Summary: Jesus feeds the 5,000 and shows that He is the Bread of life which came down from heaven.
Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath and then rebuked the Jewish leaders for their unbelief:
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. 2And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
You have to remember that John is glossing over a lot of Jesus’ life because he knows there isn’t enough space in the world to hold all the books it would take to write down every miracle (Jn. 21:25). His main purpose is that we might believe Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God and that we might have eternal life (Jn. 20:31).
3And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.
This is the only miracle that’s in all four Gospels and you’ll get a fuller understanding of what’s going on if you read Matthew 14:1-33, Mark 6:7-52, and Luke 9:1-17 alongside John 6. For instance, the disciples had just gone out into the cities where they cast out demons, healed the sick, and preached the gospel. They obviously would have been a little worn from their journey. Not only that but Jesus had just learned that John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod and Herod was now looking for Jesus. Many other people were looking for Him as well to the point that neither He nor His disciples had any time to eat. And so they escape to the quiet of the mountain for a while.
4And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
There were a lot of travelers and when Jesus sees them He has compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He spent the whole day teaching them in the wilderness “And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals. 16But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart; give ye them to eat. 17And they say unto him, We have here but five loaves, and two fishes. 18He said, Bring them hither to me” (Mt. 14:15-18).
They want to send the people away but Jesus says, “You feed them.” Well, they know they can’t do this because they have so little. But this exchange has a purpose:
5When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, 9There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
This must’ve been a little humbling for the men who’d just gone out casting out demons and healing the sick.
“Philip, how are you going to feed all these people?”
“Ha! Six months’ salary couldn’t feed them all. It wouldn’t be enough that they could all even get a pinch of a loaf.”
“Yeah, the best we can do is five loaves and two fishes.”
“Bring them to me.”
They can’t do any of this on their own. They need Christ.
10And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
Now a lot of sermons stop around here and the application goes something like this: “Jesus can take whatever you’ve got and multiply it in abundance. So give even your mushy fish sandwich to Jesus.” But I want you to notice that this isn’t the point; actually it’s not even a point. That kind of application is really nothing more than preaching works and it fails to address the real purpose of the writing: this miracle will prove that salvation is found in Jesus Christ so it’s the next half of the chapter that’s so important:
14Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. 15When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.