There are several reactions and events surrounding this phenomenon that we want to observe and take heed of their various responses.
The Twelve Doubt
A large crowd had followed Jesus to the other side of the sea of Galilee, up the side of the mountain where He was performing signs and wonders. Jesus questions his disciples, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” The disciples began to debate the impossible task. Then Jesus responds… Can you imagine the doubt from His disciples when He instructed them, “Have the people sit down.”
Can you picture the annoyed faces of the masses, the hungry crowds berating them with questions and demanding answers? “What’s going on?” “What are we doing?” “Why do we need to sit down in fifties?” “I don’t want to sit here, can I sit over there?”
It is laughable to even consider what answers the disciples would potentially give. “Listen up, I know you all are hungry. You’ve come a long way and you’re tired. We have a plan.” Turning to Jesus, “Ok Lord, what’s the plan?”
How often do we doubt God’s revealed Word? Is it because we do not know Him or trust Him? Maybe we move forward as the disciples did in reservation for a time. However, on this side of the Resurrection we must graduate to moving forward in prayer and assurance.
The People Plot
The people having witnessed the feeding of 5000 proclaim, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Thus, they want to manipulate Him for their good. “Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.” Instead of worship, repentance, and gratitude; the people seek ‘salvation’ by their definition. Jesus can make things happen, lets put Him in charge so our earthly needs will be fulfilled.
How often do we want salvation, justice, redemption they way we envision versus accepting Jesus’ Way? How often do we compromise what we know to be the written gospel for individualism, moralistic relativity, and selfish ambition? Do we really want Jesus for who He says He is or does some other reasoning compel us?
The Disciples Don’t Get It
After feeding 5000, the disciples leave him and head out to sea; hopefully that was previously coordinated because they didn’t help with clean up, dismiss the crowds, or protect Jesus from the manipulators, “Now when evening came… His disciples started across the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.” Jesus walks on water to meet them. The disciples are terrified. “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid,” proclaims Jesus. Peter walks on water with Jesus! Yet, immediately he gets distracted and fails to take courage in the Sovereign Lord. Jesus stretches out his hand to save Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” Wow! The amount of faith it took Peter to get out of the boat is more than I possess with the hindsight of the Resurrection. The other disciples stayed in the boat!
If Peter had little faith by stepping out into a raging storm, in the middle of the sea, with nothing but trust in the Word of God, where does that leave me?
Of note, the disciples all worship, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Jesus doesn’t respond to their proclamation.
The Followers Scoff
Meanwhile, the word is spreading about his feeding 5000. People start to look for Him and eventually track Him down in Capernaum. Jesus’ response, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God has set His seal.
“What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
Jesus responds, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
That reply sums up the true response to the gospel story. It is not about your works! By grace you are saved through faith. You can only believe and be saved, you cannot do anything.
However, these people, very much like us today are not satisfied with a gift that we don’t have some type of control over. We want to do something so we can boast in ourselves. We want to lay claim to something that lifts up our credibility. We want more ‘evidence.’ “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.”
How arrogant, foolish, self-focused of them to ask Jesus to perform a sign so that they may believe. They even site as an example of a miracle they would like to see, ‘bread out of heaven in the wilderness.’ Jesus has just fed them in the wilderness with bread from a basket. Conversely, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven” explains Jesus. They have received the very miracle they request and then some. They are blind and do not believe.
They are content to satisfy their temporal desires, yet Jesus directs them to eternal significance, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
Jesus is drawing them towards an eternal peace that fulfills their true longing, their true desires, and their true need. “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” Jesus repeats Himself to help with their understanding but ultimately ‘many of his disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.’
The Helpless, The Hopeless, The Haughty
The twelve were confused as well, despite witnessing Jesus walk on water, the the mute speak, the crippled restored, the lame walking and the blind seeing. When Jesus has a crowd of 4000 before Him and does not want to send them away hungry because they may faint, his disciples respond, “Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?” Our unbelief is often defiantly amazing. We are so sinful that divine awesomeness can slap us right in the face over and over again and we still don’t recognize Him!
Talk about patience! Jesus endures a great deal of ineptitude from us.
The religious leaders continue to reject Him. We do not get a lot of the commentary from the reaction of this feeding; however, we see the Pharisees and scribes begin to quarrel with Jesus very aggressively and publicly. This rejection is indicative of their earlier conversations with Jesus after feed the 5000 when they came from Jerusalem and to ask Jesus, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” You know you have haters when you feed 5000 people from nothing but all they want to talk about is the fact that you didn’t wash your hands before you ate! It is amazing the particulars we have regarding our refusal to acknowledge Him for who He is.
After feeding thousands again, they wanted a sign from heaven, “The Pharisees came out and began to argue with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, to test Him.” Or they wanted a sign more suitable to their desires and their control. Some people’s demands will never be met neither by signs, the apostles, nor the prophets. Luke 16 records Abraham response to a man in hell asking for a miracle, “‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’” What Jesus accomplished with the 5000 or on the cross is often not enough or acceptable for some.
One Starts To Get It
Nonetheless, after performing the feeding of thousands miracle, twice, the disciples begin to make the connection… Son of God, Jesus, bread of eternal life. Many of Jesus’ disciples leave after these conversations surrounding the feeding, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” Jesus then asks his own disciples, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Peter confesses, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
Of note, at this confession, Jesus begins to open up about the Resurrection. He couldn’t do so until they were ready. Not He is able to be more transparent with them, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
Have we trusted in the revelations that God has already revealed? Are we looking for miracles and yet refusing to respond to the ones right before our eyes? Are we ready for the truths that God is ready to show us as friends?
Let us abide in Him. Let us not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of God.