Summary: Today, we are looking at one of the most beloved events in all of the New Testament—the time when Jesus fed the 5000 with five loaves and two fish. But despite our familiarity with the account, there are many things we can still learn from it.
This morning we have come to one of the most beloved stories in all of the Bible. Probably most of us have pictures of this event in our mind from children’s story books or Sunday school lessons. On the one hand, it’s good that many of us are very familiar with this event. But on the other hand, it can almost be a hindrance. It can be a hindrance because we’re so familiar with it, we think we know everything we need to know about it. We can very easily fall into thinking that we have nothing to learn from it. If that is your attitude this morning, I ask that you change it. If you are as familiar with this passage as many of us are, I’m not going to tell you anything novel or new. I’m going to do what I always try to do. I’m going to tell you what the text says. And as we look at what the text says, I hope that we can see how it applies to our lives today. After all, if it didn’t apply to our lives today, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t have inspired John to include it, would He? As a matter of fact, He not only inspired John to write about this event, it is the only miracle that He inspired all four Gospel writers to include. So it must be important. Important enough for us to dig into like we’ve never seen it before. The first verse starts with the words, “after these things.” Remember that John was more concerned with logical flow than he was with chronological flow as he wrote. As a matter of fact, the events in chapter 6 took place somewhere between 6 months and a year after the events in chapter 5. So it was indeed “after these things”, but don’t think that it was immediately after the things in chapter 5. During the 6 months or so between chapter 5 and chapter 6, the other three Gospels make it clear that Jesus was having an extensive ministry in Galilee. He was preaching and teaching. But He was also performing many miracles. Everywhere Jesus went, He was healing people and casting out demons and doing many miracles. Because of that, everywhere He went, the crowds were huge. As soon as they found out Jesus was in the area, people would pour in from everywhere. And they would do it at all hours of the day and night. If Jesus wanted to spend time alone, or just spend time with His disciples, He had to be very intentional about the way He could do it. That’s what was happening here in the first three verses of our passage. Jesus went to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. That’s what verse 1 means when it says “over the sea of Galilee.” He was on the part of the shoreline that was fairly remote and desolate. He was looking to get away with His disciples. But the crowds followed Him there. So Jesus took His disciples on up a mountain. But the people even followed them up there. And when they got there, they got more than they ever expected. As we look at this event, I want us to notice the characters involved.
First, let’s look at the characters involved. The first character in the story is introduced to us in verse 2. Actually it’s not an individual character—it’s a group. Verse 2 calls this character “a great multitude.” And that’s not an exaggeration either. This was a large group of people. Verse 10 says that there were about 5,000 men. When Matthew records the event in his Gospel, in 14:21, he says, “And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.” That means that there were somewhere between 15-20 thousand people there. Think of it like the total population of both Bluefields were all there in one place. And it wasn’t the Beaver-Graham game. This was a massive crowd. And it was getting late and the people were hungry. Now, when we think about being hungry, it’s not that big of a deal to us. Some of you might have known what it’s like to really be hungry. I’m sure that many of these people in the crowd that day knew what it was like to really be hungry. I’m sure that many of them were needy people. This wasn’t a rich area of the country. Galilee wasn’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. So these people were in need of more than a snack. Plus the fact that they had been chasing Jesus all over the countryside didn’t help. They were away from home, it was getting late, and they were in physical need. It’s easy to know when you’re in physical need, isn’t it? And when you’re in physical need, you do whatever it takes to get your physical need fixed. If you’re sick, you go to the doctor. If you’re cold, you turn up the heat or put on more clothes. If you’re hungry, you get something to eat. These people knew that they had a physical need, so they were following One who they thought could fix their need. Verse 2 says that they followed Him, “because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.” The problem was, they only knew that they were in physical need. They didn’t even recognize the fact that they were in spiritual need. How do I know that? Two reasons—it’s evident when Jesus starts talking to them later on in the chapter. But it’s also evident because of the reason that verse 2 says that they followed Jesus. Why did they follow Him? They followed Him because they saw His miracles. They knew that they had physical needs and they were looking for someone to fix them up. They were looking for something for themselves. They were looking for what they could get out of it. They might have been following Jesus, but you can rest assured that they were looking at themselves the whole time. “Jesus, I’m following you because of what you can do for me.” “I’m following You for what I can get out of it.” That was the crowd. They were the first character. Let’s look at the second character involved.