Gospel of John #7 – John 6, Session 1

The Crowd Presses In

There are approximately 37 miracles recorded in the Gospels, although a different selection of those miracles are 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 mentioned 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 reported in the Bible which Jesus did in His public ministry – this is underscored by the fact that it is the only miracle to be recorded by all four Gospels.

It is interesting to note that this miracle had no actual reason to occur, yet 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).


Bible Study Journal

Click on this picture to open the “Harmony” chart and spend some time comparing how the four gospels support & expand the story of the Feeding of 5000:

Some things to look for:

  • Look up  Lu. 6:12, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer just before the feeding of 5000 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
  • The Gospels tell us there were actually two feedings of 1000s – this one in all 4 Gospels including John 6 is the first – it occurs about a year before the Crucifixion. The second feeding miracle occurred about six months later (Matt. 15:32-39; Mk. 8:1-10), just before going to Jerusalem and the Crucifixion.  It happened in the southeastern coastal area of the Sea of Galilee – at that time the crowds were drawn to Him and had been with Him for three days without eating.
  • Fallen man often has a faulty perspective about God’s works in the world, even the disciples – how well did they do at understanding what Jesus wanted to do  for these needy people?

The Great I Am

When Jesus declared “I am the Bread of Life” (Jn. 6:35), His use of  “I Am” is very intentional 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” , a translation of the Hebrew word, and sometimes referred to as a “tetragrammaton”  because of the dependence on the four Hebrew letters which we translated literally as “YHWH”.  When Moses encountered the burning bush and realized he was in God’s presence, God introduced Himself to Moses as “I AM”.

The Bible’s main purpose is God’s desire to reveal Himself in His full glory to us and provide us a way to restore our relationship with Him (which was broken because of sin).

The major  “I Am” statements which Jesus made, as recorded by John, are connected to the Bible’s inspired revelation about our Great God. 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 expressed with “I Am” to summarize God’s provision to man in Jesus Christ.

As the Son of God, Jesus extends God’s revelation of Himself to mankind.  Read Hebrews 1:1-4,  where Jesus is shown to be the complete & exact representation of God Himself – Jesus  expressed all of the characteristics & actions of His Father.  You can find another StayintheWord study on Hebrews 1 here.  In Hebrews 1,  the writer declares Jesus Christ as the full revelation of God.  He is:

  1. Heir of all things – Heb. 2:5-9; Phil. 2:9-11 
  2. The Radiance of God’s Glory
  3. The Exact Representation of God’s Nature
  4. He Upholds Creation
  5. Our Purification for sin

Bible Study Journal

John 6:35 is the first of seven “I Am” statements in John. Below are the references for each of these.  Look each of them up in your Bible and note in your journal what Jesus Christ claims to be as God, and what else you might learn from each passage about the Son of God (hint: use the cross-references given in your Bible to learn more).  Take your time – this is an important study!

  • 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
John 6:1-5, 14-15, 24-31 

As Jesus left Jerusalem after the feast of John 5, He was experiencing a surge in “the popular vote” – many (hundreds or maybe even thousands) were following Him because of His miracles and healings, but the opposition of Jewish leadership was increasing (Jn. 5:16,18).   As Jesus traveled back north to Galilee, large crowds followed Him – He was the “idol” of the hour!  Their expectations were physical & immediate, they wanted a King, but 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, perhaps several months after the events of John 5, the Disciples were proving to be short-sighted as well, 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 large crowds showing up on the rolling meadows on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee at Bethsaida so they could hear more.

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 John 6, He saw souls needing physical as well as spiritual nourishment – they were destined for God’s judgment and they really needed spiritual food.  The disciples however just saw a bunch of hungry mouths to feed.  Now in Jn. 6:5-6, Jesus again expresses this burden again for the masses needing His care.  He wanted to test the disciples’ grasp of the Son of God’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 connect with Jesus’ vision.  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 up with an open heart and comes upon a young boy with a giving heart – the Savior took it from there.

  • Lessons on the Savior’s Giving Heart
    • Jesus takes His cue from the boy, perhaps the boy saw something in Jesus that alerted him to the possibility of God being manifested
    • 6:14-15 – the crowd’s response shows that they’re convinced they need to make Him King – their priority on immediate, selfish satisfaction prevails
    • Demanding from God doesn’t usually go well – remember when Israel insisted on Samuel “give them a king” (1 Kings 18), which resulted in Saul being made king, who was a terrible failure.