2761.) John 6:1-15

“Loaves and Fishes” by John August Swanson, 2003.

John 6:1-15   (NRSV)

Feeding the Five Thousand

After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. 2A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. 3Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.

5When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.

‘Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes’ by James J. Tissot, 1886-94, (Brooklyn Museum, New York)

7Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”

8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?”


The key to interpreting this incident lies with the word “small.” There are at least three possibilities:

  1. “Small” refers not to the fish, but to the lad. There is, unfortunately, little textual evidence for this approach.
  2. “Small,” being a relative term, refers to the fish which, though large by some standards, would be considered small indeed compared to, say, a blue whale.
  3. “Small” refers not to the relative size of the fish but to their number — two.

Note: For each of these explanations, there remain a few unsolved logistical problems concerning the transportation of the lad’s lunch.



Philip says, “The situation is hopeless. Nothing can be done.”

Andrew says, “Well, it isn’t much, but let’s take it to Jesus and see what he can do.”

William Barclay says, “Jesus needs what we can bring him. It may not be much but he needs it. It may well be that the world is denied miracle after miracle and triumph after triumph because we will not bring to Jesus what we have and what we are. If we would lay ourselves on the altar of his service, there is no saying what he could do with us and through us. We may be sorry and embarrassed that we have not more to bring—and rightly so; but that is no reason for failing to bring what we have. Little is always much in the hands of Christ.”

10Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.

One might say that Jesus here fulfilled the role of the loving Shepherd in Psalm 23. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. That Psalm also gave the picture of the Lord as a host, serving a meal to His servant as a guest: you prepare a table for me…you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over…I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

–David Guzik

11Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks,

Jesus told the disciples to make the people sit down. He took the loaves and the fishes and he blessed them. When he did that he was acting as father of the family. The grace he used would be the one that was used in every home: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, who causest to come forth bread from the earth.”

–William Barclay

he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” 13So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.

More leftovers than what they started with! Jesus is never miserly. There is always enough, and more than enough.

Jesus is so calm and orderly. People are settled down before the food starts going out. Leftovers were picked up, and the picnic spot was left as clean as they found it.

14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.”

15When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Oh, but these last verses hit home! The crowd wants Jesus to become their king and conqueror, to get rid of the Romans, to make their lives peaceful and happy! How often I, like them, get things reversed. I want Jesus to do what I want him to do, rather than being willing to let him use me as he sees fit. Lord, in your mercy, forgive me.



HERE  is “Table of Plenty,” by Dan Schutte. Schutte is an American composer of Catholic liturgical music and a contemporary Christian songwriter best known for composing the hymn “Here I Am, Lord,” also known as “I, the lord of sea and sky”.

Come to the feast of heaven and earth! Come to the table of plenty!
God will provide for all that we need, here at the table of plenty.

1. O come and sit at my table where saints and sinners are friends.
I wait to welcome the lost and lonely to share the cup of my love.

2. O come and eat without money; come to drink without price.
My feast of gladness will feed your spirit with faith and fullness of life.

3. My bread will ever sustain you through days of sorrow and woe.
My wine will flow like a sea of gladness to flood the depths of your soul.

4. Your fields will flower in fullness; your homes will flourish in peace.
For I, the giver of home and harvest, will send my rain on the soil.


1)   How do we, like Philip, limit what God can do in, for, and through us by assuming what is and is not possible? Where in your own prayers are you — unintentionally! — holding God to your estimate of what can be done?

2)   Are these stories in John’s Gospel helping you trust God more? Are they helping you see more in your life for which to praise and thank God?


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Swanson.   http://www.johnaugustswanson.com/default.cfm/PID%3d1.2-10.html
Tissot.    http://www.jesuswalk.com/john/images/tissot-miracle-of-the-loaves-and-fishes-450x309x72.jpg
lunch cartoon.   http://sandscribbler.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/me_feeding5000_color.png
five loaves and two fish.   https://blogs.baylor.edu/truettpulpit/files/2015/07/John-6-1-panes_y_peces_5-26jf4ss-288×300.jpg
Thy will be done.    https://rlv.zcache.com.au/thy_will_be_done_art_print-rc88becc90b1b4a8883a14e2e40276b82_wvc_8byvr_324.jpg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: