John 6:1-13

Sunday Morning Bible Study

October 8, 1995


Jesus had been in Jerusalem, where He had healed a man who had been sick for 38 years.

Because He had chosen to heal the man on the Sabbath, and break the Jewish customs, He had His first major confrontation with the Jews, whereby He asserted His claims to be the Messiah, and in fact, the Son of God.

Last week we saw how Jesus laid out all the evidence before the Jews, citing all the various testimony to who He was.

:1-13 Feeding Five Thousand

:1 After these things

Not only the things we've been studying, but the other gospels tell us that it was just prior to this miracle we'll read about that Jesus hears that John the Baptist has been put to death by Herod (Mark 6:14-29).

:1 which is the sea of Tiberias

Tiberias is a town on the southwest part of the lake, so sometimes the lake was called after that town.

Herod Antipas A.D. 22 built Tiberias to the west of the Sea of Galilee and made it his capital. He named it in honor of Tiberias Caesar.

:2 a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles

This group was not following Him because of His teachings, or because of His claim to be Messiah, and the Son of God.

They were only following because of their own immediate benefit, namely, healing.

:3 went up into a mountain

It is thought that this was a hill area near the city of Bethsaida, which was on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee.

We learn this in:

Luke 9:10-AV And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.

Bethsaida is in a low valley, and the land rises up to the northeast and the north west.

:3 He sat with his disciples

Jesus wasn't sitting down to rest.

This was the traditional place of the teacher, to sit while he taught.

Gill: The form in which the master and his disciples sat is thus described by Maimonides-

The master sits at the head, or in the chief place, and the disciples before him in a circuit, like a crown; so that they all see the master, and hear his words.

At the time of Jesus, it was still the tradition for the Master to sit, and the disciples to stand while being taught.

Later on, after the death of the rabbi Gamaliel (Paul's teacher), then the Jewish students sat as well, since with the death of Gamaliel, "sickness came into the world, and they learnt the law sitting: hence it is a tradition, that after Rabban Gamaliel died, the glory of the law ceased.''

So, the scene is set with Jesus sitting down, the disciples standing around in a circle, and the rest of the crowd probably standing behind them.

:4 the passover ... was nigh

If you're keeping track of the chronology of Jesus' ministry, we are now entering at least the second year.

There was a Passover in John 2:13.

It's possible that the feast of John 5:1 was also a Passover, though we can't be certain.

It will be a year later that Jesus will be crucified.

The Passover was on the 14th of Nisan (also called "Abib"), which is roughly comparable to our March-April time of year.

With these feasts being around the corner, the people's thoughts are going to be about these events in Egypt, and God's deliverance.

The Jewish traditions called for the people to begin talking about the feast thirty days before it happened, and then began to make preparations fifteen days in advance (Gill).

And the stage is set for this next special miracle, and some heavy teaching that will accompany it.

:5 Jesus then lifted up his eyes

He looks over the heads of the standing disciples.

:5 unto Philip

Philip was one of the first disciples that Jesus had called (John 1:43)

He was from the northern city of Bethsaida (John 1:44), which is just to the north of the sea of Galilee.

In a way, this is kind of Philip's territory.

:5 Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

All these people have come out to be with Jesus.

He expresses a sense responsibility for them.

But it's going to be quite a problem!

The other gospels record that Jesus brings up this subject of feeding the people only after He has spent time healing them and teaching them about the kingdom of God. (Luk 9:10-12)

:6 this He said to prove him

peirazo - to try, make trial of, test: for the purpose of ascertaining his quantity, or what he thinks, or how he will behave himself

Jesus wants to see what Philip is made of.

It's a "pop quiz".


Sometimes our difficulties are God's "pop quizes".

And He wants to show us what we're really made of.

Most of us have never appreciated getting "pop quizes" in school.

They seem rather cruel (right Steve?)

But there's probably actually real reasons why a teacher gives "pop quizes".

1. It gives the student an idea of where he is in the course.

It shows you how well you've been paying attention in class.

It shows you how much harder you need to be studying.

2Corinthians 13:5-AV Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

2. Knowing that they come at any time can be a good incentive to study.

It helps to be ready at all times.

2Timothy 2:15-AV_NAS Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. * Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.

Paul wrote to Timothy to be ready:

2Timothy 4:2-4 AV Preach the word; be instant (ready) in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

:6 He Himself knew what He would do

Jesus wasn't asking the question because He didn't know the answer.

He is trying to teach Philip something.


God's in control of the pop quiz.

We can find great comfort in this, knowing that He's in control.

1Corinthians 10:13-AV There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it].

