1 2 After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (of Tiberias).
Jesus wished to be alone with His Apostles so He could pray. He had just healed a man on the Sabbath and taught a crowd about eternal life and how Moses spoke about Him.
A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.
The crowd followed Jesus because they believed He was a prophet.
Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.
Jesus liked to pray on top of mountains, and this for three reasons: 1) It was the Jewish custom of the time, 2) It points back to Mount Siana, where God spoke to Moses, and 3) In light of two, Jesus is about to give a discourse.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near.
John not only lets us know the historical setting of this discourse but also sets us up for what it’s going to be about.
3 When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
“Raised his eyes” means He was just praying when He saw the crowd coming to Him; His prayer is a less-than-obvious reference to the consecration of the bread and wine at the Last Supper. The reason He asks Philip the question is because the Apostle is a shy and sober-minded man, and God uses lowly men to show His glory.
4 He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do.
Jesus dosen’t test Philip like the devil tests man but tests him in that He wished to see how strong Philip’s faith is; the Apostles had just witnessed Him heal a man.
Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages 5 worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little (bit).”
The Apostles must have been thinking, “Is He crazy? He can’t feed all those people!” because the crowd was enormous; Philip’s answer hints at this. The answer given lets the reader know that many people are coming to Jesus - that is, He wishes to feed the whole world.
One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,
This isn’t just to establish historicity but to point to the confession of Peter, to the office that Jesus gave to him, and to the job of fishermen that the brothers once had, which in turn points to the Resurrection, where Jesus would make the disciples catch a lot of fish on the Sea of Galilee - the same lake they just crossed.
"There is a boy here who has five barley loaves 6 and two fish; but what good are these for so many?"
Loves and fish is an ancient Christian symbol for the Eucharist, and it refers forward to the risen Lord meeting His disciples on the shore of Lake Galilee. Andrew’s statement is doubtful, which is ordinary, but it also sets up the reader for what is going to happen; to the early Christians, it would be the equivalent of a narrator saying, “Okay, now in this next scene, the hero is going to do something extraordinary, so pay close attention!”
Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass 7 in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.
You could just hear the early reader groaning (“Oh come on, are you just going to spell it out for me?”)! This would be lost on the modern reader, though, unless he was familiar with ancient symbols. Grass refers to springtime, which in turn refers to the Passover, which in turn refers back to what Jesus is going to talk about, and it refers to a pasture, which in turn refers to both the Word and the Eucharist. The number five thousand refers to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus (His five wounds), which gives further clue as to what Jesus is going to talk about. And Jesus having the peope recline refers to the Apostles reclining at the table in the Upper Room on Passover.