John – “But Who Do You Say That I Am?” – John 6:1-14

Who doesn’t love picnics? I do! The sweltering sun. That unexpected thunderstorm that forces you and your guests to run around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to save everything from getting ruined. Getting clocked in the head trying to teach your kid how to play horseshoes. Sharing your food with flies, ants, and everything else that happens to be flying and crawling around at the time. Breaking the record for the 100 yard dash running away from a bumblebee that thinks that barbecue chicken drumstick that you are holding in your hand looks just as good and tastes just as yummy as you do and wants some of it too! LOL! Ran into a tree by the way doing that when I was a kid but not at a picnic. LOL! Ever been to a picnic that runs out of food? I’ve never been to one but I’m sure it happens. In this passage that opens Chapter 6, we look at a picnic of sorts that has a never ending supply of food thanks to a boy and Jesus.

I don’t know if they still do this but remember when McDonalds had an option when you ordered a meal and you could “super size” it? Get a larger order of fries or a larger drink? Well here in this passage that we are going to look at, Jesus takes a boy’s lunch, five loaves of barley bread and two small fish, and “supersizes” it for about 10 to 15,000 people. Yeah it is known as Jesus feeding the 5,000 but it was considerably more which I will explain why in just a bit. Large passage again and a lot of ground to cover so let’s get started. As always, the text link and the audio for the entire chapter included so you can follow along but before we get into the study for this post, let’s pray…

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for the word of God that does the work of God in the hearts of the people of God…for those of us who wish to follow You in truth and in spirit. We give thanks to You, Lord, for You are good and Your mercy endures forever. We thank You Lord for all of Your abundant blessings upon our families and yes, even our country even though it may seem like things are falling apart. Lord we know that You and You alone are in control and that we know that everything works out according to Your purpose. Bless this time in Your Word, make it fruitful by opening up our hearts to what You want to reveal to us through it. Father, we put aside all distractions and our hearts and minds are open to hear what You have to say to us. Speak Lord for Your servants are listening! In the saving name of Jesus Christ we pray…Amen!

John 6

Let’s look at the passage that we will be studying for this post…

After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.  (2)  Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.  (3)  And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.  (4)  Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.  (5)  Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”  (6)  But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.  (7)  Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”  (8)  One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him,  (9)  “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”  (10)  Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.  (11)  And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.  (12)  So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”  (13)  Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.  (14)  Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” …. John 6:1-14 NKJV

This is the fourth sign that the disciple John talks about in his Gospel. The first sign was turning water into wine at a wedding in Cana. The second sign was the healing of a nobleman’s son. The third sign we looked at in the last chapter…the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda. Now we have the fourth sign here in Chapter 6…the feeding of the 5,000. Of all of the miracles that Jesus performs, this is one of them that is told about in all four of the Gospels. Of all of the miracles that are told in The Bible, this is one of them where some Bible commentators find that they have to give their “This is what really happened” theology as though Jesus needed help doing this and was incapable of doing it never mind the fact that He healed the sick, caused blind people to see, and deaf people to hear. This feeding of so many people was too much for our Lord to pull off by Himself so these commentators feel they have to give it an explanation. One of them is that when the boy pulled out the barley loaves and the small fish and gave them to Jesus, the people there felt guilty and began sharing their lunches that they had brought. The text doesn’t support this though. Another really hilarious one says that Jesus and His disciples backed up into a cave where everything was and began handing the food out that was stored in there beforehand. This is more of an atheist’s point of view probably. Nothing in the text though supports anything short of a miracle being performed as we look at this passage more closely now…

vv 1-3 – After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.  (2)  Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.  (3)  And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.  

It is not really known how much time has passed between the end of Chapter 5 and this event. After these things indicates that an amount of time had passed long enough for Jesus and His disciples to make their way across the sea of Galilee which was also known as the Sea of Tiberias. It was named that because the city of Tiberias was located on the western bank and the city was named after the Roman emperor Tiberius. The city was the capital province of Galilee. In verse 2, John says that a great multitude followed Him. It is important to note though that the people were not following Jesus because they believed in Him. They were following Jesus because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. In other words, they followed Him to see Him perform more miracles. John makes more emphasis that people didn’t follow Jesus because they actually believed in Him, though some did. Jesus didn’t base His ministry on numbers. He based it on sincerity and authenticity. Back in Chapter 2, John tells us…

(24) But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, (25) and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. … John 2:24-25 NKJV

The same can be said today as well. People want to see some kind of sign or miracles to justify God’s Word and God never takes those people seriously. Faith should be based on God’s Word alone. It should be good enough alone without all the “bells and whistles”. If people would take a serious look at the events happening around them right now, it perfectly justifies that God’s Word is coming to fruition anyway. When Jesus arrived, He and His disciples went up on the mountain which probably means just a hilly area in the Galilee area. Perhaps this is where the “food in the cave” theory comes from! LOL! Moving on…

 vv 4-6 – (4)  Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.  (5)  Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”  (6)  But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.  

