John 6:1-14

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 23, 2010


We have been down south in the area of Jerusalem, watching the events as Jesus healed a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years.

We now skip ahead a bit in time and pick up the ministry of Jesus back in the northern region of Galilee.

6:1-14 Feeding the Five Thousand

Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

:1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.

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

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

:2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.

:2 signssemeion – a sign, mark, token

These were the various miracles that Jesus did.

Though signs are intended to be something that helps a person believe in Jesus (John 20:30-31), it seems that this crowd isn’t quite ready to believe.
(Jn 20:30–31 NKJV) —30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
They are interested in the miraculous, not the Miracle Worker.

:2 diseasedastheneo – to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless; sick

This is the same word John used to describe the man in John 5

(Jn 5:5 NKJV) Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years.

This man’s healing was just one picture of the many people Jesus had been healing.

:3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.

:3 mountainoros – a mountain

Don’t be thinking of Big Bear, and snowboarding.

In Israel, most of the “mountains” are what we would call “hills”.

The hill known as the “mount of Beatitudes” is about the size of Acacia hill.

The other gospels give us a little more of the back story to what we’re about to read.

Matthew tells us that John the Baptist had just been beheaded by Herod, and Jesus has just found out about it.

(Mt 14:13–14 NKJV) When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.
It kind of seems to me that Jesus is a bit shook up about John’s death and wants to get away from the crowds. But instead the crowds track Jesus down and follow Him.

Mark records one other aspect of this event. The apostles had been out on a series of “mission trips” (like Manny leading a team to Mexico), preaching in the various villages of Galilee. They return to tell Jesus all about their adventures, and it’s possible that they were the ones bringing the news of John’s death.

(Mk 6:30–31 NKJV) Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.
It was supposed to be a time of rest for the disciples. But they aren’t going to get much rest.

Luke gives us a clue as to where this took place:

(Lk 9:10b NKJV) …Then He took them and went aside privately into a deserted place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
Bethsaida is on the northern edge of the lake. It was Peter’s hometown.
Even though the ruins of Bethsaida are now 1.5 miles from the lake, in Jesus’ time the lake was a bit bigger.  Earthquakes have caused the shoreline to change, leaving Bethsaida a little ways from the water.  In Jesus’ day, Bethsaida was on the lake, a fishing town.  There has been a mosaic uncovered in Bethsaida that has pictures of fishing boats.
Play GoogleEarth video “Bethsaida”.  You’ll notice that Bethsaida is located between two hills, barren hills.  Possibly one of these hillsides may have been the place where our story took place.

: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.

Maimonides was a famous medieval Jewish philosopher.  He wrote,

“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 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.

:4  Passover – The Passover was the holiday that celebrated the deliverance of the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt.

It was the blood of a lamb painted on the doorposts of a house that allowed the angel of death to “pass over” the Jewish households, while all the firstborn of Egypt were killed.

The Passover was also connected to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leaven in bread is what puffs it up and makes it fluffy. Unleavened bread is flat, like pita bread or crackers. For seven days the people would eat unleavened bread to remember how they fled from Egypt without having the time to let the bread rise.

It’s not a coincidence that Jesus is going to multiply loaves of bread and declare that He is the “Bread of Life” at the time of this feast.

This is also one of John’s unique time markers. John is the only gospel to date Jesus’ ministry by the Jewish Feasts. The other gospels only mention the Passover at the end of Jesus’ ministry. John mentions the Passover in John 2.  It is possible that the feast of John 5 might have also been a Passover.  That places us in the middle of Jesus’ ministry.

:5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”

Jesus was aware of the situation.

Sometimes we can be so consumed with our own lives that we are unaware that there are other needs besides our own all around us.

Jesus has just lost a special person in His life – John is dead.

The disciples are tired from their mission trip.

The disciples don’t seem to be paying attention to the fact that the crowd is starting to get hungry, but Jesus is.

 :6 But this He said to test him,

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

Sometimes this word carries the idea of being “tempted”, as in being enticed to sin, but that is not the case in this situation. 


The Test
An older couple had a son, who was still living with them. The parents were a little worried, as the son was still unable to decide about his future career. So they decided to do a small test. They put a note on the front hall table that they had left. Around the note they put a ten-dollar bill, a Bible, and a bottle of whiskey. Then they hid, pretending they were not at home. The father told his wife, “If our son takes the money, he will be a businessman, if he takes the Bible, he will be a pastor, but if he takes the bottle of whiskey, I’m afraid our son will be a no-good drunkard.” So the parents hid in the nearby closet and waited nervously. Peeping through the keyhole they saw their son arrive. The son read the note that they had left. Then he took the ten-dollar bill, looked at it against the light, and slid it in his pocket. After that, he took the Bible, flipped through it, and put it under his arm. Finally, he grabbed the bottle, opened it, and took an appreciative whiff to be assured of the quality. Then he left for his room, carrying all three items. The father slapped his forehead and said: “This is worse than I could ever have imagined!” “What?!” asked the wife. “Our son is going to be a politician!”

Jesus is not “tempting” Phillip to do something bad.  Jesus is testing Phillip to see if he’ll do something right.

You might say it’s a “pop quiz”.


Difficulties and Quizzes.

