What does John 6 mean?
John chapter 6 packs several crucial moments into one narrative. The passage states that the events occur "after" the narrative of chapter 5, which turns out to be several months later. This chapter describes the high point of Jesus' worldly popularity. He disrupts this almost immediately by telling the crowd something they do not want to hear. This passage also includes the fourth and fifth of John's seven miraculous signs, the third of John's seven witnesses to Jesus' divinity, and the first of John's seven "I AM" statements ascribed to Jesus.
The gospel of John also skips over a great deal of material which is covered in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Based on the events described, somewhere between 5 and 6 months have passed since the events described in chapter 5. John sticks to his primary purpose, which is explaining how Jesus Christ is, in fact, God incarnate. For this reason, and because he assumes the reader is already familiar with the other Gospels, John skips over both the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus' many parables about the Kingdom. Instead, the opening phrase "after this" brings us to a moment about one year prior to Jesus' trial and crucifixion.
The primary event of this chapter is Jesus' feeding thousands of people with the contents of a boy's small lunch (John 6:9–13). This was the most public of all the miracles Jesus performed, and the one which garnered Him the most immediate worldly acclaim. Each gospel records several miracles performed by Jesus, but this is the only miracle included in all four accounts. The crowd's need for food provokes different reactions from the disciples. Some just want the problem to go away. Some are concerned with money. Some simply bring whatever they can find to Jesus, trusting Him to do the rest.
This practical, generous expression of power is first met with amazement and praise. However, Jesus recognizes that there is a flaw in the crowd's reaction. Rather than seeing the miracle as a sign, the people are merely pleased with the idea of getting a divine handout. This incident not only allows Jesus to teach important truths about Himself, it also demonstrates some of the spiritual barriers which keep us from properly seeking God. In response to His miracle, the people regress from seeking, to complaining, to bickering, and finally to abandonment.
After sending the disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:16), Jesus will immediately wipe away the applause of the crowd. Over the course of a long dialogue, moving from the seashore into the synagogue, Jesus attempts to clarify the spiritual meaning behind His recent miracles. This passage is one of the better examples of the concept of ipsissima vox, which simply means that some dialogues in the Bible are recorded as summaries, not word-for-word transcripts. Since this discussion changes locations between verses 25 and 59, it almost certainly involved a longer, more extensive conversation.
The day after feeding thousands and hearing their praises, Jesus tells people that He, Himself, is the Bread from Heaven (John 6:51). By explaining that His ministry is essentially spiritual, not material, Jesus alienates most of those who had been eager to follow Him. This, of course, only goes to prove Jesus' accusation: that the people were not there to learn or to receive truth, but rather to once again be given free food (John 6:26).
In between these two moments of public preaching, John chapter 6 includes the fifth of his seven miraculous signs, as well as a "bonus" miracle. Jesus is seen walking on the water after the disciples' boat encounters a storm (John 6:19). The hidden miracle is the one mentioned in an almost off-handed way: when He is taken into the boat, it is "immediately" at its destination (John 6:21).
The end of chapter 6 features the third of seven instances where someone in the gospel of John professes belief in Jesus' divinity. Here, Peter will refer to Jesus as the "Holy One of God" (John 6:68–69).
John 6:1–15 describes Jesus' feeding thousands of people—the fourth of the gospel of John's seven ''signs'' of Christ's divinity. This is the only miracle recorded in all four of the gospel accounts. When the crowd complains of hunger, the disciples who are mentioned each react in unique ways. Starting with only a tiny lunch of bread and fish, Jesus miraculously divides the food, filling everyone, and leaving more left over than they had to begin with. The people are astounded by this, and immediately react by proclaiming Jesus as ''the Prophet'' who has been promised. Jesus, however, is not yet ready to be publicly announced. He also knows the true motivations of this crowd and will attempt to explain the real importance of the miracle to them the following day.
John 6:16–21 contains the fifth of John's seven miraculous ''signs'' proving that Jesus Christ is God: Christ walking on the water. This passage also describes a ''hidden'' miracle, not part of the main seven, involving the disciples and their boat. This incident is important for what it teaches about difficulty and suffering. The disciples found themselves in rough seas, after Jesus told them specifically to sail across the Sea of Galilee. Their hard time was not the result of disobedience; rather, their hard time came because they obeyed. Not all struggles are punishments, and not all storms come due to rebellion. At times, obedience to God means heading into a storm.
John 6:22–40 describes the initial aftermath of Jesus' feeding of thousands the previous day. The crowd's actual desire is for another supernatural spectacle and more free food. In this passage, Christ begins to explain the true meaning behind His miracle and His ministry. This includes the first of seven ''I AM'' statements in the gospel of John—moments where Jesus declares His own divinity. Jesus clarifies that physical things such as bread are meant to be symbols of a spiritual truth. In the following segment, the crowd will stop seeking and start complaining.
John 6:41–51 uncovers the true motivation of the crowd following Jesus: selfishness. This passage is part of a long dialogue where Christ clarifies the meaning of His miracles. Jesus has just explained that He, Himself, is the ''Bread of Life'' which people are meant to seek. In response, the people complain amongst themselves. Jesus will give further explanation of what He means by claiming to be the ''Bread of Life.'' This, as is turns out, will make the crowd even more agitated, as the people move from seeking, to complaining, to outright argument.
John 6:52–59 describes Jesus' closing remarks during this public discussion of His ministry and mission. In prior passages, He has declared Himself to be the ''Bread of Life,'' resulting in no small controversy. The people have gone from seeking, to complaining, to fighting. During this discourse, Christ clarified the symbolic ''Bread of Life'' by pointing to Himself, foreshadowing His own crucifixion. Since the people are resistant to the idea of Jesus as a spiritual Messiah, they are hung up on the physical idea of Jesus' ''flesh.'' As Jesus continues to explain His role in salvation, most of those following Him will choose to walk away, as shown in the last verses of chapter 6.
John 6:60–71 shows the drastic impact of Jesus' teaching on the crowd: most walk away. When confronted with spiritual needs and a spiritual message, most people will turn it down. What society wants is spectacle, material things, and a political savior. The more Jesus insists on being the means to eternal life, the angrier the crowd becomes, until the vast majority simply abandon Him. The twelve disciples, on the other hand, seem willing to follow Jesus, though they are also struggling to accept His recent claims. Peter's declaration will be the third of John's seven witnesses to Jesus' divinity.
In chapter 6, Jesus feeds thousands of people who had been following Him. He does this by miraculously dividing the contents of a small lunch, leaving more left over than He had to begin with. At first, the crowd is amazed and they enthusiastically praise Jesus. After sending the disciples across the Sea of Galilee, and rescuing them from a storm by walking on the water, Jesus once again addresses the crowd. This time, He emphasizes the spiritual lesson behind His prior miracle. In response, most of those who had been praising Jesus turn away from Him in disappointment.
John chapter 6 occurs some months after the events of chapter 5, bringing the narrative to about one year prior to Jesus' crucifixion. As with the rest of the Gospel of John, the purpose is not to repeat information from the other three Gospels, but to focus on Jesus' status as God incarnate. This chapter continues to expand the list of Jesus' miraculous signs and the witnesses to His divine nature. Here, Jesus also gives the first of seven ''I AM'' statements found in this Gospel. Chapter 7 will once again skip ahead to a major public step in Jesus' path to the cross.
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
Accessed 12/7/2023 12:02:32 AM
© Copyright 2002-2023 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.