Looking at the Light through John - Chapter 6

Feeding the Five Thousand

Jesus was most careful to protect, maintain, and expand the momentum of His movement, which would eventually coalesce as the church in Acts. Even when He spoke some challenges, and numerous disciples walked away, that was still forward movement because dead wood and hindrances to the progress of Jesus’ spiritual revolution were eliminated. From the time that Jesus healed the sick man at the pool of Bethesda recorded in John 5 and the events recorded in John 6 took place, nearly a year passed and He continued to build that momentum. The Lord continued to perform miracles, to teach and preach in the synagogues of Galilee, and to add disciples to His following.

The feeding of the five thousand is recorded in all four gospel accounts, and is one of the major miracles of the Lord Jesus. The lesson of the ability of God to supply through faith was delivered to Philip and the other disciples. The Christian today must expect that he will encounter similar challenges wherein he will learn to have faith in God’s ability to supply in the face of impossible odds.



Looking For An Earthly King

Five thousand men, their women, and their children assembled on the lawn. Who could feed 20,000 plus people with five barley loaves and two fish? Jesus could! Sitting in companies of fifty or one hundred men, the five thousand were fed from the loaves and the fish "as much as they wanted."

The fleshly-minded of the five thousand, when they perceived the miracle of the provision of physical food, were convinced that the shout of an earthy king was among them. But Jesus anticipated their designs, hid Himself on the mountain, sent the apostles away, and thwarted the design of the "democratic" movement. The Lord was never to be a lowly earthly king!



Genesaret Crossing

Jesus hid Himself from the mob in the maze of the mountain. When the five thousand were fed, they sought to make Him an earthly king’ but instead of stepping forth to accept their laurels, Jesus thwarted their plan by disappearing, leaving the apostles at the base of the peak. These events took place near the southwest sector of the Sea of Galilee, and the Lord had apparently given some instructions to the apostles to direct their actions during His absence on the mountain.

"They came to land at Genesaret," (Mark 6:53). The evening had begun with a mob’s attempt to make Jesus king, had included several hour’s rowing against the wind, had encompassed both Jesus’ and Peter’s walk on the water, and had ended with the miraculous landing. No wonder the apostles never forgot the Genesaret crossing.



The "Free Lunch" Crowd

Some people will work harder at getting out of work than they would have to if they simply worked in the first place. Ever since God placed a curse on mankind when Adam sinned and man was going to earn his living by the sweat of his brow, a percentage of the race has tried to duck the curse. The times of Jesus the Messiah were no exception, and a "free lunch" crowd put a lot of effort into looking for another meal from the Son of God.

Jesus had fed the five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish. When the significance of this miracle soaked into the consciousness of the multitude, an effort arose to make Him an earthly king. Jesus hid Himself, prayed, walked across the water to the apostles in the boat, and instantly landed with them at Genesaret. He had disappeared, and the "free lunch" crowd was going to have to find Him in order to receive a handout.

Fleshly man wants a god whose concern it is to make sure that physical needs are met - food, health, wealth, happiness. God looks past the "free lunch" crowd to find the single individual who will seek out the Jesus, the source of food that endures to eternal life.



Signed and Sealed

Jesus claimed that He was the special messenger from God. On the Son of Man, He said, "the Father, even God, has set His seal" (John 6:27). This was not an idle claim; the multitude were witnesses of His miraculous feeding of thousands of people. When He made the statement that the Father had stamped Him with His seal of approval, then they should have listened carefully to His teachings and should have obeyed His commands. "Work," He said, "for the food which endures to eternal life."

Jesus, the great Son of God and Son of Man, both divine and human, came to explain the ways of God and to point out the path of righteousness. Proof of His divinity was clearly established by the signs He performed. When He was immersed by John in the Jordan, He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and thus sealed with the seal of righteousness. Signed and sealed, He was then delivered — for man’s transgressions.



No Hunger and No Thirst

"Ho!" exclaimed the Lord through Isaiah. "Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy, and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost" (Isaiah 55:1). One of the words that is a sure attention grabber is FREE! Most people will focus on that word and then try to find out what it is that is being offered at no cost. "Why do you spend money for what is not bread," asked the Lord, "and your wages for what does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2). The Almighty, in this prophecy, offered true food and drink for FREE.

Jesus, during the days of His earthly sojourn, continued the offer. Having fed five thousand men and their families with five barley loaves and two fish, the Lord had set the stage for the lesson which He really wanted to communicate. "The bread of God," He said, "is that which comes down out of heave, and gives life to the world." Now properly stoked, they responded, "Lord, evermore give us this bread." But, as Isaiah had prophesied, it would be spiritual bread - not the physical bread which, when eaten, soon has to be purchased again.

"Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?" is a haunting question from the prophet. The offer of the Spirit is FREE! He who truly comes to Jesus will never hunger, and he who has an obedient faith will never thirst.



