A Guide to Reading the Gospel of John (9) Day Nine
The Feeding of the 5000 (John chapter 6)
John chapter 6 contains two miracles, or signs: the feeding of the 5000 (In addition to the 5000 men, how many women and children were present?) and Jesus’ walking on the sea in a storm to meet His disciples. The miraculous feeding is the only miracle that appears in all 4 Gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke show that this miracle related to the Great Confession; but John begins to point to the Messianic Banquet. One of the greatest miracles of Moses was to feed God’s people manna in the wilderness (although it was God who fed them). So people anticipated that when the Messiah came He would provide a great banquet for His people — the Messianic Banquet (Isaiah 25:6-8). (See also Revelation 19:6-9)
In addition to the two miracles, this chapter contains the first “I AM” statement of Jesus: “I am the bread of life.”
The Beginning of All Ministry (John 6:1-3)
We must not overlook the secret of the beginning of all ministry. Large crowds began to gather, and Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples! We know how to run, and work hard, but we need to pray, “Lord, teach me to sit with You!”
The Two Signs (John 6:4-19)
The Banquet — When Jesus saw the large crowds, He “knew what He would do”. (John 6:6) Nevertheless He asked the disciples where they would get enough bread to feed the people. Why do you think Jesus asked this question? Was Jesus seeking their prayers? Was He willing to let them participate in the miracle? How did the disciples respond? What do you think was in Andrew’s mind when he told Jesus about the little boy’s 5 loaves and two fish?
What was the people’s reaction? (John 6:14)
What kind of “king” did they try to force Jesus to become? What would have happened if Jesus had allowed them to make Him their “Bread King?”
Walking on Water — Jesus was forced to withdraw from the crowds who were trying to use Him for their own political purposes. Here we find a basic principle in Jesus’ ministry style: Withdrawal and Engagement. God taught Elijah this same principle when he began his ministry (see 1 Kings 17:1-3 and 18:1). Jesus command to “Abide in Me” includes these two elements: Withdrawal to rest in His presence and be restored by His Word, and engagement with the world by walking with Jesus into the dark corners of the world. We must learn the proper balance of these two principles to be effective in ministry.
The Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus sent His disciples into a boat to go before Him, while He went up to the mountain to pray. Matthew 14:22-33 says that Peter also walked on water to meet Jesus. Even though he sank into the stormy sea, he still attempted to walk by faith; the other disciples remained in the boat.
I Am the Bread of Life (John 6:22-59)
The people were looking for social and political freedom, but they had missed Jesus’ message about the Kingdom of God. Read carefully through this important section and try to understand Jesus’ message to the people, and the people’s desire.
What was the people’s basic wish? Consider how this prevented them from hearing what Jesus was offering.
What was Jesus promising to give to them? How did Jesus use the word “bread”? What did He mean when He said I am the Bread of Life?
Notice in John 6:51 that Jesus begins to use the word flesh in place of the word bread. John 6:56 is a key verse that theologians have argued about throughout much of Church history — Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
Some Bible interpreters teach that these words can be understood only if they are referring to the Lord’s Supper. Others maintain that John took these words from pagan religions that were later incorporated into the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Others even suggest that these words were actually spoken by Jesus at the first observance of the Lord’s Supper in the Upper Room. Some teach that each time Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper the bread and wine are literally transformed into the body and blood of our Lord; this view is called transubstantiation, meaning that the bread and wine are miraculously changed into Christ’s body and blood. Others teach that Jesus was only speaking symbolically.
The argument continues today, and Christians disagree. What we can know is that when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are not simply symbolizing Jesus’ act on the cross; Jesus is actually, really present with us as we eat the bread and drink the cup. However we may decide to interpret this, the central truth is that Jesus is calling us to cultivate this mystical union with Him, to become one with Him.
Remember the Prologue to the Gospel of John. Jesus came as the bearer of light, to remove the darkness of our minds and reveal God to us; He also came as the giver of eternal life, to destroy the power of death.
What is Jesus asking us to do when He says, Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him . . .?
Simon Peter’s Great Confession (John 6:60-71)
Jesus interprets the miracles for His disciples. The disciples mentioned here are not just the 12, but rather the larger group of disciples who followed Him. Jesus reminds them that His words are spirit and life.
But many of His disciples turned back and no longer wanted to be associated with Jesus. The large crowds that had followed Jesus so fervently are no longer there. Jesus and His 12 disciples are left alone.
Jesus asks the question, Do you want to go away as well? Simon Peter’s great confession contained both a question and an answer: Lord, to whom shall we go? Where could a person go after leaving Jesus? Back to the false religion of the Pharisees? Back to nothing — nihilism? These are questions facing us today.
Think carefully about Peter’s confession.
Lord . . . You have the words of eternal life. What does this mean to you? How would you interpret this to others?
We have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God. Read John 17:3 and interpret this statement.
Why do you think Jesus responded to Peter’s confession with a warning that one of the 12 would betray Him?