The Life of Jesus Christ: Jesus and the New Moses

August 16, 2020 :: John 6:1-29

As we continue to walk through the life story of the Son of God, today we come to one of the few miracles mentioned in every gospel, the miraculous feeding of thousands of people with a young boy’s sack lunch. We will look at John 6, but you can see it also in Matthew 14:13ff, Mark 6:32ff and Luke 9:10ff.

John treats this story with special attention, pointing out details that connect the miracle of Jesus to Moses, Passover, the exodus and Mount Sinai. This seems appropriate since John 5 is entirely concerned with a dispute over the Sabbath, the Mosaic Law and Moses.

The Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) also report the feeding miracle that appears in John 6:10-13, but John reports it in the special context of wilderness and Passover. More than with some of the previous narratives, the discourse that follows the feeding of the five thousand interprets and applied it, bringing out the christological meaning of the event. Thus the feeding miracle in John points to a deeper christological interpretation: Jesus is not merely a new Moses providing a sample of new manna, but he is heaven’s supply for the greatest need of humanity.”—Craig Keener

John is clearly painting Jesus as the new and greater Moses, come to deliver His people, not from Egyptian or Roman slavery, but from slavery to sin and death. John engages Moses from beginning to end in his gospel account (see John 1:1 (in the first words of Genesis, which was written by Moses); 1:17; 1:21 (asked the same question as folks conclude in John 6:14); 3:14; 5:45; 6:32; etc. There are actually many more allusions and references to Moses than the many times he is mentioned by name.

Whereas the other gospels have Jesus blessing the food and the disciples distributing it to the people, John puts the full act of distribution with Jesus Himself. The disciples are engaged in a testing conversation before the miracle, and the collection of leftovers afterward.

This episode is followed in Matthew, Mark and John with the “water-walking” miracle of Jesus. Perhaps also an allusion to Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, this connection is made less clear by John.

In the intervening hours after Jesus and His disciples return from the east side of the Sea to Capernaum, the crowds have also tracked him down. The long conversation, likely in the fashion of a rabbinic debate in its later stages, is a turning point in the Gospel of John and for many followers of Jesus.

Recall that Moses, who seems to be a major character in this episode of John, was a shepherd when God called him to lead His people out of Egypt (Exodus 3). At the end of Moses’ life, He asked God to provide Israel with another shepherd, so they would not be like sheep without one (Numbers 27:15-20). Other texts, such as Psalm 77, suggest that God led Israel through the wilderness like a shepherd, through the leadership and presence of Moses and Aaron.

More than that, I can’t help but read John’s otherwise needless detail of “much grass” in 6:10 and hear Psalm 23 in my heart. “The LORD is my shepherd…he makes me lie down in green pastures…” It seems the shepherd image and theme is thick in this text. To complete the picture, one must only track was Jesus does for His sheep: He heals (in the context of why the crowds followed Him); He is not hindered by an empty cupboard when He feeds a multitude; He distributes the miraculous food with His own hands; He does not neglect His soul but draws away alone; He is not afraid of storms; He is not limited by the physics of water; He did not come to perform parlor tricks and draw a crowd; He came to save. His provision as a shepherd is remarkable.

This leads us to our big idea: Although the needs of the sheep may be great, the provision of the Shepherd is always greater still.

Family Discussion Questions:
  1. What is your favorite part of the miracle of the loaves and fishes? What part are you most confused about?
  2. Why do you think Jesus asked Philip where they could buy food for everyone?
  3. Why do you think Andrew mentioned the boy’s very small lunch to Jesus?
  4. While it’s never a good thing to waste food, do you think it is significant that the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread (one for each of them)? Why?
  5. Why do you think it was important for Jesus to be alone (see 6:15)?
  6. I think Jesus does everything on purpose. Why did he come to His disciples walking on the water? What was He trying to teach them?
  7. Reread Jesus’ statement in 6:29. What does He mean by “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent”? (PARENTS: This is a great opportunity to clearly explain the Gospel message: God’s free gift of salvation comes by faith alone in Christ alone; no earning work required, which is what Jesus reveals in this verse.)

Small Group Discussion Questions:
  1. How are John’s details of the feeding of the 5000 different than Matthew’s (see Matthew 14:13-21).
  2. What details does John include in his account that make his readers think of Moses and the major events of Moses’ ministry? Why would this be important to John’s purposes?
  3. Why do you think Jesus tests Philip with his question in 6:5?
  4. Why do you think Andrew brought Jesus a sack lunch? What might he be thinking?
  5. Why is it significant that Jesus is the one that does the distribution of food in John’s account (see 6:11)?
  6. Read Deuteronomy 18:15-18. Who is speaking to whom in this text? How does this passage connect to John 6:14?
  7. Why do you think Jesus withdrew to be alone (6:15)?
  8. Identifying Himself as He walked on the water, Jesus literally says “I am.” The same phrase John records several times throughout His gospel (I am the good shepherd… I am the bread of life… I am the way…). Do you think this is significant? Why?
  9. Summarize and restate Jesus’ words in 6:26-27. Discuss them with your group.
  10. Discuss the question and answer in 6:28-29. What were the people asking? How does Jesus challenge their question? How do you see the simple gospel message in Jesus’ response?
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