The present passage narrates in detail a sign the Lord performed in Galilee—the feeding of the multitude. Although Jesus withdraws from the crowd when He knows that the people are about to make Him king by force, the multitude goes in fervent pursuit of Him until they find Him in Capernaum. In response, Jesus teaches them to believe in Him as the bread of life from heaven.
Did You Know...?
1. Two hundred denarii (6:7): One denarius was approximately one day’s wage (Mt 20:2).
- The Sign of Feeding the Great Multitude (6:1–15)
- Jesus Walks on the Sea (6:16–21)
- The People Seek Jesus (6:22–25)
- Working for the Food that Endures (6:26–29)
- Jesus the Bread of Life (6:30–40)
What two miracles are narrated in this passage?Hide Answer
1. The feeding of the great multitude (6:5–15) 2. Jesus walking on water and enabling the boat to reach the destination immediately (6:16–21)
Compare the two miracles in terms of the following: The settingHide Answer
The feeding of the multitude took place on the mountain (6:2), whereas the walking on water took place on the Sea of Galilee (6:1, 16).
The needHide Answer
The first miracle was to provide food for the followers of Jesus (6:5), whereas Jesus walked on the water to the disciples because they were having difficulty rowing against the wind.
Who witnessed the miracleHide Answer
The multitude and Jesus’ disciples witnessed the great feeding, whereas only the disciples witnessed Jesus walking on the sea.
The response to the miracleHide Answer
The men who saw the sign intended to make Jesus king by force (6:14, 15). The disciples wanted to receive (literal translation) Jesus into the boat (6:21).
What each miracle teaches us about JesusHide Answer
The miracle of the feeding demonstrates that the Lord Jesus is our ultimate provider, whereas the miracle of walking on water demonstrates that He holds power over all things, sees our struggles, and is able and willing to carry us through.
Why did the great multitude follow Jesus?Hide Answer
They followed Jesus because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased (6:2).
Is it right for us to follow the Lord Jesus for this reason? Please explain.Hide Answer
It is not wrong to be drawn to the Lord because we have seen His miraculous signs. However, the purpose of signs is for us to develop faith in the Lord Himself (cf. 2:11; 4:53, 54). As we can see later on in the story, the crowd did not believe in the Lord Jesus as the giver of eternal life, but simply wanted to be always fed and satisfied in the flesh. If we seek Jesus only for present benefits in life but are not willing to trust and obey Him as our Savior, then we are following Him for the wrong reason.
In what ways does the passage convey to us how great of a miracle it was for Jesus to feed the multitude?Hide Answer
1. Philip’s answer indicates that even with a large sum of money, it would have been impossible to give even a little to each person (6:7). 2. Andrew’s comment about the five loaves and two fish, “What are they among so many?” (6:9) underscores how miraculous it was for Jesus to feed thousands of people with such a small amount of food. 3. Jesus and the disciples allowed everyone to have “as much as they wanted” (6:11). This shows that Jesus was not concerned that the food might run out. 4. Not only did the multitude have enough, the leftover was so much that it filled twelve baskets (6:12, 13).
Why did Jesus test Philip with the question?Hide Answer
Jesus wanted the disciples to recognize and trust that He was the sovereign Lord. Philip’s response tells us that it had not yet occurred to him to turn to the Lord for solution when facing an impossible situation. But the fact that the Lord tested him with this question as well as the repeated focus on the twelve disciples in the chapter (cf. 6:16–21; 66–71) tell us that one of Jesus’ greatest concerns was to help the disciples grow in their faith in Him.
Why was this miracle called a sign?Hide Answer
A sign, by definition, is a pointer or indicator. Jesus’ miracle served a greater purpose beyond the miracle itself. Its ultimate aim is to lead us to believe in Him so that we may have eternal life (Jn 20:30, 31). The feeding of the multitude was not only to satisfy the people’s hunger, but to move them to believe that the Lord Jesus is the bread of life, as the subsequent discourse reveals.
What can you tell about the people by looking at their reaction to the sign (14, 15)?Hide Answer
Although they considered Jesus as the Prophet from God (cf. Deut 18:15), they expected Him to be an earthly ruler. They wanted to make Jesus king, to the extent that they were ready to use force. Their fervor shows that the miracle convinced them of Jesus’ power to protect and provide for them, and they eagerly wanted such a powerful leader over them. But clearly, they did not believe in Him as the redeemer and giver of eternal life. Jesus, knowing their grave misconception of His identity and mission, did not comply with their wish but departed to the mountain by Himself alone.
