Pandemonium spread like wildfire through the hills beside the sea of Galilee. Jesus of Nazareth, one of their native sons, had fed a crowd of 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Crowds of people, believing Jesus to be the Messiah and wanting to make Him king, went on a frantic search for him. They found him on the far side of the lake.
Jesus understands that the crowd that pursue him are motivated by and working for food that spoils. What greater food are the crowds called to work for? What kind of work does God require for the food that endures to eternal life (see verse 29)?
One reason the crowds are so energized is that Jesus reminds them of Moses who led Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. While Israel wandered in the desert, God provided daily bread or “manna” that fell like dew on the ground. They believed it was Moses who gave them “bread from heaven.” Jesus had given them a taste of Moses. They wanted him to do it again but Jesus has a greater bread in mind.
Who or what is the true bread or bread of life that comes down from heaven? What happens to those who come to Jesus? Why doesn’t everyone come? Who is able to come to Jesus? What is Jesus’ mission on earth? Whose will is He carrying out?
The crowds who pursued Jesus were hoping for someone who would miraculously give them free food. Jesus announces that the true bread is not the bread he fed the 5000 with. The true bread is Himself. How do the crowds respond to Jesus’ announcement that he is the true manna (see Exodus chapter 16) or bread from heaven? Why are they skeptical?
How does Jesus explain their unbelief? What does Jesus say here about how people come to him? Who draws the people to Jesus? How does Jesus relate Himself to the Father here in this passage? What happens to those who believe according to verse 47?
In what way is Jesus a greater bread than the manna that Israel’s forefathers ate in the desert? What will happen to those who eat the “flesh” of Jesus?
Much of Jesus’ teaching emphasized that He was the fulfillment of Israel’s story. In this conversation, Jesus is making the point that the “manna” or “the daily bread from heaven” that kept Israel alive during their wanderings in the desert (see Exodus chapter 16) was a picture of Himself. Jesus argues that He is the true “manna” or “bread from heaven” from Israel’s story.
What is promised to those who eat the “flesh” of Jesus and drink his “blood”? What do you think Jesus means by all of this?
It almost seems that Jesus is going out of his way to turn-off his crowds of adoring fans. Jesus has argued that he, not the food he gave the 5000 people nor the manna that Israel ate in the desert (see Exodus chapter 16) was the true bread, but He, His body was the true bread. Now cannibalism is abhorrent in most cultures, especially in Jewish culture and so the crowds are beginning to be repulsed by Jesus. Even his disciples are begging him to tone down his teaching.
How does Jesus react to the restlessness of the crowds and the skepticism and even the desertion of some of his own disciples? Why?
What does it take for someone to accept Jesus’ teaching? Why is Jesus not surprised that some reject Him? Why does Peter decide not to leave even though he doesn’t fully understand Jesus’ hard teaching? (I’m not sure I fully understand what Jesus is saying.) What can Peter teach us about the nature of faith and doubt? How does Jesus explain Peter’s faith? Why will one of the 12 turn away?
Why does Jesus want to stay in Galilee and away from Judea? There is a time for Jesus to die, but Jesus will decide where and when his death occur. Why were Jesus’ brothers interested in having him go to Jerusalem (which was the capital of Judea)? Why does Jesus refuse their advice?
You can almost see Jesus’ brothers point. The Jews traveled to Jerusalem three times a year to worship God at the temple. These times of worship coincided with one of the three feast days in the Jewish Calendar. So, if you wanted to start a movement in Israel, why not go when massive crowds of people flocked to Jerusalem. There would come a time when Jesus would go to the Feast of the Passover in public, but that would be the time when he was ready to die.
What do the people in Jerusalem think of Jesus? Why do they speak of Jesus only in hushed tones?
There will be in a time when Jesus is ready to ride into Jerusalem publicly on a donkey. But he will only come that way when he is ready to die. But now is not the time, so Jesus enters the city secretly.
How do the crowds react to Jesus’ teaching? What does Jesus have to say about His own teaching? What are the marks of someone who speaks the truth? How does Jesus bear these marks?
Why does Jesus say to the crowds, “not one of you keeps the law (of Moses – think 10 Commandments)”?
Jesus’ one miracle is the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. This is what made Him so popular. But Jesus is more than a miracle-worker and his mission is greater than filling the stomachs of the people with food. Jesus is God and as God He alone has the right to interpret the Law. Jesus was hated by the religious authorities because He dared to heal people on the Sabbath, the day of rest when work was forbidden. He did this to highlight the hypocrisy of the religious authorities. Rather than acknowledge that Jesus was right and they were wrong, the religious leaders plotted Jesus’ death.
Children in the ancient world did not have the social standing that they have today. We worship youth today in our culture and maybe overly so, but in Jesus’ day, children were often marginalized as we do the poor, the ugly and the elderly. How does Jesus view those who are not valued by our world? How are people to enter the kingdom of God? Who are they to identify with?