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Lesson 6: Feeding the Hungry (Mark 6:30-42, John 6:25-69)

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Editor’s Note: This article is the lightly edited manuscript for the accompanying audio message that Vickie delivered.

What do people all over the world spend most of their time and energy doing? What are the barest necessities of life? Food, shelter and clothing. We spend most of our waking hours working to obtain these necessities. But of them all, food is the most important. Physical hunger is so consuming that we cannot think of anything else until it is satisfied.

Jesus used the legitimate cravings of the body for food to describe a deeper hunger the hunger of the soul for God and the longing for eternal life. And He demonstrated vividly His ability to satisfy that hunger forever. The disciples had been on the road with Jesus for over 2 years. They had heard His teaching and seen His miracles. He had been training them and now it was time to send them out in teams of two.

Luke 9:1-6

Do you see what He did? He delegated His power to them to do the same miracles he did. But He also sent them out by faith. They were to take nothing for their material needs. They were to trust God to supply their needs through other people day by day.

Can you imagine how excited they were when they returned? They had cast out demons and healed many sick people. And all of their personal needs had been supplied. What an experience!

Mark 6:30-32

Rest and refreshment. Time to be alone with Jesus. Time to relax and share and be restored. How important that is for all of us. Have you ever had an exciting and productive experience and when it was over, there was a letdown? This is the remedy. Time alone with the One who made you fruitful and gave your life an impact.

Mark 6:33

The people ran around the northern shore of the lake and when the boat landed at Bethsaida, there was a large milling crowd waiting for Jesus. They wanted to see more miracles. This certainly was an interruption in His plans, was not it? How would Jesus react?

Mark 6:34

He welcomed them and had compassion on them. They were like sheep with out a shepherd. That does not mean much to us today, because very few of us have flocks of sheep. But a sheep without a shepherd has a very short life span. On its own a sheep cannot find safe pasture to feed on or still pools of water to drink. It cannot clean itself, defend itself or find its way home. Without a shepherd a sheep is totally helpless and hopeless and in peril for its life.

Jesus had come to be their Shepherd. So He healed their diseases and taught them God’s Word. This was what they needed most.

The hours went by as the crowd listened attentively. But the disciples began to worry about some practical matters. This was a very large crowd, 5000 men plus women and children; over 10,000 people. There were no Krogers or Tom Thumbs, and no Holiday Inns. How could these people be fed and find shelter for the night? They had better tell Jesus to quit preaching and send them home.

Mark 6:35-36

They were right to be concerned, but they had the wrong solution. The answer for anyone’s need is not to send them away from Jesus but to send them to Him. He is the only One who can meet any need we have, physical or spiritual.

But Jesus really surprised them with His answer:

They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat. (Matt. 14:16, NIV)

Who? Us? Surely Jesus did not expect them to buy bread for a crowd like this. Now remember, they had just come back from an extended tour during which all their needs had been supplied as God had motivated others to share with them. Surely they should have considered the supernatural in their equation. But they did not. Are we not like that? We do not remember God’s past provision when faced with a new crisis. Our faith for the new trials we face in the future will remain sturdy if we deliberately remember God’s provision in the past. Each experience should build on the last.

The disciples looked at the impossibilities, not at Jesus’ proven ability. They looked at their own inadequate finances and not at His limitless resources. They looked only to their helplessness and not at His power to work through them. Jesus was giving them the opportunity to be part of a great miracle, the only one that is recorded in all four Gospels besides the resurrection. He wanted to use them and all they could think of was their checkbook balance.

Are they really so different from us? God gives us a challenging child to raise, a difficult marriage, a job that stretches us, a family of origin that was unhealthy, an illness that saps our strength, finances that end before our expenses do. And we look at our inadequacies and poverty and say, “How can I do this? Surely God, you do not expect me to get through this.” And that is true.

He does not intend for you to find the strength you need from within yourself. 2 Co. 1:9 tells us that these things happen so that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God.

Mark 6:38

John tells us that a boy gave his lunch to Jesus: his five little barley loaves and two small fish. I wonder as the disciples went through the crowd asking for food, if there were others who had food but hung on to it selfishly. This little boy gave everything he had to Jesus and Jesus accepted his gift and used it. I think that children still respond this way to Jesus. That is why we must not wait till they get hardened and unbelieving as adults are before we tell them that Jesus loves them, died for them and wants them to trust Him. In fact, Matt. 18 says that adults must come to Christ humbly as little children do.

