Summary: Feeding of the 5000-Our nothing is enough
The Lord’s Provision
Faith Is Expectant Obedience (6:1–15)
When Jesus is in charge of a situation, available human resources are irrelevant.
Chapter 6 of John begins with hungry people, perhaps some of them living in poverty, but all of them expecting to eat. The crowds found Jesus the day after he had fed them with the bread and fish along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. But his opening statement penetrated to their real motives in seeking him: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill” (6:26).
There is another kind of food that should have had higher priority in their thinking. Jesus wanted them to seek him for himself, not for what he could do for them. Eternal life is not the reward of work; it is always and only a free gift.
Just as it is difficult to motivate starving people to think about spiritual things, it is also difficult to motivate people who eat well to transfer their attention to something other than what they are eating. But he emphasized throughout the chapter that spiritual food and drink come directly from Jesus.
His comment about this being near the time of the Passover highlights the deeper meaning of this occasion. “A feast of the Jews,” he calls it, once again to help his Gentile audience (v. 4). Jesus could not deal with this great throng of hungry people without being deeply conscious of the time and setting. The sanctity of the Passover supper had been a part of His life since early boyhood. He was well aware that the most perfect animal available must be slain that its blood might be poured out on the horns of the altar and its flesh become the food His family would eat together. The memory of the Baptist’s ringing cry by the river, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the World!” (John 1:29), identifying Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice must have surged through Him as He dealt with this crowd.
6:1–4. The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all four Gospels.
Some scholars estimate there may have been as many as seven thousand to ten thousand people, since verse 10 talks about five thousand men. As we shall see, this chapter is about faith, but these people wanted food. Jesus talked about spiritual relationship, but the crowds were interested in physical showmanship. They focused on the lunch, not the love; on their bellies, not their beliefs.
Our passage first centers on people in need. Starvation is a stark and unpleasant reality in our modern world. Ten percent of the world’s babies die before their first birthday, and one of every four children suffers from malnutrition. Yet the problem of spiritual hunger is even more severe. Like the people gathering on the mountainside in Galilee, millions today need the living bread that only Jesus can provide.
At first we wonder why Philip was singled out, but then we remember he was a native of Bethsaida, possibly the closest town. If a local convenience store had been open at that hour, Philip would have known about it. Nevertheless, Philip did a quick assessment of what it would cost for each one to have a bite!
A denarius was a day’s wage, so 200 denarii would be worth at least 16,000.00.
So Jesus seems eager to welcome this host of people like a Father gathering His family for the Passover meal as they keep “coming toward Him.” He knows how He will provide for their needs, even though His disciples only point out how meager their resources are. It is fitting that Jesus should ask Philip where they could buy bread since he was from nearby Bethsaida. He answers that all the money they can gather up, the equivalent of two hundred days’ wages would hardly provide even a small scrap for each person.
Then Andrew, who earlier had brought his brother Simon, now brings a lad, who has but five barley loaves and two fish. This was bread eaten by the very poor, and the fish were little more than large dried minnows. No wonder Andrew questions “But what are they among so many?”
Now Jesus takes over! He commands the people to sit down like a great family invited to a sumptuous banquet. There is no white table cloth, but “much grass” for all to recline on (v. 10).
As He accepts the boy’s gift He gives thanks. And in the mystery of that blessing, the small becomes great. They all received “as much as they wanted.” With Jesus there is always enough and more! What a lesson in God’s sovereign, gracious provision for these timid, hesitant disciples who were now given the honor of bringing this meal out to group after group spread out on the hillside. Then Jesus commands them to gather up what had not been eaten that nothing be lost. The Creator does not squander His creation.