, John is now reporting the 4th great “sign miracle, and it is perhaps the greatest work Jesus did in His entire public ministry, underscored by the fact that all four Gospels contain it.
Although it seems that this miracle had no actual reason to occur, it profoundly demonstrates Jesus as master Creator and Provider (Col. 1:15-18). Note the great attention to detail about this miracle provided in these related passages: Matt. 14:13-21; Mk. 6:31-44; Lu. 9:11-17. While only John presents this miracle as the preface to the great Bread of Life sermon, there are additional details that each Gospel writer provides. This major miracle moves Jesus’ ministry forward. The miracle was symbolic, didactic and critical – a sign given to teach us about Christ’s dignity and seal of His saving grace. It is noted that the Passover was near (6:4) – not to explain the crowd gathering (they didn’t gather to get food), but to lead to Jesus’ Bread of Life message (they did end up getting both spiritual and physical food).
There were two feedings of 1000s – this in John 6 is the first, and the second occurred much later in Jesus’ ministry in southeastern area of the Sea of Galilee – at that time, the people had been with Him for three days without eating (Matt. 14:13-21; 15:32-39). The crowds were drawn to Him – Matt. 15:29-31.
Bible Study Journal
Download this chart and spend some time comparing how the four gospels support & expand the story.
- In Lu. 6:12, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer before this miracle occurred; this Solitude is how Jesus dealt with grief, the constant demands on Him, His own soul searching, how He prepared to teach His disciples, how He prepared for death
- There were actually two feedings of 1000s – the 2nd occurred much later in Jesus’ ministry, in the area southeast of Sea of Galilee, and the crowd had been with Him for three days without eating
- In Matt. 15:29-31, the crowds were excited, drawn to Jesus’ teachings and works
- Fallen man often has a faulty perspective, even the disciples – how well did they do at understanding what Jesus wanted to do for these needy people?
The Great I Am
Jesus’ use of the “I Am” statements are done as a strategic revelation of His person and ministry. He is Himself the One True God, the great “I AM”. In the Old Testament, we often refer to these mentions of God’s person or name as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” and is sometimes referred to as a “tetragrammaton” because of the dependence on the four Hebrew letters which we translate as “YHWH”.
The Bible’s main purpose is the result of God’s desire to reveal Himself to us and provide us a way to restore our relationship with Him (which was broken because of sin). Here are ten things the Bible wants us to know about our Great God:
- God never had a beginning
- He will never end
- He is absolute reality
- He is the absolute standard of truth
- He is constant, never-changing
- He is completely independent
- Everything else depends completely on Him
- He is completely sovereign over all the universe’s existence and activities
- He acts without constraint and everything He does is good and perfect
- He is the central and most important person in the universe and worthy of our constant attention, study, admiration and enjoyment.
The major “I Am” statements which Jesus made, as recorded by John are connected to the Bible’s inspired revelation about our Great God. As the Son of God, Jesus extends God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. According to Heb. 1:1-4, Jesus is a complete & exact representation of God Himself – He expressed all of the characteristics & actions of His Father. There are actually 23 “I Am” declarations in John (use a concordance to look them up), however John is inspired to provide seven great metaphors with “I Am” to summarize God’s provision to man in Jesus Christ.
Bible Study Journal
Here are the 7 I Am statements recording in John. Look the references up for each of these and note in your journal what you learn from each passage about Jesus Christ (hint: use the cross-references given in your Bible to learn more).
- The Bread of Life – 6:35, 41, 48, 51
- The Light of the World – 8:12
- The Door of the Sheep – 10:7,9
- The Good Shepherd – 10:11,14
- The Resurrection and the Life – 11:25
- The Way, the Truth and the Life – 14:6
- The Vine – 15:1,5
Storm Warnings, 6:1-5, 14-15, 24-31
As Jesus left Jerusalem after the feast of John 5, Jesus was experiencing a surge in “the popular vote” – many were following Him because of His miracles and healings, but the opposition of Jewish leadership was increasing (Jn. 5:16,18). As Jesus travelled back to Galilee, large crowds followed Him – He was the “idol” of the hour! Their expectations were physical & immediate, they didn’t understand His messianic message – they believed their Messiah would come, but they were confused about what the Messiah would accomplish and how.