God's not trying to break you with the tests, He's trying to prove to you what you can do.


As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, "Are you trying to see if we can break this bridge?"

"No," the builder replied, "I'm trying to prove that the bridge won't break."

That's what God's wanting to do with our trials and testings.

He's not going to load the bridge with so much stuff that it will break, but with enough to prove that it won't break.

When we fail our trials, it's not because we weren't strong enough, but we just quit.

God is simply trying to teach us how to handle things His way.

When we're faced with a difficult situation, are we going to respond in God's way, or in our way?

Have you learned your lessons, or do you need to hit the books?

:7 two hundred pennyworth of bread


John 6:7-NAS ...Two hundred denarii worth of bread ...

A denarius was the normal wage for one day's labor.

Two hundred days' wages!

If you earned $50 a day, that would be $10,000.

:7 is not sufficient for them

Even if they had that kind of money, it wouldn't even begin to meet the need.

:8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother ...

Somebody else is going to take up the teacher's pop quiz.

He too, like Philip, was from Bethsaida (John 1:44).

He originally was a disciple of John the Baptist, but John convinced him to follow Jesus.

The first thing he did when he met Jesus, was to go back and find his brother, and he brought his brother Peter to meet Jesus (John 1:40-42).

I wonder if Andrew ever kind of regretted doing that.

From that moment onward, all Andrew was known as was "Simon Peter's brother".

Have you ever felt like you're just "somebody's brother", or "somebody's husband", or "somebody's wife"?

I remember in high school, everybody wanted to know if I was Bill-the-famous-Troy-High-School- quarterback-Cathers' brother.

I wasn't.

I hope you're not disappointed.

When I worked at McDonnell-Douglas, everybody wanted to know if I was related to that world famous engineer, Dick Cathers.

I was. And that wasn't so bad.

You might be able to identify with Andrew.


God can even use little brothers.

:9 There is a lad here

Andrew has at least found something.

He's apparently at least gone out into the crowd to scout out the possibilities.

:9 five barley loaves, and two small fishes

Keep in mind, we're going to feed a lot of people here.

Barley loaves were the coarsest, roughest kind of food, for the poor folk.

The two small fishes might have been dried or broiled.

And this whole batch of food is being carried by a young kid, so don't think these are awesome, world record breaking loaves and whales.

We had the same lesson on Wednesday night:


God doesn't require much to do a great work.

When God took care of Elijah during the drought, how did He provide?

By using the poorest of the poor, a Gentile widow woman, about to finish the last little bit of her food.

But the food never ran out during the entire drought.

When Gideon had to defeat the mighty Midianite army, how did he do it?

There were 135,000 Midianites.

And God used a "fraidy-cat" named Gideon.

And only 300 men.

Judges 7:2-AV And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that [are] with thee [are] too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.

The Key is Availability

In each instance, all that God is looking for are people who are willing to give Him a chance to use them.

It doesn't require college degrees.

It doesn't require lots of money.

It doesn't require knowing the right people, or having lots of friends.

It doesn't require being born into the right family.

All it takes is a person who is willing to say "yes" to Jesus.

"Yes, you can use me".

2Chronicles 16:9a-AV For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of [them] whose heart [is] perfect toward him.

All it takes is an Andrew willing to say, "It's not much, but it's here."

All it takes is one small boy, willing to share his lunch.

But you say,

"I tried that. I gave my life to Jesus for a whole week once, and nothing really happened"

Sometimes the work God needs to do on you takes a little more than a week.


Try renovating the old Fox Fullerton theater.

You wouldn't even begin to get the permits in a week, let alone do much work on it.

Give Him your whole life, permanently.

:10 there was much grass in the place

It's springtime. The place is green.

Psalms 23:2-AV He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

:10 the men sat down, in number about five thousand

We're told only the count of the men.

Matthew 14:21-AV And they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and children.

When you think about the women and children that could have been there, it wouldn't be extreme to think that there could have been 10,000 people sitting around, waiting to be fed.

Also, the people were seated in groups of hundreds and fifties.

Mark 6:40-AV And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.

:11 when He had given thanks

It's good to give thanks before eating:

1Timothy 4:4-5 NAS For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

Does this include jelly donuts? Are they really "sanctified" when we pray? Do you believe in miracles?


Daniel is learning more and more about praying, and I'm thrilled.

He's finally getting it into his head that we're supposed to pray BEFORE we eat, not just sometime in the middle.

So yesterday he started going around from person to person in the family, while we were still putting food on the table, touching them and saying, "Thank you Jesus for this food", and then he ran to the table and started eating before we even got to the table.

