John 6 is the longest chapter in the book of John. And it’s no wonder it’s so long because there are several major occurrences that are discussed in this one chapter alone. Verses 1-14 cover the story of the feeding of 5,000. Verses 16-21 tell the story of Jesus walking on water. The remaining 50 verses are about the people looking for Jesus, tracking Him down, asking to witness more miracles, Jesus delivering one of His seven “I Am” statements, followers leaving Jesus, and the ominous statement that one of the apostles would betray Him. A lot of activity in one chapter!
The title given for today’s lesson is “I Am the Bread”.
Bread has always been a staple in the diets of most cultures. Growing up, we had bread of some kind with every meal. Even today, in many restaurants, bread is automatically served alongside an entrée. The Jews were no different. Bread was a major component of Jewish culture. In fact, bread is mentioned at least 492 times in the Bible.[i] Bread was not only a staple in the diet, but it was also used in worship. There are several Bible stories involving bread that solidify the symbolism of bread as a provision from God.
-Elijah is sent to the home of a widow and her son who are literally down to their last crumbs. Elijah asks for some bread and the widow states that she has none. She’s actually gathering sticks for their last meal. The only thing she has is a handful of flour and a little olive oil. Elijah instructs her to make him a small loaf of bread with what little she has, and she does so. God blesses her in that He doesn’t allow the flour or the oil to run out. Her faith in sharing her last bread results in God providing what she and her son need in order to survive.
-After the Israelites had fled from captivity, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. During that time, God provided them their daily bread, manna from Heaven. “The people had never seen anything like this, and they started asking each other, “What is it?” Moses answered, “This is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.” (Exodus 16:15 CEV) God gave them bread each day to satisfy their hunger, to provide for their nourishment, but He also did it to train them. “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in My law or not.” (Exodus 16:4 NKJV) The daily portion of manna was used to train the Israelites to trust God for their daily needs.
-Jesus used a piece of bread dipped in oil to identify Judas Iscariot as the apostle who would betray Him. That piece of bread provided the truth to the apostles.
-In Matthew 15, Jesus feeds 4,000 men plus women and children with seven loaves of bread and a few fish with seven baskets full of leftovers.
-And today’s Scripture follows the feeding of 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves of bread and two fish that belonged to a little boy that Andrew had spotted in the crowd. After the thousands were fed and their stomachs were full, the leftovers were gathered filling a total of twelve baskets.
In both occurrences of the feeding of thousands, the bread, along with the fish, was used to demonstrate the ability of Jesus to perform miracles as well as to establish His authority.
John 6:14 GNT “Seeing this miracle that Jesus had performed, the people there said, “Surely this is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” 15 Jesus knew that they were about to come and seize him in order to make him king by force; so he went off again to the hills by himself.”
Meanwhile, His disciples went down to the shore to wait for Him. It started getting late, and Jesus had not joined them, so they got on a boat and headed to Capernaum. John 6 tells us the waters got rough; the wind was strong. “They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking toward the boat! They were terrified, 20 but he called out to them and told them not to be afraid. 21 Then they were willing to let him in, and immediately the boat was where they were going!” (John 6:19 TLB) Not only does Jesus walk on water, but He also does so for three or four miles. And before any one of them could whine and ask, “How many more miles until we get there?”, they arrive at their destination!
Within just a few hours, Jesus has fed 5,000 plus people with a little boy’s lunch, He’s walked on water for several miles, and cut down their travel time!
The next morning, the crowds start to gather on the shore to see Jesus again. Not necessarily because they believed in Him or understood His message, but rather because He had satisfied their appetite. They knew that He had originally arrived with His disciples, and they also knew that the disciples had headed out in the boat without Him. After a bit of time, when neither Jesus nor any of His disciples could be found, the people made their way to Capernaum to look for Him. John 6:25 ICB “25 The people found Jesus on the other side of the lake. They asked him, “Teacher, when did you come here?”
26 Jesus answered, “Are you looking for me because you saw me do miracles? No! I tell you the truth. You are looking for me because you ate the bread and were satisfied.”
There is a modern-day term called the “ick factor”. It’s used to describe when someone does something that repulses you or causes you to cringe and is most often referred to in romantic relationships. However, I think the “ick factor” can occur in any relationship.
Let me share with you a personal story of the “ick factor”.
