1.  After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.

“After these things” means after the first confrontation with the Pharisees given in chapter 5.  The Sea of Galilee is near a city called Tiberias, and thus could also be called by that city’s name.  The Lord crosses this sea to continue His ministry.

2.  Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.

This multitude followed the Lord across the sea because they had seen Him perform signs on those who were diseased.  We can imagine that a miracle-worker such as the Lord would draw a similarly large crowd today.  Yet some say that the reason God doesn’t work evidential miracles today is because they don’t work to get people to believe in Him!  The evidence of Scripture is entirely in contrast to this.  The miracles did work, and many, many people followed Him because of them.  The same would be equally true in our day.  The reason the Lord does not work such miracles today is because this would not be consistent with His present purpose as outlined in the book of Ephesians, which is to show forth the graciousness inherent in His character (Ephesians 2:7.)  He is calling a group of believers through His grace, a group that not seeing, yet believes (John 20:29.)  Miracles would not help Him in achieving this goal, but rather would hinder it.  That is why He does not work evidential miracles today, not because they do not work.  They do, and they would work marvelously in our day as well.

3.  And Jesus went up on a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.

The Lord goes up on a mountain.  This would be the mountain that overlooks the Sea of Galilee.  He is sitting there with His disciples.  He may have been resting in preparation for the work that was ahead, or He may have been teaching His disciples, for sitting was the customary position for a teacher in those days.  At any rate, He is there on the mountain sitting when the multitude arrives.  It is on this mountain that He works one of His most notable miracles, and yet this miracle touches off one of the most ugly confrontations He had with the Jews prior to His betrayal and death.

4.  Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.

Again, what had been called “the LORD’s Passover” (Exodus 12:11) is now called “a feast of the Jews.”  This probably has reference to how they had corrupted the feast.  Yet there may also be another aspect to this.  I believe that the book of John was written after the mystery was revealed and Paul made His great declaration in Acts 28:28, that “the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!”  Thus, John knew that many of his readers would be Gentiles.  By calling this feast “a feast of the Jews,” he would have been emphasizing the fact to all his Gentile readers that this feast was not for them.  Perhaps by putting it this way God was safeguarding the truth that all such Jewish holidays are no longer in effect, so that no Gentile reading this would mistakenly think that he should be keeping this feast as well.  If so, this is another example of a time in John where “Jews” is used as we tend to use it in English, to mean the opposite of “Gentiles.”  “Jews” can mean this in the Bible, but we have to decide based on context.  If we always assume this is what it means in every passage, we will end up believing things that are simply not true, as I demonstrated in our study of John 1:19&24.

5.  Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?”

We already know from chapter 4 that the disciples took the responsibility for procuring food for the Lord and His followers (although we know from Luke that they did not PAY for the food, but rather His female followers did, Luke 8:2-3.)  Now, seeing the multitude coming towards them, the Lord asks Philip how they will provide for them.  Philip would have been a good disciple to ask this question, since his home city, Bethsaida (see John 1:44), was nearby.  The Lord knew that Philip would best know the impossibility of such a task.

6.  But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.

The Lord knew He was about to feed the people miraculously, but we learn that He asked Philip this question to test him.  Perhaps He wanted to see if he would demonstrate faith and ask the Lord for the solution.

7.  Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”

Philip can only see the impossibility of the situation.  He does not think to ask the Lord for the solution.  A denarius was approximately a day’s wages.  If we take the average salary in the US as about $80 a day, then this would have been $16,000 worth of food, a huge amount!  Remember, though, there were 5,000 men, excluding women and children.  If we assume about 12,000 people, then we have about $1.33 a person, which would not be enough to buy a very good lunch in our day.  And remember, they were much poorer than we, and so probably wouldn’t have been able to buy food as cheaply as we do.  So Philip was right, to feed this crowd would have been far beyond the financial means of the disciples.