:11 He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down

Bread and fish. Does this meal qualify as "fish tacos"?


The pattern for correct ministry:

Give to others what Jesus gives to you.

This isn't a bad pattern to follow.

If you want to really learn how to minister to people, then learn to come to Jesus first, and as He hands you the bread, turn around and pass it out to those around you.

1. Give what you first receive from Jesus' hand

You have to receive in order to give.

Don't get burnt out trying to give without having anything to give from.

Jesus told the disciples:

Matthew 10:8b AV freely ye have received, freely give.

Paul displayed it:

1Corinthians 11:23-24 AV For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake [it], and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

There's a requirement in this:

If you want to be useful to the Master, you need to eat at His table.

If you want to be helpful to others around you, you better be getting your words from Jesus.

Psychology is nice. It can be of some benefit to people.

But it's much better for people to hear what God has to say.

Spend time with the Lord each day.

Get your day's distribution from the Lord.


It would be as if Dave Dunagan went out on his UPS route on Monday morning, without having his truck loaded first with the correct packages for his customers.

You're just a UPS delivery driver for the Lord. Delivering His special delivery packages from heaven.

2. Give to those who are ready

Note: The ones they distributed to were ones who were "set down", ready to receive.

Keep an eye out for those who are hungry, and feed them.

When a person doesn't want to sit down in submission to Jesus, then they aren't really ready for eating.

:11 as much as they wanted

There was no lacking at Jesus' table.

It wasn't little "token" bits of food the people were given, but they were fed until they were full.


Jesus brings real satisfaction

When you come to Jesus, in a way you'll want more and more, yet in another way, you'll be totally satisfied!

Psalms 34:8-10 AV O taste and see that the LORD [is] good: blessed [is] the man [that] trusteth in him. 9 O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for [there is] no want to them that fear him. 10 The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good [thing].


The 19th century Bible scholar G. S. Bowes pointed out the ultimate futility of ambition that isn't accompanied by dedication to God. Citing four powerful world rulers of the past, he wrote:

"Alexander the Great was not satisfied, even when he had completely subdued the nations. He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer, and he died at an early age in a state of debauchery.

Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings taken from the knights he had slaughtered, committed suicide by swallowing poison. Few noted his passing, and he left this earth completely unmourned.

Julius Caesar, 'staining his garments in the blood of one million of his foes,' conquered 800 cities, only to be stabbed by his best friends at the scene of his greatest triumph.

Napoleon, the feared conqueror, after being the scourge of Europe, spent his last years in banishment."

In contrast,

Many of you have testimonies of how Jesus hasn't taken a broken, hurting person, and given such satisfaction and joy unspeakable.

Just yesterday, while visiting the hospital, I got to hear of such wonderful healing that the Lord can do in a person's life.


"I'd Rather Have Jesus" - George Beverly Shea

I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold,

I'd rather be His than have riches untold;

I'd rather have Jesus thatn houses or lands,

I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.

Than to be the king of a vast domain

Or be held in sin's dread sway;

I'd rather have Jesus than anything

This world affords today.

I'd rather have Jesus than men's applause,

I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause;

I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,

I'd rather be true to His holy name.

He's fairer than lilies of rarest bloom,

He's sweeter than honey from out the comb;

He's all that my hungering spirit needs,

I'd rather have Jesus and let Him lead.

:12 gather up the fragments

Why does Jesus want them to take such care with leftovers?

:13 filled twelve baskets with the fragments

Why twelve baskets? Does that number ring a bell?

The leftovers were for the disciples.


When you feed others, you too are fed.

It's kind of like going back to our story on Wednesday night, with Elijah and the widow.

God had things all planned that a certain widow would be used to feed Elijah during the drought and accompanying famine.

But the woman herself only had enough for one last meal.

When Elijah met her, he asked her to feed him first, then feed herself and her son.

God would not allow the food supply to run out until the famine was over.

But she had to be willing to put someone else ahead of herself.

She had to be willing to feed someone else before she fed herself.

It's a beautiful kind of "vicious-circle".

We have to receive from Jesus to give to others.

But as we turn to give it all out to them, we find ourselves receiving so much in return.


I have to confess, that I don't always look forward to phone calls, counseling, and such.

It's not that I don't like people, I'm just not much of a talker.

But there are times when I go into a situation where I'm kind of reluctant, and I end up getting so fed and blessed in the Lord, that I come out way higher than I went into it.

Point of Application:

Be careful when you hear yourself say, "Well, I just need to be thinking about myself instead of them."

I'm sure there may be times when that's true.

But you also just may find out that the best thing you could ever do for yourself is to be used of God, and end up being fed in the process.