Some years ago, when I was still working, we would have a Christmas party on the last day of work before we closed for Christmas. One particular year, we decided to have pizza and hot wings, along with cookies and brownies. We would normally have approximately 40 employees in our department, and it was sometimes challenging to provide a meal that pleased everyone. The party was funded, in part, by employee donations that were taken up throughout the year. If employees wanted to wear jeans on certain days, they could do so for a small donation. The supervisors would chip in and cover any outstanding costs of the party. It was our way of thanking them for working as hard as they did throughout the year.
This one particular year, towards the end of the party, we had a fair amount of food left over and my boss told the employees that if they wanted to, they could grab another slice of pizza or a couple of hot wings to take with them. Some employees came up and did just that. Grabbed a napkin along with a slice of pizza and out the door they went. This one particular employee came up to the table and started combining several pieces of pizza into a few pizza boxes. I’m in the process of cleaning up and I assumed she was helping to clean up as well. Then she started stacking the pizza boxes on top of one another, she grabbed the platter of hot wings that were left, placed the boxes of cookies and brownies on top of all of that, and walked out of the room.
I must admit, I was a bit confused with what I was seeing. I reasoned that one of two things had occurred. Either she was taking all of the leftovers to put in the employee breakroom, or my boss had told her that she was welcome to take all of the leftovers. I didn’t know her situation. I didn’t know if she was married or had children or grandchildren. I had no idea what her financial situation was because, you see, she had literally just started on the job that week. I went to my boss just to verify that the brand-new employee had my boss’ blessing to leave with all of the leftovers that everyone else had paid for. And, uh, she did not. Those of us who were in the process of cleaning up were dumbfounded, to say the least. Who does that? Well, apparently, she does. This was not the only time something like this took place and eventually, someone had to tell her that she came across as being greedy. She didn’t see it that way at all. She considered herself a guest, but she was considered to be a glutton. Truthfully, those of us who knew what was happening kind of got the “ick” with her. She turned out to be a single woman whose children were grown. The irritating thing for me was that she never considered that there may be another employee who had a greater need for any leftovers. She was more concerned with what she could get for herself.
I’m not going to say that Jesus felt the “ick” with these people, but He certainly wasn’t pleased with them. Just the day before, He had been followed by thousands of people “because they saw the miracles he did to heal the sick.” (John 6:2 ICB) We have to wonder how many of those people followed Him in hopes of healing for themselves or a family member. They wanted something from Jesus. They wanted healing. They wanted entertainment. They wanted answers. They ended up with all of that plus a free meal. The next day, they wanted to do it all over again. They didn’t realize Jesus had so much more to offer than just dinner and a show.
John 6:26 NLT 26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”
There’s an infinite list of things we concern ourselves with that are temporary and irrelevant. Being liked, having a successful career, having enough money to pay this month’s bills, and not being left out. Getting the newest iPhone, increasing our shoe collection or purse collection. Some Christians are more concerned with the thread count of their sheets than they are about their friend’s walk with Jesus. Some people spend more time reading the news and studying the stock market but must wipe the dust off of the Bible before heading to church so that no one notices it hasn’t been picked up and used all week. We have redefined what our needs are. We get so distracted by what we want and what we don’t have that we fail to see God’s miracles every day. We sometimes seek Jesus for the wrong reasons – just like this crowd did. We go to Him asking for more of what we want and not for what He wants to give us. We should be confident that He will supply our every NEED and we should seek Him for the purpose of a relationship with Him and not for what we want from Him.
Many times we rely on Philippians 4:19 ESV for reassurance. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” That verse is 100% true, but that verse doesn’t provide an escape from troubles or hardships. That verse isn’t saying that we will receive everything we think we need. What that verse promises is that God will supply your every need as He determines and there may be times in which what you need is strength or perseverance.
John 6:28 NLT ‘28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” They are still fixated on work-based righteousness. They wanted a to-do list. To be fair, this is all they had ever known. The idea of faith-based righteousness was a foreign concept to them. In fact, it’s sometimes hard for us to understand, as well.
John 6:29 NLT ‘29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” This is probably the only time that the phrase “too good to be true” doesn’t apply. After performing miracles, right before their own eyes, Jesus speaks on God’s behalf and tells them to just simply believe in Him. And believe it or not, this is how they respond. John 6:30 NLT “30 They answered, “Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do?”
