You are currently browsing the daily archive for August 5, 2011.

Today’s verses are not to be found for public worship in the three-year Lectionary.  Yet, they provide a bridge between John 5 — the healing of the man at Bethesda and subsequent talk with the Jewish hierarchy — and another great miracle, that of the loaves and the fishes, which comes later in John 6.

If you missed the Forbidden Bible Verses entries for John 5, they are as follows: John 5:1-17, 18-23, 24-30 and 31-47.

Today’s reading comes from the King James Version with commentary from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

John 6:1-3

1After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.

 2And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

 3And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.


As John 6 opens, Jesus leaves Jerusalem in southern Judea.  It is clear in John 5 that His life could be in real danger if he stayed there.  The Jews believe him to be guilty of working on the Sabbath — for having healed the man at Bethesda.  Jewish Law forbade working on the Sabbath. That was bad enough, but when Jesus explains to the Jewish hierarchy who He is afterwards, they believe Him to be a blasphemer.  As Jesus was about His Father’s work, it was not time for Him to be arrested or persecuted.  So, He left, travelling north to Galilee.

Normally, Jesus travelled on foot.  Palm Sunday was a notable exception when He entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  John 6:1 shows us another exception, as He crossed the sea of Galilee, also known elsewhere in Scripture as the lake of Gennesareth.  It had, in Jesus’s time, another name, the sea of Tiberias.  Herod had recently enlarged the adjoining city of the same name, so called in honour of the Roman emperor Tiberius. Matthew Henry tells us that it might have been where Herod made his home.

As for travelling by boat, Henry explains:

It is not tempting God to choose to go by water, when there is convenience for it, even to those places whither we might go by land.

In verse 2, we read where crowds of people follow Jesus wherever He goes.  Bear in mind that not all of these people were converts.  Many were simply curious and intrigued by the miracles He performed.  Jesus was often surrounded by people during the three years of His ministry.  For anyone thinking that this was a fortunate circumstance, Henry cautions that this often brought Him ‘more trouble than honour’.  John MacArthur is quite blunt on this subject (emphases mine):

They followed Him, they were pure unadulterated thrill seekers, that’s all they were. All they followed Jesus Christ for was to see the things that He did, they could care less about repentance or anything else. And we’ll see this. The power that Jesus had to do miracles had placed Him on the crest of a popularity wave and He was really riding on that wave. But it was very high and it was very temporary and it wasn’t very long until that wave flattened out. And all of the popularity that Jesus had from those people…and incidently, that’s not what He wanted but that’s what He got…all that popularity turned to scorn and hatred and ultimately He lost His life.

MacArthur posits that Jesus needed a brief respite and some dedicated time with His disciples.  Certainly, it is possible that Jesus was also thinking of them; they were no doubt exhausted from being surrounded by people, which would have been taxing in both terms of physical and emotional energy. A short crossing across the sea of Galilee would have provided this rest. Jesus did what He could to protect His disciples, e.g. John 16:1-4 (emphases mine).  ‘Offended’ here means ‘upset’, by the way.  Note especially the final sentence — He was protecting them from persecution up to then:

1These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.

 2They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.

 3And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.

 4But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.

MacArthur believes that this episode might refer to another Passover (verse 4) as St John was less concerned with a strict chronology than he was with emphasising Christ’s divinity.  If so, this would explain the crowds, as His ministry would have been well known by then and also because people would have been preparing to travel for the feast. MacArthur theorises:

these things of verse 1 is talking about some kind of a ministry in there that was either six months long or a year long. Now what ministry was this? Well if you want the details of that ministry, which John’s not concerned with in this point, you can read them, they’re located for you in Matthew chapter 4 through chapter 15. If you prefer to read Mark you’ll find them in chapters 1 to 7 or Luke in chapters 4 to 9. That is the record of His Galilean ministry which took place between … chapter 5 verse 47 and chapter 6 verse 1. So all of this time in there, either six months or a year, Christ has been ministering in Galilee. And the record of that ministry most extensively is Matthew 4:12 through … chapter 15 verse 20. So Matthew and Mark and Luke record the details in between.

