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John 6:1-21 Study Guide: Satisfied

Community Group Study Guide — Satisfied
John 6:1-21

Study Information:
One of the most interesting groups of people in the gospels are "the crowds” that follow Jesus. The gospel writers usually tell us why they follow Jesus or at least who is in the crowd and it is intriguing to cross reference their motives with our motives for drawing near to Jesus. In John 6 we read that the crowds followed Jesus because of the signs he was doing on the sick (John 6:2). The first half of the gospel of John is structured around the seven signs Jesus did like turning water into wine, healing the sick and, as we have in our text, walking on water. These signs communicate to us that he is the Word made flesh by revealing his power over creation and pointing to how he brings God’s new covenant to pass. It is not wrong for the crowd to draw close to Jesus because of the signs since the signs were designed to help people see and know God. The problem though is if they ONLY follow Jesus because of the signs. This crowd in particular put expectations on Jesus that were not only false but also much lower than they should have. They were settling for a lesser King. They had a low expectation for Jesus as a miracle worker and an earthly king when they should have expected more, Jesus was not an earthly king but the light shining in the darkness, the Word made flesh, the King of King and Lord of Lords. Jesus helped them to see who he really is by bringing them to a point of crisis, supplying for their need and as we will read in future study guides, he will teach them clearly that he is the way to reconciliation with God. 

These miracles of feeding the 5,000 and walking on water happened during the time of Passover (John 6:4). Jesus reenacted the events of Israel’s history around passover by having a communal meal, conquering the wind and the waters and by being the new manna in the wilderness as the Bread of Life. Jesus desires to make the connection that he provides freedom from slavery to sin and death. The crowds would have settled for an earthy king who would lead then to freedom from the Romans, but Jesus was more than that (John 6:15).

Feeding the 5,000 is the only miracle covered in every gospel. The other gospels teach us that Jesus had taught this crowd for a long time and had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. It was late and they had no food; the disciples were concerned they would faint on the way home. Philip and Andrew’s responses to the problem show us that they still saw Jesus as limited. Philip told Jesus about their lack the financial resources and Andrew wanted to be helpful by finding food in the crowd, but he even admits that it is not enough. Jesus responds by doing an act of creation as the crowd sits and receives bread and fish from Christ. They start to pass around the food and at the end of the crowd being fed they collect what was leftover and come up with more than when they started. Jesus teaches us much about God’s character in how he responds to our need with limitless grace. 

After this miracle, Jesus escaped the crowd who would have him be their earthly king, by going up the mountain by himself. The disciples carry on to the next stop by sailing along the sea of Galilee where they ran into a storm. John tells us they rowed into the wind three to four miles which puts them at about halfway in the seven mile lake. They too were in real need and were terrified, especially as they saw someone walking across the water. Realizing it is Jesus they take him into the boat and at that same moment find they are at the place they were heading. 

Jesus will often take us to a place of need whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual in order to communicate to us who he is and that he alone supplies for us in our time of need. This passage uses two physical situations, hunger and danger, and shows us that satisfaction is found in Christ alone. God knows our motives, expectations and needs and he responds with grace and truth. The crowds will struggle with Jesus teaching as John 6 progresses but in this text we see the heart of Jesus to show grace to those in need and to help us see who he really is. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read John 6:1-15 and Mark 6:30-44. How do these accounts of the miracle show us Jesus’ compassion for the crowd and reinforce the idea that he uses physical hunger to communicate their spiritual need for him?

The passover is a festival in Israel’s history highlighting how God worked to deliver his people from slavery to Egypt. What similarities do you see with the passover and these events. What are some things John could be communicating by bringing this up?

What expectations did this crowd place on Jesus? What imperfect motives and false expectations do you think modern day people place on Jesus in our culture?

How does Jesus responding with this over abundant miracle communicate his care and concern for his people today? Do you think it is hard to go to Jesus with your needs? Why or why not?