Mark 6:39-41

The crowd was now seated in orderly groups on the green grass. Jesus stood before them, took the tiny little lunch in His hands, and looked up to heaven. He thanked God and then divided the loaves and the fish. The disciples stood before Him with their empty baskets and he started putting bread and fish in each one. Before their astonished eyes the bread and fish just kept on multiplying till all of their baskets were full. Then they turned and distributed the food to the crowd.

I believe that even as the people reached in and took as much as they wanted, that the bread and fish in their baskets never ran out. Jesus took what was given to Him and multiplied it to feed all of these people. He used the little boys lunch and He used the disciples to meet the needs of over 10,000 people. You see, He never expects our resources to be adequate. He just wants us to give what we have and what we are to Him and He will multiply our resources and use us to feed those who are dying of spiritual hunger all around us. But of course, the catch lies with us. How much will we give Him of our resources and ourselves? What was the result?

John says Everyone had as much as they wanted.

Mark 6:42

They all ate and were satisfied. Is not that the way it always is with Jesus? Just as He satisfied their physical need, He is the only One who can completely satisfy our spiritual hunger. This does not mean just the initial act of receiving Him as our Savior. This means that our spiritual life is sustained and constantly renewed by Him alone.

John 6:12-13 (NIV) When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

We never come to the end of what He wants to give us. He supplies more than enough. He came to give us an abundant life, not just mere subsistence. Nothing wasted: always enough for us to share with others. (One way to measure this is to see what God does with our money when we give it to Him. There is always enough there.)

As wonderful as this story is, there is significant meaning behind it that the Gospel of John goes on to explain. This miracle, in contrast to the others affected everyone there.

John tells us the crowd was so excited by this miracle that benefited all of them that they wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him King. This was not His timetable for that, so he withdrew from them and went back to Capernaum. The next day the people found Him there.

John 6:25-27

Jesus knew that they were there to get their stomachs full every day. That is how shallow their interest was. But he used their desire for food to teach them that He could give them something permanent-eternal life.

John 6:28

No different than millions of people today. They were so sure that if they just knew that special formula of works they could do, then they could do it and earn eternal life. Jesus answered them in words that could not be clearer.

John 6:29

There is only one work that will give you eternal life and it is not a work at all. It is simply to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. And God will give eternal life as a free gift.

To show you how materialistic and obtuse they were, listen to their next demand.

John 6:30-31

What miraculous sign will you do for us? Incredible! These were the same people who had all been fed just the day before. Now they challenged Him. They really meant, Moses gave our forefathers manna, bread from heaven, for 40 years. Can you top that? We will follow you if you feed us every day like you did yesterday! Jesus’ answer to this arrogant demand was very revealing.

John 6:32-35

Jesus here makes the first of seven claims about himself in John beginning with the words I Am. Surely this should have reminded them of the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush, I AM WHO I AM. He is the Bread of life, (bread that is living/or gives life). Really saying to them: Do not compare me to Moses. Compare me to the manna. The rest of his conversation with them shows how God was giving them something greater than the manna that He sent their forefathers every day but Saturday for 40 years in the wilderness.

MANNA

JESUS CHRIST

Picture

Reality

Sent by the Father

Sent by the Father

For All

For all

Bread from Heaven

True bread

They had to pick and eat

We have to believe

They hungered again.

We will never hunger

Physical/temporal

Spiritual/eternal

They died

We live

Picture

Reality

The manna was just a picture of what Jesus Christ would be when He came to earth. He is the reality.

Sent by the Father.

Over and over Jesus states that the Father sent Him to give eternal life to everyone who believed in HIM.

For ALL

Just as the manna was for all the 3 million people of Israel. Just as the bread and fish were for all the 10,000 so Jesus Christ was sent for all the people in the world. (50)

Bread from heaven/True Bread from heaven

The manna was bread from heaven. Ex. 16:4. I will rain down bread from heaven for you. But Jesus was the genuine, real Bread from heaven. Six times in this chapter alone He claims heavenly origin.

They had to pick and eat. We have to believe

The manna did not keep them alive just by being on the ground. They had to eat it. It is not enough to know that Jesus came into the world, that He did miracles and that He died for sins. We each personally must put our faith in Him. That is why He kept using terms like eating, drinking, coming to Him. They all involved an act of the will to believe in His Person and His work.

