After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (Jn 6:1-15)
“This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” The people had been wondering for some time. The time was right when John appeared on the shores of the Jordan baptizing the people. Their hopes had been piqued. But he came and went with no revolution. Now Jesus comes. He heals the sick, makes the lame to walk, the blind to see. Jesus all but answers their questions for them. He’s in the vicinity of Tiberius, hence the new name for the Sea of Galilee. A newly founded Greek city, the height of worldly culture in the area, Herod Antipitas had made it his capital. They cross the see, pass through the wilderness. Jesus ascends the mountain and sits down with his disciples. He teaches the people. And then he feeds them in the midst of the wilderness. The people put two and two together. This is the prophet they have been waiting for. This is the one of whom Moses said, God will raise up a prophet like me from among you, listen to him.” “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!
Moses and Jesus they are contrasted here in this text. Jesus in his own way comes to do what Moses did, but does what Moses couldn’t, what Moses could only foreshadow. Moses came to free his people, to lead them out of slavery, to give them their own nation, their own country. And this he did. He confronted Pharaoh, and performed the signs. The signs he performed though were plagues and judgment. He assaulted the Egyptians with frogs and gnats, rivers of blood and death. Then he led them through the sea, an event Paul likens to baptism. In the desert he ascends Mount Sinai and gives the people God’s law. To give them their freedom he makes them into another earthly nation, gives them earthly laws.
Now everyone recognizes that Jesus is the prophet that is like Moses. He feeds them bread and fish in the wilderness, as Moses fed their forefathers manna. But like does not mean the same. Jesus gives the people signs, but they are signs of blessing. He heals the sick, he makes the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and raises the dead. Wherever he goes he brings life, he gives life. Where Moses taught law, he instructs in the gospel, mercy and forgiveness, the kingdom of God. And he feeds them, he takes the bread and blesses it, breaks it with the crowd. Five thousand are fed with five barley loaves and two fish and everyone is satiated. This is when they put two and two together. This is when they figure it out. He is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.
Yes indeed he is the prophet that is to come into the world. But he would not be their Moses. He would not be that man who would give them earthly freedom. Because to do so would be to deny them what he really came to give them. When they try to make him king, they do nothing but offer him the same temptation as the devil in the desert when he offered every nation of the world to Christ’s feet. But Christ had other plans. He would not be their earthly ruler giving them earthly laws. He would go to the cross. He would die for the sins of the world. And doing so he would lead all who believed through the desert and into the promised land of heaven. He would lead us out of this evil world, he would lead us through the desert of death, and in so doing he would take bread and bless it, he would dole it out to you and I and there give us the bread of life that comes down from heaven, a truly miraculous bread to eat along with his blood to drink. Not in Capernaistic understanding, not as if we were to feast like cannibals. But his glorified and heavenly body permeated by the divine, the eternal life he lives, the life he gives, the life he gave on the cross for the sins of the whole world. Here we eat, here we drink and life is given. We eat his body and drink his blood and he abides in us and we in him and we bear much fruit because of it. Then brothers, then sisters, we know this prophet, the prophet that was to come into the world, would give us life rather than law which leads to death.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.