Jesus’ public ministry was in full swing. Along the way, he attracted not only the disapproving stare of the religious authorities, but also the fascination of many ordinary people. Jesus’ growing popularity among the people was largely due to their fascination with his miracles. In this section of John’s Gospel, Jesus clearly declares his identity and backs up those declarations with demonstrations of divine power.
It is another bit of John’s characteristic irony that yet again the Passover is being celebrated while Jesus, the fulfillment of the Passover, goes unrecognized. The God of Israel come in human flesh was working on behalf of his fallen people. Yet those who should have known the Scriptures well enough to recognize him and rejoice in his arrival instead plot his death.
The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 is the fourth sign John highlights. It is the only one of Jesus’ miracle recorded in all four Gospels. The miracle was stunning and captured the attention of people all across the region who would expect Jesus to continue to work such signs. But like all of his miracles, Jesus was doing something far deeper than satisfying the physical needs of the crowds. On that hillside near the shore of the Sea of Galilee Jesus declared that he is the true food for the human soul. He is God’s living welcome to sinners to come and feast upon the Bread of Life.