FEEDING THE FIVE THOUSAND
● Jesus responded with compassion to the multitudes who found Him (Mark 6:32–34).
● He miraculously fed more than 5,000 people in that occasion (Mark 6:35–44).
— The penny, or denarius, was the chief Roman silver coin (v.37). It was worth about 15–17 of our modern cents. Two hundred penny-worth of bread would have been about thirty-two dollars.
— He taught another important principle here—not to waste things (v.43).
● After this miracle, the people sought to force Jesus to become their king, but He refused them (John 6:14–15). Elder James E. Talmage said, “The multitude, now fed and filled, gave some consideration to the miracle. In Jesus, by whom so great a work had been wrought, they recognized One having superhuman powers. ‘This is of a truth the prophet that should come into the world,’ said they—the Prophet whose coming had been foretold by Moses and who should be like unto himself. Even as Israel had been miraculously fed during the time of Moses, so now was bread provided in the desert by this new Prophet. In their enthusiasm the people proposed to proclaim Him king, and forcibly compel Him to become their leader. Such was their gross conception of Messianic supremacy.”1
WALKING ON WATER
● Leaving the rural area near Bethsaida, where Jesus had fed five thousand, Jesus sent the disciples to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:15–21). The Apostles started by boat “toward Capernaum.” Their plan was to meet Jesus again en route, apparently at the city of Bethsaida.
— Jesus then went up into a mountain to pray.
— As the disciples were crossing the sea a sudden and violent storm arose, keeping the boat from shore, and would have prevented the scheduled meeting had not Jesus come to them walking on the water.
— They had rowed only about 25–30 furlongs—about 3 ½ miles—in 8–10 hours. Unable to sail against the head wind, and fearing a disastrous wreck, the disciples had kept themselves afloat.
— The Jews divided the night into military watches instead of hours (v. 25). Each watch represented the length of time a given sentinel remained on duty. The first watch commenced at 6:00 PM and ended at 9:00 PM; the second went from 9:00 PM to 12:00 midnight; the third from 12:00 to 3:00 AM.; and the fourth watch was from 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM.
— In the fourth watch of the night—sometime between 3:00 and 6:00 AM—Jesus came to them, walking on the sea—literally on the surface of the raging waves (Matthew 14:22–27).
— When they saw Him they thought it was a spirit and were afraid until he called out to them, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”
● Peter wanted to go to the Lord on the water and began to do so (Matthew 14:28–33).
— Then, frightened by the boisterous wind, his confidence weakened, and he began to sink, but reassured by the Master’s hand, he returned to the boat walking on the sea.
— This situation recalls an earlier similar circumstance when Jesus calmed the sea for His disciples (Mark 4:35–41).
THE BREAD OF LIFE SERMON
Jesus Declares that He Is the Son of God
● The crowds followed Jesus to Capernaum, seeking more miraculous food (John 6:22–25).
● Jesus taught them that He is the Son of God (John 6:26–29).
● Unbelieving, they demanded a sign (probably seeking for another miracle of loaves and fishes) (John 6:32–35).
— Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “During the Savior’s Galilean ministry, He chided those who had heard of Him feeding the 5,000 with only five barley loaves and two fishes, and now flocked to Him expecting a free lunch. That food, important as it was, was incidental to the real nourishment He was trying to give them.”2
● Jesus said that the Father sent Him to save and resurrect all who believe in Him (John 6:36–40).
● The Jews were offended and called Him merely “the son of Joseph” (John 6:41–45).
Eating the Bread of Life
● Jesus persisted in teaching them higher doctrine, using symbolism:
— Jesus declared Himself to be the “bread of life” which all must eat to be saved (John 6:47–51).
— Jesus also said they must “drink of my blood” to be saved (John 6:52–59).
— Jesus explained these principles more plainly at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:26–28).
— These metaphors are also used in the Book of Mormon (Alma 5:33–35).
— Note the same symbolism used in the sacramental prayers (D&C 20:77, 79).
● Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“To eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God is, first, to accept him in the most literal and full sense, with no reservation whatever, as the personal offspring in the flesh of the Eternal Father; and, secondly, it is to keep the commandments of the Son by accepting his gospel, joining his Church, and enduring in obedience and righteousness unto the end. Those who by this course eat his flesh and drink his blood shall have eternal life, meaning exaltation in the highest heaven of the celestial world. . . .
“In the waters of baptism the Saints take upon themselves the name of Christ (that is, they accept him fully and completely as the Son of God and the Savior of men), and they then covenant to keep his commandments and obey his laws. (Mosiah 18:7–10). To keep his Saints in constant remembrance of their obligation to accept and obey him—or in other words, to eat his flesh and drink his blood—the Lord has given them the sacramental ordinance. This ordinance, performed in remembrance of his broken flesh and spilled blood, is the means provided for men, formally and repeatedly, to assert their belief in the divinity of Christ, and to affirm their determination to serve him and keep his commandments; or, in other words, in this ordinance—in a spiritual, but not a literal sense—men eat his flesh and drink his blood.”3
Rejecting Christ and His Doctrine
● Jesus told them that they must understand His saying symbolically and spiritually (John 6:60–63). But they refused to do so.