You see, it hadn’t been enough. All that Jesus had done for them and in front of them and all around them – it wasn’t enough for them to believe. They were greedy. They wanted more. They weren’t willing to give Him what He asked of them until He gave them more. They weren’t ready to believe in Him until He proved Himself a bit more. They considered themselves to be guests in His audience. He saw them as gluttons waiting for what He could do for them.
How often do we behave the same way? We really want to believe that He is in control, but the world is a mess. We say we have faith in Him, but we fret when the economy stinks, and politics are overrun by corrupt leaders. We carry coins and bills with “In God We Trust” stamped on them, but do we? Do we really trust Him in a world where it seems no one can be trusted? Our schools are no longer safe. Our shopping malls and other public areas are places of target practice for those with a chip on their shoulder. Our churches are filled with scandals, divisions, and compromises of God’s Word. Somehow, in some way, we’ve decided that all that Jesus has done and continues to do still isn’t enough for us to believe in His power, His authority, and His ability to do the impossible with all that is wrong with this sinful world.
We are greedy for the wrong things. Not just material things. We are greedy for worldly security and little to no inconveniences. We are greedy for doing things our own way in our own time with our own people. We are greedy for our expectations to be met. We are greedy with our time, our energy, and our focus. But Jesus warns us in Luke 12:15 NLT “Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”
These people who had tracked Jesus down were greedy. They weren’t satisfied because they didn’t understand. They were looking for temporary satisfaction. Jesus was offering eternal salvation.
John 6:30 ERV “So the people asked, “What miraculous sign will you do for us? If we can see you do a miracle, then we will believe you. What will you do? 31 Our ancestors were given manna to eat in the desert. As the Scriptures say, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32 Jesus said, “I can assure you that Moses was not the one who gave your people bread from heaven. But my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 God’s bread is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 The people said, “Sir, from now on give us bread like that.”
35 Then Jesus said, “I am the bread that gives life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry. No one who believes in me will ever be thirsty. 36 I told you before that you have seen me, and still you don’t believe.”
“He was saying that, as bread sustains them physically, He would sustain them spiritually. They didn’t need to look elsewhere for spiritual food, for nourishment, for sustenance – HE was their life! All they needed to do was believe in Him.”[ii]
“He was the real Bread of Heaven—the ever-present daily Manna—the lifegiving, eternal source of provision for today, tomorrow, and all eternity.”[iii]
The same is true for us. That assurance He gave to them, He gives to us. He is our never-ending supplier of life and all that we need in this life. The people wanted manna. He was their manna. He is our manna. Daily, He gives us what He knows we need. He simply wants us to believe in Him. There were two things that occurred to me this week that I think are important to mention. The first is found in Deuteronomy 8:3 HCSB “He humbled you by letting you go hungry; then He gave you manna to eat, which you and your fathers had not known, so that you might learn that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
God met the needs of the Israelites by providing something to them that was unknown. Prior to this, they had never tasted manna, they had never heard of it, nor did they know to pray for it. All they had done was grumble to Moses and Aaron about the way life used to be for them. When they were enslaved, they at least had all of the meat and bread they could eat. Now, they were starving. God allowed them to be hungry so that they would feed on something that was new to them. There are times when God allows us to go hungry, not necessarily physically, but spiritually and emotionally so that we feed on something new that He gives us.
The second thing that really stood out to me was this. God gave them manna on a daily basis, but they had to work to get it and they had to do it in God’s time. Exodus 16:21 NLT “After this the people gathered the food morning by morning, each family according to its need. And as the sun became hot, the flakes they had not picked up melted and disappeared.” God is going to provide for our daily needs at just the right time, but we have to be active and engaged to receive it.
“Hard work always pays off;Proverbs 14:23 MSG
mere talk puts no bread on the table.”
In closing, I want to circle back to the beginning of this chapter. There is an unnamed person that engaged with Jesus and demonstrates the opposite of greed. I’ve written what I think he would have said about that day.
It was going to be an exciting day. My dad stayed home from work and everything. It was only a few days before that we heard He was coming to our town. The man who was called Jesus. Some of my cousins and my friends have been talking about Him and how He can do special things. When I go to the market for my mom or when I’m helping my dad with the animals, it’s like all I hear about is Jesus. I was excited to see Him in person and see if all that I had heard was true.
My mom packed a lunch for me. We didn’t have to travel very far but I guess she thought I would get hungry during the day. When we started heading toward where Jesus was, I couldn’t believe all of the people that looked like they were doing the same thing. I was holding tight to the basket that held my food, but Mom was holding tight to my other hand so that I didn’t get lost in the crowd. My dad even picked up my little sister and carried her so that she wouldn’t get hurt or lost.
