What does John 6:9 mean?
ESV: “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”
NIV: Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?'
NASB: There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are these for so many people?'
CSB: "There's a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish--but what are they for so many? "
NLT: There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?'
KJV: There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
Verse Commentary:
Jesus is testing His disciples, in order to deepen their faith (John 6:6). This came in the form of a hungry crowd, numbering 5,000 men plus some number of women and children. So far, the disciples have alternately suggested ignoring the problem (Mark 6:36), solving it with money (John 6:7), and now Andrew brings a donation of food from a small boy.

Rather than start with an appeal to money, or charity, Jesus will teach the disciples to begin by simply bringing all we have to God (John 6:11).

The contents of the boy's lunch are significant, since it's mostly barley loaves. The crowd who was following Jesus at this time was almost exclusively Jewish, and they would have been aware that one of Elisha's miracles was multiplying twenty small barley loaves to feed a crowd of 100 men, with food left over (2 Kings 4:42–44). Jesus will perform a miracle even more dramatic than that by feeding thousands with even less. This will mark Jesus as one greater than the prophet Elisha, and inspire the crowd to proclaim Him the long-awaited Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15).
Verse Context:
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.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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.
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