. The all sufficent bread of life (Part 1)


John 6:1-15 (ESV) 1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.



This morning we start a new series which I want to entitle “The all sufficient bread of life.” We can do one of two things. We can fly over this very familiar story and simply affirm a few things we know, or we can dig deep and study this section in detail and grow from it. An in depth study will add strength to our foundations and we will grow in our love for and appreciation of Christ.


As we come to John chapter 6 we come to the fourth recorded miracle of Jesus Christ. This miracle is of utmost importance for various reasons. Firstly because it is the only miracle that is recorded by all the Gospel writers but then also because of its significance which is spelled out better for us here than by the other gospel writers. Matthew and Luke were more interested in the miracle itself; Mark stressed the loving compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. John is going to show us the historical significance which is of critical importance to us even today.


What excites me about the four records is that we know that this is a real event, a supernatural event which once again testifies to the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. How do we know that? The four stories are presented sufficiently from different angles that we know that the writers did not collaborate in their writing, but there is sufficient agreement so that we know that this is not a made up story. It is a true event recorded by four different gospel writers. The story is presented to us in Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:12-17 and here. It is only John by the way that tells us that the event took place during the time of the Passover; it is only John that tells us that the loaves were barley loaves which was the poorest kind. It is only John who tells us of the reason why the leftovers were gathered and it is only John that tells us the response of the crowds.


Now just a reminder. As we study this story together from various angles over the next few weeks, we are once again going to see that the reason for John’s writing which is recorded in John 20:30-31 (ESV) 30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”


That’s what this miracle speaks about.

Some Background

I believe that understanding some of the background to this section is important to understand. It is in the text for a reason. This event according to verse four takes place just before the Jewish Passover. We read about one Passover in chapter two, this is the next one which is app. 1 year before the death of our Lord Jesus. It takes place sometime after the events in chapter 5. It does not tell us that it immediately happened but it simply says: “after this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee”.


We are told that Jesus and His disciples made their way to the north-eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.  It was also called the Sea of Tiberius because the city of Tiberius was on its south-western shore.  Since the largest area of Galilee was to the west of the sea, the “other” side would have been the eastern side, where it was less populated and more remote.  In fact, the passages that tell us why they made this trip also tell us that it was a remote, or solitary place, to which they went.


Although it is called a “Sea” it is actually a very large fresh water lake.  It is app. 19 km long and 6.5 to 11 km wide. It is between 27 and 65 meters deep.  Why did they head to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee?


Point 1. The need of Christ and His disciples.


Jesus and His disciples were human by the way and had to rest and get aside by themselves. This speaks of the fact that Jesus was both man and God at the same time. In the Gospel of Mark we see that immediately preceding this time the twelve disciples were sent out. Mark 6:7-13 (ESV) 7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. 10 And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. 11 And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 12 So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.”

So the disciples went through a period of exhausting ministry.  Then we read in Mark 6:30-31 (ESV) 30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”


So Christ has no mind-set that His servants must not rest. There is a lesson here from the Chief Shepherd and the One who leads all under shepherds that makes me feel uncomfortable as I am very guilty in this regard.  Ministry requires some down time.  It doesn’t mean that we seek to escape ministry, but rather we must make sure that we take care of ourselves physically and in terms of emotional and mental energy.  Such a time is obviously filled with communion and reflection.


Jesus Himself had been involved in ongoing ministry that John does not record at this time. We pick this up from Matthew 11 where we see Jesus preaching and teaching in their towns and cities. And it is also just before this event that we read in Matthew 14 that John the Baptist was beheaded. This must have had an impact on Christ. Matthew 14:12-13 (ESV) 12 And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. 13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.”

This is exactly the same setting as we are dealing with in John 6.  Immediately after this event we see Jesus again being alone. Matthew 14:23 (ESV) 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,”


So Jesus knew what it was to rest in a time of need and even in a time of grief. I think even though this might not be recorded by John as a moral lesson for us, there is a lesson for us. There are going to be things in this life that tire us that hurt us and that grieve us.  There are times that it will be relational and at other times it will be in the form of things that simply shake us. Right now we have families in our church who are grieving and others who are dealing with serious illness. Others are dealing with the illnesses of family who more than likely will not survive the illness. And I know they know that God is sovereign and loves them. Jesus did not have this flippant response of, “ok, John’s been beheaded let’s get on with life.” He who knew the full will of God dismissed the crowd and went up on the mountainside by Himself to pray.

