By Timothy Sparks
Notice the text (NKJV):
1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.
4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”
8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
10 Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them [b]to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
We ask the question, “Did Jesus use food as a hook to attract people to the gospel?” Interestingly, John tells us, “Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased” (Jn. 6:2). Jesus was not using food to attract the crowd to hear the gospel. Rather, Jesus performed signs for people to hear and obey the gospel that they might have eternal life. Jesus did not feed them to attract them—they were already following him “because they saw His signs which He performed . . .”
According to the text, the feeding of these thousands was not about attracting people to a teaching opportunity, nor simply about filling their stomachs. The purpose of miraculously feeding so many accomplished yet another sign: “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world’” (Jn. 6:14). The sign accomplished its purpose of creating belief in Jesus as God’s messenger, with God’s message, that they would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, they may have life in His name (Jn. 20:31).