1 After this, Jesus crossed over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he was performing on those who were sick. 3 Jesus went up on the hillside and sat down there with his disciples. 4 The Jewish Passover Festival was near. 5 When Jesus looked up and saw a huge crowd coming toward him, he asked Philip, “Where can we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 But Jesus was saying this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to have just a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There’s a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what is that for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, so they sat down. There were about five thousand men. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves and, after giving thanks, he distributed pieces to those who were seated. He also did the same with the fish—as much as they wanted. 12 When the people were full, he told his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over so that nothing is wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with pieces from the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the miraculous sign Jesus did, they said, “This really is the Prophet who is coming into the world.” 15 When Jesus realized that they intended to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
I sometimes wonder what it must have been like to have been one of Jesus’ disciples as he fed this big crowd by the Sea of Galilee. John records there were 5,000 men present. We don’t know how many women or children were in the audience. The people had probably walked a great distance to see Jesus. They would be hungry after the trip. Jesus knew this was an issue so he brought the matter to his disciple’s attention. I can just imagine the disciple’s thoughts. What were they supposed to do? There weren’t many towns in the area where people could buy food. Philip pointed out they would need more money than the disciples had to provide an adequate meal for everyone. Andrew noted that one boy in the crowd had five loaves of bread and two fish. That wouldn’t begin to meet the needs of a hungry crowd.
But Jesus wasn’t at a loss. He’d only asked the disciples to put their faith to the test. He wanted them to return the dilemma to Jesus. He wanted them to put their complete trust in him in every situation. Jesus took the bread and fish and gave thanks to God. Then he gave the food to the disciples to distribute to the people. Could you blame the disciples for shaking their heads in disbelief at this moment? They were going to run out of food in no time. There were a lot of people who were going to go hungry.
But imagine their amazement when the food didn’t run out. The food kept multiplying. Everyone had as much bread and fish as they wanted to eat. They must have been even more amazed when they gathered up the leftovers and found they had more food than what they started with. Jesus’ amazing miracle was intended to strengthen his disciple’s faith in him. Once again Jesus proved he is the true Son of God. Only God could do what Jesus did.
But the crowd missed the point of what Jesus had done. The problem began with their motivation for following Jesus to begin with. John noted in verse 2 of our text, “A large crowd followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he was performing on those who were sick.” They had already witnessed Jesus do some powerful miracles. They wanted to see him do even more. Now that Jesus showed them another miraculous sign John tells us, “When the people saw the miraculous sign Jesus did, they said, “This really is the Prophet who is coming into the world.” (Verse 14) The Prophet the people spoke of takes us back to Deuteronomy 18:15. Moses said, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brother Israelites. Listen to him.” Moses pointed ahead to Jesus. But the people thought only about how God provided them food every day in the wilderness during the time of Moses. They didn’t want to let Jesus get away. They wanted to make him a king so he could provide for them every day. Jesus couldn’t allow this to happen. He wasn’t here to be an earthly king. He came to rescue us from our sins. For the good of everyone, Jesus went away by himself.
Jesus shows God’s amazing love for us in this account. Our Lord is concerned for our daily physical needs. He daily meets those needs. He doesn’t normally provide for us by miracle. But he does give us the ability to work to earn a living. He does bless us with the right conditions so our crops grow and produce a harvest. Through these means God answers our prayers to provide us with our daily bread.
But most of all the Son of God shows his great concern for our spiritual needs. He used his powerful teachings and miracles to prove he is the true Son of God and our promised Savior. He also lets nothing distract him from his mission to bring forgiveness of sins, life and salvation to all who trust in him.
1 – John records that the people followed Jesus because they saw his powerful miracles. How was this both a good thing and a bad thing?
It was good because the people were coming to hear Jesus teach them. Romans 10:17 said “Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.” God uses the message of the Gospel to bring people to saving faith in Jesus Christ. As long as the people were coming to Jesus there was a chance for them to hear the Gospel and believe. The problem was their motivation for following was in the wrong place. Many of them were only interested in Jesus because he could use his miracles to provide for their earthly needs. They weren’t looking for a Savior to rescue them from their sins.
2 – If Jesus already knew how he was going to provide food for this large crowd why did he question Philip about this matter?
John records that Jesus did this to test him. (Verse 6) He wanted to see if Philip and the other disciples trusted him as the true Son of God. He wanted Philip to bring the matter to his Lord and trust that he would provide for his people.
3 – The disciples showed they still had much to learn. Philip saw only that they didn’t have enough money to buy food for everyone in the crowd. Andrew saw only that there wasn’t enough food on hand to meet everyone’s needs. How are we often like the disciples?
Often when we are facing difficulties we fall into the trap of looking at things only from an earthly point of view. We forget that our Lord has promised us “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will honor me.” (Psalm 50:15) Our Lord wants us to trust in him by calling on him in our times of need. Our Lord promises he will hear us and help us in the time and way that he knows is best.
4 – The people wanted to make Jesus a king. Why wouldn’t Jesus allow this to happen?
Jesus didn’t come here to set up an earthly kingdom. He later told Pontius Pilate (My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) Jesus came to be our Savior to win for us a place in his eternal kingdom. Jesus would not allow anything to prevent him from carrying out his mission.
If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to