“After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.” (John 6:1-4).
John 6 is a major chapter in the fourth gospel. It marks a turning point in the first twelve chapters of John’s account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. John 6 reveals that Jesus was sent from the Father (vs. 38, 44, 46, 50, 51 57) and it displays the difference between belief and unbelief in Jesus Christ by the illustration of eating and drinking His flesh and blood (vs. 53-58).
The chapter also chronicles the growing unbelief towards Jesus because He did not meet people’s expectations of who they thought the Messiah would be like (vs. 15, 66), which consequentially condemns the notion of trying to make Jesus popular with the unconverted. A major part of the people’s rejection of Jesus was His teaching of the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners (John 6:35-66). This by far is my favorite chapter in John’s Gospel.
Dr. John MacArthur explains, “The story of the feeding of the 5,000 is the fourth sign John employed to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. It is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels (Matthew 14:13–23; Mark 6:30–46; Luke 9:10–17). Since John most likely wrote to supplement and provide additional information not recorded in the synoptic, his recording of this miracle emphasized its strategic importance in two ways: 1) it demonstrated the creative power of Christ more clearly than any other miracle, and 2) it decisively supported John’s purposes of demonstrating the deity of Jesus Christ while also serving to set the stage for Jesus’ discourse on the “bread of life” (John 6:22–40). Interestingly, both creative miracles of Jesus, the water into wine (2:1–10) and the multiplying of bread (6:1–14), speak of the main elements in the Lord’s Supper, or communion (v. 53).”
The chapter begins simple enough with John establishing the historical context. In the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ healing of the invalid man and the following discussion with the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus travels back north to Galilee. A time frame of some six months has probably elapsed between chapters five and six. John explains that the Feast of the Passover was at hand. It is the spring of the year. One commentator writes, “If the events of chapter 5 took place at the Feast of Tabernacles (see comment on 5:1) and those of this text occur at Passover, and if this section of John is in chronological order, half a year has elapsed between these chapters.”
Jesus travels to the far side, or the northeast coast, of the Sea of Galilee or Tiberius. The name change was in tribute to the west coast Galilean town of Tiberius, which was built by King Herod the Great between A.D. 20-30 and named for the Roman emperor.
A large crowd of people are following Jesus. The reason John gives is because of the signs they saw Jesus doing on behalf of the sick. The crowds motivation was crass and self-centered but Jesus would continue to have compassion upon these people. He does so today.
This perspective of the crowd is consistent with the Jewish mindset regarding the Messiah. The Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 1:18-24, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
It is at this moment that Jesus went up on the mountain and sat down with His disciples. One Bible teacher explains, “The mention of the hillside or “the mountain” (nasb) may indicate an intended parallel to Moses’ experience on Mount Sinai (cf. vv. 31–32). The notice that the Jewish Passover feast was near is theological and only secondarily chronological. The people were thinking in terms of blood, flesh, lambs, and unleavened bread. They longed for a new Moses who would deliver them from Roman bondage.”
Isn’t this how people often portray Jesus to the unconverted masses today? People are told to trust and believe in Jesus and He will give them everything they ever wanted. He will make you well, rich and prosperous. You won’t have a care in the world and you can begin living a life beyond your wildest dreams.
It will be in the midst of this mindset that Jesus will not only illustrate but also teach which it means for Him to be the Bread of Life. More than filling people’s stomachs with food, Jesus came to fill people’s souls with truth and spiritual life. Has your soul been so fed?
Soli deo Gloria!