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John 6:15-24 Commentary & Lesson
February 23, 2020
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Jesus Casts Out Fears — John 6:15-24 — for February 23

The Promise of Persevering Prayer — Luke 11:5-13 — for February 23

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L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.
Teaching the Truth in Love

John 6:15-24

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When Jesus realized that they were about to come
and take him by force to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain by himself

(John 6:15).

Follow God or Follow the Crowd

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Praying Through John 6:15-24

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John 6:15-24

(John 6:15) When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

The two most important acts by Jesus on the mountain that meant most to the crowd were His healings (for which they followed Him) and His unexpected and miraculous feeding of 5,000 people (or more) using five barley loaves and two fish (which moved them to want to make Jesus their king by the use of force). The teaching that John recorded during this time related to Jesus teaching His disciples by testing and example. Jesus probably also taught the crowd that had gathered, for He “came into the world to testify to the truth” (see John 18:37). Jesus was their King sent from God the Father, but the crowd seemed more interested in wanting Jesus to be the kind of king that would overthrow their oppressors (the Roman Empire) and restore their prosperity. In response, Jesus went back up the mountain where He customarily prayed to His heavenly Father. Those who profess to be Christians might ask themselves in what ways they are different from the crowd that wanted to make Jesus a king in their way.

(John 6:16)  And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,

John gives us a more abbreviated version of the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee than the versions we find in Matthew 14:22-33 and Mark 6:45-56. John saw no need to record everything in Matthew and Mark, and he did not record Jesus’ instructions to His disciples in Matthew 14:22, which reads, “Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.” Jesus’ disciples did not decide to simply abandon Jesus on the shore and go alone across the sea; rather, they followed Jesus’ directions. Jesus probably sent them on ahead to teach them more about His character and nature, which Mark 6:51-52, implies when writing about the results of their journey: “Then Jesus got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” They needed to learn more about and trust more Jesus’ compassionate love for them (character) and Jesus’ power as the Son of God and King of the universe (nature).

(John 6:17)  And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.

The disciples obeyed Jesus and started across to Capernaum (located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee) where the royal official lived whose son Jesus healed and where Jesus lived during His Galilean ministry. John made clear that by the time they departed, Jesus had not come to them. Before coming to them, Jesus dismissed the crowd and then went up the mountain to pray. John emphasized that the disciples were alone in the boat without Jesus, not that they expected to see Jesus walking on the water to join them in the boat.

(John 6:18)  And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.

The disciples who were fishermen, such as Peter, Andrew, James and John, had sailed or rowed their boats through storms before.  Prior to the experience John related here (reported also in Matthew 14:22-33), we know from Matthew 8:23-27 that once when a storm arose Jesus was asleep in the boat and so great was the windstorm that the boat began to fill with water. After the disciples woke Jesus, He stilled the storm, and in Matthew 8:27, we read. “They were amazed, saying, ‘What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?’” (see also Luke 8:22-25). In this situation, the disciples might have begun to think, “If only Jesus were with us, He could still this storm!”

(John 6:19)  So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.

Jesus would not abandon His disciples to the waves and the wind. Jesus did not still the storm from the mountain top as He could have done easily. Rather, Jesus wanted them to remember that He loved them and would care for them always, even if that meant walking on the water through a storm to help them. When Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, in John 17:12, Jesus told His Father, “While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.” John’s account of Jesus walking on the water illustrated one of the ways Jesus protected His disciples. On March 8, 2020, God-willing, we will study John 6:39, which reads, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Jesus was determined not to lose any of His disciples in a storm. After rowing about three or four miles, the disciples, exhausted and afraid because of the storm, were terrified when they saw someone walking on the sea toward their boat. In Matthew 14:26, we learn why they were terrified, “When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear.”

(John 6:20)  But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.

Jesus needed to speak only a few words. Jesus’ presence calmed their fears and assured them that they had not seen a ghost; rather, He had come to their aid. John did not teach about Peter walking on the water after he saw Jesus (Matthew had already written about Peter doubting and needing more faith). By demonstration, John achieved His purpose which he clearly stated in John 20:31, “These are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” Matthew 14:33, summarized the disciples’ reaction: “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”

(John 6:21)  Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

When the disciples learned that they had not seen a ghost, but Jesus coming to cast out all their fears and save them, they became willing and wanted to take Him into the boat. The very moment they took Jesus into the boat, the boat reached land where they were going. In a moment, Jesus got them exactly where they needed to be and met their needs. The moment we truly receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, as God’s Messiah, as the Son of God as revealed in the Bible, Jesus gives us the power and right to become children of God—immediately we receive the gift of eternal life.

(John 6:22)  The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;

The crowd knew that Jesus had worked a miracle and had fed them with enough food left over for His disciples; therefore, the crowd wanted to make Jesus their king by force. They probably wanted to do so even more the next day. Jesus had sent His disciples on the ahead of Him by boat to Capernaum. Then, unseen by the crowd, Jesus had walked on water, gotten into their boat, and traveled with them to the other side of the sea. The crowd did not know where Jesus had gone or how He had left them.

(John 6:23)  (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)

Tiberias was about 6 miles south of Capernaum on the west side of the Sea of Galilee. Those who arrived from Tiberias soon learned that Jesus had fed a large crowd there after saying a prayer, which John described as giving thanks. They probably also learned that the people Jesus had fed wanted to make Him their king. Those Jesus had fed may have recruited some who had newly arrived from Tiberias to take them to Capernaum to search for Jesus. Capernaum was located on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.

(John 6:24)  When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.

After searching diligently for Jesus, the crowd got into the newly arrived boats from Tiberias and went to Capernaum in Galilee (where Jesus had made His new home). They were probably motivated to find Jesus because of the free food that He had given them. The free food that He gave them was easier to get than food from fishing, from harvesting grain, or from baking bread. With Jesus’ abilities, they knew they would not need to work or pay taxes to the Romans again, so they wanted to make Jesus their king.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. Why do you think the crowd wanted to use force to make Jesus king?

2. Why do you think Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself?

3. Do you think the disciples right or wrong to leave Jesus and start across the sea to Capernaum by themselves? Why or why not?

4. What may have the disciples learned after they had gone three or four miles?

5. Why do you think the crowd left for Capernaum to look for Jesus?

Follow God or Follow the Crowd

When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself (John 6: 15).

When the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he offered Jesus a kingship over all the nations on earth, but of course Jesus would need to bow under the devil’s authority. After Jesus healed every disease of those who came to Him, and after He had fed about 5000 people using only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, crowds of people wanted to make Jesus their king. Jesus could do everything their religious and political leaders could not or would not do. Jesus could miraculously meet everyone’s physical needs, so Jesus may have been tempted to allow the crowd to raise an army and by force make Him king. However, Jesus knew that He had come to do the will of His Heavenly Father rather than follow the crowd. Jesus came to meet people’s eternal needs: people’s need to live forever free from sin in the presence of their loving God. Jesus knew that the kingdom of which He was already King was not of this world. Jesus knew that He had to teach people the truth about God rather than be made a king of this world in opposition to his Heavenly Father. Jesus knew that He came to suffer and die on a cross to glorify God and then rise from the dead so He could give the Holy Spirit to His followers. We do not know what Jesus prayed to His Father on the mountain, but He probably prayed for the continued strength and wisdom to do His Father’s will unto death—a strength and wisdom His Father gave Him. — LG Parkhurst Jr.

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