The Power to Meet Needs

(originally entitled)

Let Them Eat Cake?  Just Bread Will Do.

John 6:1-71

The Event  -Told by all four gospels: Mt 14; Mk 6; Lk 9

Occasion, Time, and Place  1-4

after the death of John the Baptist, the return of the twelve from a preaching tour [Mk. 6, Mt. 10, Lk 9], and extensive ministry

In Spring  Mk “the green grass”, near the time of Passover [John 6:4], one year before the crucifixion]

North part of the Sea of Galilee, whether E or W of Jordan is not certain, secluded, elevated

The unfolding of the Problem 5-7 – Many people, no food

 Jesus saw the number of people and knew what difficulty this occasioned

The first miracle was scarcity of wine at a wedding party; this is scarcity of food. Because this was Passover, many people were in Jerusalem away from home and would easily have been without food as they saw an opportunity to hear Jesus speak.

Again we have John’s emphasis on both the omniscience and omnipotence of this person, Jesus. He saw the entire situation from beginning to end; he knew what he would do, and in order to establish the seeming impossibility of the situation, he asked Philip for his judgment as to what they could do.

Philip calculated that one would have to work for 55% of a year to buy enough bread to feed each of these even a little. So what shall they do?

Resolution 8-11 –  Jesus fed them all abundantly with what was available

Andrew reported on the availability of present resources, five loaves and two fish, and concluded that it was virtually nothing for so many. It would provide lunch for the small boy that brought it and that leave probably more than 6,000 other people unfed.

Jesus took the bread and fish and began to distribute it through his disciples. All were fed sufficiently (“as much as they wanted”).

Denouement 12-14 – There is food left and the people confess that Jesus is “The Prophet”

Having had their fill, the overage provided enough to gather twelve baskets of fragments from the barley loaves. Even though it was created by a miraculous intervention, Jesus did not waste the food but conserved it for the disciples later. We must recognize God as the immediate giver of all things, but also take care not to be slack in utilizing the means by which he has enabled us to produce daily provisions.

The response of the crowd was quite predictable, in one sense, for they all had seen exactly what had occurred. They concluded that he was the “Prophet.” The Jews had asked John the Baptist earlier if he were the “Prophet” (1:21) Jesus, of course is that Prophet as predicted by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-18), but not exactly what the people were anticipating. They had eaten bread, and wanted more than that in the way of national prominence, liberty, and times of plenty.

Not willing to accept their acclaim with the wrong perception of his mission, Jesus left the crowd quickly and went to be alone.

Its Outworking in the Gospel

The fourth of Seven Miracle Narratives, or signs, that progressively reveal the truth about us and the truth about Jesus:  Water into Wine, Healing a nobleman’s son [4], healing of the lame man [5], Feeding the multitude [6], Walking on the water [6], Healing the man born blind [9], Raising Lazarus [11]

John also records seven discourses in Jesus’ Public ministry;  This sign leads to the fourth discourse on the Bread of Life The others include:

1. New Birth [3],

2. Water of Life [4],

3. His Peculiar Sonship and Divinity [5],

4. Bread of Life [6],

5. The Spirit’s identification with the ministry of Jesus [7],

6. Light of the World [8],

7. Good Shepherd [10]

8. An eighth recitation could be ranked as a discourse prompted by the coming of the Greeks concerning the coming of his “hour” is in chapter 12:23-36

9. Chapters 13-16 contain private discourse to his disciples; 17 the High Priestly prayer for His people; 18 betrayal and trial, etc.)

The miracle contributes to the feverish celebrity-stalking mentality of the crowd according to a pattern already observed [2:23, 24; 3:2, 3; 4:48;6:22-25, 30 [cf v. 66]

Jesus’ teaching truth about himself

1.  Father’s approval of the Son as the source of eternal life 26- 27, 32- 33, 40.

Eternal life is infinitely superior to bread. We are willing to settle for much less than is available in the grace of God.

This salvation can come only through the Son for the Father has determined that sinners shall be eternally grateful to his Son and in eternity will see the true glory of the Son as he fully reflects and embodies the perfections of the Father.

2.  Jesus insistent emphasis on belief, faith 29, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64, 69

Belief is set in opposition to any possibility that we achieve eternal life by our own works of righteousness.

