The Seven Signs: Feeding Over 5,000 (John 6:1-14)

Jesus once said, “The very works that I do bear witness of me, that the Father has sent me” (John 5:36).  The “works” of which he spoke included miraculous signs (cf. 10:19-21, 24-25, 37-38).  This is the only miracle which is recorded in all four accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

The Setting

The twelve had been sent out on a preaching tour through Israel to proclaim, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:1-15; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6).  They, having completed their tour, now return to Jesus and report on what had been done (Mark 6:30; Luke 9:10).

Jesus says, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31; Luke 9:10).  Thus, they set out for some rest and relaxation.

However, they do not escape unnoticed.  They are spotted leaving the area, and a multitude begins to follow them.  They follow because: (1) John the baptizer has been recently beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29).  John’s disciples are somewhat like sheep without a shepherd (cf. Mark 6:34).  Except, they did know that John had pointed them to Jesus (cf. John 1:29-30; 35-37; 3:28-30; 5:31-33).  So, they turn to him.  (2) They have witnessed the signs (John 6:2).

The Sign

The multitude follows Jesus into the desert.  There, he has compassion on the people.  He also heals the sick (Matthew 14:14; Luke 9:11).

However, there appears to be a problem.  The multitude is large, five thousand men, plus women and children (Matthew 14:21).  It is getting late (Matthew 14:15; Mark 6:35; Luke 9:12).  The people are hungry (they had spontaneously followed without adequate provisions).  Where could food be found for so many?  Moreover, if found, how would it be paid for? (John 6:5-7).  A search is made (Mark 6:38).  Five loaves and two fishes were found among the multitude, but what were they among such a number? (John 6:8-9).

Jesus has the disciples organize the crowd into groups of fifty [(Luke 9:14; Mark 6:40).  Perhaps this is done to make service efficient and to ensure that no one is neglected].  He prays, giving thanks to God (John 6:11 cf. Matthew 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16).  The multitude is miraculously fed.  They received “as much as they wanted” (John 6:11).  In fact, there are leftovers (Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:12-13).  The people exclaim, “this is truly the prophet who is come into the world!” (John 6:14).


  1. Jesus fed the multitude physical food.  However, he is the bread of life (John 6: 35, 48).  He has something far greater to offer than relief from physical hunger (John 6:27, 49-51, 63).
  2. He fed the multitude in an orderly manner (Luke 9:14).  We should do things “decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).  The early church was organized in such a way that the Grecian widows were not neglected (Acts 6:1-ff).  We should make more effort to make sure that no one gets left out or “falls through the cracks”.
  3. Jesus instructed that the fragments be gathered up “so that nothing is lost” (John 6:12).  Perhaps we should learn from this to be frugal and not wasteful.


About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Jesus, Miracles, Seven signs, Signs, Textual study and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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