A Miracle and a Mystery

In John chapter 6 we read of a miracle that is recorded by all four gospel writers – the feeding of the five thousand. Here is a miracle that testified to the fact that Jesus was the Christ – the bread of life.

From five barley loaves and two small fishes, which was clearly that which was to be sufficient for the child whose they were, Jesus fed a multitude of hungry men. Interestingly, it is stressed in John 6 that he gave thanks. Indeed mention is made of this fact twice. We ought to do as Jesus did and give thanks for our daily bread. One fears that grace at mealtimes is not practiced by many in our day, but following the example of Christ, and out of a sense of gratitude to God for the food we receive, we should give thanks.

What a blessing followed – the five thousand were fed. Notice that the Lord gave to the disciples and they to the multitude. As Matthew Henry observes, ‘It was distributed from the hand of Christ by the hands of his disciples, Note, all our comforts come to us originally from the hand of Christ; whoever brings them, it is he that sends them, he distributes to those who distribute to us.’ Following the eating of the meal, we read that twelve baskets full of fragments were retained. There was more left over, than there was to begin with. What a testimony to the divine power of the Saviour!

Those who witnessed the the events were greatly affected. They said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” Yet when Jesus later spoke of His being the bread of life, many went back and walked no more with Him. Perhaps some of these had even eaten of the loaves and fishes. It can be one thing to say of Jesus, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” and another to believe His words.

Instead of submitting the the wish of the men to make him a king, Jesus walked away. Here is a mystery. A mystery which is of course understood only when we appreciate that Jesus had not come to usher in an earthy rule and kingdom. He had not come to save the Jews from the Romans, but to save sinners from the due reward of their deeds. He is the bread of life. The heavenly manna. But only through His being willing to suffer and die in the room and place of His people. In John 10:11 we read Him declaring “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

But have we believed in Him as our Saviour? In verse 47 of John 6 He says, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” Followed by the words that should mean so much in light of the feeding of the five thousand:

“I am that bread of life.”

G B Macdonald


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