This sermon was delivered by Pastor Chris Duke on 25/09/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Chris said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.
I’m sure you’ve prepared a large dinner for people. In Jesus’ ministry, people are becoming used to seeing divine power coming from Him. The area we’re dealing with today concerns a miracle Jesus performed near a small village in Galilee. Galilee itself was a very tiny province, covered by water. It had around 200 small villages and towns, being an agricultural area, and was therefore densely populated.
Jesus had earlier multiplied Himself by His disciples in Mark 3:14-15, sending them forth to preach and have power to heal sicknesses and cast out devils. He thus multiplied Himself twelve times. Significantly, eleven of the twelve were from Galilee (Judas Iscariot being the exception to this).
Yet feeding five thousand was way beyond any miracle Jesus did. Matthew says that could have been up to 10,000 people in total, including women and children (see Matthew 14:21). So this was a huge crowd. It was near Passover, in the springtime, as Mark notes the company of people sat down on “green grass” (Mark 6:39). This was Jesus’ final miracle in Galilee. After this, His focus narrowed to smaller crowds as He became concerned with training the twelve more than on public ministry. Jesus is here putting Himself on display in all His glory and magnificence. We are reminded that as you read the Old Testament, it points to Christ. As you read the New Testament, it reveals Christ. And that salvation is being drawn to Christ.
John 6:14-15 describes the aftermath of Jesus’ miracle: people tried to make Him a King. They wanted the ultimate welfare state with free food provided along with demons being cast out, etc. They also wanted freedom of rule from the Roman army. With this miracle we see Jesus as Jehovah-jireh, the Lord who provides, as He did with faithful Abraham:
13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.
Jesus is the incarnation of Jehovah-jireh.
In Mark 6:7-11 we see that Jesus sent the disciples out into the countryside. They were told to preach the Kingdom of God and repentance towards God. In verse 31 Jesus’ first task as Jehovah-jireh, the provider, is revealed, as He says effectively, “Get some rest.” This was the first provision that He made for them. Luke 9:10 mentions that He took them to Bethsaida:
10 And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
This was a fishing village on the sea of Galilee. They went near the village but not into it as the crowd was too heavily populated and wouldn’t have fitted. The village, incidentally, was where Peter and Andrew both grew up:
44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
Christ later had something damning to say about this village after the miracle of the fishes and loaves was performed:
Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
Sadly, the people of Bethsaida didn’t worship the Lord even after His miracles. We would do well at this stage to remember the old saying, “To whom much is given, much is required”:
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
The only rest the disciples got was on the boat with Jesus as the people followed them across the northern part of the lake, on foot. And they arrived earlier than the disciples having completed a walk of approximately ten kilometers. Rest is important but the truth is more important. Why were they following Him? John 6:2 provides the answer: they saw the signs He performed in healing the sick, and they were fascinated by His power:
2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
Yet Jesus wasn’t irritated by the people’s neediness but “moved with compassion toward them.” Luke 9:11 records that He spoke to them of the Kingdom of God and healed them:
11 And the people, when they knew it, followed him: and he received them, and spake unto them of the kingdom of God, and healed them that had need of healing.
Jesus called them to repent and believe in Him as the Son of God and their Messiah, so that they could receive the Kingdom of God. He recognized that they were sheep and it is a known fact that sheep without a shepherd will die. They cannot get onto their feet again if they fall on their backs, they must be cleaned up, cared for, provided for. Numbers 27:17b simply states that “the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” Jesus’ teachings, then, would lead them to eternal safety in the fold. Matthew 14:14 shows Jesus healing the sick, being moved because human suffering made Him suffer too:
14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.
Yet the Lord was concerned that they had spiritual rest as well as physical rest and healing. Verses 35-44 of today’s passage show the Lord’s provision of food for the disciples and people. This is an example of God’s common grace, where the goodness of God is given without discrimination. Jesus is good to His enemies, even to people who hate and reject Him:
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
The following day is reported in John 6. Here, Jesus tells the people that He Himself is the bread of life, that they are to “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27).
In verse 37 of today’s passage, Christ says effectively, “You give them something to eat.” Jesus had delegated His power to the disciples earlier but they didn’t yet have the faith to perform this miracle. They had forgotten about the widow and her jar of oil in 1 Kings 17:16:
And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah.
Another gospel says that a boy had five loaves and two fishes on his person. Why was this the case? It was clearly his lunch, being the Middle Eastern equivalent of five crackers and a little bit of protein.
In verse 39, Jesus orders the crowd. Verse 41 shows Him distributing the food after giving thanks to the Father. The disciples became the waiters and just kept giving out food. This would have been the only uncursed banquet these people had ever gone to, it was like eating in the garden of Eden. You’d have liked these fish too regardless of whether or not you liked fish.
Verse 43 is significant because it shows that Jesus ordered the meal with perfect precision. Twelve baskets of broken pieces of meat and bread were taken up, one for each of the disciples. This was divinely controlled with no waste. Was there a real spiritual awakening after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand? No, not really. The crowds were waiting the next day for food again but Jesus said simply, “No, you need spiritual meat.” John 6:66 then records that at this point even some of His disciples left Him:
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
But the twelve stayed faithful, Peter simply stating, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Today’s health, wealth and prosperity gospel echoes the attitudes of the faithless disciples and the people of Bethsaida. Sadly, those who have known the way of righteousness yet have turned from it will come under severer judgement:
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
(2 Peter 2:21)
If you don’t yet know the Lord Jesus as your personal Saviour, may I encourage you to read the following article:
May the Lord Jesus bless you always.