The Bread of God

Image by Mogens Petersen from Pixabay 

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a

Psalm 51:1-13

Ephesians 4:1-16

John 6:24-35

Just look at how much space John gives to the “Great Chase”. Verses 22-24.

The following day, the crowd, who had remained on the other side of the lake, noticed that only the one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not embarked on it with the disciples, but that they had in fact gone off by themselves. Some other small boats from Tiberias had landed quite near the place where they had eaten the food and the Lord had given thanks. When the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor the disciples were there any longer, they themselves got into the boats and went off to Capernaum to look for JesusPhillips

Jesus walking on water did get a bit more coverage, but not by much.

I point this out because John thought it was important that we know how the crowd found Jesus. Most likely, John talked to several of the men and got the details. The key point is that the men who slept out on the field where they had eaten the bread realized that both Jesus and the Twelve were gone, even though Jesus did not sail with them.

Notice what they ask of Jesus when they find him in Capernaum. Rabbi, when did you get here? CJB They found it hard to believe that he could have walked all that way in the dark of night; so how did he get to Capernaum?

We lesser mortals would have been tempted to say, “Actually, I did walk all the way, but on the water.”

No, no. Jesus gets right to the heart of the matter. “Believe me,” replied Jesus, “you are looking for me now not because you saw my signs but because you ate that food and had all you wanted. You should not work for the food which does not last but for the food which lasts on into eternal life. This is the food the Son of Man will give you, and he is the one who bears the stamp of God the Father.” Phillips

The problem was not that the crowd did not see people healed or notice that five loaves of bread became hundreds of loves. The problem was that they wanted another sign, maybe a nice lamb chop if you please. Clarence Jordan wrote up the exchange this way.

So they asked him, “What shall we do to busy ourselves with God’s business?” Jesus answered, “God’s business is this: that you live by him whom he sent.” Cotton Patch Gospel

How often do we busy ourselves with the bells and whistles of religion while we lose sight of Jesus? In the Fifth century, Augustine wrote, Why do you make ready your teeth and stomach? Believe, and you have eatenACCS

But that is too simple. Just believe in Jesus? Really?


We should give credit to the crowd. They knew that the feeding of 5,00 was a miracle, a sign. But a sign of what?

They asked him, Then what miraculous sign will you perform, so that we may see it and believe you? NET

The crowd was not without some understanding. The knew that the Messiah—when he comes—will prove himself by recreating and improving on the feats of Moses. They knew that Moses asked God for food and they received manna for 40 years. All Jesus did was give them bread for one day. It wasn’t even good bread, but barley bread. Come on Jesus. You must do better.

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. For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the worldNET

The bread of God is a person. In this whole section, bread has been a symbol. The physical bread is what the crowd wants. The Son of Man—Son of God—Jesus—is the source of life, not a loaf of bread; not even twelve baskets of bread.

Jesus did not bother to point out that he had repeated the act of Moses by giving them bread that came from Heaven—both the physical bread and his body.

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirstyNIV

There is only one way to obtain the Bread of Life; believe in Jesus—through every tough time; rain, sleet, snow, or hail; only Jesus.

This is the first of seven I ams recorded by John. In each of them we see another pathway to Jesus. Not a different Jesus; only a different way of explaining to us the importance of Jesus.

As we live on earth, bread is necessary. Yet, we cannot commit ourselves to the goal of filling our stomachs at the expense of filling our souls with the Bread of God.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Let Them Eat Cake

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

2 Kings 4:42-44

Psalm 145: 10-19

Ephesians 3:14-21

John 6:1-21

Feeding the five thousand is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels.

Matthew leads up to the account with the story of the Canaanite woman without any mention of the Twelve

Mark first has Jesus sending the Twelve on a mission trip, then he records the death of John the Baptist in some detail. Next, the Twelve return to tell Jesus what they did, and Jesus suggest they get away from the crowds.

Luke has Jesus sending the Twelve on their mission trip. Then he records a short scene where Herod asks his staff about Jesus; “I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” That is followed by the Twelve returning.

John, as always, is most concerned about the why, not the when. His lead in to the feeding account is found in chapter 5 where Jesus gives a lengthy argument that he is doing his Father’s work. And, to prove the point, Jesus feeds five thousand with five loves of bread and two fish.