The Will of the Father

The issue of Jesus splits mankind into two camps: those who believe, and those who are condemned. "This Child," said the old prophet Simeon, at the redemption of the first born at the temple, "is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed … to the end that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34,35). When a multitude of Jews gathered after He fed thousands in the wilderness near the Sea of Galilee, the Lord pushed their belief level by informing them that He personally was the bread of life, that anyone who came to Him would not hunger and that anyone who believed in Him would never thirst.

The will of the Father is that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, but God is also willing to let men choose. Jesus Christ, on His part, came down from heaven to be the Lamb of sacrifice, to take away the sins of the world. Resurrected as Savior, He has the power to deliver all who truly trust Him.



The Grumbling Begins

When the multitudes sought out Jesus, looking for more bread, He responded, "I am the bread of life," "the bread of God…which comes down out of heaven" (John 6:35,33). Some of the crowd’s curiosity would have been aroused, and they would have looked further into the claim. Some would have been disinterested in the claim, coming along for personal reasons. But some, of a little more of a complaining nature, would have looked for an opportunity to put Jesus down for making such a claim.

The Father set in motion a plan before the foundation of the world to salvage the willing from the sons of man. The message was intimated in God’s promise to Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Amplified through the rest of the Old Testament, and increasingly clarified through the coming of Christ to earth, the message had its drawstrings now firmly attached. Men could grumble about it, or humbly learn and obey.




The Guarantee of Christ

Sometimes people wonder if God is fair. Another way of putting the question is to ask if God is just. The queries about the "justness" of God are clearly answered in a multitude of scriptures. "All who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law; and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law," penned Paul to the brethren in Rome. Both Jew and Greek, he wrote, were under just condemnation because each broke the law of righteousness. "For there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:11,12).

But still people wonder if God is fair. It is true, they will admit, that God is just or fair in condemning all who have sinned. But is it fair, they ponder, for God only to allow certain people to hear the message of salvation and to have the opportunity to be saved. Is it fair for others never to have even heard the word? The fact is, of course, that God intensely desires the salvation of each individual but must arrange the presentation of the word of God and order circumstances such that only truth-seekers will sort through the haze of confusion and come into the clear light of written revelation.

The great One had seen the Father. He then guaranteed that everyone who believes in Him - as the New Testament writings define belief — has eternal life! And as the One who had seen the Father, He has the authority to back that guarantee.



More Bread

"Give us this day our daily bread," was part of the way Jesus instructed His followers to pray. In a land and time of no preservatives, bread had to be baked daily. God so ordered the nature of subsistence so that for most people in most places, man has been very conscious of the connection between daily bread and imminent starvation. In Israel’s case, God even made the lesson more poignant in His feeding the millions with manna daily. "And He humbled you and let you be hungry," the Jews would read from their scrolls in the synagogue, "and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3). Israel especially knew the importance of bread, ground from wheat, appropriately called "the staff of life."

Jesus is the living bread which came down from heaven to offer Himself on behalf of all men all over the world. The picture is crystal clear: if anyone can "get his hands on this bread" and eat it, he will live forever. Let’s eat!



Communing with Jesus

Loathsome to the Jew, and rightly so, was the eating of human flesh. When the multitude found Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum after His feeding of the five thousand, the Teacher patiently moved them over several milestones of understanding. At first they were just looking for another free meal. This was used to produce an interest in doing the will of God. Jesus then maneuvered the conversation to a discussion on believing in Him as the bread of life. As He taught them that He had authority to raise up those who believed in Him "on the last day," His humanity was bandied about. As a man, with Joseph and Mary as His recognized father and mother, the Lord had them reeling with the thought that He was the bread that came down out of heaven. Then He added one more blow: "The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh."

No wonder consternation broke out in the hearers. The apostle John recorded the uproar: "The Jews therefore began to argue with one another, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ " (John 6:52). Their minds for the most part were stuck in the physical realm. But Christ was willing to try one more time to move them over to the ground of spiritual appreciation.

"This is the bread which came down from heaven," He summarized; "not as the fathers ate, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever" (John 6:58). The call is for sleepers to come to life in Christ, and live on!



The Spirit Gives Us Life

The challenge God’s spokesmen have faced throughout the millennia is to get their hearers to see the importance of the spiritual realm. Man tends to be concerned primarily with his material welfare and secondarily with family or personal relationships. Liberal denominations in America, for more than a hundred years, have taken "salvation" to mean "a roof over every head, and a chicken in every pot." Church organizations often are rated on how much humanitarian aid they provide, whether they are an asset to the community, and how well they help families jell together. Is there any real community concern about whether people are reconciled to God and fellowship with Him through the blood of His Son in accordance with the terms of the written New Testament? NO! The modern focus, like those who have marched through the previous millennia, is on the physical, and the voices of the spokesmen of God have fallen on generally deaf ears.

Two and one-half years into His ministry, near the time of the third Passover in which Jesus was to participate following His immersion, He fed five thousand men with five barley loaves and two fish. A multitude tried to track Him down afterward, seeking for another free meal. Jesus eventually closed out His discourse on spiritual things, as the apostle John described. "These things He said in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum" (John 6:59). He had stated, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." A few seconds of serious thought would have enabled anyone to conclude that he was speaking in spiritual terms. But the crowd was there for more bread and more circuses, and was not generally interested in thinking a step or two deeper than a mere physical outlook.

