Once, when I lived in Wisconsin, a friend, Kevin, brought all his frying gear to my house and fried up some freshly caught fish for our small group. It was fantastic and to this day some of the best fish I have ever eaten. I really enjoy a good fish fry and will even travel a good distance to partake of one. We discover in Scripture that one of Christ’s most famous miracles is a fish fry of sorts where He feeds five thousand men, plus whatever family members were with them. Jesus had been healing the sick and preaching about the Kingdom of God. John tells us that, “a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick” (John 6:2). The day was growing late and the evening was approaching. It had been some time since any of the crowd, including Jesus and His apostles, had eaten. Jesus seeing the large crowd and knowing that they are hungry, asks, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat” (John 6:5)? He uses this situation as a teaching moment. Some tell Jesus to send the crowd away. Others point out the absurdity of finding the resources to feed all the people. Finally, “One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many” (John 6:8-9)? Humanly speaking, one can understand the apostle’s dilemma. If each of the men had brought their wife and a child, there would be 15,000 people to feed. This is no small task, but they had not added Jesus to the equation. Could the one who could heal the sick miraculously feed the hungry mass, too?
Jesus instructs the disciples to bring the loaves and fish to Him. He then has the apostles have everyone sit down and prepare for a meal. Jesus gives thanks for supplying their needs and has the loaves and fish distributed, and everyone ate their fill. The apostles gather up the leftovers, which filled twelve baskets. Jesus lovingly met and satisfied the physical hunger of the crowd. Jesus shows His love and ability to meet our needs easily and with plenty to spare. The people realize that Jesus was extraordinary and proclaimed, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14)! Jesus makes a quick exit, “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, He withdrew again to the mountain by himself” (John 6:15). Jesus crosses to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, partly on foot (see: John 6:16-21). On the next day, the crowd noticed Jesus and the apostles had left, and they hopped into some boats and went looking for Him. When they find Him Jesus declares:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal” (John 6:26-27).
The people ask, “What they must do?” Jesus answers, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). Then we read:
“So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:30-31).
“Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33).
They ask Jesus for this bread, and He declares that He is the bread of life and whoever partakes of Him will never hunger or thirst. But the people, “grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:41)
We discover that some of the crowd knew Jesus and His family and questioned His claim to a heavenly origin. Jesus shares that the road to paradise is open to all. Jesus clearly states that “whoever believes in Him will have eternal life” (John 6:47). He explains that the manna, which the Israelites ate in the wilderness, was miraculously given, but was not the true heavenly bread because those who ate it died. However, those who believe in Him will live forever, and that opportunity is open to the whole world. Jesus then declares, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51). This statement of Christ is not to be taken literally but is meant to convey that unless we participate fully in Christ as the complete sacrifice for sin; we cannot realize the benefits of His salvation. Here is the response to Jesus’s teaching: “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it” (John 6:60)? It was difficult teaching to receive because Jesus must die and they must identify with His death to receive eternal life. Jesus, knowing this offended some, encourages them that they may be discouraged by His suffering, but they would rejoice at His resurrection and ascension. The Spirit gives life through Christ and trying to understand them through mere human insight is useless, the Father enables each of us to have the opportunity to hear, understand, and respond.
We find the result of this proclamation in one of the saddest verses in the Bible. We read, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66). We also, find a great profession of faith. Jesus asks the twelve if they too are going to leave. Peter responds, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). We discover that many in the crowd simply liked the show, but Jesus was offering more than a fish fry and Peter understood it and speaking for the other apostles declares we are here to know the Savior. Peter wanted more than free food, He wanted Christ and everything He has to offer. He was not a consumer, but a participant with Christ.
I hope all of us want more than a fish fry, a miracle here and there from Jesus. I pray each of us wants Him and everything He has to offer by believing and participating with Christ as a true follower. Together let’s believe in Christ, learn what it means to belong to Him and His church, become the people we have been created to be, and as those blessed bless others.