John 6:5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?
Philip was from the nearby town of Bethsaida (John 1:44), so Jesus asked him where they could buy some bread. But there was a problem: including women and children, the crowd numbered around fifteen thousand. Even if they found a bakery with that much bread, they would not have enough money to pay for it.
John 6:9 [Andrew said] Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?
Under the leadership of Moses, God fed his people bread from heaven (Exodus 16). Jesus could have done the same, but he accepted the lunch of an unnamed boy (John 6:9), and multiplied it until everyone had enough. This miracle is so important that it’s the only one recorded in all four gospels, other than the resurrection.
John 6:11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated.
By giving thanks before eating, Jesus provided an example for us to follow. The custom in my parents’ house was to pray before every meal. Bless us, Oh Lord, and these your gifts, which we are about to receive, from your generosity, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
This is the first prayer I learned as a child, and I prayed it many times without a thought. But as an adult, I found the words to be a true expression of my heart, and a wonderful way to give thanks. Thanking God for our food is a simple gesture of faith that distinguishes us from unbelievers.
John 6:11b [They all had] as much as they wanted.
Not a single person went away hungry that day. The disciples kept on serving bread and fish until everyone was full. They all ate and were satisfied (Mark 6:42), wrote Mark. This happy condition is something everyone longs for, every single day.
But we have other appetites too. In addition to food we want pleasure, possessions, companions, adventure and entertainment. We have so many appetites, in fact, that only God can fill us up. You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you (Augustine).
When every other need is met, what we really crave is more of Jesus Christ. To have everything else but him, is to be hungry and not know why. For the bread of God . . . comes down from heaven and gives life to the world (John 6:33), said Jesus. He alone can satisfy our deepest need, and give us eternal life.
John 6:12 Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.
Jesus fed thousands with a few loaves of bread and some fish, but he made his disciples pick up the scraps. The only person with unlimited resources was not willing to waste a bite. Since Jesus was frugal, frugality is a Christian virtue.
I have a friend who is the cheapest person I have ever known. For many years he would not use the toilet before he got to work, because he wanted to save money on the flush. We were talking before church, one day, when a man came in with panic in his eyes. He lost an envelope containing a thousand dollars, and his rent was due that day. My friend said, I have a thousand dollars—it’s a gift, not a loan.
The reason my friend was cheap, I learned, was to save money for people in need. And though he was rich, yet for your sake [Christ] became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9), wrote Paul. Frugality is a virtue if we are saving money to help people in need.
John 6:15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
The people were so excited about their free lunch that some wanted to make Jesus king. The disciples may have agreed, but there were a few problems with this. First, no one makes Jesus king—Jesus is the king. Second, Jesus did not come to sit on a throne, but to die on a cross. Third, what they really wanted was more free food.
But if people come to Jesus for the wrong reason, they will leave him just as quickly. The reason we should come to Christ is to be forgiven for our sins. That is what we need the most, and that is why Jesus came. He is often pleased to meet our other needs as well, but his first concern is our salvation.
John 6:28-29 Then they asked him, What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.
The people asked the right question, and Jesus gave the right answer, but they did not like his answer. They wanted to do something to earn eternal life (John 6:27), but the only way to eternal life is through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
John 6:30 What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you?
Jesus just fed thousands of people with someone’s lunch, and this was witnessed by more people than all his other miracles combined. So it was a little insincere for them to ask for yet another miracle before they would believe in Jesus Christ. The problem was not the miracle, of course, but their resolve not to believe in Jesus Christ no matter what. Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him (John 12:37), wrote John.
John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life.
Scholars identify this as the first of seven I am statements in the Gospel of John. I am the bread of life (John 6:35); I am the light of the world (John 8:12); I am the gate for the sheep (John 10:7); I am the good shepherd (John 10:11); I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25); I am the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6). And, I am the vine (John 15:5).
These make it clear that the central message of Jesus Christ was himself. In many ways he was selfless, but his message was completely self-centered. And yet, it’s right for Jesus to be self-centered, because he really is the center.
What if the sun decided not to be the center of the solar system? And what if the earth decided not to revolve around the sun? It is good for the sun to be the center, and for the earth to revolve around it. And it’s good for Jesus to be the center, and for us to revolve around him. The only reason things went bad in the first place, is because we decided to be the center, and have the world revolve around us. But that hasn’t worked very well for most of human history.
Reflection and Review
How does Jesus satisfy our deepest need?
Why do some people refuse to believe in Jesus Christ no matter what?
How can our lives revolve around Christ?