The Twenty-First in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Using five small barely loaves and two dried fish, Jesus miraculously fed over five thousand people in the wilderness east of the Sea of Galilee. Later that same night when a sudden storm blew in on the Sea, Jesus walked across the water and joined his frightened disciples in their boat, and immediately calmed the storm. These two miracles reveal that Jesus is a new Moses who is leading his people in a New Exodus. Just as YHWH fed the Israelites in the wilderness of the Sinai, so too, Jesus has fed the people in a wilderness in Galilee. And just as the Psalmist spoke of YHWH as Lord of sea and storm, so too Jesus walked across the water and commanded the winds. These two miracles reveal much about who Jesus is, and together they serve as the backdrop for Jesus to tell us more about who he is and the nature of his mission, which he does in the so-called “bread of life” discourse recorded in John 6:26-58. One of the most profound sections of our Lord’s teaching in the entire New Testament, the “bread of life” discourse is also one of the most difficult for Jesus’ audience to accept–not because they do not understand Jesus, but rather, because they do. The things Jesus has to say in this discourse are so difficult to accept, that many among the crowds who have been following Jesus do so no more, and even his most trusted disciples are tempted to walk away.
As we resume our series on the Gospel of John, and we are working our way through John 6. On the last two Lord’s Days, we have covered each of the two miracles (vv. 1-21), which set the stage for the teaching discourse which follows the next day. According to John’s account, huge crowds have been following Jesus wherever he goes throughout the Galilee region, many following Jesus out into the wilderness east of the sea of Galilee without food, and where Jesus miraculously fed over five thousand people. Jesus left the area after night fell, because he knew that those in the crowds who had identified him as the prophet predicted by Moses, now desired to make him king–even by force, should he refuse. The disciples got back into their boat, and headed west across the sea of Galilee so as to return to Capernaum, only to be caught in a storm. They were frightened, John says, when they saw someone walking across the water toward them. They were greatly comforted when they realized it was Jesus, who then joined them in their boat.
Meanwhile, the crowds who had been out in the wilderness spent the night searching for Jesus and are quite surprised to find him the next morning in the synagogue in Capernaum. How did Jesus get there so fast, since it was obvious (or so they thought) that the disciples had left the east side of the sea without Jesus? With people searching everywhere for him throughout the night, how did he get to Capernaum without anyone knowing? The chaotic scene is described in verses 22-25, “on the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?
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