John 6:1-21 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What question does Jesus ask Philip (see verse 5 printed below?) How does Philip reply (see verse 7 printed below?)

When Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, he asked Philip, Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat? (John 6:5)

Philip answered him, Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each one to have even a little bit. (John 6:7)

Jesus asks Phillip, Where can we buy bread for these people? Phillip replies that two hundred denarii (equivalent to eight months wages) would not be enough money to purchase enough food for this great multitude. Philip is emphasizing the fact that even if there were some place to purchase food, they lacked the money to do so.

2. Why did Jesus ask this question? See John 6:6 (printed below)

Now he said this in order to test him; for Jesus himself knew what he was going to do. (John 6:6)

According to verse 6, Jesus asked Philip this question in order to test him. He wanted Philip, and the rest of the disciples, to appreciate the complete lack of human resources and their inability to personally handle the situation. Being confronted with these facts, would they turn to Jesus and place their confidence in Him and His ability to solve this dilemma?

3. Upon witnessing this miraculous sign of the feeding of the five thousand, how do the people identify Jesus? See John 6:14 (printed below); note, also, Deuteronomy 18:18 (printed below)

Now when the people saw the sign that he had performed, they said, Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world. (John 6:14)

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. (Deuteronomy 18:18)

Jesus’ miraculous provision of bread in this desolate place reminded the people of the bread miraculously provided for Israel in the wilderness. John informs us that shortly after this incident of the feeding of the five thousand in the wilderness, the people remind Jesus, “Our forefathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” The people are further reminded of God’s prophecy through Moses that the Lord will raise up a prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18), and they correctly identify Jesus as the prophet who is coming into the world.

4. What do the people now seek to do and how does Jesus respond to this? See John 6:15 (printed below) Why do you think Jesus responded in this way?

Jesus, perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force in order to make him king, withdrew again into the hills by himself. (John 6:15)

As stated, the people correctly perceived that Jesus is the prophet who was coming into the world. But they mistakenly think that He will deliver them from the military and political power of Rome in the same way Moses was used by the Lord to deliver Old Testament Israel from Egypt. No doubt their intention was to march Him into Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, which, John informs us (verse 4), was approaching, in order that He might lead a glorious insurrection against King Herod and the Roman authorities. Jesus discerned that they “were about to come and take him by force, to make him king.” Consequently, Jesus withdrew into the hills by Himself. Jesus recognizes who was seeking to employ all of this for his own diabolical purpose: here was another effort of the devil to seduce Jesus from following the course His Father had assigned to Him; an effort to seduce Jesus into becoming a popular military and political leader, saving His people from the tyranny of Rome, rather than enduring the cross in order to save His people from the tyranny of the devil and the righteous judgment of God.

5. What crisis are the disciples now facing? What does Jesus do for them? See John 6:16-20 (printed below;) note, also, Mark 6:45 and 48 (printed below)

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake; (17) they got into a boat and headed across the lake for Capernaum. It was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to them. (18) And the waters grew rough because of a strong wind that was blowing. (19) When they had rowed about three or three and half miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat; and they were afraid. (20) But he said to them, It is I; do not be afraid. (John 6:16-20)

Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat, in order to go on ahead of him to the village of Bethsaida, while he sent the crowd away…(48) Seeing them straining at the oars, because the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the water. (Mark 6:45,48)

Their instructions were to sail to Bethsaida (Mark 6:45) which was a short distance up the coast; there the disciples were to pick up Jesus and then cross the sea back to Capernaum. But by now darkness has fallen and Jesus has not yet arrived, so the disciples decide to head straight for Capernaum (verses 16-17). As they do so, they once again find themselves in a crisis situation: it was now dark, the sea was rising because of a strong wind, and they were heading directly into the galeā€”and Jesus was not with them. But Jesus again proves Himself to be the all-sufficient Savior: He saw them in their distress (Mark 6:48a) and He came to them, walking on the water (Mark 6:48b). There is no obstacle or circumstance that can separate us from our Savior or cut us off from His presence (Romans 8:35,38-39)