A word for the heart

with Alan Bailey

John 6:1-24


loaves and fish

Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.


There is so much that we can learn from the Gospel of John. Our Great Teacher is the Lord Jesus Himself. In chapters five and six, He is dealing with the questions and doubts people have about who He is. He gives them plenty of reasons to believe, but so many are blind and stubborn. So the chapters are long as Jesus gives them more and more to think about. Jesus cannot be passed off as just an unusual teacher: He doesn't allow that. He can be no less than the Son of God. Take note of the reasons as we proceed.

Chapter 6

Verses 1-4 Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed Him because they saw the miraculous signs He had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on the hillside and sat down with His disciples. The Jewish Passover was near.

Crowds walked great distances to be able to see the miracles of healing. It was curiosity, not some allegiance to the Lord that moved them. As a result, the crowds were at times a long way from their homes. The Passover mentioned was the annual remembrance of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt.

Verses 5 & 6 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.

Notice how Jesus thought about the need of these people who had travelled so far. He knew they would be hungry and He determined to feed them. In questioning Philip, He was expecting an answer saying that it was impossible to feed such a crowd.

Verses 7-9 Philip answered Him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite." Another of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up. "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

Sure enough, the disciples used their own judgment in the matter and said what seemed the sensible thing to say. Little did they expect the Lord to do what He did. He was about to show another sign that was evidence of His divine nature and ministry.

Verses 10 & 11 Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

The supply of the food was a creative miracle but the distribution of the food was quite an undertaking. Mark's Gospel tells us that the disciples arranged the crowd into groups of hundreds and fifties and carried the bread and fish to all the ranks. What an impression that would make on all concerned! Note that Jesus gave thanks to the Father for the loaves and the fish which He was about to multiply.

Verses 12 & 13 When they all had enough to eat, He said to His disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

We can imagine with a crowd that size that scraps would be dropped and many would not finish eating their crusts. Seeing this, the Lord made sure nothing would be lost. Probably many would be able to take some food with them as they went home. Obviously, there was a generous amount of food available, not just barely enough. How like God this is. Giving in abundance.

Verses 14 & 15 After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again into the hills by Himself.

The people had become somewhat excited by this event and recognized that here was the long-expected Messiah. They hoped for a leader who would take away the rule of Rome which was over them and reign as their king. This was never God's plan and Jesus avoided any opportunity for the people to force Him into such a position.

Verses 16 & 17 When evening came, His disciples went down to the lake where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them.

We can only conclude that Jesus had told them to go to Capernaum, otherwise they would have waited for Him to come down from the hills. They would have thought that Jesus would take another way to join them later. Again, He was to surprise them.

Verses 18-21 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But He said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid." Then they were willing to take Him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.

This day was to a memorable one for the disciples. They saw things impossible to mere men, carried out by One who was different. Very different. It's not hard to imagine why they were terrified to see in the gloom a man walking across the water. When they were sure it was the Lord they welcomed Him into the boat which shortly was at its destination.

Matthew's Gospel tells of Peter venturing to walk on the sea at Jesus' invitation. He did so until his faith wavered and he began to sink. Jesus lifted him up and they both boarded.

Verses 22 & 24 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with His disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, they got into boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.

The crowd that remained on the scene were mystified about how Jesus departed without a boat. Now they were planning to go and find Him again. They were not devoted to Him; just curious and fickle.


People find it hard to believe in miracles. Of course, they seem to us quite impossible. But we need to remember that this great wide universe was created by the power of God. If He is able to bring about this phenomenon, a miracle or two is nothing in comparison. God is able to do all that He wills to do. He understands the world which He made and is able to control it. The miracles were not done as a mere show. They always had a meaning and a purpose. They are recorded for us to read today and to see the great significance they have.

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