Jesus fed the 5,000 doing the impossible. What is the lesson that Jesus was trying to teach the disciples and by extension, teaching us today?
Jesus the Bread of Life
Shortly after Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000, some of the crowd said to Him “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “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” (John 6:25-27). They only wanted to have their bellies filled but Jesus told them “it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:32-37).
The point is not the bread that fills you up for a short time but the Bread of Life comes to those who believe in Him and they “shall not hunger, and whoever believes in [Him] shall never thirst” again. He is that Bread of life, that bread that came down from the heaven in the Wilderness. It was not from Moses but from God.
Jesus Tests Philip
John 6:4-7 “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii [a denarii is about a day’s wages] worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”
Jesus knew full well where the bread would come from but He was testing Philip to see what he would say. Philip looked at the problem as one to solve by human means because he said that they didn’t have money enough to buy bread to feed this many. Since the Bible only mentions the men who were present, the 5,000 that were counted were likely only the men and so if we add the women (wives and single women) and the children (perhaps one to three per family) then the number may well have been twenty thousand or more. Philip saw that there was only enough money to feed only a few hundred ignoring the fact that just prior to this Jesus had just miraculously healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda. How quickly the disciples seemed to forget.
John 6:8-10 “One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.”
Andrew was listening to Philip and once again, the disciples tried to present the problem to Jesus through human eyes and not see it through the eyes of faith. Andrew looked at a boy who had only five loaves and two fish and said “what are they for so many?” Jesus then had the disciples sit down the crowd in groups showing that organization must precede the work of God and that God only works after we have done what we can do.
Jesus Multiplies the Bread and Fish
John 6:11-13 “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.”
Just as the bread and meat (quail) came down from heaven, once again, Jesus was going to miraculously supply the needs in ways that were humanly impossible just as God did for the children of Israel in the Wilderness (John 6:50-51, 58). A short time later Jesus would tie this miracle in with others who came for bread at which Jesus reminded them that physical bread only serves for a time but Jesus is the Bread of Life that satisfies forever (John 6:35). Jesus first gave thanks and only then began to distribute the fish and bread to the crowd. After the meal, Jesus said to “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” This closely resembles what Jesus would say in John 6:39 that “I should lose nothing of all that he has given me.”
Taking Jesus as their King
John 6:14 “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”
The people saw that Jesus had the power that can only come from God and that is when they came to take Him by force to make Him king. They must have read the Scriptures because they realized that this was “the Prophet who is come into the world” that they had been waiting for but they only wanted to make Him king because they wanted to get rid of the yoke of the Roman Empire. When Jesus saw that they were going to come and take Him by force to make Him their king, Jesus withdrew to a “mountain by himself” because He didn’t come into the world at this time to be king but first came to be their Savior, the fulfillment of the Promised Messiah.
Is Jesus your king? Is He your Savior? If not, you will be taken by force someday and cast into the lake of fire from which there is no rest, day or night, and where you will be eternally separated from God (Rev 20:11-15) however Jesus said to those who were saved and to you today if you are not saved, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40). It is the will of God the Father that whosoever believes in Jesus will be saved. It is God’s will that you be saved. Are you?
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon