John 6 Bible Study
How much time had elapsed since the beginning of Jesus' ministry?
About one year, as this is the second "Passover" (John 6:4) mentioned (the first one was mentioned and explained in John 2:13), so Jesus is one-third into His 3-year ministry. This Passover is also 6 months after the previous "feast of the Jews" mentioned in John 5, which shows that the Gospel of John, like the other three Gospels is not a diary. Each of the 4 Gospel writers described the highlights in Jesus' ministry as led by the Holy Spirit, so there are overlaps, as well as elements unique to each of them.
Why did "a great multitude" (John 6:2) follow Jesus?
"because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased" (John 6:2).
Was Jesus' question, “Where shall we buy bread,
that these may eat?” (John 6:5) to Philip intended to start a private conversation?
Since at least one other disciple, Andrew also replied to the question, it was heard by more than just Philip, and probably by many if not all of the 12 disciples.
Then why might Jesus have addressed the question to Philip?
John 1:44 says, "Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter." Since Bethsaida was only about 15 miles northeast of where they were (see below), Philip would have known the area well and could attest to the fact that there was no source of food in the immediate vicinity, setting the stage for the miracle Jesus was about to perform.
Since Andrew and Peter were also from Bethsaida, why was
the question addressed to Philip?
Philip just may have been standing nearest to Jesus at that moment.
Did the crowd number "about five thousand" (John 6:10)?
No, the "men" (John 6:10) numbered about that, which means that including the women and the children, it probably numbered about ten to fifteen thousand, if not more.
What other clues are there to the size of this crowd?
One denarius (plural: denarii) was the wage for one-day's labor, so "two hundred denarii worth of bread" (John 6:7) was the amount of bread you could buy with about 8-months' (including rest on the Sabbath) income, which "is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little." (John 6:7) Given that the closest towns of Bethsaida and Capernaum each only had a couple of thousand inhabitants, this was a massive crowd. The whole region had emptied out.
What was Andrew describing with, “There is a lad
here who has five barley loaves and two small fish" (John 6:9)?
The "barley loaves" would be comparable to today's dinner rolls and the two fish were "small". This was a a meal for one kid.
Honestly, do you believe the details of this account?
How can anyone feed thousands with a kid’s lunch, and then
end up with more food after than before?
Do you believe a baby can run a marathon?
Of course not.
Do you believe that an Olympic marathoner could?
What someone can or cannot do is a function of the task relative to the ability of the doer. If Jesus is God who made the universe, feeding a few thousand would have been a cake walk, and this applies to all other miracles recorded in the Bible.
How many baskets of the barley loaves' fragments were left over?
"Twelve." (John 6:13)
Might there be any significance to bread that filled twelve baskets?
While it isn't explicit, there is, as there is with many numbers in the Bible. Elaborating on this one is made easier by contrasting this miracle with the other feeding miracle recorded in Mark 8:1-9: " 1 In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, 2 “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.” 4 Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?” 5 He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven.” 6 So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude. 7 They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them. 8 So they ate and were filled, and they took up seven large baskets of leftover fragments. 9 Now those who had eaten were about four thousand. And He sent them away." The first thing to note is that while the feeding miracle recorded in John took place near Bethsaida, which is on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee and had a predominantly Jewish population, the feeding miracle recorded in Mark took place in "Decapolis" (Mark 7:31), which is on the southeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and had a predominantly gentile population.
How many baskets of bread were left over after the two feedings?
"Twelve" in the Jewish region and "seven" in the gentile region.
What might the twelve baskets of bread in the Jewish region represent?
Food for the twelve tribes of Israel.
How about the seven baskets of bread in the gentile region?
The seven nations of gentiles that God told Moses He would cast off the Promised Land: “When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than you..." (Deuteronomy 7:1)
Where did remnants of those seven nations end up?
In the region of Decapolis where Jesus' second feeding miracle took place.
In both miracles, what was left over?
What did Jesus refer to Himself as?
“I am the bread of life,” (John 6:35 below) as well as the "Word" of God (John 1:1)
And is there any difference in the types of baskets in
which the left over bread was collected?
As a matter of fact, there is. The Greek word translated "baskets" in John 6:13 is kophinos, meaning little wicker baskets, while the word translated, "large baskets" in Mark 8:8 is spuris, meaning the much bigger, duffel bag-sized versions.
So putting it all together, what do the baskets of bread represent?
The "bread of life" - "Word" of God - satisfying the initial hearers, and then being carried to all nations - Jews and the Gentiles - by those who were fed, and the bigger baskets for the gentiles alluding to their greater numbers and the greater distances to be travelled to reach them.
By the way, how would you compare Philip and Andrew’s answers to Jesus’
question in John 6:9?
Philips looked at the task and gave up (John 6:7). Andrew is a step better (John 6:8).
But who is the unsung hero in the first feeding miracle?
Do you think Andrew stole the kid's meal or ripped it out of his hands?
No, the kid most likely gave it up voluntarily.
And did he give a part of his meal or the whole thing?
The whole thing.
What lesson is there for us?
If you want to serve God, hand everything you have over to Him – your time, body, skills, etc., and ask Him to do with them as He pleases - and then watch Him to do unimaginable things.
By the way, do you think the kid went hungry?
The "they” in John 6:12 includes the kid, who got to eat as much as he could.
Could Jesus have fed those people if the boy had not
volunteered his meal?
Of course. He created the universe with just His words. Jesus doesnt need anyone to work His will. When He has us play a part in His work, that’s a blessing and a favor from Him to us, not vice versa.
What did the crowd call Jesus after being fed?
"Prophet." (John 6:14)
Just any old prophet?
"the Prophet who is to come into the world." (John 6:14)
Why "the" Prophet?
They were referring to a specific prophet - the one Moses had said would be like him: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear..." (Deuteronomy 18:15)
Why would they consider Jesus to be "like" Moses?
The last time multitudes of Jews were fed miraculously was during Moses' time: "And they journeyed from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them, “Oh, that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat and when we ate bread to the full! For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” 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. And it shall be on the sixth day that they shall prepare what they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” Then Moses and Aaron said to all the children of Israel, “At evening you shall know that the LORD has brought you out of the land of Egypt. And in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD; for He hears your complaints against the LORD. But what are we, that you complain against us?” Also Moses said, “This shall be seen when the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening, and in the morning bread to the full; for the LORD hears your complaints which you make against Him. And what are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the LORD.” Then Moses spoke to Aaron, “Say to all the congregation of the children of Israel, ‘Come near before the LORD, for He has heard your complaints.’” Now it came to pass, as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the complaints of the children of Israel. Speak to them, saying, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread. And you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’” So it was that quails came up at evening and covered the camp, and in the morning the dew lay all around the camp. And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat." (Exodus 16:1-15)
What had Moses done with the Israelites?
God had used him to free the Jews from bondage under the Egyptians.
What did the crowd around Jesus want to do after the miracle?
"Take Him by force and make him King." (John 6:15)
So that He can do what for them?
Free them from the bondage under the Romans.
Is that why Jesus had come?
Why had Jesus come?
To free us from sin and hell.
Where did the disciples go after the miracle?
They "got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum." (John 6:17)
Did Jesus go with them?
Why would the disciples leave their rabbi behind?
We will see below.
Where did Jesus go?
"to the mountain by Himself alone." (John 6:15)
He wanted to pray: "And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray." (Mark 6:46)
Why might He have wanted to pray upon perceiving that they
wanted to make Him king?
If He were to become king and free Israel from Roman bondage, He would be able to avoid crucifixion, so He may have felt tempted: "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:14-15)
How does prayer help against temptation?
You’re asking God (the Father in this case) to have the Holy Spirit flick the Devil off your shoulder for you, and He does: "the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations." (2 Peter 2:9)
Is this the full account or the abbreviated account?
The abbreviated. A fuller account is in Mark 6:47-51: "47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. 49 And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled." And an even fuller account is in Matthew 14:23-33: "23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. 25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God."
How many miracles are found within these accounts in John,
Mark and Matthew?
At least six.
What are they?
1. Jesus saw them "straining at rowing" (Mark 6:48) even though they were "about three or four miles" (John 6:19) away and it was the middle "of the night." (Matthew 14:25)
2. Jesus walks "on the sea". (John 6:19, Mark 6:48, Matthew 14:25)
3. Jesus has Peter walk "on the water." (Matthew 14:29)
4. Jesus reaches out to Peter from distance. Imagine yourself walking on water but starting to sink. If the person who can keep you from sinking is close by enough, you would just grab onto him or lunge to grab onto him; you wouldn't ask for his help. The fact that Peter "cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30) indicates that Jesus was some distance away, and indeed "stretched out His hand" to catch Peter. (Matthew 14:30)
5. Jesus ceases the wind. (Mark 6:51, Matthew 14:32)
6. Jesus took the boat from the "middle of the sea" (Matthew 14:24) to land “immediately”. (John 6:21)
When did Peter began to sink?
When he took his eyes off Jesus and instead focused on the adversity around him. (Matthew 14:30)
What 2 lessons can be drawn from this for us?
1. When all hell breaks lose around you, keep your focus locked onto Jesus. And instead of praying for the waves and the winds to die down, ask Jesus to enable you to keep walking.
2. "Straining at rowing" (Mark 6:48) without Jesus onboard is futile.
Where were the people "standing" (John 6:22)?
Most like on the west-northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, just down the mountain from where they had been fed miraculously the day before. Tiberias, which was "near the place where they ate bread" (John 6:23) would have been to the south, and Capernaum and Bethsaida, the two fishing towns on the northern tip of the Sea would have been "on the other side" (John 6:25) to the northeast.
Why were the people standing there?
When Jesus went off to pray by Himself, instead of dispersing, at least some of them had followed the disciples to the sea shore, thinking that since rabbis never went anywhere without their disciples, Jesus would return for them, at which point they could crown Him king. Had the disciples waited for Jesus' return and tried to leave in the boat with Jesus aboard, the people would have tried to "take Him by force to make Him king" (John 6:15), which most likely would have led to commotion if not violence between them and His disciples. When the disciples left in the boat by themselves, the people let them go and had focused on keeping an eye out for Jesus returning from the mountain, as they were sure that He "had not entered the boat with His disciples." (John 6:22) By letting the disciples go first in the boat and then walking out to them in the middle of the night, Jesus had thwarted their plan for forced coronation without the commotion.
Why did the "other boats" come
"from Tiberias" (John 6:23)?
The word about the miraculous feeding had spread to the city.
What did the people do then?
They put two and two together, took those boats and "came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus," (John 6:24)asking Him upon finding Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here? (John 6:25)
Why would they be less likely to take Him by force and make
Him king in Capernaum?
For one, those who were transported by boat were most likely a small proportion of the thousands from the day before, and they may have been less prone to aggressive behavior in Jesus' base town.
What is Jesus saying in John 6:26?
You appreciated the feeding miracle but not what it pointed to. You're here for the wrong reason.
What about in John 6:27?
Don't work for physical goods that don't last. Work for me (see John 5:27 notes for "Son of Man"), and I will give you "everlasting life."
What does it mean to work for God?
“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29)
Believe what about Him?
That He is God who so loved us that He paid the death penalty for our sins, and then rose from the dead to prove His deity and that we have access to heaven because of what he did for us.
But to go to heaven, don't we still have to do something in
addition to believing that?
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) "Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:27-28)
Does that mean that we shouldn’t get involved in any works? Don’t they matter?
They do, but please read 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 carefully: "9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." The "fire" in 1 Corinthians 3:13 is not the fire of hell since this is addressed to Christians or "God's fellow workers" as said above. The "Day" in the same verse is the day when Christians stand before Jesus upon death, not to be judged between heaven and hell, but to receive once in heaven their "reward" based on their "works" on earth, and the "fire" represents the adjudicating eyes of the Jesus: "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write, ‘These things says the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet like fine brass: “I know your works, love, service, faith, and your patience; and as for your works, the last are more than the first." If you look carefully at the items listed in 1 Corinthians 3:13, the first three - "gold, silver, precious stones" - are those that will make it through the fire, and represent the works done from a true intent to bring glory to God, while the next three items - "wood, hay, straws" - are those that will be burnt up in the flames and represent the works done from a heart to glorify oneself or anyone else besides God. If you bring a mountain of work but they were all done to bring glory to yourself, you will lose your reward in (not "of") heaven, while someone who brings a handful of works that were truly done to glorify Jesus will get his rewards. But here is a very important point: 1 Corinthians 3:15 says that even if your mountain of works counts for nothing, you yourself still "will be saved." Why? Because salvation from sin and into heaven is a free gift from God that doesn't depend your works. You can't work your way into a free gift. All you can do is to accept it, sincerely thank the giver, and try your best to live your life to honor and glorify Him.
