Feeding the 5,000

Life in His Name – Part 13

Feeding the 5,000 – John 6:1-15

Crosspoint – Dave Spooner – May 7th, 2023


  • The reading today rightfully blends and overlays the Old Testament passages with our New Testament passage for today. We will see how these two things connect and interact through our time in the Word together.
  • It is helpful to remember the main purpose and theme verse of this book from John 20:31, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
  • Knowing that this is the purpose for which John wrote his Gospel helps us correctly understand what is written. With every passage, we have to ask ourselves, “What does this passage show me about the identity of Jesus, so that I may believe and have life in His name?” This is the question that we ask again of our passage today.
  • The feeding of the 5,000 is recorded in all four Gospels (Matt. 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:10-17). However, John starts and ends his account differently from the other three accounts of this event. John opens this passage by pointing out the motive and mindset of the masses who are coming to Jesus, and then concludes the passage by giving the crowd’s understanding of this sign and who they understood Jesus to be, and then what they wanted to do with Him.
  • We know from the previous passage what the religious leaders wanted to do to Jesus. They wanted to kill Him because Jesus claimed equality with God. Now we see in this passage that the crowds wanted to use Him for their own purposes. Both of these responses are present in our world and culture today.
  • John points out in this passage that Jesus is the greater prophet and Jesus is the better King. He then leaves us with some questions. “Who do you say that He is?” “What is your response to Him?” “Why do you follow Him?” Do you follow Him because you know He is God’s Son who has the words of eternal life? Or do you seek Him for what you desire and demand to receive from Him? Your understanding of who Jesus is and your motive for seeking or following Jesus determines if you finish your race or if you fall away. If you receive life in His name or remain under judgment for your sins. So, let’s open our Bibles to John 6 as we unpack our passage for today.

Jesus is the selfishly pursued

John 6:1-3 ESV

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.

  • This passage clearly states the motive of why so many people are following Jesus and shows their mindset. These two factors come into play at their response to the sign Jesus gives them.
  • The first thing that John points out is why the crowds followed Jesus. Why were the crowds following Him? Because they saw the signs He was doing on the sick. The crowds of people were not following Him because they thought that He had the words of life and that they would receive life by believing in His name. They were not following Him because they recognized He was the Christ, the Son of God. They were following Him because He had the power to heal them, fix their pain, and improve their lives. They followed Him to improve their lives and have their current desires met and problems fixed. As crowds of people still do today, they will call out to Jesus when they can’t pay their bills, or their loved one is in the hospital, or they are afraid, in pain, or in need. If you keep reading to the end of the chapter, these are the people who turn from Jesus when following Jesus requires something from them.
  • The second thing that John points out is when this occurred, which tells us the mindset of the crowds. Which, again, plays into the response of the crowd at the end of this passage.

John 6:4 ESV

Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

  • The Passover feast is the celebration of when the Jews broke free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. It was commanded by God to be recognized by the Jews every year of their deliverance. This is the celebration of their independence day. Think of it like our Fourth of July celebration, where we, as Americans, celebrate our independence and freedom from Britain.
  • Now imagine the scenario if Russia took over America and they were here as an occupying force as the calendar turned to July 4th, thinking about the deliverance and freedom of the past while we were currently under bondage to another foreign power. They were longing and looking for freedom, for someone like Moses to come and deliver them from their current bondage.
  • Now after John gives up this intro and setup, he then goes into the rest of the story, where we see what Jesus does and how this crowd responds.

Jesus is the Greater Prophet

John 6:5-7 ESV

Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.”

  • Note that Jesus never asks us a question for His information. He asks us a question to make us think about something. In this case, “How can we feed all these people?” Philip did the quick math and concluded that eight months’ worth of wages would only be enough to give each person a bite. The point is they don’t have what it would take to meet the needs of the people.

John 6:8-14 ESV

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.

 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

  • So this crowd experienced a miracle, saw it as a sign, and concluded, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Why would they come to this conclusion based on what they had seen and experienced? The answer is that this type of miracle had taken place before at the hands of the prophet Elisha in the Old Testament, which is recorded in 2 Kings 4:42-44.

2 Kings 4:42-44 ESV

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” 43 But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” 44 So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.

  • Now, let’s lay these passages side by side to see the connections between the two:

Elisha the Prophet                                                    Jesus the Greater Prophet

A man brings twenty loaves of barley A boy brings five loves of barley
Elisha tells his servant to feed the crowd Jesus asked his disciples to feed the crowd
Elisha’s servant asks how this can be done Jesus’s disciples ask how this can be done
Elisha feeds 20 loaves to 100 men Jesus feeds 5 loaves to 100 – groups of 50 men
Elisha feeds them with loaves Jesus feeds them with loaves and with fish
Elisha has some leftover Jesus has abundantly more leftover
Elisha speaks the Word of the Lord Jesus is the Word of the Lord

The crowds understood the sign that Jesus did, and from it, concluded that He was the prophet who was to come into the world (whom Moses prophesied would come into the world in Deut. 18:15). Not only is Jesus “the prophet,” but Jesus is the greater prophet.

  • This passage is not about bringing your little to Jesus, and He will make it more. It is about Jesus being more than and greater than any prophet that had ever come before. He indeed is the Christ and by believing in Him, you may have life in His name.
  • Not only is Jesus the greater prophet, but Jesus is the better King.

Jesus is the Better King

  • Now because the crowd understood the sign that Jesus was the prophet who was to come, and also because this happened during the celebration of the Passover and their mindset was on freedom from their national bondage, the people wanted to make Jesus the King by force.

John 6:15 ESV

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself

  • No one makes Jesus do what they want Him to do. He does only what He sees His Father doing. We don’t come to use Him and “force” Him to get what we want. We must come to Him because He is life. We can’t force Him to be our King so that He will do our will. We only recognize that He is the King, and we honor Him and love Him for who He is, and look to do His will.
  • The crowd followed Him to meet their needs and wanted Him to free them from their political and national bondage. Jesus is the better King who came to meet their real need and free them from the bondage of their sin. Jesus came to free us not from the oppression that comes from the outside but the oppression that comes from the inside. Not from the bondage that comes on us, but the bondage that comes from within us.
  • Jesus did not come to be a political messiah; He came to be your personal Savior. Jesus did not come to give you what you want. He came to give you what you need. Jesus continues to “walk away” from those who seek to force Him to do their will. We must come to the understanding of who Jesus truly is and then put our faith in Him, out of our truest need, so that in Him we can have our sins forgiven, and be given a new heart and new desires by being born again by His Spirit. We look to do His will because He is the greater prophet, and He is the better King. He is the Christ, the Son of God.

Conclusion and Communion

  • So, I ask you again this morning, why do you follow Jesus? Who do you say that He is? Receive Him as the Savior of the world, honor Him as the greater prophet, and know Him as the King of all Kings. Love Him and serve Him and honor Him in the neighborhood and in the nations.
  • We are going to see, as we continue to walk through this chapter, more about who Jesus is as He comes to His own in our fear and calls us to follow and know Him in Spirit and in truth.