8.  One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him,
9.  “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

The only food they have is the lunch of a small boy.  This may have even been the child of one of the disciples.  When we consider his lunch, it might seem fairly large at first glance.  Yet in Greek these barley loaves that he had were more similar to what we call biscuits than anything else, and would not have been anything close to our definition of a loaf of bread.  And the two small fish would probably have been similar to sardines.  This was a little boy’s little lunch.  Imagine trying to divide five biscuits and two sardines among such a great crowd!  Each person wouldn’t have received more than a crumb of bread and a speck of meat.  The disciples probably only brought this lunch up intending to show the impossibility of their situation.  They had no intention of actually dividing such a tiny lunch up among thousands of people!

Since we do not have this lad’s name, this is the only contribution we know of him making to the Lord.  Yet even such a small gift as his little lunch was something that the Lord could use to produce a spectacular miracle.  I think we can all learn a lesson from this.  No matter how small and insignificant we may think our lives to be, we need but give them into the hands of our Lord, and He can do the work to make something amazing out of them.  Like this boy, let us not be afraid to offer to the Lord what we have, as insignificant as it may seem.  We can never know what He might do with it!

10.  Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.”  Now there was much grass in the place.  So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

The Lord has the people sit down.  We are told that there was much grass in that place, so we can know that sitting wouldn’t have been difficult or painful.  They are sitting on the Lord’s Own natural carpet, and will soon eat His Own supernatural food.  Although it only mentions the men here, we learn in Matthew 14:21 that this was excepting women and children.  Thus, the total number of people there was probably far larger than five thousand.

11.  And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.

How would this miracle have looked to one watching?  Did he keep reaching in the basket and pulling out loaves and fish, far exceeding the five loaves and two fish that had been in there originally?  Or did he rip pieces off the bread and fish and hand them to the disciples, far larger than the piece they had been ripped from originally?  If you had looked in the basket when He was done, would the same five loaves and two fish still have been sitting there?  Or when He was done distributing, were the loaves and fish exhausted at last?  Scripture does not reveal such details.  What we do know is that He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples took what He distributed and gave it to the people.  And, far from a crumb of bread and a speck of meat apiece, the people not only received, but were able to keep taking until they had received as much as they wanted.  What an incredible miracle this was!

This is the fourth sign we have encountered in the book of John.  This fourth sign, along with the fifth that follows it, proves the Lord’s mastery over nature, and thus that He was God Himself.  In other words, these miracles are among those that prove that He is the Son of God.  This miracle is also connected with the truth that He is the Messiah.  It contains an important lesson about how God will go about caring for the world when He takes control of Earth’s government and His Kingdom reigns at last.  How will He feed the hungry?  What will be His policy for caring for the poor, needy, and starving?  We can see an example right here.  When God’s Kingdom comes at last, no one will be without enough food.  God’s power will be able to accomplish this.  May that day come soon!

12.  So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.”

This is another important lesson, I think, about the ways of God and the way things will be run in His Kingdom.  In our day, much of our prosperity as a country depends on people’s habits of wastefulness.  Tools and such are built poorly so that they will break down sooner and require the purchase of yet more tools.  Diapers are created to be used once and thrown away, rather than washed and reused over and over.  Tissues are popular rather than handkerchiefs.  Food comes in throw-away containers designed to be used only once.  On every side we see the results of a wasteful society.  Perhaps nowhere is such wastefulness more prominently seen than in our attitude towards food.  How many people could be fed by the food that one average American family throws away?  Whether it is buying too much food and not being able to eat it, or making too much food so that it cannot be finished, or restaurants serving more food than people can eat, or people not liking something and throwing it away, we waste food constantly.  Yet the Lord will not stand for any waste here.  He demands that the leftovers be gathered up so that nothing is lost.  Our wasteful society will come to an end when God controls the government!

13.  Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.

Apparently the fish was totally devoured, or else they did not gather it, having no way to preserve it in that hot climate.  But when they gather the bread, they fill twelve baskets with the leftovers, one basket for each disciple.  Surely each of them must have been able to look into his basket and see far more barley loaves than the five they had started out with.  What a testimony to them this must have been!

14.  Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

The Lord had not preached to these people the truth about Himself.  Therefore, they are forced to decide for themselves Who this One is Who had just fed them in such a supernatural way.  Their determination is made based on what they knew.  They decided that this must be the Prophet that Moses predicted would come in Deuteronomy 18:18, which says, “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.”  And we cannot say that they were wrong in this, for indeed they were correct.  Peter even identifies the Lord as this Prophet in Acts 3:20-23.  Yet the truth went far beyond this.  The Lord Jesus was not just the Prophet, but He was also the Messiah, the Son of God Himself!

15.  Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone.

The Prophet was indeed to be a king, and every Israelite was to obey Him or be cut off from the nation itself.  Yet these people are so zealous to follow this command that they decide to make the Lord a king by force, whether He wants to be one or not!  The whole point of Moses’ command was that the people should hear His words and do what He says.  Yet the Lord had not told them to make Him King, nor was them trying to force Him to become a king in any way obeying Him.  On identifying Him as this Prophet, instead of listening to what He had to say and obeying Him, they tried to do with Him what THEY thought was right.  Then, when they had made Him what they wanted Him to be, would they actually have listened to Him?  Who can tell?  But the fact was that they were not doing this now.  They were so zealous to obey God that they never stopped to listen to God.  This was a mistake, and one that Christ would not allow them to make.  Thus, He departs from them to another mountain.  This was not the time for Him to become King.  That was not why He had come into the world.  He would not allow these men to upset God’s timetable and make Him a King before the time God has set for Him to be one.

16.  And when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea,

More than likely they did this by the Lord’s command, although it does not specifically say so here.

17.  got into a boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.  And it was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them.

They enter into this boat, which by the Greek word we know was a fishing smack, as the terminology goes.  They were heading for Capernaum, the town where the Lord had a house.  Apparently the Lord had told them He would meet them on the way, although they obviously did not anticipate how He would accomplish this.

18.  Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.

Although it does not indicate that they were in danger for their lives, certainly this wind would have kept the disciples very busy in keeping their boat on course.

19.  So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.

They had rowed out three or four miles, which in Greek is twenty-five or thirty furlongs.  A furlong is about 202 yards, which means this is actually about 2.9-3.4 miles.  The point here is not that the Holy Spirit did not know exactly how far they had rowed, but rather that the exact amount is not important and that all we need to know is that they were somewhere in between this number.  Perhaps they saw the Lord at 2.9 miles, and the miracle ended and He entered the boat at 3.4 miles.

This is now the fifth sign that the Lord performed in John.  It corresponds with the preceding fourth sign in that it proves our Lord’s mastery over nature, and thus is evidence proving the great premise of the book: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  The fourth and fifth signs are also the only miracles in John that are also recorded in the other gospels, all six of the other signs being unique to this book.  Both of these signs are similar to (but greater than) miracles performed by Elisha in the Old Testament (II Kings 4:42-44 and II Kings 6:1-7.)  The two prophets Elijah and Elisha were both types of Christ.  But notice how much greater the miracles of the Lord were…five thousand men as opposed to one hundred, and the Lord walking on the water as opposed to an axe head floating on it.

The Lord walks towards them on the sea as easily as He would have walked on the land.  Although they were to meet Him, they did not expect the meeting to be like this, and so they were afraid.  I imagine seeing someone walking toward you on top of the water could frighten just about anyone!

20.  But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”

The Lord does not desire to make them afraid, so He immediately tells them Who He is.  He seems to act like walking on the water is a common, everyday occurrence.  Indeed, to the One Who made the universe, this is not such a great feat at all.  It seems that He had told them He would meet them, and if that requires Him walking on the water He will do that.  To Him, this was nothing special, but to us, it is a great sign indeed!

21.  Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.

This final detail of the sign is one that is often overlooked, but it is miraculous and amazing nonetheless.  Twenty-five or thirty furlongs (three or four miles) would be about halfway across the sea.  Yet when the Lord enters the boat they are immediately at their destination!  This sounds similar to “Star Trek” and getting beamed from one location to another.  Science tells us that this sort of thing is near impossible, since it would require staggering amounts of energy to disassemble an object or person, move the atoms to another location, and reassemble them.  How the Lord accomplished this miracle, we cannot tell.  At any rate, at one moment they were in the middle of the sea, and the next they were at the other side.  Thus this sign not only proves our Lord’s control over nature, but also His mastery of time and space as well.  All are subservient to Him!