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “This querulous, unbelieving attitude on the part of the Jews was, not only wholly unwarranted, but from Jewish lips it bordered on absurdity. Probably no people in all history understood better or had made more extensive use of symbolical and figurative language than they had. Further, Jesus had just taught them the doctrine of the Bread of Life. For them to pretend not to know that eating the flesh of Jesus meant accepting him as the Son of God and obeying his words could only mean that they were wilfully closing their eyes to the truth.”4
— Elder James E. Talmage said, “There was little excuse for the Jews pretending to understand that our Lord meant an actual eating and drinking of His material flesh and blood. The utterances to which they objected were far more readily understood by them than they are by us on first reading; for the representation of the law and of truth in general as bread, and the acceptance thereof as a process of eating and drinking, were figures in every-day use by the rabbis of that time. Their failure to comprehend the symbolism of Christ’s doctrine was an act of will, not the natural consequence of innocent ignorance. To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ was and is to believe in and accept Him as the literal Son of God and Savior of the world, and to obey His commandments. By these means only may the Spirit of God become an abiding part of man’s individual being, even as the substance of the food he eats is assimilated with the tissues of his body.”5
● Many of Jesus’ disciples decided to “walk no more” with Him (John 6:64–66).
● Jesus’ subsequent question to the Apostles and their response (John 6:67–69).
— He asked, “Will ye also go away?” (v. 67).
— Peter spoke for all of them by saying, “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life (v. 68).
— Peter then bore his testimony: “Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 69).
What are the doctrinal insights we receive from this week’s lesson material? You should consider discussing one or more of these with your class.
● Just as He mastered the boisterous waves and came walking on the water, Jesus can calm the boisterous waves of our own lives and subdue them.
— Elder Delbert L. Stapley said, “The comparison the Lord makes between the wavering soul and the wave of the sea driven with the winds and tossed has touched the lives of many. Most of us have seen the calm seas, and at other times the damage caused when the winds become intense and the waves rise and become powerful, destructive forces. A parallel can be drawn to the buffetings of Satan. When we are serene and on the Lord’s side, Satan’s influence is not felt; but when we cross over and are deceived by the winds of false doctrine, by the waves of man-made philosophies and sophistries, we can be drenched, submerged, and even drowned in the depths of disbelief, and the Spirit of the Lord driven completely from our lives. These deceived and wavering souls cannot, because of their incontinence, expect to receive anything of the Lord.”6
● The great blessing of partaking of the sacrament in remembrance of our Savior.
— Elder Melvin J. Ballard said:
“I have always looked upon this blessed privilege as the means of spiritual growth, and there is none other quite so fruitful in the achievement of that end as the partaking, worthily, of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper. We eat food to stimulate our physical bodies. Without the partaking of food we would become weak and sickly, and fail physically. It is just as necessary, for our spiritual body, that we should partake of this sacrament and by it obtain spiritual food for our souls.
“We must come, however, to the sacrament table hungry. If we should repair to a banquet where the finest of earth’s providing may be had, without hunger, without appetite, the food would not be tempting, nor do us any good. If we repair to the sacrament table, we must come hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for spiritual growth.
“How can we have spiritual hunger? Who is there among us that does not wound his spirit by word, thought, or deed, from Sabbath to Sabbath? We do things for which we are sorry and desire to be forgiven, or we have erred against someone and given injury. If there is a feeling in our hearts that we are sorry for what we have done, if there is a feeling in our souls that we would like to be forgiven, then the method to obtain forgiveness is not through rebaptism; it is not to make confession to man; but it is to repent of our sins, to go to those against whom we have sinned or transgressed and obtain their forgiveness and then repair to the sacrament table where, if we have sincerely repented and put ourselves in proper condition, we shall be forgiven, and spiritual healing will come to our souls. It will really enter into our being. You have felt it.
“I am a witness that there is a spirit attending the administration of the sacrament that warms the soul from head to foot; you feel the wounds of the spirit being healed, and the load being lifted. Comfort and happiness come to the soul that is worthy and truly desirous of partaking of this spiritual food.”7
● The need to understand things spiritually.
— President David O. McKay said:
“[The sermon on the Bread of Life as recorded by John] is highly spiritual, and contains references about Christ as the ‘Bread of Life,’ which His followers could not believe. They could not comprehend what He was saying, and many of them walked away. . . .
“The twelve . . . slightly glimpsed the spiritual significance of that sermon . . . Those Apostles had that day the power and privilege of making a choice— whether they would walk with those who were impressed only with the physical favors, advantages, which nature could give, or whether their gifts heed to the spiritual in man. . . .
“Such a decision may determine whether one responds to the call of one’s soul to rise, or yields to the tendency to grovel. . . .
“The disciples of Jesus glimpsed a light that would enlighten their souls spiritually as the sun replaces darkness with beams of light. But there are few persons who see that Light or even believe in the fuller life, and often after glimpsing it, they turn away to the grosser and more sordid things.”8
1. Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. , 335.
2. In Conference Report, October 1997, 87; or Ensign, November 1997, 65.
3. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 1:358.
4. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:359.
5. Jesus the Christ, 317.
6. In Conference Report, April 1970, 74.
7. Elder Melvin J. Ballard . . . Crusader for Righteousness , 132–133.
8. “Whither Shall We Go?,” Speeches of the Year, 1961, 2–4.