The Provision of the Great Prophet
Text: John 6:1-15
Other than the miracle of Christ’s resurrection, the miracle of Christ feeding the five thousand is the only one to be recorded in all four gospels. Its significance, therefore, cannot be understated. It is remarkable because of many things.
The number of people who benefited, the mediation of the disciples, its creative rather than transformative or restorative quality. This is now the fourth miracle; water into wine, healing of the nobleman’s son, the healing of the impotent man, and now this.
Now the purpose of all of these is to reveal His deity and give reason to believe in Him, and not merely to believe by intellectual ascent, but to the saving of the soul, so that you may have life. It is life man needs more than anything else.
At no point are any of these miracles claimed to be fake. Many refused to believe, but no one could deny the legitimacy of the miracles they witnessed. Even Nicodemus, the leader of the Jews, knew (and perhaps others with him) that Jesus Christ came from God. There was never a rejection of His miracles, it was a rejection of Him.
Like the previous chapter, this begins with a miracle, followed by a message.
I. THE INTEREST OF THE MULTITUDE
1. Based on Carnality
This chapter perhaps more than any other, shows the huge popularity the ministry of Christ was now achieving. Multitudes are not just going to see Him when He visits the area, they are following Him wherever He goes.
Now some time had passed between the beginning of chapter 5 and chapter 6:4. The problem is identifying the feast in 5:1. If it’s Passover, then it’s a year. If it’s the feast of Tabernacles, then it’s 6 months.
He is now in Galilee, not Jerusalem as in chapter 5. Galilee is were He spends the majority of His public ministry, performing miracles and speaking with unparalleled authority, thus, multitudes follow Him. And since it’s approaching Passover, the area where He ministering may have drawn in those making their way to Jerusalem for the feast. We’re told in Matt 14 that prior to Jesus crossing Galilee (6:1), Herod “heard of fame of Jesus” and it also tells us that the Lord had just been informed of the death of John the Baptist. Matt 14:14 many followed on foot, and by the time they get to the other side there’s a multitude already gathering.
Why were they gathering? His healing. Sick people want to be healed. They are desperate. And those ministries built upon the desperation of natural human needs are vile. And what we’ll discover once again in this chapter is that the multitudes drawn in by the miracles, were driven away by His message. You can always draw a crowd by preying on people’s desperation, but you will never keep such a crowd if you preach the full gospel of Christ.
So again we see that it was the miracles that drew the crowd. This goes back to John 2:23-25. They have no sense of sin, no desire for forgiveness, no spirit of repentance, no love for the person of Christ. It’s based on pure, carnal desire.
2. Met with Compassion
Matt 14;14 – “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” Luke 9:11 – “And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.” By evening, the disciples decide it’s time to send them away…
Matt 14:15 – “And when it was evening, his disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.” v5 – He looks at them again and has another plan in mind.
II. THE INSTRUCTION FOR THE DISCIPLES
1. A Personal Test for Philip v5-6
This whole thing took place near Bethsaida (Lk 9:10), which was where Philip was from. The Lord challenges Philip because the problem focussed upon the needs of people from his area. And the Lord expects us to have a vision for the people of our area. He challenges us about our area.
How much faith do you have, Philip? Philip responds merely by looking at the problem. His analysis is that eight months wages wouldn’t be sufficient. But let’s not get too hard on Philip, Matt 14:15 as we read it was more than Philip who said, “send the multitude away…”
Is it not true that we look at the spiritual condition of the multitudes around us and despair that nothing can be done? We often feel hopeless looking at the world around us and the effects of sin. But when we do this, just as the disciples, we have failed to put Christ in the picture. The same Christ that stood among them and was about to feed the multitude, stands among us to do the same.
v6 – He knew what He would do. We don’t, but the Lord always knows. There’s nothing to hard for the Lord. The need was beyond what the disciples could ask or think, but Christ specializes in that.
2. A Positive Contribution from Andrew
Mk 6:38 – “He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see.” Andrew, like Philip, was also from Bethsaida, so it may be that he took this exhortation particularly to heart. No doubt he knew many people there and was known by them. The point is however, the Lord removes all possibility of human reasoning of where the provision would come from, by getting the disciples to check the crowd for food.
The result of the search is that Andrew finds a young boy with five small loaves and two small fish.
3. A Powerful Lesson for All
v10 – the disciples wanted to send them away. That was their way of compassion, since they had nothing to eat. Jesus says, get them to sit down. And Mark shows that they set the people in large groups, which would have allowed the disciples to pass and reach everyone through the gaps between the groups. All the gospels record 5000 men, and Matthew includes that the number didn’t include women. And clearly there were children there, too.
v11 – miracle of creation. He made bread out of nothing to show He is God.
v12-13 – there is a perfect supply. That which was left over was sufficient to feed the disciples. They had a basket of food each. What Philip has missed in the question was the fact that the Lord included Himself in fulfilling the answer, “Whence shall we buy bread” v5. The Lord Jesus Christ has condescending to work with His people. We do not labour in Calgary on our own. The Lord’s not asking us, ‘How are you going to build the church and save souls?’ He asks us, How are WE going to do it? And the point is, the Lord already had an intention to do something. And He has every intention to work in this city and call out His elect.
III. THE INTENTION OF THE SAVIOUR
v14 – Messianic prophecy Deut 18:15 from Moses. And of course, this is Passover, so it reminds the people of the Prophet that will come to deliver them like unto Moses. Were they right to call Him that? Acts 3:20-23 “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.”
We have to remember, that the Passover feast reminded the Jews of God’s deliverance, and many of them were looking for deliverance from the Romans. The desire for deliverance would be intensified around Passover, resulting in this strong desire to make Christ king. As one commentator notes, “The Passover Feast was to Palestinian Jews what the fourth of July is to Americans, or, better, what the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne is to loyalist Protestants in Northern Ireland. It was a rallying point for intense, nationalistic zeal.”
The surprising thing is, that if He is the Prophet, then His purpose is to teach, and we’re going to see how reluctant they were to receive His message.
They wanted a King who would provide temporal welfare, and Jesus Christ shows an outright refusal of this. They wanted a king that would suit their own needs. Jesus didn’t come to provide what you want. He came to provide what you need! He is not a quick fix for carnal desires. He is a permanent solution for spiritual necessities. He makes the demands, not you.
He wanted nothing to do with them. Their enthusiasm was not for a real understanding of Jesus Christ. They viewed them through carnal glasses.
His intention is to reign in the hearts of satisfied souls.
v15 – if Jesus had wanted to be a revolutionary, and if he wanted to become an earthly king and lead people in the carnal sense, this would have been the moment to do it. It’s the high point of His popularity. Instead, He disappears in a mountain alone. He is not merely revealing His likeness to Moses by doing this, He is underlining His real purpose, that is, to bring men to God.
Sinner, he didn’t come to meet your temporal needs. He came to save you from your sin. If you don’t see your sin, you can’t see Jesus!