Describe an experience in which you toiled without success until the Lord came to your aid.
What is so reassuring about Jesus’ words, “It is I”?Hide Answer
1. “It is I” is literally “I AM”—a unique declaration of Jesus that reveals His identity as God (cf. Jn 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8; Ex 3:14; Isa 43:10, 11). Because He is the sovereign Lord, His presence itself was the disciples’ greatest assurance. 2. Perhaps the more immediate reason was that Jesus was simply calming their fear. The disciples were terrified at the sight of someone walking on the sea, for they thought they had seen a ghost (cf. Mt 14:26; Mk 6:49). Jesus put their fear to rest by letting them know that it was Him, their Lord, whom they were seeing.
Recall a similar circumstance in which you also gladly received the Lord (21).
Explain if verse 26 contradicts with verse 2. What was the underlying reason the people followed Jesus?Hide Answer
The immediate reason that the multitude followed Jesus was that they saw the signs Jesus had performed (6:2). However, when the crowd earnestly sought for Jesus after the sign of feeding, Jesus revealed an even deeper motive in them. They were seeking to be filled of their hunger. In a sense, they were still seeking Jesus because of signs. But Jesus pointed out in 6:26 that their desire to be fed physically had kept them from realizing that the signs were to lead them to faith in Him as the giver of eternal life.
What is the food that endures to everlasting life?Hide Answer
1. The words of the Lord Jesus (6:63, 68) 2. The flesh and blood of our Lord Jesus (6:51, 53–58; see the explanation of this expression in the next lesson)
How do we labor for the food which endures to everlasting life?Hide Answer
We need to come to the Lord Jesus and believe in Him (6:29, 40, 44, 47). Believing in the Lord Jesus encompasses trusting and obeying His words, knowing that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God (6:67–70; cf. 1 Jn 2:6, 24; Mt 28:20). Unlike those who only worry about and toil for their present physical needs, we ought to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt 6:31–33). The world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 Jn 2:17).
What does the people’s question in verse 30 say about them?Hide Answer
Their hearts were still dull even after Jesus had performed many signs, including the feeding that just took place. The Lord wanted them to understand that the sign of feeding the multitude pointed to Himself as the giver of the food that endures to eternal life. Yet, they completely missed the Lord’s message and could not believe in Him. Their words in verse 31 imply that they were probably expecting the Lord to give them a continuous food supply as a sign to convince them to believe in Him.
What does this say about the right attitude in believing the Lord?Hide Answer
We need to believe in the Lord Jesus on His terms, not on our terms. These are two completely different attitudes. The multitude would only believe if their demand is satisfied and if Jesus would continue to feed them. This amounts to testing the Lord, and is not true belief. On the contrary, true belief requires that we humbly entrust ourselves to the Lord Jesus and that we willingly obey Him to the end.
How is Jesus the bread of life?Hide Answer
Through His personal sacrifice, the Lord Jesus has become the source of eternal salvation for those who obey Him (Heb 5:9). Just as bread sustains a person’s life, our Lord Jesus and all that He gives us can sustain our spiritual lives (Jn 6:35; 14:19; Rom 6:23; Col 3:4; 2 Tim 1:10; 1 Jn 5:12). One specific example of this is that the Holy Spirit He has given to us continually renews us and strengthens us so that we would not be wanting in our walk of faith (Jn 7:37–39; Eph 3:16; Tit 3:5).
What promises does the Lord Jesus make here?Hide Answer
1. “He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (6:35). 2. “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (6:37). 3. “Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him [has] everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (6:40).
How have you experienced the fullness that the Lord has promised?
What does Jesus teach about the Father in this segment?Hide Answer
1. It is the Father who gives the true bread from heaven (6:32). 2. All that the Father gives to Jesus will come to Jesus (6:37). 3. Jesus has come down from heaven to do the Father’s will (6:38). 4. The will of the Father is that of all He has given Jesus, Jesus should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day (6:39). 5. The will of the Father is that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life (6:40).