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 Jesus. Phillips
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 eaten. ACCS
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 world. NET
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 thirsty. NIV
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.