They hungered again. We will never hunger or thirst

They picked the manna every morning for the day. They ate breakfast each day from it. After a few hours they were hungry again and had to eat again and the next morning had to gather it again. Jesus claims to completely satisfy the hunger of the human heart for God forever.

Physical-Temporal/Spiritual-Eternal

The manna kept them alive physically for 40 years in the wilderness. Though it was bread from heaven, its purpose was earthly and temporal. Jesus is the One Who gives life to our spirits, eternal life. Eternal life is a new quality of life as well as quantity.

They died/We live

The wilderness became one vast cemetery. The manna was just food for their bodies. Jesus gives us eternal life for our spirits now and resurrection for our bodies when He returns. Then we will be with Him in heaven forever.

Now He explained how He was the Bread of Life.

John 6:51-54

This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. (NIV)

Can you imagine how repulsive this was to the Jewish mind? Blood was forbidden and human flesh! They missed the point entirely.

You see, again here that Jesus used material and physical things to explain spiritual truth. He used physical digestion to illustrate the process of faith. When you eat food, your body digests it and assimilates it and the food actually becomes part of your body. Jesus was telling them ahead of time that He would die for the world. That death and resurrection is an historical fact. But it does not apply to you unless you believe that Jesus Christ died in your place and you receive Him by faith. Eating and drinking are just another way of explaining what it is to believe. When you do that He comes to live in you and you live in Him.

Gal. 2:20 (NIV) I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

This means that He not only gives us eternal life when we initially trust Him, but He actually lives in us. He is our life. He exchanges our sinful, failing, inadequate life for His holy, powerful, fruitful life. He gives us the strength to endure suffering, He continues to change us and bring us to mature character. In using the term Bread of life, Jesus is really saying that He alone is all that we will ever need to have eternal life, to know God, to be kept secure, to experience resurrection.

What was the result of this revealing discourse with was preceded just the day before by a spectacular miracle that illustrated it so powerfully?

John 6:60-66

REJECTION! It was a hard teaching to them to “eat flesh and drink blood.” Even though Jesus explained that He was talking about spiritual realities, not literal flesh and blood, they did not believe. And these uncommitted followers left Him.

Can you not hear the pathos in His voice as He turned to the Twelve?

John 6:67-69

FAITH These men did not understand everything Jesus said and did, but they trusted Him and were committed to Him. This sequel to the great miracle tells us something important. Miracles do not necessarily produce faith. That is why it is so important not to be presumptuous and demand of God that He do something spectacular for you to believe. Jesus Christ has already done everything miraculous that needed to be done for us to believe that the Father sent Him to reveal God to us and to give us eternal life. There are only two responses we can have to the claims of Christ.

Belief or unbelief. This applies to our daily walk with Him as well as our initial birth into God’s family.

What does Jesus reveal to us about God, our Heavenly Father?

  • That our Father’s heart is moved with compassion for us as we wander in our hopeless, lost condition.
  • That our Father knows both our physical and spiritual needs and provides for both.
  • That our Father is not impatient with us even when He knows our motives are self-serving.
  • That our Father will multiply what we give Him and use us to have an eternal impact on those around us.
  • That our Father will put us in situations that stretch our faith.
  • That our Father supplies abundantly, not skimpily.
  • That our Father always knows the degree of our commitment from the start.
  • That our Father sent Jesus to give eternal life to all who believe in Him. This is the only “work” we can do to be saved. We cannot earn eternal life by our own efforts.
  • That our Father gives us to Jesus and he will never drive us away. We are safe forever.
  • That it is our Father’s will that believers have eternal life and resurrection.
  • That our Father requires that we make a decision. We can choose to not believe in Jesus Christ. But there is no other way to God.
  • That our Father provides for our spiritual life to be sustained daily by “feeding on Christ.”

Are you feeding on Christ? How?

Matthew 4:4 (NIV) “Man does not live on bread alone…”

Reading His Word, obeying it, talking to Him, depending on Him and letting Him be our life. Jesus is the one who gives us the strength to face the trials and inequities of life. He is the One who gives us joy that is unrelated to our circumstances. He is the One who will take us all through this life with all of its uncertainties and then take us to be safe at home with Him. He is the Bread of Life and all we need.

Related Topics: Character of God, Christology, Women