Musings From the Gospel of John – Number 11

I previously mentioned when I initially began this series of posts on the Gospel of John, that I had done a study on the Gospel of John before. This happened many years ago, when I was in Cyprus, working under the auspices of the United Nations, as a Peace Keeper, with the Canadian Armed Forces. I studied the Gospel of John for approximately six months while I was on tour there in Cyprus and it was indeed a learning experience that I will never forget. There were some victories and there were some failures and this morning I thought about what had transpired between that time in the past and now and what had specifically changed, over this considerable period of time, with my relationship with Jesus.

I don’t pretend to see the whole picture of who Jesus is but I can tell you that the reality of who He is and what He did and His part in God the Father’s plan for the redemption of broken humanity, is much more filled in now, than it was in my mind and my heart, so many years ago. If who Jesus is, could be compared to being a puzzle, with hundreds and hundreds of pieces to complete the whole picture, many additional pieces have been added since those days I spent in Cyprus.

The picture of Jesus, the man, who at the same time was and is the divine Son of God, is much more recognizable to me now. And of all the Gospels, the Gospel of John, at least for me, seems to add to the texture and composition of that picture that I see, like no other. All of the Gospels are unique in themselves, and I have a deep appreciation for each of them, yet collectively taken, it really is amazing what they are able to convey, when you stop to think about it.

Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John begins with the feeding of the five thousand. The feeding of the 5000 is recorded in all four Gospels whereas the feeding of the 4000 is only recorded in two of the Gospels (Matthew and Mark). The feeding of the 5000 took place in Bethsaida, close to the Sea of Galilee. In contrast, the feeding of the 4000 took place in the region of the Gerasenes, in the region around the Decapolis. The first region was Jewish (5000) and the second region was Gentile (4000).

It’s interesting to note that John 6:1-2 says a large crowd was following Him because of the signs (healings) that He continually performed on those who were sick. John 6:10 says there were about 5000 men in number. Matthew 14:21 tells us that there were also women and children in attendance so that number of 5000 would have been significantly higher. Possibly anywhere from a total of 9000 to 15,000 men, women and children. Luke 9:14 also adds that prior to being fed, they were bunched together in groups of about 50. John 6:11 says that after Jesus had given thanks, He distributed the bread and the fish to the crowd. This is true in essence but note that in Matthew 14:19 we are told that Jesus Himself did the initial distribution to the disciples and then His disciples, distributed the food to the crowd. The important thing to note here is who the source is.

Couple of observations:

And why was it that Jesus did the initial distribution to the disciples? Because He and He alone is the source. You recall that Jesus said that He was the bread of life (John 6:35).

Second observation: lets say that there were 5000 men and 2000 women and 2000 children. How much time would it take to distribute bread and fish to 5000 men or for the sake of argument, perhaps 9000 or more men, women and children? Do you think that Jesus or the disciples rushed? I can’t picture Jesus rushing. Are we talking hours? I’m thinking that we are looking at, at least two hours and possibly more. We’re talking about up close and personal. The disciples went to the individual groups of 50.

The entire crowd would have seen the disciples going back to Jesus for additional bread and fish because there would be a limit to how much the disciples could carry. Moving around 9000+ people takes time. Short story is that this feeding took a considerable amount of time and the magnitude of the numbers and the amount of food involved would undoubtedly have made a lasting impression.

Matter of fact, in John 6:14 it states that due to the miracle that they had personally witnessed, the people readily identified Jesus as being the Prophet who is to come into the world. This Prophet, who had been foretold was to come, was readily identified by the people of Israel, as a function or role of the coming Messiah.

The following OT and NT references refer:

Deuteronomy 18:15 NASB

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.

Deuteronomy 18:18 NASB

“I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.”

John 1:21 NASB. (Inquiries to John the Baptist)

“They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

Acts 3:19-24 NASB

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time.Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days.

Is there any significance to the numbers involved with the feeding of the 5000? Example 5 barley loaves and two fish and 12 baskets left over, or the feeding of the 4000 with 7 loaves and 7 baskets left over? You recall that the 5000 where Jewish and the 4000 were Gentiles.

Jesus Himself did not specifically point to any significance about the two fish but He did draw the disciples attention to the number of loaves of bread and the number of baskets that were left over from the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000. And although Jesus does not specifically provide the significance, He obviously indicated that there was one.

Mark 8:19-21 NASB
“when I broke
 the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces you picked up?” They *said to Him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?” And they *said to Him, “Seven.” And He was saying to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

If you do a search for the meaning behind the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 you will find a good number of responses that differ considerably.

Do I believe that there is a particular significance behind the Jewish feeding and the Gentile feeding? Yes I do but I will leave that area open for your own discovery.

More to follow:

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!


  1. I have to smile reading this, remembering the year we gave away Bibles all evening. When it was all over we were putting away the “leftovers,” and they filled twelve cases. I didn’t even remember ordering that many and was thinking “How in the world do we still have so many Bibles left over?” My daughter Kelly was the one who noticed and commented, “Hey! TWELVE boxes left over!” 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like what you observed about the logistics. It reminds me of how someone said the Jews couldn’t have crossed the red sea in one day because too many. I’m sure if we were at this feeding it would make more sense. I know I would wait if I was as hungry as them. The disciples didn’t think they would make it back from where they came from without food. I like how you think and the great experience that you have. I respect you and value you as a close Christian brother.
    I love John’s Gospel. He is the beloved disciple and a son of thunder. I love his epistles too if he is the author.


    • Hi Scott, I’m happy that you’re enjoying the series on John and I’m always glad to see you online! And you’re right about the logistics, sometimes it changes it from just a verbal story that you’re reading about into a graphical happening that you can almost invision. May God’s grace, peace and blessings be poured upon you and yours.

      Liked by 1 person

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