Miracle 19:
Feeding of the 5000(+)

I. OBSERVATION

A. Passage Selected: John 6:1-14

 

John 6:1-14 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. 2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. 4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. 5 When 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? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, 9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10 And 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. 11 And 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. 12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore 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. 14 Then 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.

Also in Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17

B. Progression Stated: Ideological

·               The main idea that is set forth is that Jesus is the source.

·               We come now to the miraculous feeding of the five thousand—a miracle recorded in all four Gospels.

·               In the Gospel of John, Jesus follows this miracle with a discourse on the Bread of Life. John records only certain miracles, and he calls the miracles signs because signs are for a purpose.

·               You will remember that he said, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30–31).

·               This is an important verse because it is actually the key to this entire Gospel.

·             Now we find Jesus feeding the five thousand, and out of this grows His great discourse on the fact that He is the true Bread of God.[1]

C. Passage Summarized:  (correlation of all four accounts in this outline)

After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias [John 6:1].

1.       After what things? Well, the things that were recorded back in the fifth chapter.

2.       He had left Jerusalem and probably had come up on the east side of the Jordan River. Now He crosses over the Sea of Galilee and, apparently, comes to the north section.

3.       This took place about six months to a year after the events of chapter 5. It was about one year before His crucifixion, by the way.

4.       The way the events are dated is by the feasts that John mentions. As we have said, John ties his Gospel down to a calendar and to a map.

5.       The One who came out of heaven’s glory, the Word who was made flesh, the One who pitched His tent here among us, that One walked by the Sea of Galilee, went to Cana and to Nazareth, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Jerusalem, Decapolis, etc.

6.       And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples [John 6:3]. The place that is pointed out to tourists visiting Israel is not what we would call a mountain. Actually, in that land three thousand feet is about as high as they go, but the hills are very rugged. The one they point out is a very lovely spot and could well be the place where He fed the five thousand. It’s near Capernaum, by the way. Jesus went up into the mountain and sat there with His disciples. The Passover was near.[i]

7.       So we read that “after these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee.” John says, “And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh” (v. 4).

8.       This miracle is in all four gospels therefore it is important. Why? I think it is because the message of the miracle is so important.

9.       The location according to the text is in a “desert” region.  There was green grass so it wasn’t too barren.  The word "desert" means a remote place. Perhaps the gospel writers used the word “desert” because in the OT the desert was where God met, tested and blessed his people.[ii]

10.    Jesus had withdrawn with the disciples for several possible reasons: 

·          To be alone to rest (according to Mark and John's chronology the disciples had just returned from being sent out),

·          To give them some private instruction,

·          Because Herod was seeking Him,

·          Because John the Baptist had just been killed.

·          It was time to take a break, but the crowds followed Him.

11.    After teaching all day, the disciples approach Jesus (according to Luke 9:12 and Mark 6:35) and suggest He send the crowd away to find lodging and food. Evidently many of the people had traveled a great distance to hear Jesus.

 

2. Content

a. His suggestion

1.                   Jesus tells them to feed the people (Matt 14:16), and He asks Philip where they should buy bread to feed the people (John 6:5). Philip was the quiet one; he never had much to say.

2.                   Our Lord was drawing him out at this particular time. You will find in verse 8 that Philip and Andrew seem to have gotten together. Andrew and Philip evidently were quite active men, very busy, but just not speakers. You don’t hear either one of them.

3.                   Yet Andrew is the one who brought Simon Peter to the Lord, and the Greeks came to Philip and Andrew when they wanted to see Jesus. Philip got together with Andrew to find out what to do. So we find them together here.

4.                   Is our Lord asking for advice in His question to Philip? May I say to you, He never asked for advice. Then why did He ask Philip the question?[iii]

5.                   And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do [John 6:6].

6.                   He was testing Philip. Philip looked over that crowd that was coming—five thousand men besides women and children. I estimate it must have been at least fifteen thousand people. Friend, that’s a pretty good-sized crowd, especially for that land and in that day. When Philip saw them coming, he wasn’t thinking of a miracle at all.[iv]

1.                   Jesus is testing Philip.  He already knew what He was going to do. He was asking Philip to see if he knew, to stretch him. 

2.                   Is this deceitful or misleading?  No. It is like asking your son, "OK, How are we going to fix the bike?"  You know how you are going to fix the bike, but you want your son to use his head, come to some conclusion and act on it. This was a test designed to teach. 

3.                   Jesus wants them to deal with their own thoughts and their own solutions before He shows them what He is going to do.  His goal was for them to come to Him and ask Him to do it.

b. Their supply

1.                   He also questions Andrew as to the amount of money (Mark). 

2.                   Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little [John 6:7].

