< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: John 6:1-15

Friday, April 07, 2017

John 6:1-15

John 6:1-4 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 signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

So, in the past chapter Jesus spoke mostly to Jewish officials who were out to get Him. We don’t know how much time passed between then and the current scene set in the north of Galilee, but instead of people who openly opposed Him, Jesus now spoke to people who were interested in Him: the Passover pilgrims who had heard of Jesus’ miracles, casual disciples who wanted to benefit from Him and the 12 disciples He chose to walk with Him.

The Gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke fill in the background details of this next miracle. Jesus and His disciples needed to rest. Only recently Herod had executed John the Baptist, who remember was also Jesus’ cousin. (And some of Jesus’ disciples had first been John’s disciples.) Plus, the crowds were relentless.

The time was the Jewish Passover, springtime in Israel. Most Jewish men as well as their families traveled to Jerusalem for it, but Jesus decided not to this year. He was in Galilee, too far away for the temple to require Him to be there. Instead they went to the hill country above the Sea of Galilee, known today as the Golan Heights.

The men borrowed or rented a boat. They rowed across the lake to the opposite shore near where the Jordan River flows into the lake at its north end. Many people saw Jesus leave Capernaum with His disciples. There were a lot of pilgrims out and word spread quickly. People in the western towns began walking around the northern shore in search of Jesus. Pilgrims to Jerusalem who took the eastern route to avoid Samaria, would have joined in. Some of the Gospels said these people ran (about 9 miles) to see Him!

A lot of these people were sick and wanted to have Jesus heal them. And He of course had compassion for them. So, He gave up His own rest, went up the slope and sat down.
This signaled the crowd that He intended to teach them. And of course He did much more than that!

John 6:5-9 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.
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to 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?”

The other Gospels speak of the disciples’ concern to send the crowd away to find food for themselves before it became too dark. John, the only Gospel to mention Passover, jumps from the mention of that feast to this feast the Lord Jesus provides. An unexpected gift to 5000 hungry men, plus women and children. (Probably 20,000 people total).

Jesus needed no help to feed the crowd. Remember God sending the Israelites Manna from Heaven? But He had the disciples get involved and help so they would learn how much they could accomplish working with Jesus. The question He asked Philip was “to test him.”

Philip figured out what it would take and it would have been humanly impossible for them. But the disciples needed to clearly hear that first.

Phillip looked at how large the problem was. And Andrew focused on how small their resources were. Both of them had been at the wedding in Cana. Probably even drank some of the wine Jesus made… They witnessed many healings!

The boy with the loaves and fish must have been poor because that was peasant food. Bread made with barley flour. The 5 loaves would have been small, round flatbread, kind of like a pancake! The fish would have been small also – just enough to flavor the bread.

There have been a lot of sermons about this boy. Bringing all that you have – little though it is – to the Lord and God multiplying it.

John 6:10-13 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 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.
12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Other Gospels tell that it was the 12 Disciples who distributed the meal. Wouldn’t you have liked to have been there? How does 5 loaves of bread, each the size of a pancake and 2 fish even get passed out to 12 Disciples to begin with? What did this look like?
But the lesson is: God can do ANYTHING! At ANYTIME! And He does it lavishly! Everyone ate til they were satisfied and then there were lots of leftovers!

John 6::14-15 14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

Remember it was Passover, so the thoughts of the crowd jumped to Moses and Israel’s time in the wilderness. When God gave them manna. Now, here they were in the wilderness without food and Jesus provided. So they thought this must be the Prophet that Moses talked about. It was believed that Messiah would come and reign from Jerusalem and lead the nations of the world. (Which He will one day!)

But at that time the miracle was meant to show Christ’s divine authority and the compassion of God, not a government official passing out free food.

They were ready to crown Him king though if it meant never worrying about food anymore.

The world wants us to conform. Jesus shows us the example of what to do when that happens. He goes up into the mountain and pours His heart out in prayer to God. Only God can strengthen us against temptation. We all really really need alone time with God!

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