Note: This article is easier to understand if one knows the chronological order of the events it mentions. A list of these events in probable chronological order is provided here.
After Jesus walked on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night to the boat that held His disciples, “He got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. They were completely astounded, because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:51-52). In reading these verses, we need to keep in mind that Jesus walked on the water (vv. 45-52) soon after feeding the crowd that consisted of 5,000 men, plus women and children (vv. 30-44). The miraculous feeding of the massive throng of people surely was fresh on the disciples’ minds. What did the miracle mean?
Earlier, Jesus had talked about the testimony of John the Baptist regarding Himself. Then He said, “But I have a greater testimony than John’s because of the works that the Father has given me to accomplish. These very works I am doing testify about Me that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36). Thus, Jesus’ miracles were intended to validate that God had sent Him. In other words, they were meant to help people understand who Jesus was—and is.
When Jesus calmed the storm and the waves on the Sea of Galilee with His words in Mark 4:35-41, the disciples were amazed, and at that point they actually did seem to understand that the key issue was who Jesus was. They asked, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (v. 41). Yet we should not be surprised that they still had much to learn. Along the way, there would be numerous times when they would not quite “get it.” Let’s not judge them too harshly; we often don’t “get it” either.
The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 was not ultimately about bread, food, or anything else material. Later, after Jesus miraculously fed a crowd of 4,000 (that wasn’t ultimately about anything material either) the Pharisees demanded a sign from Him (see 8:11). Jesus warned His disciples, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod” (v. 15). They didn’t “get it” then, either (see vv. 16-21).
In John 6:22-40, Jesus spoke to another slow-to-understand group of people. He’d recently fed the crowd of 5,000. Afterward the people had sought Him, but Jesus told them, “I assure you: You are looking for me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” Then He said, “Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him” (vv. 26-27). Then He went on to say, “I am the bread of life. No one who comes to Me will ever be hungry, and no one who believes in me will ever be thirsty again” (v. 35).
It may be an oversimplification, but the point still has validity. When we have spiritual eyes to see that “it’s all about Jesus,” we are much less likely to develop hardened hearts. Let us pray for insight to see Him, and joyfully receive Him, for who He is.