Some time later, Jesus and His disciples traveled to the farthest shore of the sea of Galilee. Seeing that the Passover festival was upon them, it would be somewhere around six to ten months after the altercation with the pharisees at Jerusalem. As usual the crowds who had seen signs and miracles at the hands of Jesus, followed Him everywhere, even to this remote mountainside.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”John 6:5
Jesus already knew what was in Philip’s mind, still wanted Philip to know how deep-rooted was his faith on the Messiah. Oftentimes, we also feel like God is testing us, but God does not need to test us as He knows what is in every man’s heart. The same was done with the Patriarchs too, to help them grow in their faith and learn to depend on God alone. It seems that Philip was in for one such lesson from Jesus.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”John 6:7-9
Two Disciples Different Mindset
Both disciples were trying to be pragmatic in their approach, however, while Philip only questioned the need to feed the followers, Andrew tried to do as much was humanly possible to fulfill Jesus’ request. Both were limited by their thinking and understanding of Jesus’ authority as the ultimate provider, but the response of one trying their best is different from the other who simply found the demerits involved in fulfilling what Jesus had asked of him. Perhaps this was why Jesus picked Philip to test, to make him overcome the barriers to his faith.
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.John 6:10-11
Disciples & Baskets
When everyone had finished eating, Jesus asked them to gather the leftover barley bread which filled up exactly twelve baskets. Everything is a teachable moment when we are with Jesus. Jesus just filled them to relinquish their physical hunger and was soon about to teach them the spiritual hunger that can only be fulfilled by the Bread of Life. Also, just like the Miracle at Cana where the number of ordinary vessels filled with new wine equaled the number of disciples who attended the wedding with Jesus, the baskets that were filled with this new bread also equaled the number of disciples with Jesus at this moment. He was going to fill them up with the Bread of Life.
Having witnessed the miracle of five loaves of bread feeding five thousand men, the people started calling Jesus, the Prophet about whom Moses had written about (Deuteronomy 18:15). The people still had not grasped what Jesus’ mission was as they looked for a political leader much like Moses who would deliver them from their bondage under the Roman Empire. Making the connection to Moses was easy for them due to the similarity between the latest miracle of Jesus and something Moses provided for the people in the wilderness (although it was God who provided). The stories about the manna that came from heaven in the wilderness for the traveling Israelites would have surely come in the minds of the people as they witnessed something similar. They were able to relate to Jesus and the prophecy of Moses only because of the food in their bellies and just like the ancestor did not understand what Jesus was offering them. They wanted to make Jesus a king over them to the extent that Jesus was forced to withdraw himself from their presence.
Jesus Walks on Water
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.John 6:16-17
Having left without Jesus, the disciples were startled when they saw an image of man approaching them when they were four miles into the lake. Just like a father at the door, Jesus simply said, “It is I”. He expects us to recognize His voice, just as the sheep recognizes its shepherd. His voice comforts us like seeing our teacher in the examination hall or children being comforted in the dark when their father is close by. Similarly the disciples were separated from Jesus only for a moment but rather than recognizing Him they thought they were seeing a ghost. Mark writes that as soon as Jesus came on board the winds died down. Another sign that Jesus transcended the laws of nature. In our lives we fall into problems when we are away from God but those problems simply disappear when we leave everything and come back to Him. The boat that seemed to be stuck in the storm immediately reached the shore when Jesus was onboard.
Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.John 6:24
When the crowds finally found Jesus, they asked him when did He reach Capernaum. But Jesus knew the real reason that they were looking for Him. They were coming to receive more of the barley bread that He had provided to them the other day. In the name of fellowship, these people had ulterior motives in seeking Jesus. How often do we also try to fool Jesus by having ulterior motives in coming to Him?
Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.John 6:27
We all have this notion in our heads that God wants us to do something for Him. The only thing we have to do is to believe in the one He sent or rather trust in Him to provide for us. He provided the ram for Abraham so that Isaac’s life was spared and He spared our lives by providing His Son to replace us. But when Jesus told them to believe in Him, the crowds once again asked for further signs that would prove His Authority. They cited the manna given to their ancestors perhaps still expecting the loaf of barley bread. But Jesus was curt in His response to them, saying
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”John 6:35
The Samaritan woman at the well wanted the living water even without knowing what it was. These people want the bread of life without fully understanding what Jesus was offering. Do we do the same? We ask for righteousness from Jesus without having an intention of becoming righteous. We pray saying, “Jesus, make me more like you”, but continue to plot revenge on our accusers and give into all the desires of our hearts.
The Exodus of the Disciples
“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.John 6:53-54
The people took exception to Jesus’s claims of Him having descended from heaven. Just like Philip and Andrew they were thinking from a human mindset and were not able to grasp what Jesus was telling them. Coupled with the confusing statement of Jesus asking them to feast on His flesh and drink His blood, that was enough to push them over the edge as they had made up their minds about Jesus according to what satan had filled in them.
Jesus is the Bread of Life and the New Wine that had been poured for us. He is the Living Water that will never make us thirst again. But we are satisfied with our physical food and drink. Jesus was speaking metaphorically rather than talking about any physical food or drink. But just like satan blinded the eyes of those disciples who abandoned Jesus that day, he is doing the same even today for the believers who are satisfied with eating the symbolic bread and wine and will never desire to taste the Bread of Life.
- V6: Why was Jesus testing Philip? Why does Jesus test us?
- V7-9: What is the difference in the attitudes of Philip and Andrew?
- V12: Any specific purpose for this Miracle, apart from the obvious one?
- V14: What makes the people call Jesus the “Prophet” that Moses wrote about?
- V25: Why were the people relentlessly following Jesus? Why do we follow Him?
- V34: The Samaritan woman at the well wanted the living water even without knowing what it was. These people want the bread of life without fully understanding what Jesus was offering. Do we do the same?
- V66: Even after witnessing such marvelous works the disciples abandoned Jesus.
Why did these disciples turn away from Jesus? What causes us to backslide?