Another thing John does that you can watch for: he leaves the disciples out of the account until they are needed. You can read John 4:38 through 6:3 as though the disciples did not exist, even as we know they were with Jesus the whole time.

Both Matthew and Mark record that Jesus led the disciples to an eremos place. The Greek means lonesome, waste, desolate. Luke records to opposite; a city called Bethasida.

John’s account has more of the sense of being firsthand. Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was nearNIV

A little sidelight. The fact that John added the Sea of Tiberias indicates that he was writing well after the fall of Jerusalem and for a, at least mostly, Gentile audience

Again, John is stressing the power of Jesus. We need to know that people tracked him down because they believed—incompletely—that he was a man of God. While the Temple leaders and Pharisees claimed only the Evil One could do such things, the people knew only God had the power.

As Bishop Theodore of Mopsuestia (early Fifth century) wrote, John reports this episode because of the doctrine that was drawn by our Lord from it and that was omitted be the othersACCS

Another detail is added by John, The Jewish Passover Festival was nearNIV We do not know how often Jesus attended the Passover. If the family was the poor country carpenter that is so often pictured, then the trip when he was 12 was likely the only one before his ministry. But if his family was of the upstanding middle-class variety, he may have gone every year.

Do not forget that Nazareth was only five miles from the great city of Sepphoris which was being built in the years that Jesus was growing up. Also, remember that a carpenter worked in both wood and stone in those days. There was plenty of work for Joseph and his boys. No one then considered walking five miles to work and back every day a hardship.

Chrysostom (late Fourth century) writes, Why doesn’t he go up to the feast, some might ask, especially when everyone else is pressing towards Jerusalem? … He did this because he was quietly annulling the law, taking occasion from the wickedness of the JewsACCS Some five hundred years later, Bede the Venerable pointed out that John the Baptist was killed just before this Passover and that Jesus himself would be killed at another Passover. It does seem worth the mention.

As evening set in the Twelve could not figure out what to do about all the people. Here is how the four Gospels described it.

Matthew:  As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” NIV

Mark: By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” NIV

Luke: Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” NIV

John: When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to doNIV

Why the difference? Once again, we see an insider’s touch. It is entirely possible that the Twelve       approached Jesus as the Synoptics record it, but John saw the first response of Jesus, one which makes it clear that Jesus thinks it is the responsibility of the Twelve to feed the people even knowing that they do not have the resources to do so.

Matthew: We have here only five loaves of bread and two fishNIV

Mark: “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.” NIV

Luke: “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” NIV 

John: Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” NIV

Here we have complete agreement on what food is available, but once again, John has an extra touch. Only John records that the food comes from a child and only he records that the bread is barley.

Recall that it is Passover time. As a part of the season, the first Sunday after Passover is celebrated as the First Fruits of the field. On that day, barley is cut and brought into the Temple where the Priests mill it into flour and make bread from it. By adding this one word—barley—John is looking ahead to the first Sunday when Jesus walked out of the tomb.

We should also note some details that everyone in the First century would have known. The five loaves of bread were no more than a few ounces each. They were common ‘travel size’. Likewise, the fish would have been something like a sardine and dried to be safe for travel. In other words, there was barely enough food to feed the boy.

Here is a great description of the actual miracle written in the fourth century by Bishop Hilary of Poitiers. Five loves are then set before the multitude, and broken. While the apostles are dividing them, a succession of newly created portions passes—they cannot tell ow—through their hands. The loaf which they are dividing does not grow smaller and yet their hands are continually full of the pieces. The speed of the process baffles the sight. You follow with the eye a hand full of portions, and in the meantime you see that the contents of the other hand are not diminished. And all the while the heap of pieces grows. The carvers are busy at their task, the eaters hard at work at theirs. The hungry are satisfied and the fragments fill twelve baskets. Neither sight nor any of the other senses can discover how such an amazing miracle happened. What did not exist was created; what we see passes our understanding. It only remains for us to believe that God can do all thingsACCS

Only John includes this closing.

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himselfNIV

Writing in the Fifth century, Bishop Augustine summed up John’s closing. Yet he who shrank from being made a king, was a king; not made king by people but one who would bestow a kingdom on peopleACCS

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence