Lesson 29

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

6:1 After these things, Jesus went away to the other side of the sea of Galilee, which is also called the Sea of Tiberias. 6:2 A great multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were sick. 6:3 Jesus went up into the mountain, and he sat there with his disciples. 6:4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 6:5 Jesus therefore lifting up his eyes, and seeing that a great multitude was coming to him, said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?" 6:6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.

6:7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that everyone of them may receive a little." 6:8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 6:9 "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these among so many?"

6:10 Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." Now there was much grass in that place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 6:11 Jesus took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to those who were sitting down; likewise also of the fish as much as they desired. 6:12 When they were filled, he said to his disciples, "Gather up the broken pieces which are left over, that nothing be lost." 6:13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves, which were left over by those who had eaten.

 Today's Lesson

Today's scripture concerns the feeding of the 5000. This incident is recorded in all the gospels and is a central image and theme of the Gospel of John. Chapter six, which records the feeding and the conversations that follow it is the longest chapter in John. Because of its prominence, we will spend several days discussing the incident itself.


Jesus goes up into the mountains in Galilee. A multitude follows Him because of the miracles that He has done. We are told that the time of the Passover is at hand. The connection between this sign and the Passover is significant, just as the connection between the Passover and the Last Supper recorded in the Synoptic Gospels is significant. It should be noted here that the Gospel of John does not have a record of Jesus instituting the Lord's Supper as the other gospels do. Most biblical scholars see the expansion and discussion of this incident in the Gospel of John as instituting the sacrament of communion in this context as the other gospels do on Jesus' last night.


The significance of the association with Passover is in the commonality of the two ceremonies of Passover and Christian communion. The Passover was a remembrance of the delivery of God's people from the slavery in Egypt. The blood of the Passover Lamb was applied to the door so that the Angel of Death would pass over the homes of the faithful. The feast of the Passover was to carry the traditions and beliefs from one generation to the next. God is deliverer and protector.


Jesus looks out over the mountain and sees the multitude of people that has followed Him. He asks His disciples, "Where are we to buy bread, that these may eat?" The disciples know that even if there was a place to buy bread for such a multitude at a moment's notice in the mountains that they would not be able to afford it. A boy is brought forth who possesses five barley loaves and two fishes. But, as it is said, "what are these among so many?"


This is the situation that Jesus has brought about. He intentionally goes up into the mountains of Galilee with His disciples. He intentionally allows Himself to be followed by a multitude. Later in this chapter we will see that He could have gone up into the mountains without being followed, but on this occasion, He intentionally has chosen to allow the multitude to follow Him. He does these things knowing the Passover is at hand and associating this event with the Passover in the minds of His followers. There are two groups here, Jesus' disciples and the multitude. The multitude is not made of believers or disciples; later Jesus will rebuke them for seeing these things and still not believing. But, Jesus has allowed them to be part of this event.


It is easy to read the gospels and come to the conclusion that these events happened to Jesus spontaneously, by chance. But, this is not chance. This is drama, choreographed by the Son of God to reveal Himself and His Father. For today, let us consider, what is Jesus' purpose for leading these people to the mountain? What does it mean that Jesus feeds believers and unbelievers on this mountain? What is Jesus seeking to tell us about Himself in this event?


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