Lesson 30

The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

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. 6:14 When therefore the people saw the sign which Jesus did, they said, "This is truly the prophet who comes into the world." 6:15 Jesus therefore, perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force, to make him king, withdrew again into the mountain by himself.

 Today's Lesson

Jesus has gone up into the mountains around Galilee while the Jewish Passover was at hand. He allowed himself to be followed by a multitude of people who had seen the signs that He had done and were intent on being near. Many of these people were not believers, but were people interested in seeing signs and wonders. But, even for these people, Jesus was full of compassion. Jesus has choreographed this scene, but this is not to say that there is anything false or manipulative in it. Jesus has brought believers and unbelievers to this place to make a demonstration of the grace of the Son and the giving nature of the Father.


Jesus tells the disciples to have the people sit down. The text said that the men numbered about five thousand. There is no reason to believe that the crowd was made up solely of men. This was not likely a family gathering. These men had gone up into the mountains to see a miracle worker. But, there is no reason not to believe that there were also some women and children that were there as well.


After the people sat down, Jesus gave thanks and then distributed food to His disciples. His disciples then gave food to the people. He gave them bread and fish. Everyone, his disciples and the multitude, all ate until they were filled. After everyone had eaten, Jesus had His disciples gather what was left over. The food remaining amounted to twelve baskets, a full basket for each of the disciples.


We are told nothing about the mechanism of how this food was created. We are told that the bread came "from the five barley loaves." As a child, I always had the image of Jesus conjuring the loaves like a magician pulling a rabbit from a hat. But, there is no magic involved here. Using the loaves, Jesus created new bread. It was normal, regular barley loaves, the kind eaten by all the common folk of the area. Jesus does not create heavenly bread, nor does he make this bread holy. Later, He will make a distinction between this bread that perishes and the heavenly bread that these people should be wanting. No, it is not the bread itself that is holy, but the one who distributes the bread.


And the way that Jesus distributed the bread is important. Jesus gave to His disciples (the believers) and they in turn gave to the multitude (those who were a mix of believers and unbelievers). Just as Jesus did not baptize people himself (V.4:2), He does not feed the multitude himself. He fed them through His disciples. And, once again, Jesus provided more food and bread than was necessary. He did not stop when there was enough for everyone to be filled. He continued to multiply the loaves until there was abundance.


The people of the multitude responded to this sign by wanting to make Jesus king by force. This seems like an odd response to us. A man does a miracle and these people respond by trying to force Him to be king. An odd response, yes. But, people in mobs do odd things, things that are not reasonable in other circumstances.


And, make no mistake; Jesus knew that this would be their response. Their response does not surprise Him or take Him off guard. He does not expect them to react in any way other than this. Jesus simply withdraws Himself to the mountains again. Their inappropriate reaction does not forestall His plan. He feeds them and then withdraws.


God gives of Himself even when He knows that we will respond inappropriately. Our unbelief does not cause God to stop giving or stop loving. Just as the sun shines on the righteous and the unrighteous, the mercy of God and the love of God is given to all people. And, God chooses to distribute these gifts through His people.


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