Bible Study – More Miracles

As we continue our studies in John’s Gospel, we come to two of the best-known events in the life of Christ, when He fed over five-thousand people, and when He walked on water.

Five Thousand Fed
6 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:1-14)

As this scene opens, Jesus, after His confrontation with the Jewish leaders over having healed a man on the Sabbath, goes back home to Galilee. John the Baptist had also been beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12), so it was time for Jesus and His disciples to get away for a while, however their get-away was short-lived. It is also interesting to note that Jesus was in Galilee, rather than in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.

I have often wondered how so many people had time to follow Jesus around like they did. Some scholars have estimated that there were between fifteen and twenty THOUSAND people in that crowd because only the men were counted. That is a LOT of people. What did those people do for a living? Why had only one person packed a “sack-lunch“?

This story reminds me of another “food-multiplication” miracle in 1 Kings 17:8-16. God, through the prophet Elijah, had proclaimed a drought in Israel due to their wicked ways, and Elijah was on the run from evil king Ahab. God told Elijah to go live with a poor widow in Zarephath, and even though she was getting ready to make the last bit of bread she had flour and oil for when he met her, Elijah told her to make a small piece of bread for him also and they would all eat. As long as the drought and famine lasted and Elijah stayed with her, her flour and oil never ran out.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” 12 But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13 Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” 15 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah. (1 Kings 17:8-16) God can use our “smallest” gifts for His purposes, because He is the Master of “resource-multiplication“.

5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Whether it was late in the day or just meal-time, Jesus thought of the crowd’s physical-need to food. His question to Philip was more “tongue-in-cheek” than a real question, because there was no place in that wilderness where they could get food. There were no fast-food restaurants they could get take-out from, nor was there a commercial bakery they could get bread from. Jesus was really setting the scene for another miracle.

Notice Philip’s gut-reaction response, 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” A denarius was the typical day-wage for a common-laborer, which might have been equivalent to earning about $80 a day. Two hundred denarii would equate to $16,000, so even if that much food had been available, the disciples certainly weren’t carrying that much cash, and they couldn’t expect the crowd to pool their resources.

8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” Jesus’s disciple’s faith still wasn’t “there” yet, because even though they had seen Jesus perform many miracles, they couldn’t imagine Him feeding SO many people with SO little food. Jesus could have fed them by creating what they needed, but that little offering would soon get multiplied beyond their wildest imagination.

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus was going to feed them “dinner in the park“. As I mentioned earlier, the total-number of people may have been closer to twenty-thousand.

11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. How often do we pause to give thanks to God for our daily-bread? Jesus gave thanks, and the feast began. This wasn’t a “meager” meal either. The people were encouraged to eat all they wanted. Nobody was going to go home hungry.

12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Nothing was wasted. There were even some left-overs.

14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” The “Prophet“? Jesus was way more than a prophet. He was the incarnate Son of God, God in human-flesh. Even though these people were looking for the long-promised Messiah, they didn’t recognize Him when He came. As we will see momentarily, they were looking for a “conquering-king“, one who would make their lives easier.

Jesus Walks on the Water
15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Who WOULDN’T want a king who could solve all their problems, including making sure that they never went hungry? There was just one minor problem. Becoming their earthly-king wasn’t part of Christ’s mission on earth, so He slipped-away for some quiet-time.

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?” (John 6:16-25)

Sudden-squalls on the Sea of Galilee are common and they can be quite severe. The Sea of Galilee is in a valley which is bordered on two sides by mountains, so when the winds come whistling through that valley, they can whip the water into a frenzy. While Jesus was alone on the mountain, His disciples started crossing over towards Capernaum, and even though their trip was probably only about five or six miles, they were rowing both against the current and against the wind. By the time Jesus made His early-morning stroll across the lake, they were cold, wet and tired. Matthew recorded some interesting details which John omitted, so lets take a peak at this story from Matthew’s perspective.

22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured. (Matthew 14:22-36)

After the great feed, Jesus sent His disciples on to their next stop while He sent the crowd away. He frequently slipped away for time with His Father because He needed to be refreshed too. Sometimes we feel that what we are doing is “too-important” or “too-urgent” for us to take a break, but we really need to follow our Lord’s example. That is why I take frequent “mental-health” days at the Cove so I don’t get too stressed-out.

Jesus didn’t take His stroll until early-morning, and by then, the boat was nowhere to be seen. As Lord of all creation, He walked on water as easily as we walk on land, except that His disciples weren’t expecting Him. Ghost, well, only ghosts can appear to be walking on water…NOT. Yes, His disciples WERE afraid, and for good reason, but not for long. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Was Peter displaying careless-bravado, or did he really believe that he could walk on water with Jesus? Maybe a bit of both, but…29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Peter was walking on water, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but when he came back to the reality of how bad the storm really was, he sank like a rock and cried out for help. “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Walking on water” could be compared to our faith-journey because both seem unnatural to us. Many “storms” have rocked my world, and keeping my eyes on Jesus hasn’t always been easy. “Walking on water” could also be compared to starting a new ministry, because unless a person is “prepared” for it, it doesn’t come naturally either. Yes, Jesus stands ready to “steady” us or even “rescue” us…if we are willing to ask Him for help, but asking Him for help takes faith.

As if feeding a crowd with only a “sack-lunch” wasn’t enough evidence for who Jesus is, 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.(M) No matter where Jesus went, the news that He was in town spread like wildfire. Someone always wanted something from Jesus, whether it was healing or they wanted to be fed – again, and they went to great lengths to get to Him.

22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”(J) What would WE do to get to Jesus?

The NEXT time Jesus “comes to town“, it will be with power and great glory, and EVERYONE will know about it, but not everyone will be happy. Are YOU ready for His triumphal-return?

Blessings!
Steve

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