Welcome back. Once again we are blessed with another year. What better way to begin that year than by studying God’s Word? In Chapter 6 we see some pretty astonishing things from Jesus in both word and deed.
Five Loaves and Two Fish – Lunch for a Crowd?
When Chapter 6 opens, there are crowds of people following Jesus. Each one has his or her own agenda. Some were coming to be healed. Some came to watch Jesus heal. Some came to learn more about this intriguing healer. Whatever their motive for coming, there were over five thousand people striving to be with near this man.
Jesus decides the people need food to eat so instead of sending them away so that they might find food to eat, He turns to His disciples and asks them where they should buy food for them all. Philip answers Him in the way I think most of us would. “Feed all these people!? It would take thousands of dollars to feed all these people!” None of the apostles were really what we would call rich, and even if they were, they probably would still not have enough money to buy food for so many people.
So why does Jesus ask this seemingly impossible task? I believe sometimes Jesus asks the seemingly impossible of us so that He can perform the incredible. Often we have a need to be reminded of our need for our God and Savior. When all is going well, we can allow our need for Jesus to slip our mind. It is only when we are faced with the seemingly impossible that we see our need for God. Note that I said “seemingly”. “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37 ESV).
When Jesus takes the five loaves of bread and two fish and performs the incredible, He fulfills more than the physical need of hunger. It would have been possible for Him to simply feed these people and send them on their way, but He also provides for them spiritual food, guidance. “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd” (Eze. 34:23 ESV).
After the crowds go away finally, Jesus sends His disciples in a boat ahead of Him so He can spend some much needed time in rest (a wonderful example for the need for renewal for the rest of us). Jesus decides to go to the disciples while they were still on the water, but He doesn’t use conventional means to get to them (just like He did not use conventional means to feed the crowds). He walks on the water.
The apostles are terrified. Who but a ghost could walk on water? And yet, Jesus calls out, “It is I; do not be afraid”. Love drives out fear. Christ’s love for us and our love for Him should be so consuming that there is no room for fear, only faith.
Once again, the crowds find Jesus and once again, they are seeking to be filled. This time, it seems, there are more people there to see Jesus work and to get free food than there are seeking to learn from Him because He says “you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6:26 ESV). These people had missed the purpose of the signs, to prove the character and identity of Christ, Himself, and to establish His purpose for coming, the salvation and redemption of mankind. Any benefits, physical or otherwise, were only secondary to that specific purpose. ”
We again see John’s juxtapositioning of the physical vs the spiritual, the good vs. the better, through Jesus. The crowds were looking for physical fulfillment, Jesus is offering them much more. To seek to fill one’s stomach is not wrong, we need food to survive, but it should not be the primary goal of life.
“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst‘” (John 6:35 ESV). Hmm, so if we follow Christ we will never be hungry? Isn’t that why the crowd was following Him so that He could give them food? Yet Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:27 ESV). Jesus wasn’t sent here to merely take care of our physical needs (but do not assume that He will not take care of those too, after all, many of His signs were physical benefits for His people). Jesus was sent to provide for our spiritual welfare, the part of us that will endure forever.
We can read this passage with the benefit and insight of hindsight and later revelation. But you have to admit, even with these aids, the statement, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” is a pretty radical one (John 6:35 ESV). Can you imagine what you might have thought without your gift of hindsight if Jesus asked you to eat His flesh? Honestly, I’d be a little creeped out and very confused. Thankfully, through our hindsight and the revelation of the Holy Spirit, we realize that what Jesus is really saying here is that we cannot have eternal life without Him. He is the only way. It is only through a hunger for more Jesus that we will be truly satisfied.
After all this discourse and hard sayings, many people turn away from Jesus. The majority who turned away wasn’t because they disliked Jesus or His teachings, they simply didn’t understand. Have you ever been turned off of Bible study or God because you couldn’t understand? Maybe you couldn’t understand why God would allow certain events to happen. Or maybe you couldn’t understand why God would ask certain things of you when they seem so hard and so against your “nature”. And yet, where can you go for understanding? Who has the answers?
The apostles had the right answer:
“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God’,” (John 6: 66-69).
Where can we go for answers if not to the Holy One of God? Only His has the words of eternal life.