We have seen a "cyclical" pattern of teaching in John's book.
- There is the cycle of Jesus revealing His divinity through a pattern of witness, teaching and miracles.
- There is a larger cycle of events that begin with Jesus revealing His divinity in some way, and people responding to Him with either belief or disbelief.
- And then, of course, we have noticed a familiar pattern of steps Jesus used in His personal evangelism.
Let us keep our eyes open for these particular features in John's gospel as we forge ahead in our study.
In our last chapter covering John chapter 5, we saw Jesus perform a healing miracle and the response of disbelief from Jewish religious leaders who were bent on destroying Him and His ministry. In rejecting this great evidence of His true nature we saw Jesus rebuking them and warning them on account of their dishonor for God, lack of preparation for the judgment, hardheartedness, ignorance, pride and disbelief.
In chapter 6, Jesus once again returns to Galilee and performs two great miracles. This time, however, He makes two promises to those who believe, instead of listing the dangers for those who disbelieve.
The first miracle – 6:1-15
Vs. 1-13 – After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?" This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little." One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?" Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. When they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost." So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
Both Phillip and Andrew demonstrate that there is no possible way to feed the people with the resources at hand. They do not realize that with Jesus they have the source for meeting needs.
For by Him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible.
- Colossians 1:16
The miracle is that from five loaves and two fish, Jesus feeds more than 5,000 people with 12 baskets left over. The lesson, of course, is that with Jesus as the source, there is always more than enough.
Vs. 14-15 – Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world." So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
Note the reaction of the crowd: they see Him as a savior, messiah of sorts. Not the one He is, but the one they want Him to be.
They want to force Him to become their king. Their view of the Messiah was that he would have great powers, save them from their earthly enemies and make them a great nation once again.
Jesus knows their hearts and does not want to be this type of king for them, and for good reasons:
- Only God anointed kings and so the crowd's anointing would be meaningless.
- They saw Him as a man, yes a "Super Man", but still only a man.
- They wanted to put their plan for political redemption into action, Jesus was sent to put God's plan for spiritual redemption into action.
Jesus, needing to stop the momentum of their actions, leaves for solitary prayer. As God, He did not need prayer. As man, however, He needed to pray for the Father's will to be done despite this setback.
The second miracle – 6:16-36
1. The miracle itself
Vs. 16-21 – Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
This miracle is performed only for the Apostles and those of us who read their testimony. Both miracles, however, prepare the people, the Apostles, and all who read their witness for what is to come next.
2. Jesus declares His divinity (implicitly)
Notice in these events that the smaller cycle of Jesus declaring His divinity in a variety of ways will work within the larger cycle of people observing these things and reacting with belief or disbelief.
Vs. 22-25 – The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?"
The multitude follows Jesus. It is not a huge lake, but much too large to walk around in just one evening (some 40 miles on foot). There was no boat to take Him across; they knew this, so the only conclusion (walking across on water somehow) involved the miraculous. They did not see it, but all signs pointed to this.
Vs. 26-27 – Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal."
Jesus now confronts them about the miracle of the previous day:
- He reveals their true motives (physical satisfaction, free food).
- He reveals what their motives should be (spiritual satisfaction).
- God provides spiritual nourishment only through Christ and the proof (seal) that this is so is the miracle that filled your bellies.
With the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus proves that He can provide the spiritual nourishment that only God can give.
3. Reaction of the crowd
Vs. 28 – Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?"
The people misunderstand His statement thinking He can give them some sort of secret formula that will give them the power to make bread, etc. In this way they confuse spiritual food with spiritual signs. They could not grasp what He was offering them: not food for an empty belly, but an opportunity to fill their souls by opening their eyes.
4. Jesus' response
Vs. 29 – Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."
Jesus goes ahead by explaining the purpose of the miracle, which is to create faith in Him as God's Son. This miracle is an example of how God promotes faith: He does not eliminate choice, He simply provides proof. In the end, all men choose to believe, but God provides the proof necessary to influence that choice. If we choose to believe and continue to do so, we demonstrate God's work and influence in us. Our faith, not our great or miraculous works, is what demonstrates God's power working in us.
