1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.
Of the four gospels, only John deals with the long Galilean ministry of Jesus, which lasted over a year and a half. The two miracles of this chapter (feeding of the 5,000 and walking on water) were preparation for the discourse on the bread of life in the last half of the chapter.
Chapter 6 is similar to chapter 5 in that they both set forth a miracle followed by a discourse by Jesus on His deity. Chapter 6 records the fifth and sixth miraculous signs of Jesus: (1) feeding of the 5,000, and (2) Jesus walking on water. John’s purpose in setting forth these miracles was to show the majesty of Christ.
The first 15 verses set forth the feeding of the 5,000. This is the only miracle mentioned in all four gospels except for the resurrection of Christ. This makes this miracle of significant, singular importance. This miracle also provides the occasion for the discourse on the bread of life that follows. Jesus gave a long discourse (vv. 22-72) following this sign, making it an important miracle in the life of Christ. The miracle piqued the interest of people in Jesus as the Messiah.
Chapter 6 marks the watershed of Jesus’ ministry. His popularity began to fade after this chapter. Chapter 5 marks the rise of opposition in Jerusalem and chapter 6 the rise of antagonism in Galilee.
After these things
“These things” refers to chapter 5. There was probably an interval of six months between chapters 5 and 6. The date might have been AD April 29, one year before the crucifixion.
Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias.
The Sea of Galilee is a large, fresh-water lake in northern Palestine. The alternate name for it was “the Sea of Tiberius.” Tiberius, on the western shore, was the most important city on the lake. Other names for the sea were the Sea of Chinnereth (Nu 34:11), the Sea of Tiberias (21:1), and the Lake of Gennesaret (Lu 5:1).
Jesus and His disciples went to the barren and remote area northeast of the Sea of Galilee.
Then a great multitude followed [kept following] Him,
Note that this great crowd of people was in the habit of following and seeing Him. It was not an occasional but a constant following of Jesus. These terms do not mean that they were genuine believers but simply people caught up in a movement. Their interest was the spectacular miracles and not the message of Jesus.
because they saw [kept seeing] His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.
Those who followed Jesus and His disciples on the boat followed them along the shore to the remote location. They were miracle or thrill seekers, not seeking genuine truth. Their concern was Jesus’ power, not His significance. They wanted His miracles, not His message. The Lord knew their superficially but He would meet their need for mercy anyway.
Chapter 6 describes the kind followers that Jesus had here as those who wanted their physical needs met. They wanted a king for this purpose (Jn 6:15). They were more interested in the “signs” than in the substance of what Jesus had to offer.
It is important to focus on the message rather than the means.
The Bible presents many lines of evidence for the deity of Christ, but miracles are a major method for doing this. These miracles manifest His divine glory (Jn 2:11). Jesus used them to substantiate His claims for deity (Jn 5:35; 10:24: 14:11).
Occasionally it is necessary to set aside time to examine where we are in life. The disciples returning from ministry needed rest and time alone with Jesus. This was why they needed to get away and focus on things of greater value.
Most of the people of Jesus’ day were not interested in a Savior from sin but a miracle-worker who would save them from the oppressive Roman government. There are people like that today. They are completely consumed with miracles rather than the essential message of Jesus.