Belief will gain all the satisfaction that eternity in the presence of God can grant.

Belief involves content of the truth of who Jesus is and what he gives. He has the words of eternal life and is the Holy One of God.

Belief is the action on our part of coming to Christ when we perceive the full character of the gifts he has to bestow.

3.  Son’s perfect fulfillment of the Father’s will 37-40

The Father’s will is that the Son perform those things that are necessary to give eternal life to the ones that the Father has given the Son. This an unvarnished affirmation of an eternal, personal, unconditional election to eternal life.

All that the Father has given thus to the Son will without fail come to him and nothing can prompt Jesus to cast out any of them.

Jesus’ mission is defined precisely in terms of doing all that is necessary to see to it that those given him by the Father will indeed inherit eternal life; he has no doubt that he will raise them up at the last day.

The cup, therefore, that Jesus drinks of divine wrath relates precisely to these the Father gave him. He will lose none of them and in looking to him they will find in him everything that constitutes the abundant entrance into eternal life. As we learn below, this involves both his life and his death

4.  Father’s sovereign and unfrustrable will to draw people to the Son 37, 43-46, 65

All those for whom Jesus gives himself in his incarnation, obedience to the will of the Father, finally culminating in his substitutionary death and victorious resurrection will without fail be saved. “All that the Father gives me will come to me.”

Conversely, all of those that are not give to the Son by the Father will never come for they will be left to their blindness. No one can come, they will without exception refuse to come, unless the Father draws him

But when they are drawn, they are “taught of God,” by his effectual grace they hear and learn from the Father about His beloved Son.

Those so drawn will be raised up at the last day. This shows the unbreakable connection between the eternal gift to the Son, the drawing to the Son, and the Son’s raising them up at the last day unto eternal life.

5.  The necessity of an Incarnational obedience and Sacrifice for Salvation – 6:47-58

His flesh is the necessity of a human life lived in perfect obedience to the Father’s will by which his people are declared righteous. To “Eat his flesh” mean that the true believer sees the incarnation as necessary for salvation. Righteousness, obedience to the divine law must be completed in the nature of humanity. A true human righteousness is fundamental to the grace of justification.

His blood is the substitutionary propitiation which procures forgiveness by which his people have no charge laid against them, no condemnation. To “drink his blood” means that we receive his death as that which should have engulfed us, sinners under the completely just and holy condemnation of God. He shed his blood as a sacrifice and in so doing endured divine wrath, procuring reconciliation and forgiveness of sins.

Spirit alone can effect right belief in the Son according to the Will of the Father 63-65. The Trinitarian focus of salvation comes into clarity here as the Father’s will and the Son’s work culminate in the mind of heart of the elect by the Spirit’s life-giving call. Only regeneration. The “new birth” of chapter 3 can open the eyes to see the kingdom of God and only in such a seeing can one enter the Kingdom. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing, is of no avail.”

Jesus confronts sinful, selfish indulgence and outright hostility [1:51; 2:19; 3:12-15; 4:39-42; 5:19-47; 6:26, 36, 64; 8:31-38] and reveals their indignation and personal offense at the truth [2:18-20; 5:15-17; 6:41-44; 7:40-43; 12:36-43

Jesus’ Immediate Application

The Fleshly-mindedness and Spiritual Blindness of  the People renders the Spirit’s work a necessity 6:26, 63

The Necessity of Sovereign grace to draw them [cf. 5:40; 6:37-40 [given to the Son by the Father]; 44-46 [drawn by the Father]; 65 [coming to Jesus is granted by the Father]

He tests the twelve as to their understanding

His work and words set him apart as the one to whom we can go for eternal life

In His person he is the Holy One of God

Even one of them is a devil (cf. John 13:2) [That is, remains blinded by the God of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4), is in the arms of the wicked one (1 John 2:19; 4:3; 5:19) And will be used in God’s providence to turn Jesus over to the authorities who are looking for opportunity to kill him.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
Get Founders
in Your Inbox
A weekly brief of our new teaching resources.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Teaching BY TYPE
Teaching BY Author
Founders Podcasts

Get a Free Book!

Get a FREE COPY of Luke Griffo’s The Beauty of the Binary when you support Founders by becoming a Founders Alliance Member during the month of June!