with Alan Bailey
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.
In our last study, we heard about Herod the King taking the life of John the Baptist. John was in prison because he reproved the king for taking his brother’s wife for himself. On his birthday, Herod had a celebration and the daughter of this wife danced in front of him and delighted him. He promised her a gift of anything she would name. Her mother, who hated John, told her to ask for his head on a plate. Though Herod didn’t want to do it, because of his promise to the girl, he carried it through. John was beheaded. This caused sadness among his followers and of Jesus too. We read on.
Verses 30 & 31 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
The apostles, or disciples, had been travelling around from town to town spreading the good news about God’s kingdom. We read about it earlier in this chapter. By this time they were tired and in need of rest. But crowds of people would give them no time off. Jesus understood how they felt and suggested they go to a quiet place alone. There is a time to work and a time to stop working. We can be sure God understands how we feel.
Verses 32 & 33 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognised them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.
It is typical of a crowd of people to be thoughtless and selfish. Jesus and the disciples were rowing across the Sea of Galilee and the going was slow. The people running would cover the ground and beat them to their destination. This could have been quite frustrating.
Verse 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So He began teaching them many things.
Most of us, in the same situation, would be annoyed by people spoiling a deserved break. But see Jesus ministering to them because He felt for them. What great grace and love!
Compassion means a deep feeling of sympathy and concern. The Lord knows our hearts.
Verses 35 & 36 By this time it was late in the day, so His disciples came to Him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” But He answered “You give them something to eat.”
No doubt the disciples’ suggestion was a sensible one. The day was drawing to a close and they had to go sometime soon. Obviously, they would be in need of some food. But why did Jesus tell them to provide food for such a crowd? He was testing them, full knowing what He was about to do. But their reaction was one we would all make.
Verse 37 They said to Him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
From their point of view, it was a large and costly assignment to feed such a crowd. They had no idea what Jesus would do to meet what was a very real need. Jesus would not do a miracle just for show. Only when a need was real.
Verses 38-40 “How many loaves do you have?” He asked. “Go and see.” When they found out they said, “Five-- and two fish.” Then Jesus directed to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties.
From John’s Gospel we learn that a boy offered his lunch when the inquiry was going on about available food. Still the disciples were wondering what Jesus was doing. It would all seem so strange to organise people to eat with such a tiny amount of food. But as always, Jesus was in control.
Verses 41-44 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to His disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
We should not be tempted to doubt the truth of this story. Jesus was empowered to do what is only possible with God. In this case, He took existing material and He multiplied it to meet the need and even with plenty to spare. It was an act of creation as were many of His miracles. The disciple, John, tells us how the Lord spoke about being the Bread of Life. Just as He fed people normal bread, so He would feed their souls with life giving food. All His miracles had a spiritual lesson in them.
Verses 45-46 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, He went into the hills to pray.
As Jesus wanted to be alone for a time, the first step was to send off the disciples so that the crowd would not surround them and then to take His leave and go into the hills. The boat would go to another part of the lakeside while Jesus would pray in private. He did this kind of thing often, showing His dependence on the Father.
Verses 47 & 48 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake and He was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night He went out to them, walking on the lake.
It was now dark and the weather was not favourable to those in the boat. Jesus could see how they were battling the elements. Undoubtedly, the disciples were afraid they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and it was now very dark. But then, Jesus was walking across the surface of the lake! He had power to heal sicknesses, power to create bread and power to defy gravity.
Verses 49 & 50 He was about to pass them, but when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw Him and were terrified. Immediately He spoke to them and said “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
We can imagine how those men felt. A figure coming across the water in the blackness of night when the wind was blowing and the waves were high would be scary indeed. Though they could have guessed it was Jesus, they probably didn’t. He had to tell them who He was and remove their fear.
Verses 51 & 52 Then He climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves: their minds were closed.
It seems that the disciples were being taught many things by experience. But they were slow to learn, right through until after the resurrection of Christ. The miracles astounded them but they were unable to grasp the fact that Jesus was the God-Man. To have a closed mind is a most unhelpful thing.
We have the record of what Jesus did and taught. God means for us not only to learn about Himself but to realize the great debt we owe Him. He has planned and carried out His way of salvation and let us know about it. Immediately it challenges us. If Jesus is the Lord, what does His being Lord mean to us? Are we submitting to His rule, or are we hesitant and unmoved? What about trying a little prayer after reading this study? Ask God to help you understand and to come into a right relationship with Him.