Christ’s Most Public Miracle

Christ’s Most Public Miracle

W. Ross Rainey

(John 6:1-14)

This miracle has been generally called, “The Feeding of the Five Thousand,” but this was the number of men only (Mark 6:44). In view of this fact, it has been more effectively entitled, “The Feeding of the Fifteen Thousand.” If we allow a wife and child for each man, it is certainly not unreasonable to assume the conservative figure of 15,000 people (bachelors notwithstanding!) as the number who witnessed and benefited from this important miracle of the Lord Jesus Christ. This miracle, or sign, is of special significance because it is the only one recounted by each of the four Evangelists — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The only other miracle resembling it is Christ’s changing of water into wine, as recorded in John 2:1-11. All other miracles wrought by the Lord — at least those that we know about — during His earthly ministry were characterized by amending or restoring something already in existence. These two miracles clearly and conclusively demonstrate the Deity of Christ, manifesting His glory. He is the Creator. Of additional interest and significance is that together these two particular signs concern bread and wine, symbols of the Lord Jesus Christ’s body and blood.

Arthur W. Pink has suggested four reasons why this sign was singled out by the Spirit of God for special prominence: 1. Its evidential value (it was the most public of all the Lord’s miracles), 2.Its intrinsic nature (There was a creation of food), 3. Its typical import (the Person of Christ is especially set forth, while In His other miracles His power is stressed), and 4. Its universal application (it contains important lessons for all, believers and unbelievers alike).

The Lord Jesus wrought only a few miracles after this one. It closed His public Galilean ministry, for hereafter He devoted Himself mainly to His disciples.

The Circumstances

The opening words of John 6 refer to what has preceded in 5:1-47, while Mark 6:30 discloses that the disciples had just returned from their first preaching tour. The tenses of the verbs in 6:2 indicate that it was a customary thing for the multitude to see miracles performed by Christ. While multitudes followed after Him out of curiosity or some other similar reason, how tragic that so few were truly drawn to Him as the Saviour, thus acknowledging their sins and helplessness. Is there not a striking parallel of this to be found in our own day and age? And so has it been down through the centuries.

Withdrawing for a season from the unbelieving multitude, Christ retired with His disciples to a mountain (6:3), impressing upon us the necessity and importance of the Lord’s servants being alone with Him (cf. Mark 6:31; see Psa. 27:14; 62:5; Isa. 40:31). Furthermore, it was Passover time, typifying Christ our Passover (1 Cor. 5:7 with Ex. 12:1-28). In the Jewish observance of this feast it was eaten with unleavened bread for a week after, the typical significance of this being fulfilled in Christ (see 6:22-59, especially vv. 35 and 48). However, what had once been one of the feasts of Jehovah, filled with meaning for God’s covenant people, had now degenerated into merely “a feast of the Jews” (6:4). It was ritual without reality.

The Disciples

Since the dignity and glory of the Son of God are stressed by the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel, Christ’s “compassion” is not cited here as in Matthew 14:14 and Mark 6:34. The disciples lacked compassion (Mark 6:35), and on this occasion two of them in particular — Philip and Andrew — come into focus. Note well that trials come to test us (6:5-6). Philip, absorbed with the circumstances instead of the Saviour, looked to mere natural resources, calculated, and came out wrong. Apparently all that the disciples had collectively was 200 denarii (each denarius was worth 16 cents and was then equivalent to a day’s wage), and Philip knew that this was not enough money with which to buy bread so that each one in the crowd might take a little. Philip unfortunately forgot that Christ had previously changed water into wine and if necessary could change stones into bread. As W. Graham Scroggie has said, “Forgetfulness may make an infidel out of you.”

While Andrew at least made a suggestion and went one better than Philip, he nonetheless doubted. Scroggie has said that “Andrew is like a person who goes to bathe, but who, feeling the chilly water, fears to take the plunge. If only someone would push these people in!” At any rate, Andrew’s suggestion proved fruitful, the record here giving us something of an insight into his manner and personality. He must have been a very persuasive type of person. If you don’t think so, try talking a hungry lad out of his lunch!

The fact remains that both disciples calculated without Christ, looking at natural resources midst their circumstances, at the same time being occupied and overcome by the circumstances themselves. Dare we criticize the unbelief of Philip and Andrew in the light of our own lives and failures? Sometimes I feel awfully like the man of Mark 9:24, who cried, “Lord, I belive; help Thou mine unbelief.”

The Sign

Although the disciples failed in their faith they did not fail in their obedience to the Lord’s commands. He directed them to make the crowd “sit down” (6:10) so that they might be fed in an orderly fashion. Our God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33). By means of the “green grass” (Mark 6:39) Christ comfortably cushioned the crowd.

Verses 11 and 12 disclose the Lord’s action in regard to the young lad’s lunch and the accompanying miracle. As the loaves and fishes were passed from one to the other their substance was multiplied through the creative power of Christ, so much so that there were twelve baskets filled with fragments that remained (perhaps a basket for each disciple! — Luke 10:7). The gathered leftovers supply us with a strong case against any kind of wanton wastefulness, in addition to demonstrating that there was more than enough food for all to be filled.

The Lessons

Besides those already brought out in our study, there are other spiritual lessons to be gleaned from John’s account of this highly significant miracle, the following important lessons being among them. (1) The lad with the loaves and fishes had to be willing to give what he had to the Lord. No matter how little we may think we have, let us be willing to yield it to Him, for there is no telling to what extent He may bless and multiply it to hungering souls, remembering such things as Shamgar’s ox goad, Gideon’s 300, David’s sling, and Dorcas’ needle. (2 The disciples were the distributors of the food as Christ’s servants (1 Cor. 3:9), significant of the fact that He has chosen human instrumentality to dispense the gospel. (3) The Lord Jesus gave thanks for the loaves and fishes, leaving us His example that we should give thanks for our “daily bread.” (4) Christ is revealed as all-sufficient for every need. (5) Christ is further revealed as the Source of Life, demonstrating what He later taught concerning Himself as “the Bread of Life” ( in 6:53), “eat” and “drink,” both in the aorist tense, speak of believing on Christ for salvation; whereas in 6:56, “eateth” and “drinketh,” both in the present tense, speak of daily and habitual feeding on Christ for spiritual strength and sufficiency). (6) The bread itself suggests Christ’s body given for us. reminding us that in His flesh He endured the oven of God’s fiery wrath and righteous judgment against sin when He suffered, shed His precious blood, and died on the cross (cf. Psa. 22; Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21; see the Gospel accounts of His sufferings and death on Calvary). (7) “Only Christ could provide for 5,000 unexpected guests. Sit down when and where He tells you, and open your mouth wide” (W. Graham Scroggie).

The words at the end of 6:14 unfold a little discernment on the part of the multitude, “This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world,” yet they are a disappointing sequel to so great a revelation of divine doing. How like the multitudes today who utterly fail to realize who the Lord Jesus Christ really is, and that He alone is the Saviour!