So this miracle really of chapter 6 is much toward the end of Christ’s Galilean ministry. And that’s one reason why He has so many people following Him. He’s already become famous and He’s already got a massive crowd moving with Him.

So the miracle comes in at the end of Jesus’ ministry and He’s been diligently ministering for six months or a year, laboring among people with no rest, as it were. The crowds constantly pressuring and demanding things. And He needs to get away. And this is something that every minister, every servant of God needs, the time of refreshing, a time when he can take respite from the demands and the pressures of ministry. And it’s not that he’s lazy, and it’s not that he wants to be dilatory, it’s that he needs time for his mind to be refreshed and his mind to be perhaps shut aside from all of the trials and worries and things and set upon the things of the Lord. And so Christ and His disciples needed this time.

MacArthur, continuing this timeline, adds that John the Baptist had just been beheaded, so Jesus — and particularly the disciples — would have needed time to take this news in, preferably in solitude.

And so, verse 3 tells us that he went up a mountain where He sat with His disciples. In today’s parlance, we would have said under the circumstances that they needed to decompress or regroup. However, this mountainside would soon become a natural pulpit for Him, just as the grass made a natural seat for those who would soon listen to Him preach.  MacArthur tells us that grass in this area was — and is — sparse, yet where Jesus was, there was enough to accommodate the crowd comfortably.

Henry observes:

He sat there, as teachers do in cathedra-in the chair of instruction. He did not sit at ease, not sit in state, yet he sat as one having authority, sat ready to receive addresses that were made to him; whoever would might come, and find him there. He sat with his disciples; he condescended to take them to sit with him, to put a reputation upon them before the people, and give them an earnest of the glory in which they should shortly sit with him. We are said to sit with him, Eph. 2:6.

Verses 4 to 14 relate the miracle of the loaves and the fishes.  MacArthur tells us that this is the only miracle told in all four Gospels.  Those of Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels; they recount the same stories.  The Gospel of John has those which are not in the Synoptic Gospels.  Yet, here we have the same miracle.  MacArthur explains why:

Number one, it shows the creative character of Christ’s miracles more clearly than any other miracle … And incidently, in terms of volume, this is the greatest miracle Christ ever did. It’s included then because it is a vast miracle involving this multiplicity of people and showing Christ’s absolute creative power, such power as only God would have …

Then I think, too, that John includes it because it is always John’s purpose to present Christ’s deity. And nothing will show His deity any better than a creative miracle, right? Because that’s God in action. Also, this miracle is the occasion for the tremendous discourse later in the chapter where Christ claims deity. So John wants the miracle because it sets the stage for the claims of Christ to deity which is John’s constant, relentless, never ending message. Christ is God. And so this miracle John includes. And in the discourse to come Christ takes from the miracle the fact of the feeding of these people and says, “I am the bread of life,” presents Himself as the sole answer to the hunger of the hearts of men …

As I said, all of Christ’s miracles were creative, but isn’t it interesting, in a sense, but isn’t it interesting that these particular creative miracles there were only two … one was the wine and one was the bread.

how beautiful that the two primary creative acts of Jesus Christ speak to us symbolically of His shed blood and His body given for us. And see, even in these two miracles Jesus Christ is presenting Himself as the crucified Christ, isn’t He? And as we look back on it we can see it. And every time we celebrate around the Lord’s table to communion, we take that wine that speaks of His blood, we take that bread that speaks of His body. And Christ in these two creative miracles, the wine at Cana and the bread here, spoke of His own body. And in case you think that’s just conjecture on my part, notice verse 53 of chapter 6, “Jesus said unto them, `Verily, verily I say unto you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood you have no life in you, he who eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life and I’ll raise him up at the last day.'” And that really became kind of the picture of communion, didn’t it? And so we’re about to meet the soul satisfier. He can not only satisfy the hunger of a man’s stomach but He can satisfy the hunger of a man’s soul … and He does both in this chapter.

The following post will explore what happened after Jesus performed this miracle.

Next time: John 6:16-23

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