Fish dinner for 5,000
- 6:1 Jesus left the area after this. He crossed to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which some people call the Sea of Tiberias.
- 6:2 By this time, a large crowd followed him wherever he went. They saw him healing the sick. His miracles attracted them.
- 6:3 Jesus walked up on the slopes of a hill and sat down with his disciples.
- 6:4 It was almost time for the big Jewish festival of Passover.1
- 6:5 Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd headed toward him. He turned to Philip and said, “Where can we buy some bread? These people need to eat.”
- 6:6 Jesus didn’t need an answer. He knew what he was going to do. He wanted to hear what Philip would say.
- 6:7 Philip said, “What? A man would have to work the better part of a year to buy enough bread to give each person just a little taste.”2
- 6:8 Another disciple spoke up. He was Peter’s brother, Andrew.
- 6:9 “There’s a little boy out there who brought some food with him. He has five loaves of barley and a couple of fish. That won’t go far with this crowd.”
- 6:10 Jesus said, “Tell the people to sit.” The crowd, which included about 5,000 men, sat on the grassy slope.
- 6:11 Jesus took the bread, offered a prayer of thanks, and passed it out to the people seated there. He did the same with the fish. He gave the people as much food as they wanted.
- 6:12 When they were full, Jesus told his disciples, “Get the leftovers. We don’t want anything going to waste.”
- 6:13 They picked up the pieces of barley bread. The leftovers filled 12 baskets.
- 6:14 The people didn’t miss the miraculous sign they had just seen. They said, “There’s no doubt about it now. This is the prophet we’ve been waiting for.”3
Jesus walks on water
- 6:15 When Jesus saw that the crowd was about to declare him king of Israel, he headed for the hills. He left by himself.
- 6:16 As nighttime approached, Jesus’ disciples went down to the lakeshore.
- 6:17 They got into a boat and headed back across the lake to Capernaum. It was dark by then, and Jesus hadn’t come back down from the hills.
- 6:18 Wind started blowing hard enough to churn up some rough waves.
- 6:19 The disciples had rowed out about three or four miles4 when they saw Jesus—walking on the lake and headed their way. They were bug-eyed scared.
- 6:20 Jesus tried to calm them by saying, “Hey there, don’t be afraid. It’s just me.”
- 6:21 Relieved, they were delighted to give him permission to come aboard. Suddenly, the boat came ashore at Capernaum.
Jesus, the bread that gives life
- 6:22 The next day, a crowd formed along the shoreline near the disciples’ boat. The folks could see there was only one boat. Yet they knew that Jesus wasn’t on that boat when the disciples left the night before.5
- 6:23 Some people from Tiberias6 arrived in their boats at another spot. They came ashore where the Lord once said a prayer of thanks and then served them bread.
- 6:24 When they realized he and his disciples weren’t there, they got back in their boats and sailed off to Capernaum, hoping to find him.
- 6:25 They found him there across the lake. They said, “Teacher, when did you get here?”
- 6:26 Jesus said, “Here’s the truth. You haven’t hunted me down to see miraculous proof of who I am. You came for a meal. You’re here because earlier I fed you all the bread you could eat.
- 6:27 Listen, don’t put this kind of energy into getting food that eventually goes bad. Put your energy into getting food that lasts forever. It’s available from the Son of Humans, who has God’s seal of approval.”
- 6:28 So the people said, “Well then, what does God want us to do?”
- 6:29 Jesus said, “I’ll tell you what God wants you to do. He wants you to believe me. He sent me. And he wants you to believe in the one he sent.”
- 6:30 The people answered Jesus with a question. “Okay then, what miracle are you doing to do to convince us to believe in you? What can we see you do?
- 6:31 Our fathers ate manna bread in the badlands. The Bible says so: ‘He sent them bread from heaven.’”7
- 6:32 Jesus told them, “Here’s the truest truth.8 Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father is the one who gives you genuine bread from heaven.
- 6:33 This bread—God’s bread from heaven—is what gives life to this world.”
- 6:34 The people said, “Sir, that’s the kind of bread we want from now on. Give us some.”
- 6:35 Jesus said, “I am the life-giving bread.9 Those who stand with me will never go hungry. Those who trust me will never get thirsty.