Fallen man often has a faulty perspective about God and how He works in our world (although He is very much a hands-on Creator!). In John 6, the Disciples were proving to be short-sighted, not grasping what the Messiah sought to do for the needy people. The men spent a lot of time with the Savior hearing Him teach, but they weren’t connecting the dots. From the Synoptic gospels’ parallel passages for John 6, we learn more about many people being healed in advance to this event – that explains the amazing appearance of thousands showing up on the rolling meadows on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee at Bethsaida,
In Jn. 4:35, Jesus gave the striking proclamation to the disciples to “lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest”. Now here in Jn.6, He saw souls needing physical nourishment, but were destined for God’s judgment and also needed spiritual food – the disciples just saw a bunch of hungry mouths to feed. Now in Jn. 6:5-6, again Jesus expresses this burden again for the masses needing His care in order to test the disciples’ grasp of Christ’s mission – the test didn’t go well (Matt.14:16; Mk. 6:37; Lu. 9:13) – Jesus says “you guys take action!”, but their responses didn’t respond well. Philip could have been the hero since he grew up in Bethsaida – but he defaulted to a calculation of facts that produced a negative conclusion and his vision was blocked. Andrew stepped out with open heart and comes upon a young boy with a giving heart – the Savior took it from there.
- The Savior’s giving heart
- Jesus takes His cue from the boy
- 6:14-15 – the crowd’s response shows that they’re convinced they need to make Him King – immediate, selfish satisfaction prevails
- Demanding from God doesn’t usually go well – remember when Israel insisting on making Saul king
- Yes there were actually two great feeding of 1000s by Jesus – compare Matt:14:13-21; 15:32-39 – it occurred much later in His ministry, down in area southeast of the Sea of Galilee, with 4000 men counted
- Jesus’ ministry moves forward
- This great miracle propels Jesus’ ministry forward in a way similar to healing the lame man – the Bread of Life message resulted in even worse opposition by the Jewish leaders. The miracle was symbolic, intended to teach salvation truth, and it was critical to His mission because it was a sign of Christ’s dignity and seal of His saving grace.
- This can be referred to as the “Great Galilean Crisis” – a great miracle, great enthusiasm, great storm, great sermon, great apostasy, and a great trial of faith. There was a storm on the lake, a sermon in the synagogue, and a sifting of the followers (A.B.Bruce). This crisis foreshadows the Final Crisis of the Cross.
- 6:4, We’re told the Passover was near, not to explain the crowd gathering, but this is an indication of His plan for the Bread of Life message. It also fits with John’s method of helping us to know the sequence he is following in his Gospel.
- Note that this is the second Passover John mentions, and this means there is only one more year of His public ministry before the Crucifixion, which occurs at the end of the third Passover.
- Jesus’ plan in John 6 seems to be First, to work a miracle to make the peoples’ “latent carnality” obvious. Then Second, preach a sermon that would offend their carnal minds. The plan generally worked – the sobering result,in 6:66, many left.
Back to the Boat
- 6:3 – Jesus’ habit of retreat, quiet, solitude are important lessons for us.
- He saved Himself from the dangerous enthusiasm of the thoughtless multitude – but a great disaster threatens the disciples out at sea.
- A big “sea change” in Jesus ministry is approaching (11:20)0 – pronouncing judgment on cities of Galilee where He lived and preached.
- We know we’re to learn from the life of Christ, and this of spending habit time alone with the Father is a “Primary” life lesson for us. We live in a noisy world, we are overloaded with information, and I believe God designed in us the need for sustained quiet time, alone by ourselves, alone with Him, alone with our loved ones.
- Jesus loved the mountains – Matt. 14:23; Mk. 6:46; Lu. 6:12; Jn. 6:15 – He desired time alone, to focus on the Father, commune with Him seek guidance and strength.