3.                   Why did Philip light upon that fixed sum of two hundred denarii? I think that is what they had in the treasury at that time. Probably Judas had made a treasurer’s report that morning, and that was the total.

4.                   Philip looked at the crowd, then thought of what they had in the treasury bag, and said that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not be sufficient for them. The “penny” was the Roman coin denarius. One denarius represented a day’s wages for a common laborer.

5.                   So here our Lord is drawing out Philip, and Philip says they don’t have enough money to buy sufficient bread. Since Philip and Andrew are together, Andrew speaks up.[2]

6.                   There is not nearly enough money to feed this crowd.  Jesus is showing them that there is no way they can solve the problem on their own.

7.                   What do they have?  Just a little boy’s lunch. Children were of little value in that culture.  They weren’t even counted with the 5000.  I think the significance of this is that God uses someone of no account to perform the miracle.

c. Their suggestion

1.                   We can’t help them, send them away. (Matt 14:15)  Rather than turn to Jesus, they give up.

2.                   The other Gospel writers tell us that the disciples advised the Lord Jesus. They wanted to be on the board of directors. They said, “Why don’t You send the multitude away?” Our Lord answered, “We’re not going to send them away. We’re going to have them sit down and we’re going to feed them” (cf. Luke 9:12–15).

3.                   These men who had elected themselves to the board of directors found themselves waiters, serving the crowd. And that is what they should have been doing all the time.

4.                   By the way, this leads me to say that there are too many men in the church today who want position. They want to have an office; they want to be on the board of directors.

5.                   They like to tell the preacher what to do. Yet they do not have all the necessary information to begin with, nor do they have spiritual discernment. They don’t realize that they are the ones who ought to be out doing the work of the ministry.

6.                   They ought to be out witnessing for the Lord—passing the bread to the hungry multitudes. But generally they would rather advise the pastor how to do it.

 

 

d. His second suggestion

1.       Feed them. Now that they recognize their inability and inadequecy, He tells them to feed the people. If they can’t do it in their own power, what should they do?

2.       There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? [John 6:9].

3.       Andrew, you see, had been circulating around through the crowd, making a survey. Surveys are important, I guess, but they are seldom very helpful. You can see Andrew and Philip there together. Philip says the money in the treasury won’t feed them.

4.       Andrew says all he’s found is a little lad with five barley loaves and two small fish. Remember, these five barley loaves were not big commercial loaves of bread or family loaves. They were more like a hamburger bun. They were just big enough to put with the fish. That’s all this man Andrew could produce. It was a hopeless project—“What are they among so many?”[3]

e. His supply
(1) Organization

a. And 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 [John 6:10].

b. I would call your attention to the fact that there were five thousand men. I think a woman and one child with each man would be a reasonable estimate of the crowd, which would be fifteen thousand people.

c.  Now the Lord Jesus is going to feed that multitude. Here is something, I think, that is interesting to note. If you have fifteen thousand people to feed, that is certainly a liability.

d. If you have five loaves and two fish and also the two hundred denarii, then, friend, these are your total assets. May I say that if a committee would have handed in a report with those assets and those liabilities, they would have said, “There’s nothing you can do about it.”

e. Someone has called a committee a group of people who individually can do nothing, and collectively they can decide that nothing can be done. Or, a committee is a group of people who take down minutes and waste hours. So here is the committee report: to feed them would be impossible.

f.   You see, what you need in this equation is what I call the mathematics of a miracle. You need Jesus. I tell you, if you have the five loaves plus the two fishes plus Jesus, then you’ve got something, friend. Without Him, you don’t have anything at all.

g. Jesus told them to make the men sit down, and they sat down. Mark emphasizes the fact that they sat down by companies; that is, each of the groups of people which had come from a certain section sat down together.

h. Everything that our Lord did was done decently and in order.  I am of the opinion that if you could have been on the hill on the opposite side from where these people were sitting, you would have seen something that would have been as beautiful as a patchwork quilt. It would have been very orderly, because our Lord was doing it.[4]

i.   Perhaps Jesus has them organize them in groups of 50 because it will make the crowd easier to count and the disciples will then have a concrete number to remember.  There wouldn’t be any estimating later that would sidetrack the issue.

(2) Thanksgiving

He gives thanks to God for providing the food. It shows His dependence on the Father.  He is modeling for the disciples.

(3) Abundance

1.       He breaks the bread and distributes to the disciples to give it to the multitudes. 

2.       The impact of this routine on the disciples should have been overwhelming as they went back to Jesus time and time again to get what they needed to feed the multitude.

3.        A professor in a liberal college, explained away this miracle. What he said was that the disciples had gathered together these loaves and fishes ahead of time and had stored them up in a cave. Then the Lord Jesus just backed up to that cave, and the disciples just sort of slipped them out under His arm, concealed by a flowing robe! It was sort of like hocus-pocus, abracadabra.