What is our response to this? Our Saviour gives us an example of what we are to do when He determined to find a solitary place. Remember that Jesus is God from all eternity, but He is also human from the standpoint of the incarnation. Sometimes I think we read these statements about Christ thinking that He was one who never grieved or had any feeling. Even today you and I need to realise that God even grieves in His deity. We all know that we can even grieve the Holy Spirit, right?

So, if Jesus went to the Father at that time, what is the lesson for us? Go to God, get alone with the Lord, and allow Him to do His work in your life at that time.


Point 2. The dilemma of Christ.

The reality, of course, is that it wouldn’t be a time of rest and solitude. I can’t read this without feeling sorry for my Saviour.  He is my God and my King, but in order to redeem us He also became our brother.  That is, He became a man.  God became a man.  And here He was longing for a place by Himself, but there was no place to be found. Matthew 14:13 (ESV) “13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.” Mark 6:33 (ESV)33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.” By the time they reached their destination a mass of people were already waiting for them. Matthew 14:14 (ESV) 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.”


So how many people were there? Matthew 14:21 (ESV) “21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Now there were woman and children. Even with conservative estimates there probably between 15,000 and 20,000 people there. There was a great crowd a great multitude.


Point 3. The response of Christ.


There is something instructive about the life of Christ in this. When He saw the crowds, what did He feel? John 6:5 (ESV)5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”


What did Jesus see, what did Jesus feel? Did He feel agitation? Most of us would have been wouldn’t we have? You are tired, overworked and then people want your ministry assistance. Did He feel resentment? Did He feel nothing? No, He felt compassion.


Look at Matthew 14:14 (ESV) 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” I believe there is a very real challenge in it for us. Do we have compassion as we look around us for people and what they are going through?  Now we know from the life and ministry of Jesus that His compassion was not only for the physical needs but also for their spiritual needs.


Mark illustrates this well for us in Mark 6:33-34 (ESV) 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” How did Jesus demonstrate His compassion? He taught them.


But Jesus did have a concern for their physical needs. Matthew just told us that He healed their sick. So all day long He had been ministering, because the Bible tells us that they got to the end of the day. Ok, guys, time to go home now? But then all four of the Gospels focus on their need for food and remember they are in a remote place. No Mac Donald’s or KFC around there.


Now I believe that in the four gospels we have a recording of a whole lot of conversation that was taking place. According to John, Jesus was the one who asked what they were going to feed the crowd. In Luke the disciples’ opinion was that they needed to leave to go and find food and lodging. But Jesus wasn’t going to send them away; He was going to provide for them Himself. Isn’t it a comforting thing to know that God is not just concerned about our spiritual needs, but He is also concerned about our physical needs?


He really is. Doesn’t Matthew 6 teach us that we must not worry about what we eat or wear, why? Because our Heavenly Father knows that we need these things, and He cares and He provides. The stage was now set for a miracle that would demonstrate that Jesus is greater than Moses and Jesus is greater than Elisha, and that Jesus is not only the source of bread, he himself is the bread of life that has come down from heaven.

Closing observations:

So all I wanted to do today was to give a bit of a background for this miracle. We will get into it in more detail later. But I want us to observe a few things about our Saviour just from what we shared this morning.

Observe the selflessness of our Saviour. He was tired, He was grieved about the death of John, and He was longing for a place of solitude, yet when He saw the crowds He just continued giving Himself away. I believe that this is a trait of our Saviour that we must imitate. I believe that we ourselves from time to time are going to be presented with circumstances that we have not planned for, but for the sake of Christ we will put our own desires and programme aside to be those who are filled with compassion. How often have you not marked a day on your calendar and stated that nothing will interfere with that, and guess what? You have a story before you.

Observe the love of our Saviour. He was tired, He was grieved, and He was longing for a place of solitude, yet His response to the presence of these crowds was one of compassion and concern. Christ did not only come to teach about a new commandment. He lived the new commandment.

Observe the mercy and grace of our Saviour. This was His response despite the fact that He knew that most of the crowd was there for the wrong reason. We are going to see that most of them followed Christ because of what they could get out of Him. He didn’t have compassion upon them because they were good people with pure motives, but because they were people in need of a shepherd.  He didn’t have compassion because of who they were, but because who they weren’t. Do we realise that we are in the same boat. I’m not saved because I deserved it. It was grace and mercy.

Observe the power and sufficiency of our Saviour. He had the ABILITY to meet their needs, and He took the ACTION to meet their needs, and He was ACTUALLY the answer for their needs. He is all sufficient to meet any need we may have in our lives.


Next week we will come back and begin to look at the miracle that took place here, and the many lessons contained in that miracle.



Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: - 31 May 2015