5. The crowd's response
Vs. 30-31 – So they said to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.'
In essence they demand another miracle to convince them to believe. "Moses provided manna for 40 years, do the same or better, then we will believe." They want miracles in the style of Moses, better than Moses!
This is just another way of refusing to acknowledge who Jesus really was, based on the witness of miracles, teachings and declarations He has already made to them. When you do not want to believe, no amount of proof will change your mind.
Jesus refuses to be their "human" king because He is their divine king and they need to understand this. He does not deal with them on their terms but on His terms and salvation is based on their recognition of this.
6. Jesus' response
Vs. 32-33 – Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world."
The Lord corrects their misunderstanding of both Moses and manna. Moses never gave the true bread from heaven (spiritual life); only God can give this. Manna never came from "heaven"; it was simply on the ground in the morning when they arose. Manna had three purposes: feed the physical appetite, witness God's power, provide a type or preview for the true bread that would come from heaven and give spiritual life.
He continues to witness His divine nature by teaching them concepts that only God could know.
7. The crowd responds
Vs. 34 – Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread."
Note that they address Him as Lord (Sir) not Lord (Savior). They see that what He is offering is desirable, but still do not understand what it really is; and do not believe in Him. Before, they wanted power to make bread in a miraculous way. Now they think the "true bread" is some kind of super-manna where if you eat of it you will not ever be hungry anymore; just a better way to satisfy their physical hunger evermore.
8. Jesus declares His divinity (explicitly)
Vs. 35 – Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst."
Jesus stops speaking to them in parable-like terms and clearly declares His divine nature by linking Himself to the divine images He has been describing.
Throughout this chapter He has declared this same idea in different ways:
- He is the Messiah come into the world (vs. 14)
- He is the Son of Man (vs. 27)
- He is the One on whom the Father has set His seal (vs. 27)
- He is the One sent by the Father (vs. 29)
- He is the Son of God (vs. 32)
- He is the One who gives life to the world (vs. 33)
- He is the Bread of Life (vs. 35)
First by miracles, then by teaching, now by clear declarations, Jesus is trying to show them who He really is.
9. The crowd's response
Vs. 36 – But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.
Jesus flatly states that after all of this their response is simple: disbelief. Their response is the same as the Pharisees at Jerusalem, they do not believe.
Jesus' two promises
Before Jesus explained the condemnation awaiting those who did not believe. And even though these in Galilee also respond with disbelief, He makes two promises to those who do believe, then and now:
1. Those who come to Him will be accepted.
Vs. 37 – All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.
All those who come through the cross of Christ will not be refused, regardless of sins, nationality, intelligence or social position. No matter where you are or who you are, there is no need for fear: God will accept you through Christ.
2. Those who do believe have eternal life.
Vs. 38-40 – For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
What God desires is that none who believe in Jesus will be lost. Those who trust Christ trust that He will save them despite their weakness.
Notice that first comes the eternal life, then comes the resurrection. You already possess eternal life through faith before you die and are resurrected. It is why you are resurrected to glory.
Jesus performs two great miracles. He declares that He is the Savior, the Son of God, the Giver of eternal life.
His audience does not believe, even though He has done the miracles and made His declaration. They search only for the physical blessings that miracles give.
To those who believe He makes two promises:
- All who come to Him, He will accept.
- All who believe in Him can rest assured that they have eternal life beginning now, their own resurrection will merely confirm it.
Do not be discouraged by your own lack of faith at times; and the total disbelief of others. Even eyewitnesses rejected Christ. Even after eating the bread miraculously made. It is normal to doubt; normal for the majority to reject: even Christ said that the way to life was narrow and few were on it.
When in doubt, remember the promises of whom you have believed. Realize you have eternal life now. Take heart that Jesus promised that He would not lose any, trust Him.