4.       The only thing wrong with that explanation is that it won’t work. You would have to have more faith to believe that than to believe it just like it is, my friend. To begin with, where would they find a bakery in that area that could provide that many loaves? And where would they get that many fish for this particular occasion at this time? We have no record that Andrew and Peter had been out fishing! This explanation is utterly preposterous and ridiculous, as you can see.

5.       The obvious explanation is that a miracle was performed here. When you add Jesus to the side of the assets, you have more than enough.

6.       In fact, you have twelve baskets of leftovers. That doesn’t mean they were scraps. I used to think that a fellow would bite on a sandwich, then when he would see a bigger one, he would put the first one down and reach over and get the new sandwich so that the fragments were that which had been partially eaten. That’s not true.

7.       There were twelve baskets of sandwiches that weren’t even touched, my friend. Do you know what this means? It means that the crowd got all they wanted to eat. And people in that land and in that day were often hungry. There were many people in the crowd there that day who for the first time in their lives had their tummies filled. You see, when the Lord Jesus does anything, He does a good job of it.

8.       You see, they are following Him because He’s a miracle worker. And I’m almost sure that He had to perform another miracle to get free from the crowd. The reason He got free from them was because they wanted to make Him a king. “Well,” someone says, “isn’t He a King?” Yes, it is true that He was born a King. But this is not the route by which He is coming to kings[5]

How many trips would you have to make before it came to you: “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.” “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.” “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.” “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.”

f. The significance  (2-fold response)

 

Then 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.

When 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 [John 6:14–15].

(1) They recognize Him as a prophet (6:14)

They think he is the great prophet of Deut 18:8.  He is the one who is greater than Moses.  Perhaps they were taken back to Moses with the manna, Elijah with the widow, Elisha, etc.  Now, here’s Jesus doing it on a much grander scale. 

(2) They want Him to be a king (6:15)

Isn’t this great?  They finally recognize Jesus is the King.

Do they really recognize Jesus as the King?  What kind of king were they wanting?  They wanted a king that would put a chicken in every pot, put bread on the table, someone to deliver them from Rome, etc.

 

In the next discourse the multitudes leave him because they don’t like the message that He is the bread of life.  They like the whole wheat bread, but they don’t want a Savior. The problem with self-righteousness is that they don’t want to admit that they need a savior.  They do not see sin as serious enough for God to send His Son to die. 

As we read through the gospels we see the reason people don’t accept Jesus as their Savior.  One of them is that people don’t think that they are that bad of a person.  We can always find people who are worse than we are.  Sure, they will admit that they do wrong things, but they are not that bad.  It takes humility - the poor in spirit - to admit it.

Their problem was this:  Their view of the kingship was physical and their view of the Lord was partial.

II. INTERPRETATION

·          What do we learn about Jesus?  Jesus is the bread of life who can provide life and supply it for the world.  This is demonstrated here and then stated in the next sermon/discourse.

·          What do we learn about the disciples?  What was their failure?  The disciples failed to recognize their resource in Christ.

·          What is the lesson for the people/us? The biggest need that people have (the biggest need that I have) is spiritual, not physical.

III. APPLICATIONS

·          Nothing is too small for God to use it.  They didn’t think the little boys lunch was any help at all. 

·          Beware of limited thinking when we have the greatness of God at our disposal.

·          From the reaction of the crowd and Jesus' refusal to become their king, we learn that Christianity is more than temporal satisfaction.

·          We also see the human tendency to want to use God.  I need to be careful that I don't have that attitude.

·          His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  He wanted them to recognize that He was the resource. This is miracle 19, and they are telling the crowd to go away. When are they going to catch on? We do the same thing.  We see God work in our lives and then when things get tough again, we have to go through the same process of trying to do it on our own , failing, being broken and then finally trusting in God.

·          It is easy to dismiss when the going gets difficult. I don’t want to deal with this now. Procrastination?

·          Jesus is the only adequate provision for life and ministry.

·          Would he ever test us with the impossible to drive us to the Him to whom all things are possible? Phil 4:13, Jn 15:

·          In Mark, the theme of the book is to identify Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.  Early on in the ministry of Jesus, the demons recognize who He is, and the blind see who he is, but the disciples are dense. Mark 6:52 says the disciples did not understand the miracle of the loaves because of their hard hearts. Thus we can make another application -- A hardened heart might harden me to the possibility that God can work.

 

 

 

 



[1]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[2]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[3]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[4]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[5]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.



[i]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[ii] James A. Brooks, Mark, NAC.  p. 107.

[iii]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.

[iv]J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1981 by J. Vernon McGee.