This apparently happens near the time of Passover, a feast of the Jews. Passover was one of the feasts instituted by God in The Old Testament. It was a feast celebrating the Hebrews freedom from slavery by the Egyptians. However by this time, it had become just a ritual devoid of the original meaning, kind of like how Christmas has become in America, which might be the reason why John says that it was a feast of the Jews. Perhaps everyone could have been heading there. In verse 5 when Jesus sees all of these people, He doesn’t get annoyed or tries to avoid them. His main concern is for their well being, in this case, food, a favorite subject of the disciples by the way! LOL! Jesus is concerned for our well being as well something that most of us seem to forget. In Matthew during the Sermon on The Mount, Jesus says…

(25) “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (26) Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? … Matthew 6:25-26 NKJV

(30) Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? … Matthew 6:30 NKJV

When Jesus asks Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”, He wasn’t seeking information. He was testing Philip to see if he had the faith to believe that He would provide it. When Jesus asked Philip this question, his reply should have been, “Lord, I put this in Your capable hands because I know that You will provide it for them!”. Verse 6 is the verse that people will use for the argument that this was a pre-planned event but what it means is that Jesus knew that He was going to pull off another miracle! Moving on now…

vv 7-9 – (7) Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” (8) One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, (9) “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

denarius was worth about a day’s wages. Philip’s reply is more along the lines of thinking like a human being. He was probably calculating the figures in his head and thinking to himself, “Nope! Ain’t gonna happen!”. Another disciple is brought into the scene now…Andrew. What do we know about Andrew? Not much really. He didn’t write any Gospels. There are no letters in The Bible written by him. He didn’t preach any great sermons either, at least not recorded ones anyway. The only thing that we know about Andrew, besides being one of the disciples, is that he was Simon Peter’s brother. What we do know about Andrew is that he brought people to Jesus. He was responsible for bringing his brother to Jesus. In the other Gospels, it is said that Jesus called both Andrew and Simon Peter but John tells us what really happened in his Gospel back in Chapter 1. We know from that chapter that actually the first two disciples that followed Jesus were John and Andrew after John the Baptist pointed them to Jesus…

(35) Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. (36) And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (37) The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. … John 1:35-37 NKJV

After they join Jesus, it is then Andrew that grabs his brother Peter…

(40) One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. (41) He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). (42) And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone). … John 1:40-42 NKJV

It is Andrew that will help connect a group of Greeks seeking an audience with Jesus in Chapter 12. People who point others to Jesus are regarded highly by the Lord even though they may not be well known or popular. Many people have heard the the name Dwight L. Moody. He was a great Chicago preacher. A church is named after him there. But how many people know the name Kimbell? He was the guy that witnessed to D.L. Moody in a shoe store and led him to Christ. We’ve all heard of Martin Luther, the guy who translated the New Testament from its original language but how many people have heard the name Phillip Melanchthon? He is the guy who encouraged Martin Luther to do that! Everybody has heard of Billy Graham the famous evangelist who just recently passed but how about Mordecai Hamm? He’s the preacher who led Graham to Christ back in the 1930’s. These examples are all “Andrews”…people who lead others to Jesus. Christianity in America could use “Andrews” today!

Andrew notices that there’s a lad here with five barley loaves and two small fish and tells Jesus. The boy is only mentioned in John’s Gospel. Matthew, Mark, and Luke don’t mention him. I have a theory of my own about why the boy is mentioned in John’s Gospel and not the others. I think the boy might have been John himself! This is why. Most commentators believe that John was the youngest of all of the disciples. He could have been as young as 13-years-old when he met Jesus many commentators believe and I believe that all of the disciples were young not much older than 20-years-old. So the boy could have been John himself. Whoever he was, the boy is poor. How do we know that? Because he brought barley loaves. Barley was the grain of the poor during that time. When it says loaves, these are not huge loaves of bread that you may be thinking about. They were probably round and flat, like pita bread, about the size of a small pancake, and the fish weren’t big either. They were probably two small sardines, a spread to give the bread some flavor. It was little “Johnny’s” lunch! LOL! I can just picture his mom running out the door of the tent that morning after her son, waving the lunch and yelling, “Don’t forget your lunch!” LOL! She probably had absolutely no clue what was about to become of her son’s lunch as Andrew hasn’t a clue either because he tells Jesus, but what are they among so many referring to the bread and fish. He is another one who miserably fails the test as did Philip because they both forgot to add one important factor…Jesus! Let’s move on. …