The minds of most of the multitude who listened to Jesus in the synagogue were focused on the flesh, and those who were disciples in general wanted some fleshly benefit through association with Him. But the spiritually interested would stay with Him until they understood what He meant when He said, "It is the Spirit who gives life."



Words of Life

That which is written, as far as God is concerned, has power equal to that which is spoken. When the apostle Paul, under inspiration of the Spirit, descanted concerning God’s words to Abraham, he referred first to what God said in Genesis 17. Moses in Genesis recorded the occasion thusly" "And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.’" (Genesis 17:3,4). When the apostle referenced the account, he used the words, "as it is written." Moses also presented and earlier conversation between God and Abraham: "And He took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ " (Genesis 15:5). When Paul quoted this passage in Romans, he used the words "according to that which had been spoken" (Romans 4:17,18). That which is written, as far as God is concerned, has equal power to that which has been spoken.

The formation of the material elements of earthly existence by the word of God is easier to comprehend than the creation of spiritual beings. The plants, animals, rock, and seas are tangible, and the power to create them is relatively comprehensible; being born again of the words of Jesus is intangible and the power to create a spiritual new creature is more difficult to grasp. The thunder from heaven that strips the forests bare is nothing in comparison to written words, which when obeyed result in the formation of a new creature in Christ. But simply because the power is in the spiritual realm does not make it unreal. On the contrary, the only real life and power are in the words of Jesus.



Some Do Not Believe

Brethren are sometimes under the false impression that if they do everything perfect and pleasing, their contacts are guaranteed to become Christians. If the preacher of the day will preach just the right message, they reason, if the bulletin boards are attractive, and if everyone in the congregation is friendly, then guests in the assembly are guaranteed to be interested in the gospel. While bulletin boards should be attractive, brethren should be friendly to the Gentiles present, and the preacher of the day should preach the word of God, none of those should or could be ultimate "selling points" in the process of a lost soul’s becoming a Christian. God’s program with man is designed to sift and sort out the wheat of mankind and to separate the kernels from the chaff - to separate truth-seekers from excuse-makers. Even Jesus in His days on earth would not and could not prevent a significant percentage of His contacts from "flaking out."

Many had gathered in Capernaum’s synagogue to hear Jesus speak. Working off the theme of food - the feeding of the five thousand and God’s granting the children of Israel manna in the wilderness - the Lord stated, "My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink." Many of His followers were not hearing the platitudes that they wanted to hear, and they responded, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" But Jesus went on to move the willing off the flesh to a more spiritual mind-set.

Jesus is our great example; He would not compromise the truth simply to keep the crowds following Him. Those whose minds stay on the flesh are unspiritual, and they need to be let go when they walk away.



Words of Eternal Life

Jesus was willing to lose numbers of followers in order to hone the collection of disciples into a committed crew. He knew that His mission was to separate the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, and that His words of spirit and life would exactly accomplish His purpose. The "hard" or difficult sayings of Christ would occasionally cause some of His hearers to bail out; He accepted that as part of the process.

After speaking in the synagogue at Capernaum, many of His disciples left. They just would not accept what they considered to be His outrageous claims, and they pulled back into the comfort of their standard Judaism. "Many of His disciples withdrew," was the fact of the account, "and were not walking with Him any more" (John 6:66).

Jesus is indeed the Holy One of God - not Two or Many. He alone could bring the message of heaven to earth, and He alone could deliver the only words of eternal life. To understand His word and through it to know Him is precious. Do not neglect such a salvation by not walking with Him any more.



Treachery Foreknown

Traitor! The word fairly hisses, for there is nothing so destructive to a cause as one who works from within to betray his companions. The traitor walks freely among his people; he speaks their language, wears their clothes, is aware of the nuances of speech and custom, and, above all, is regarded as trustworthy. He is able to worm his way into positions of leadership, privy to special knowledge and planning. His information is therefore of inestimable value to enemies, and his betrayal rips a gaping hole in the coordinated front of his brethren. There is nothing so despicable and destructive as a traitor, and the other apostles of Jesus can hardly, as they look back and record their history, write his name without spitting contemptuously on the ground.

The crowds were leaving. The numbers had reached their temporary zenith in the multitudes who came to Capernaum’s synagogue to hear Jesus preach after being aroused by His ability to provide food for five thousand men and their families. When He pressured them with the idea that unless they ate His flesh and drank His blood they had no life in them, they withdrew from His movement, muttering about no one’s being able to listen to such statements. When Jesus probed the apostles about their willingness to stay on, Peter responded that they had no one else to turn to, for the Lord alone had words of eternal life.

The Lord faced every temptation common to man, yet without sin. One of the most challenging of all would have been for Him to maintain His good and positive attitude, knowing that the one called Judas, as he sat day after day at the same campfire with the Christ, was going to betray Him, and attempt to torpedo all His efforts. Praise God for His great example!