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21. Feeding of the 5000(+)


A. Passage Selected: John 6:1-14

Also in Matt 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17

B. Progression Stated: Ideological

The main idea that is set forth is that Jesus is the source.

C. Passage Summarized: (correlation of all four accounts in this outline)

1. Context

This miracle is in all four gospels therefore it is important. Why? I think it is because the message of the miracle is so important.

The location according to the text is in a “desert” region. There was green grass so it wasn’t too barren. The word “desert” means a remote place. Perhaps the gospel writers used the word “desert” because in the OT the desert was where God met, tested and blessed his people.15

Jesus had withdrawn with the disciples for several possible reasons:

  • to be alone to rest (according to Mark and John’s chronology the disciples had just returned from being sent out),
  • to give them some private instruction,
  • because Herod was seeking Him,
  • because JB had just been killed.

    It was time to take a break, but the crowds followed Him.

    After teaching all day, the disciples approach Jesus (according to Luke 9:12 and Mark 6:35) and suggest He send the crowd away to find lodging and food. Evidently many of the people had travelled a great distance to hear Jesus.

    2. Content
    a. His suggestion

    Jesus tells them to feed the people (Matt 14:16), and He asks Philip where they should buy bread to feed the people (John 6:5). Jesus is testing Philip. He already knew what He was going to do. He was asking Philip to see if he knew, to stretch him. Is this deceitful or misleading? No. It is like asking your son, “OK, How are we going to fix the bike?” You know how you are going to fix the bike, but you want your son to use his head, come to some conclusion and act on it. This was a test designed to teach. Jesus wants them to deal with their own thoughts and their own solutions before He shows them what He is going to do. His goal was for them to come to Him and ask Him to do it.

    b. Their supply

    He also questions Andrew as to the amount of money (Mark). There is not nearly enough money to feed this crowd. Jesus is showing them that there is no way they can solve the problem on their own.

    What do they have? Just a little boy’s lunch. Children were of little value in that culture. They weren’t even counted with the 5000. I think the significance of this is that God uses someone of no account to perform the miracle.

    c. Their suggestion

    We can’t help them, send them away. (Matt 14:15) Rather than turn to Jesus, they give up.

    d. His second suggestion

    Feed them. Now that they recognize their inability and inadequecy, He tells them to feed the people. If they can’t do it in their own power, what should they do?

    e. His supply

    (1) Organization

    Perhaps Jesus has them organize them in groups of 50 because it will make the crowd easier to count and the disciples will then have a concrete number to remember. There wouldn’t be any estimating later that would sidetrack the issue.

    (2) Thanksgiving

    He gives thanks to God for providing the food. It shows His dependence on the Father. He is modeling for the disciples.

    (3) Abundance

    He breaks the bread and distributes to the disciples to give it to the multitudes. The impact of this routine on the disciples should have been overwhelming as they went back to Jesus time and time again to get what they needed to feed the multitude.

    How many trips would you have to make before it came to you: “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.” “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.” “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.” “Everything I need for them, I get from Him.”

    f. The significance (2-fold response)

    (1) They recognize Him as a prophet (6:14)

    They think he is the great prophet of Deut 18:8. He is the one who is greater than Moses. Perhaps they were taken back to Moses with the manna, Elijah with the widow, Elisha, etc. Now, here’s Jesus doing it on a much grander scale.

    (2) They want Him to be a king (6:15)

    Isn’t this great? They finally recognize Jesus is the King.

    Do they really recognize Jesus as the King? What kind of king were they wanting? They wanted a king that would put a chicken in every pot, put bread on the table, someone to deliver them from Rome, etc.

    In the next discourse the multitudes leave him because they don’t like the message that He is the bread of life. They like the whole wheat bread, but they don’t want a Savior. The problem with self-righteousness is that they don’t want to admit that they need a savior. They do not see sin as serious enough for God to send His Son to die.

    As we read through the gospels we see the reason people don’t accept Jesus as their Savior. One of them is that people don’t think that they are that bad of a person. We can always find people who are worse than we are. Sure, they will admit that they do wrong things, but they are not that bad. It takes humility - the poor in spirit - to admit it.

    Their problem was this: Their view of the kingship was physical and their view of the Lord was partial.


  • What do we learn about Jesus? Jesus is the bread of life who can provide life and supply it for the world. This is demonstrated here and then stated in the next sermon/discourse.
  • What do we learn about the disciples? What was their failure? The disciples failed to recognize their resource in Christ.
  • What is the lesson for the people/us? The biggest need that people have (the biggest need that I have) is spiritual, not physical.


  • Nothing is too small for God to use it. They didn’t think the little boys lunch was any help at all.
  • Beware of limited thinking when we have the greatness of God at our disposal.
  • From the reaction of the crowd and Jesus’ refusal to become their king, we learn that Christianity is more than temporal satisfaction.
  • We also see the human tendency to want to use God. I need to be careful that I don’t have that attitude.
  • His strength is made perfect in our weakness. He wanted them to recognize that He was the resource. This is miracle 19, and they are telling the crowd to go away. When are they going to catch on? We do the same thing. We see God work in our lives and then when things get tough again, we have to go through the same process of trying to do it on our own , failing, being broken and then finally trusting in God.
  • It is easy to dismiss when the going gets difficult. I don’t want to deal with this now. Procrastination?
  • Jesus is the only adequate provision for life and ministry.
  • Would he ever test us with the impossible to drive us to the Him to whom all things are possible? Phil 4:13, Jn 15:
  • In Mark, the theme of the book is to identify Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. Early on in the ministry of Jesus, the demons recognize who He is, and the blind see who he is, but the disciples are dense. Mark 6:52 says the disciples did not understand the miracle of the loaves because of their hard hearts. Thus we can make another application -- A hardened heart might harden me to the possibility that God can work.

    15 James A. Brooks, Mark, NAC. p. 107.

  • Related Topics: Miracles

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