v 10 –  (10) Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

Jesus tells his disciples (They are all there not just Andrew and Philip. Those are just the two that are mentioned) Make the people sit down. This didn’t mean that the people actually sat down. Maybe some did but this meant more of a lying down or reclining position. Back in those days, people seldom sat up to eat. When they ate a meal, they normally laid on one side of the body while they ate. Jesus also picks a place with plenty of grass. Again, Jesus is concerned about the people’s comfort. He wanted them to have a nice, clean, comfortable place to enjoy a meal. John tells us that the men sat down, in number about five thousand. In The Bible when people were numbered, it generally meant only the men. For some reason or another, the women and children weren’t numbered. The reason is probably because the men were counted for military reasons. Anyway, there were about five thousand men who sat down but when you factor in the huge number of women and children that must have been in this crowd, the numbers were more like 10 to 15,000 people total! 

vv 11-14 – (11)  And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.  (12)  So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”  (13)  Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.  (14)  Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

However big the number of people whether it was 5,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 or a million, it wasn’t too big for Jesus to take care of! After Jesus took the loaves and the fish, He gave thanks. There’s some life application here. Of all the times that we Christians forget to pray, it is before we sit down to eat that ranks number one. I am guilty of it myself but the fact is that if Jesus gave thanks for the meal that was about to be eaten, then we too should give thanks for the meals that our Lord graciously provides us. 

So after He had given thanks, Jesus gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wantedIt is not exactly known when the miracle actually takes place because John doesn’t tell us but notice that Jesus doesn’t do it alone. He enlists the service of others, in this case, His disciples. It’s not that He wasn’t perfectly capable of carrying this out on His own. Jesus was more than capable but He wanted His disciples to take part in it as well. There’s a saying, “You do what you can do; I’ll do what I can do; and the Lord will do what we cannot do.” By the time Jesus gives the loaves and fish to the disciples to hand out, it had been miraculously multiplied and the people had as much as they wanted. When the Lord pours out His blessings on us, it is what we need and then some! A good example of this is what the Lord says in Malachi regarding tithes….

(10) Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. … Malachi 3:10 NKJV

David knew this to be true about the Lord’s blessings when he says in Psalm 23…

(5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. … Psalms 23:5 NKJV

Too often we as Christians think to ourselves…”My cup leaketh under”!

After everyone was more than filled up, Jesus tells His disciples to gather up all of the leftovers so that nothing is lost. There’s some life application to apply here. The Lord’s gifts and/or blessings should never be wasted. Much is made about the twelve baskets and how they are supposed to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. I prefer a literal explanation though. How many disciples were there? Let’s see…1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11…uh 12! How many baskets were there? Let’s see…1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11…uh 12! Common sense tells us one basket for each disciple. What was going on here is that Jesus not only supplied the people with food but also food for His disciples for the next day.

As we can see, no man made explanation can explain away what happened on this mountain that day because it was truly miracle! Even the people acknowledged this by what is said in verse 14…This is truly that Prophet who comes into the world. They wouldn’t have made this remark if they were only guilted into eating their own lunches like some commentators think. However, this remark that was made did not mean that the people had true faith. They were waiting for a savior to liberate them from the Roman Empire. They were not looking for or expecting a Savior that would liberate them from their sins.

So to wrap up this post, here’s the takeaways from this passage that we have been looking at. First, problems do not escape God’s view. Jesus saw the need of the people and fulfilled that need. There’s another Psalm by David, Psalm 37, that we should always remember no matter how bad things get for us…

(25) I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his descendants begging bread. … Psalms 37:25 NKJV

Our problems never escape the Lord’s view but He will always give us what we need not what we want.

The second is that what seems like insurmountable situations will test our faith in God. Philip and Andrew saw a big problem and a small God when they should have seen a small problem and a big God. What do you see when times get tough?

The third takeaway is that God involves people in His plans. You and I may consider ourselves insignificant and unimportant but this is not the case. A little boy with 2 small fish and five loaves of flat bread is nothing by itself but when you add Jesus into the picture and the sky’s the limit! Things that may seem insignificant and people that may seem important to us can be used by God in ways that we can’t possibly imagined! Again, it all comes down to what you see…a small God or a big God.

The fourth and final takeaway is that provision is abundant in God’s time. Jesus not only provided as much as the people wanted but also food for His disciples for the next day as well. When we put ourselves in the Lord’s hands and put our trust in Him, He will provide more than we need! He provides and it’s abundant in His time. Doesn’t mean that we will eat gourmet dinners every night but He will provide more than enough of what we need. I’ll close with this from Paul from Ephesians…

(20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, (21) to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.