- 6:36 I’ve told you this before and I’ll tell you again. I’m right here, people. You see me, but you still don’t believe me.
- 6:37 I’ll get everyone and everything that the Father plans to give to me. Whoever he gives me, I’m going to keep. I won’t run them off.
- 6:38 Folks, I came from heaven. I didn’t come to do as I please. I came to do what I was sent to do, by the one who sent me.
- 6:39 And here’s what the one who sent me wants me to do: keep everyone he has given me. I’m not to lose a single one of them. Then, on the last day, I’ll bring them back to life.
- 6:40 This is what the Father wants. He wants everyone who hears about the Son and ends up believing in him to live forever. So, here’s what I’m going to do. On the last day, I’m personally going to raise them to life again.”
Eat the bread if you want to live
- 6:41 The Jews didn’t like it when he said he’s the bread that fell from heaven. They complained about it.
- 6:42 They said, “Isn’t this guy Jesus, Joseph’s son? We know his mom and dad, right? What makes him think he can get away with saying he came from heaven?”
- 6:43 Jesus answered them. He said, “You can stop dissing me now.
- 6:44 You’re not going to start following me unless the Father who sent me here puts that desire in you. Those who follow me, I’ll raise them on the last day.
- 6:45 The prophets wrote about this. They said, ‘God himself will teach all of them.’10 If you have heard the Father and are doing what he told you to do, you’re following my lead. Every one of you.
- 6:46 I’m not saying any of you have seen the Father. You haven’t. The only one here who has seen him is the one he sent.
- 6:47 I’m telling you the truest truth. If you believe, you live. Forever.
- 6:48 I am the bread that gives life.
- 6:49 Your ancestors ate that mysterious food called manna in the desert badlands. Eventually, they all died.
- 6:50 Well, I’m telling you that there’s another kind of bread that comes from heaven. Whoever eats that bread will never die.
- 6:51 I am the bread from heaven. I’m right here in front of you—alive. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. This is the bread that I’m giving you: my life, in the flesh. I’m giving my life so the world can live.”
- 6:52 The Jews started arguing with each other over the question, “How can this guy feed us with his body?”
- 6:53 Jesus answered them, “I’m telling you the truest truth. If you don’t eat the Son of Human’s body and drink his blood, there’s nothing eternal about your life.11
- 6:54 If you eat from my body and drink my blood, you’ll live forever. When the last day finally comes, I’ll raise you up.”
- 6:55 My body is real food to eat. My blood is a real drink.
- 6:56 Whoever eats my body and drinks my blood becomes part of me. And I become part of them.
- 6:57 It’s like this. The living Father sent me here. I’m alive here because of the Father. So, whoever feeds on me will live forever because of me.
- 6:58 Look at me. This is the bread from heaven. It’s not like the bread your ancestors ate. They died. If you eat this bread, you’ll never stop living.”
- 6:59 Jesus said all of this while he was teaching the people in the Capernaum synagogue.
- 6:60 Some of his disciples went to him afterward and said, “Okay, this is a hard teaching. Who can possibly understand what you’re trying to say?”
- 6:61 Jesus knew that his disciples were complaining about what he had said. He asked, “Does what I said offend you?
- 6:62 If that bothers you, what would you say if you saw the Son of Humans ascending back to where he came from?
- 6:63 Eternal life comes from the Spirit. Our bodies have nothing to do with it. These words are spirit. They are life.
- 6:64 Yet, some of you don’t believe it.” From the very beginning, Jesus knew who didn’t believe. He knew who would betray him.
- 6:65 Then Jesus added, “That’s why I’ve told you, ‘No one is going to come to me unless the Father allows it.’”
Followers turn their back on Jesus
- 6:66 That was the turning point for many of his followers. They stopped associating with him.
- 6:67 Jesus turned to his 12 disciples and said, “Do you want to leave me, too?”
- 6:68 Simon Peter answered him. “Lord, who else are we going to turn to? You’re the one with the words about eternal life.
- 6:69 In the time we’ve spent with you, we’ve become convinced that God sent you and that you’re the Holy One we’ve been expecting.”
- 6:70 Jesus said to the men, “I chose each one of you, didn’t I? All 12. Yet one of you is full of the devil.”
- 6:71 He was talking about Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. Judas was one of the 12, but he would betray Jesus.