Sometimes the difficult things that we go through are in fact “tests” from God.
One day at a trial, an eminent psychologist was called to testify. A severe no nonsense professional, she sat down in the witness chair unaware that its rear legs were set precariously on the back of the raised platform. “Will you state your name?” asked the district attorney. Tilting back in her chair, she opened her mouth to answer, but instead catapulted head-over-heels backward and landed in a stack of exhibits and recording equipment. Everyone watched in stunned silence as she extricated herself, rearranged her disheveled dress and hair and was reseated on the witness stand. The glare she directed at onlookers dared anyone to so much as smirk. “Well, doctor,” continued the district attorney without changing expression, “we could start with an easier question.”
I think that some of us would appreciate “easier questions”.
The disciples are now faced with the impossible task of feeding thousands of people without adequate resources, all while being drop-dead-tired.
I would imagine that there are some aid workers and mission agencies facing the same kind of test right now in Haiti.
I’ll bet that there are some of us in this room, in the current difficult state of the economy, who are facing similar tests.
To be honest, most of us have never appreciated the “pop quizzes” of life.
But there are reasons a teacher gives a quiz:
1.  It reveals how you are doing

It shows whether you’ve been paying attention in class.

Paul wrote,

(2 Co 13:5 NLT) Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.



During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director which is the criteria that defines a patient to be institutionalized. “Well,” said the Director, “we fill up a bathtub; we offer a teaspoon, a teacup, and a bucket to the patient and ask the patient to empty the bathtub.” Okay, here’s your test:

1. Would you use the spoon?

2. Would you use the teacup?

3. Would you use the bucket?

“Oh, I understand,” said the visitor. “A normal person would choose the bucket since it is larger than the teacup or spoon.” “No,” answered the Director. “A normal person would pull the plug.”

How did you do?  Are you ready to be released???

2.  It is an incentive to study

Knowing that your teacher is prone to pop quizzes might just be the thing to keep you paying attention in class and doing your homework.

Paul wrote,

(2 Ti 2:15 NLT) Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.


Passing the test

Abraham faced a test.
(Ge 22:1–2 NKJV) Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”
We know that Abraham passed his test.  He took his beloved son to the place of sacrifice was as he raised the knife to sacrifice his son, God stopped him
(Ge 22:12 NKJV) And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
If God was tempting Abraham to sin by killing his son, then God would have let Abraham kill him.  But God wasn’t tempting Abraham to sin, God was TESTING Abraham to see if he was willing to trust God and do what God asked.
Abraham passed his test.
A Mother writes,
“I was out walking with my 4 year old daughter. She picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth. I took the item away from her and I asked her not to do that. “Why?” my daughter asked. “Because it’s been laying outside, you don’t know where it’s been, it’s dirty and probably has germs” I replied. At this point, my daughter looked at me with total admiration and asked, “Wow! How do you know all this stuff?” “Uh,” ....I was thinking quickly, “All moms know this stuff. It’s on the Mommy Test. You have to know it, or they don’t let you be a Mommy.” We walked along in silence for 2 or 3 minutes, but she was evidently pondering this new information. “OH...I get it!” she beamed, “So if you don’t pass the test you have to be the daddy.” “Exactly” I replied back with a big smile on my face and joy in my heart.”
Even though we usually think of this verse in the sense of being tempted to sin, the principle seems to apply with the idea of being “tested” as well:
(1 Co 10:13 NKJV) No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

God promises to make a way through the difficulty you are in.

For the disciples, the “way” didn’t look like much.  It was a little boy and his lunch.  And of course, Jesus.

I think a key to passing God’s tests is learning to trust Him.  That’s how Abraham did it:
(Heb 11:17 NKJV) By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
Am I willing to take the problem to God, ask for His help, and trust Him with the answer?
That’s apparently what Andrew was willing to do.

He found a little boy.  He brought the child to Jesus.  He expected Jesus to do something.

So how is Philip going to do on his test?

:6 for He Himself knew what He would do.

I think this is a key when it comes to trusting Him.  Do you believe that He knows what He’s doing?


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 wants to do with our trials and tests.

He’s not trying to load the bridge with so much stuff it will break.

He’s proving that you can do it.

When we fail our trials, it’s not because we weren’t strong enough, it’s because we simply quit.

:7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”

:7 denarii – equivalent to a day laborer’s wages for a day, let’s say about $100.

Two hundred denarii is roughly $20,000.

Philip is saying that $20,000 wouldn’t be enough to just by a little bite for each person.

:8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him,

We don’t hear much about Andrew.  He’s just usually mentioned as “Peter’s brother”.

But when the other disciples are scratching their heads, Andrew is doing something.

It might not look like much, but he’s right on target.

:9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

:9 ladpaidarion – a little boy; younger than school age

barley loaves – see picture

small fish – one common small fish in the lake is Tilapia, called “St. Peter’s fish” in Israel.

This is how you eat it … See pic



It seems to me that one of the keys to this whole story is availability.
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.
(2 Ch 16:9a NKJV) For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him…
All it takes is one small boy, willing to share his lunch.
All it takes is an Andrew willing to say, “It’s not much, but here it is.”
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.

:10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

It’s springtime.  The place is green.  Lots of grass to sit on.

Mark tells us that they broke the crowd into groups of fifty and a hundred (Mark 6:40)

(Mk 6:40 NKJV) —40 So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties.

:10 men … five thousand – John gives us the number of the men, but there were more than just men there:

(Mt 14:21 NKJV) Now those who had eaten were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

There might have been 10,000 people come to dinner…

:11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.

Unleavened bread and fish … sounds to me like fish tacos!

:12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”

:13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.

:13 twelve baskets – each of the twelve disciples came back with a basket of fragments.

:14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

:14 the Prophet – We mentioned this individual known as “the Prophet” last week.

This is what Moses called the Messiah:

(Dt 18:15 NLT) Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.
The people are beginning to get it.  Kind of.


Fed by feeding

How are you doing in your “tests”?
Do you tend to bail on your responsibilities when like gets uncomfortable?
I find it interesting to recall that Jesus and the disciples were already stressed and tired, and yet they get up to do just a little bit more.
I find it even more interesting that while they were feeding others, they had their own needs met.
What has God been saying to you today?  Think about it while we review what we’ve studied … Play “John” video clip.