John 6:1-71

Five loaves and two fish. Worldly pursuit. The work God requires. Bread of life.

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1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias). 2 A large crowd was following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick. 3 So Jesus went on up the mountainside and sat down there with his disciples. 4 (Now the Jewish feast of the Passover was near.) 5 Then Jesus, when he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, "Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat?" 6 (Now Jesus said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do.) 7 Philip replied, "Two hundred silver coins worth of bread would not be enough for them, for each one to get a little." 8 One of Jesus' disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 "Here is a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what good are these for so many people?" 10 Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." (Now there was a lot of grass in that place.) So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed the bread to those who were seated. He then did the same with the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they were all satisfied, Jesus said to his disciples, "Gather up the broken pieces that are left over, so that nothing is wasted." 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves left over by the people who had eaten. (John 6:1-13)

This is the part of the bible where the account of Jesus performing the miracle of feeding approximately 5,000 men (which could amount to 10,000 to 15,000 people when considering families of two or three) with just 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread is documented.

This is the part of the bible where the account of Jesus performing the miracle of feeding approximately 5,000 men (which could amount to 10,000 to 15,000 people when considering families of two or three) with just 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread is documented.

Facing with the challenge of feeding approximately 15 thousand people, a person’s natural instinct is to try to come up with a solution. Hence, Jesus seizes this moment to impart the lesson that the salvation of humanity necessitates the unique intervention of the Son of God, rendering human efforts ineffective. His interaction with Philip is not a test of Philip’s ability to fulfill the request but rather a demonstration of human limitations. It underscores the idea that God does not rely on humans to bring about His kingdom; He acts independently and does not depend on human endeavors, because “he knew what he was going to do.”.

The significance lies not in the miracle of feeding the multitude, but in the miracle of absolving human sins and reuniting them with God. All of Jesus’ actions and every miracle He performed served as a means to direct attention toward the ultimate objective of accomplishing the greatest miracle of all—His crucifixion to atone for humanity’s sins.

Therefore, if you read the story of Jesus feeding thousands and conclude that the primary lesson is about strengthening your faith to perform miracles like His, you’ve missed the essence of it. Jesus performed this miracle to demonstrate His divinity and emphasize that He alone has the power to save humanity.


14 Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, “This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Then Jesus, because he knew they were going to come and seize him by force to make him king, withdrew again up the mountainside alone. 16 Now when evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 got into a boat, and started to cross the lake to Capernaum. (It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.) 18 By now a strong wind was blowing and the sea was getting rough. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they caught sight of Jesus walking on the lake, approaching the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat came to the land where they had been heading. 22 The next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the lake realized that only one small boat had been there, and that Jesus had not boarded it with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 But some boats from Tiberias came to shore near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate all the loaves of bread you wanted. 27 Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life - the food which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has put his seal of approval on him.” (John 6:14-27)

Upon encountering Jesus at Jacob’s well, the Samaritan woman initially interpreted His mention of water that provides eternal satisfaction in a physical sense. Similarly, the people seeking Jesus in this passage were focused on immediate concerns. However, Jesus discerned their true intentions. He understood that they desired to crown him as a ruler primarily due to the physical sustenance He had provided, symbolized by the “loaves of bread.”


28 So then they said to him, “What must we do to accomplish the deeds God requires?” 29 Jesus replied, “This is the deed God requires - to believe in the one whom he sent.” (John 6:28-29)

When people pose this question to Jesus, they may have various ideas about the kind of work He has in mind. Countless books have been written, offering suggestions on how to carry out God’s work. However, I have concerns that His response often fails to truly resonate, as it seems to enter one ear and exit the other without making an impact. This might be because our human inclination is to rely on our own efforts to bridge the gap between ourselves and the divine.

Hence, for some, Jesus’ answer may seem incomprehensible. It appears too simple and undemanding, which can be perplexing, especially in a world where the concept of a free lunch is often dismissed. Jesus may have said so, but I still strive to follow what I believe is right. Nonetheless, it’s essential to recognize that one’s personal beliefs may not necessarily align with what is truly right. This principle is underscored in Romans 4:5, which speaks to how God justifies the ungodly.

But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:5)

God’s description of work is encapsulated in this: placing your faith in the One whom He has sent.


30 So they said to him, “Then what miraculous sign will you perform, so that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus told them, “I tell you the solemn truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but my Father is giving you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe. 37 Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. 39 Now this is the will of the one who sent me - that I should not lose one person of every one he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father - for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” 41 Then the Jews who were hostile to Jesus began complaining about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,42 and they said, “Isn’t this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus replied, “Do not complain about me to one another. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to me. 46 (Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God - he has seen the Father.) 47 I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52 Then the Jews who were hostile to Jesus began to argue with one another, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?53 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who consumes me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread your ancestors ate, but then later died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. 60 Then many of his disciples, when they heard these things, said, “This is a difficult saying! Who can understand it?” 61 When Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining about this, he said to them, “Does this cause you to be offended? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascending where he was before? 63 The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus had already known from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 So Jesus added, “Because of this I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has allowed him to come.” 66 After this many of his disciples quit following him and did not accompany him any longer. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!” 70 Jesus replied, “Didn’t I choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is the devil?” 71 (Now he said this about Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for Judas, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.) (John 6:30-71)

One prominent aspect that stands out in the extensive passage is Jesus’ repeated declaration that he is the source of eternal sustenance, notably emphasizing that “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink,” and assuring that “the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

Our diligent study of Scripture is geared towards comprehending the means to attain eternal life and how to attain it. This eternal life is attained by the partaking of Jesus’ body and blood. It is crucial to underline that Jesus is not referring to physical nourishment, as seen in the scriptural passage that states, “by his stripes we are healed.” This healing is spiritual, not physical, and it is accessible through belief in Him. Non-believers, though physically alive, remain spiritually dead.

So, how does one partake of Jesus? Is it through the literal consumption of His flesh and blood? No, we understand that Jesus’ words are symbolic. If the work of God is to have faith in Jesus Christ, then consuming Him equates to believing in Him.

As Jesus elucidated in John 14:23, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him.” To obey Jesus’ word constitutes the work of God, and this work is believing in Christ, as confirmed in the previous chapter: “The one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

If Jesus is your ultimate source of nourishment, you require no additional supplements. Adding supplements implies a lack of satisfaction with the sustenance provided. Do not append anything to the work of God, which is faith in Christ alone. If you incorporate your own efforts into God’s work, they become supplementary to faith in God and will be rejected.

Advocates of the theology that combines faith with works should thoroughly scrutinize this passage.

(Next study: John 7:1-53)

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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