See note for 2:13.
Philip said it would cost more than 200 denarii. One denarius was considered a fair wage for a day’s labor. It would take more than eight months of six-day weeks to earn 200 denarii.
Some Jews expected God to send a prophet of the caliber of Moses, based on a prediction in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18.
About 5-6 km.
The implication is that the people were left wondering how in the world Jesus managed to get himself across the lake without a boat.
A city on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee.
See note for 5:19.
“I Am” is God’s name. When God told Moses to go to Egypt and free the Jewish people, Moses said the Jews would want to know who gave him the assignment. God told him to tell the people that “I Am” (Exodus 3:14) sent him. In John’s Gospel, Jesus seems to apply that name to himself as well, in seven “I Am” phrases. I Am:
• life-giving bread (6:35)
• the light of the world (8:12)
• the gate for the sheep (10:7)
• the good shepherd (10:14)
• the resurrection (11:25)
• the way, the truth, and the life (14:6)
• the Genuine Grapevine (15:1)
Some Christians say this means we have to take part in the ritual of communion, also known as the Eucharist. But most scholars say it’s broader because it refers to digesting the teachings of Jesus and living as one of his followers.
The story of Jesus feeding 5,000 men (14:21), not counting women and children, is one of the more famous stories about him. With five loaves of bread and two fish, he hosts a whopper of a picnic. All four Bible books about Jesus tell that story: Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-13. And two books add the story of another picnic for 4,000: Matthew 15:38; Mark 8:1-10. Let’s assume these stories are not some kind of metaphor, but that the miracles really took place. What do you think was the point of the miracles, if there was a point beyond simply feeding hungry people?
Perhaps one of the stories in the Bible that’s hardest to believe is the story of Jesus walking on the water (John 6:15-21; Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52). Some Christians reading the story wonder if it’s one of those legendary stories that got exaggerated. If we read the story like a critic, as many people do, what elements in the story might suggest there is some exaggeration going on?
Think like a fisherman from the first century. You’re in a rowboat on a big lake that can churn up sudden storms with big waves that can flip a boat in an instant. You are one of a dozen men trying to row your way back to shore when you see the shadow of a figure walking toward you on top of the water. Who do you think is coming?
- Tax collector
- A relative you don’t like
- A ghost to take me to the land of the dead
Most Christians probably accept this story of Jesus walking on water as genuine history, correct in every detail. Other Christians might allow for some humanity in the process, with the possibility that people telling the story to the Gospel writers may have gotten some of the details wrong. What do you think would be the argument for accepting the story as accurate?
Jesus seemed to be developing a reputation that might compare today with that of a rock star or a movie star. Whenever Jesus walked into a village or town, he drew a crowd. “The next day, a crowd formed along the shoreline near the disciples’ boat” (6:22). How do you think this was going over with Jewish scholars and other Jewish leaders?
The crowd that eventually caught up with Jesus at Capernaum probably got a shock when he criticized them. “Here’s the truth. You haven’t hunted me down to see miraculous proof of who I am. You came for a meal. You’re here because earlier I fed you all the bread you could eat” (6:26). What’s wrong with that?
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus does a lot of talking in this chapter, as he does throughout the Gospel of John. His words take up nearly half the Gospel: about 6,500 of 15,500 words. Sometimes he makes surprising statements, jaw-dropping once in a while. Scan through the second half of John 6, starting with his complaint in 6:26. Pull out statements you think a pastor would have trouble explaining.
LIFE APPLICATION. Jesus calls himself “the life-giving bread” (6:35). He calls himself living water who can quench a person’s spiritual thirst forever: “Those who trust me will never get thirsty” (6:35). Do you think it worked in Jesus’ day to use descriptions like that? Does it work today when a preacher reminds us of these characteristics of Jesus?
LIFE APPLICATION. How do you think we should interpret this statement from Jesus: “I’ll get everyone and everything that the Father plans to give to me. Whoever he gives me, I’m going to keep…I’m not to lose a single one of them” (6:37, 39)?
- Once you’re saved, it lasts an eternal lifetime.
- Jesus loves us. That doesn’t mean we’re stuck in that relationship. We can reject him and walk away.
- God planned who would get saved and who wouldn’t.
- Beats me.