My dad found a soft, grassy spot where we could sit. Pretty soon, lots of other people had come to sit right next to us. It was so crowded. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to see anything. But then I saw a group of men sitting in a group on some rocks and they were pointing and looking at all of us, the whole crowd. Some of the men got up and started walking around the rocks and that’s when I saw Him. At least I was pretty sure it was Him. He just looked a little different from the rest. I mean, His hair, His skin, and His clothes were the same as the others, but I don’t know. There was something about His eyes. They made Him look nice and kind. I’m not sure, but I think He looked right at me for just a second or two. He smiled just a little and I don’t know. It made me feel warm inside. Before I could smile back, a tall man with curly black hair came up to me and pulled me to my feet.
My dad stood up but the tall man told him I would be okay. My dad didn’t sit back down but he didn’t stop the man either. The tall man told me to bring the basket with my lunch. He walked me over to the man with the kind eyes – the One named Jesus. As I got closer to Him, Jesus smiled even more and He held out His hands and asked, “May I have what is in your basket?” Normally, I would have made sure my mom and dad were okay with me giving things away, but there was something inside of me that just told me it was okay. This Jesus seemed very nice and I figured He must have been very hungry. There wasn’t much in the basket. It was only five small loaves of bread and two fish. That would have been just enough for me to eat and maybe be able to share with my dad, my mom, and my sister. But I gave it all to Him. I can’t really tell you why, I just did. He touched my head with His hand and looked me right in the eyes. I can’t explain it, really, but I just knew He wasn’t like any other person I had ever met in my whole life – all ten years of it!
The tall man walked me back to my family and thanked them. That’s when I realized I had given away all of my food. I was afraid that my mom and dad would be mad, coming back to them with an empty basket as I did, but they weren’t.
We watched as Jesus held up the loaves (my loaves!) in the air, and He looked towards the sky and He thanked God for them. I kind of wanted to remind Jesus that it was me that had given Him the bread, but Mom gave me the look that told me I needed to be quiet. Jesus held up the two small fish and did the same thing. And then, instead of sitting down to eat them Himself, He shared with His friends. I thought that was nice. But then His friends began to share my lunch with everybody! I sure was glad we were near the front because I figured we would have a better chance of getting a little bit and my stomach was starting to feel empty.
Sure enough, one of Jesus’ friends came to the area where we were sitting, and he tore off big pieces of bread for each of us as well as some of the fish. You probably won’t believe me, but it looked like what he gave us was more than what had been in my basket in the first place. I thought maybe he had given my family more since we were the ones who had let Jesus have it. But when I looked at everyone around us, I saw that everybody had gotten a lot of food. It didn’t make sense to me and when I asked my dad, he couldn’t tell me how Jesus had done it.
I ate and ate until I couldn’t eat anymore. I looked at my dad and I knew that look. His belly was full! We had not eaten too much to get sick, but we had had just enough to feel full and satisfied. All around me, I could hear people whispering to one another. “What just happened?” “How did He do that?” “I’m stuffed. Are you?” I looked up at the rocks and saw Jesus looking at me. This time, I got to smile back at Him. I felt like Jesus was my friend and I had never had a friend like Him before.
There were lots of sick people there that day, but they felt much better when they left. There were even people who couldn’t walk or couldn’t see when they first got there, but they could once Jesus touched them. My mom and dad and a lot of the other adults were saying that Jesus did miracles and that He should be our king. Honestly, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to what they were talking about because I was watching Jesus’ friends filling up baskets with leftover bread and fish. I counted them and there were twelve friends and each one of them was carrying a big basket and all of the baskets were full. I don’t know how He did it, but I know He did. I saw it with my own eyes.
Maybe it didn’t make sense to give Jesus everything I had, but I don’t regret it. I admit I was scared that my parents were going to get mad, but to me, it was worth it. When I looked into His kind eyes, I just knew He would take care of everything. I trusted Him and somehow, I just wanted to do everything and anything for Him. I never thought my small lunch would have made a difference. But I learned a lesson today that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. If you willingly give Jesus what you have, no matter how small it may be, He’ll make it bigger and better than you ever thought possible and you’ll end up with more than you had before. He just wants you to believe in Him.