Do they understand whom Jesus meant by, "Him whom
He sent" when He said, “This is the work of God, that you
believe in Him whom He sent” in John 6:29?
Yes, the "You" in their response (John 6:30) indicates that they understood it to be Jesus Himself.
Why do they bring up manna again in John 6:31?
They’ve either completely forgotten about the fact that Jesus had just fed thousands, which makes no sense since they chased Jesus because of it, or are telling Him that if He wants them to believe in Him as the Prophet that Moses spoke about in Deuteronomy 18:15, He will have to do the other thing that Moses did for the Israelites.
Which is what?
Free them from the bondage of pagans, from Rome this time. This was their agenda from the beginning when they plotted to take Jesus by force and crown Him king, and they are dropping strong hints that they want Him to be "the Prophet" Moses had prophesied about.
What does Jesus do in John 6:32?
He starts by clarifying that Moses hadn't given them "the bread from heaven". But then, instead of saying that Father had given it, Jesus swings the conversation onto His agenda - “the true bread from heaven… who gives life to the world” and John 6:34 indicates that the crowd has finally shifted onto Jesus’ agenda.
What was the setting for this teaching by Christ?
"These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum." (John 6:59)
Who was in the audience?
Those who had come by boat, "the twelve" apostles (John 6:67), other "disciples" (John 6:60), including some who abandoned Jesus at the end of this teaching (John 6:66), and the Pharisees and other "Jews" (John 6:41), including some from Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up (John 6:42).
Is Jesus promoting cannibalism in John 6:35, John 6:48 and John 6:51?
Of course not.
Then what is He saying? What entities is He equating in this discourse?
Let’s start with John 6:35 and John 6:48. What does He
equate in these two verses?
Jesus = "bread of life."
What is said about this "bread of life" in John 6:51?
It is "living", "from heaven", and is His "flesh".
So how is the above equation elaborated?
Jesus = living bread of life from heaven = His flesh
What did John 1:14 say about His flesh?
"The Word became flesh."
So how does this extend the equation further?
Jesus = living bread of life from heaven = His flesh = Word
What about blood? Is Jesus saying in John 6:53-56 that
everyone should become vampires?
Of course not.
Where was His blood shed?
On the cross.
So what does He mean by His "blood"?
His sacrificial death on the cross for our sins.
Let's pull it together. What is Jesus saying then that we
have to do to have "eternal life"?
Believe in Him as per the Bible, and believe that His sacrificial death on the cross paid in full for our sins.
Who ultimately enables us to "believe" in Jesus?
God the Father: “Father gives” (John 6:37); He [Father] has given (John 6:39); “Father… draws” (John 6:44); Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:45); "No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father. (John 6:65)
By the way, could Jesus have used a softer analogy above? Why did He use such a radical
To disperse a mob that had come to take Him by force and crown Him king to lead a rebellion against the Romans.
In fact, in what verses are the "Jews" and
His so-called "disciples" (not the twelve) on their edge?
John 6:52 and John 6:60.
What does Jesus do to them?
Pushes them right over the edge in the subsequent verse - John 6:53-58 and John 6:61-65, respectively.
Who stayed with Jesus?
"The twelve" (John 6:67), although one of them, "Judas Iscariot" ((John 6:71) would later betray Him.
There are "religions" whose message has been carefully crafted to maximize ease of understanding and appeal to those they hope to attract. The message of the Bible is quite different. Not all teachings of the Bible are easy for us to understand or accept. But if you think about it, it can only be so, since it was written by God to reveal Himself to us. If God is the Creator of the universe, there is no way we will be able to completely comprehend Him. Some people decide that since they don't understand or like everything in the Bible, it isn't for them, and like the mob above, turn away from Jesus. Others thank God for however much of the Bible He lets them understand, and stick to Christ, not because everything He says always appeals to them, but because He is the truth and has "the words of eternal life." (John 6:68)
What will you do?