- Take the Boat – Matt. 14:22-33; Mk. 6:45-52
- 6:45 – Jesus stayed to work with the crowd, He told the disciples to take the boat over to the other Bethsaida on the eastern shore. The other gospels show Jesus telling the men to go over – was it a mistake or a divine plan? Not only were they “not getting it”, they were getting frustrated or worse…
- They knew about the unpredictable weather on the Sea of Galilee. Winds coming off the high mountains down to the Sea’s surface 3-4000 feet down to a “tropical” climate. Three things about the storm: it took place at night – Jesus was absent – all progress was arrested.
- Jesus Goes for a Walk
- 6:47-48, He saw them struggling in the boat against the winds, and planned to walk to them
- Instead of just jumping in the boat, He goes “alongside“ in order for them to recognize Who He is and ask Him to join them
- So Peter jumps in the water – Lord, call me out there! – maybe not so much faith as it was imp ulsive action – not the last time this happens: Lu.22:33, “Lord, I’ll die with you!” – Peter overestimated his ability to trust the Lord – “Lord, I am ready to go with You both to prison & to death’ – so courageous up on deck, so timid in the waves, the disciple most likely to speak up when there was no danger, and yet cowardly in the hour of trial.
- In Isa. 43:1-2, God’s promise to Jacob: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
Let Me Say a Few Words
Jesus could see the looks on the peoples’ faces. Hunger, excitement, physical ailment, anticipation of something else special happening, many convinced He was destined to be made their king and deliver them from Roman oppression. The dull rumbling of animated conversations continued as the day was closing, and Jesus could see small groups talking emotionally occasionally casting anxious looks over
- The crowds show persistence
- Jesus sees their selfishness & misunderstanding – 6:26, you seek Me because I fed you
- 6:25, they were still demanding!
- 6:31, so then they bring up the manna! “impress us with action!”
- The Bread of Life Sermon
- 6:27, an “anchor” statement: food that brings eternal life! – 6:32-33
- The “sermon intro” – that prompts their question (God wants our works?)
- Now: the message…
- 6:29-40, the Bread of Life
- Spiritual works: faith in the Son
- They want Him to “outdo” Moses
- 6:35, I am the Bread of Life – God’s spiritual manna
- 6:27, an “anchor” statement: food that brings eternal life! – 6:32-33
- The Realities of Salvation, 6:37-49
- Spiritual Redemption, Eternal Life – All that the Father gives to the Chosen Ones
- The one who comes to Me – faith
- Secure in Him
One Thing Leads to Another
- So, the people start with demanding (v25)…
- 6:41, And if they can’t Demand, they Grumble
- The narrative alternates between the people in general and the Jewish leaders speaking up
- Grumbling in a Jewish specialty – Exodus & Leviticus give us plenty of examples
- 6:52, And if they can’t Grumble, they Argue
- 6:60, And then if they can’t Argue, they give up and Leave
- 6:41, And if they can’t Demand, they Grumble
- 6:67, Jesus to disciples: will you leave also?
- Peter’s response: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
- The Lord asked about commitment
- Peter got it right
- There is no other option
- Eternal life in You alone
- Our faith is anchored in You
- Jesus response – the plan is set in motion
Keys to the Gospel of John
- Seven “I AM” declarations
- I AM the Bread of Life, 6:35, 41,48,51
- I AM the Light of the world, 8:12
- I AM the Door of the sheep, 10:7,9
- I AM the Good Shepherd, 10:11, 14
- I AM the Resurrection and the Life, 11:25
- I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life, 14:6
- I AM the True Vine, 15:1, 5
- Eight Sign Miracles
- Turned water into wine, 2:1-12
- Healed the official’s son, 4:46-54
- Fed the 5000, 6:1-14
- Walked on water, stilled the storm, 6:15-21
- Healed blind man, 9:1
- Raised Lazarus from dead, 11:17-45
- Caused abundant catch of fish, 21:6