How Did It Come To This: Eating the Bread and Still Walking Away

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the apostle John. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses sixty through seventy-one of the sixth chapter. When you come to this particular portion of the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel John you will find the apostle bringing what is perhaps one of the most intriguing encounters in all of Christ’s ministry to a close. As you read the sixth chapter of the gospel which the apostle John wrote you will come face to face with a passage that began and opened with a great multitude of individuals following Jesus because they saw and witnessed the miracles He performed on the diseased. If you continue reading in the sixth chapter you will find it written how Jesus took the disciples apart with Him unto a mountain—perhaps in order that He might teach them privately, or perhaps even so He could bring them into a place of rest. If you continue reading on in the sixth chapter you will find it written how although the place where they were was a desert place, there was much grass in that place. It could very well be that Jesus sought to take His disciples apart with Him in order that both He and they might experience and enjoy rest and refreshment for their physical bodies—perhaps even for their souls. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which David penned in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament book of the psalms when he exclaimed how the Lord was his shepherd and how he should not want. The twenty-third psalm is perhaps one of the most beloved and well known psalms and passages of scripture in the entire bible, and if you continue reading it you will find the psalmist David declaring that the Lord leads His beside still waters, makes him to lie down in green pastures, and restores his soul. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this truly wonderful and remarkable reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the picture we might very well find at the beginning and opening of the sixth chapter. Based on what we find and read in the sixth chapter and in the opening verses it is very much possible that when Jesus took His disciples apart with Him on this particular occasion—not only did He seek to make them to perhaps lie or sit down in green pastures, but He also sought restore their souls. Perhaps one of the most intriguing realities that is found in the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ is the amount of emphasis the authors place on the concept of rest, and prayer, the restoration of the soul—not only within the life of Jesus Himself, but also within the hearts and lives of each of His disciples. There is an overwhelming amount of truth that is found and contained within the gospels on how Jesus regularly sought to restore His soul and find rest in prayer and communion before the Father, and in removing Himself from the crowds and multitudes of people.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but be captivated with and by this awesome and wonderful reality of Jesus taking the disciples aside with Him on this particular occasion in order that He might bring rest to their tired and weary physical bodies, and perhaps even rest for their souls. I cannot escape the fact that the apostle John wrote and declared that there was much grass in that place—particularly and especially when you consider the awesome and wonderful words which the psalmist David penned within the twenty third chapter of the book of the Psalms. It is no coincidence that David uses the language of making him to lie down in green pastures, and even restoring his soul, for what you read and what you find within the sixth chapter of the gospel account of the apostle John is Jesus the Christ—first causing the disciples themselves to sit down in green pastures, and then inviting the great company which came nigh unto them to sit down as well. It’s quite astonishing and intriguing to think about and consider the awesome and wonderful fact that what we find within this passage is a powerful display and demonstration of the words which we find in the Old Testament book of the psalms as there is not a doubt in my mind that Jesus had the disciples themselves first sit down in this desert place upon the grass. Undoubtedly Jesus sought to bring His disciples into this desert place where there was much grass in order that He might make them to lie or sit down in green pastures. What’s more, is that there is most certainly and most definitely a tremendous reality of the disciples being brought into this place in order that they might find rest for their souls, and in order that the words of David the psalmist might be out unto okay within their hearts and lives. How truly wonderful and remarkable it is to read the words which are found within this passage and to consider the tremendous link between the words which David wrote concerning the restoration of souls and what Jesus offered and provided the disciples. I find it truly astonishing and wonderful how when we read the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ—not only do we find the disciples being called and invited to walk with and follow Jesus, but we also find them being invited at times into a place of rest for their bodies and for their souls. I absolutely love that at the very heart and at the very core of the word restoration is the word “rest,” for there can be no restoration without and apart from rest. In fact, I am completely and utterly convinced that in order to find and experience true and complete restoration there needs to be the aspect and element of rest at the very heart and center of it.

The more I sit here this morning and think about and consider what is found within the sixth chapter of the gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus as written by John, the more I can’t help but come face to face with the tremendous reality of a great invitation that was given on this particular occasion. Not only was there an invitation given unto the disciples to find and experience rest for their souls, and perhaps even restoration within their own lives, but there was also a truly wonderful and powerful reality of the great company which gathered themselves unto and before Jesus the Christ being brought into a place of rest themselves. The simple fact that the apostle John sought to mention and include within this particular passage the reality that there was much grass in that place, as well as the instruction which Jesus gave unto the disciples to have them sit down in smaller companies within the grass brings us face to face with the invitation to rest Jesus sought to provide all those who gathered themselves together unto Him on this particular occasion. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find and what we read in this passage is a wonderful demonstration of the words which are found in the Old Testament book of the psalms concerning the Lord causing us to lie down in green pastures, and seeking to restore our souls. In all reality, I would dare say that when we read the words which are found within this passage of scripture we must allow ourselves to come face to face with the awesome and wonderful reality of the need within our own souls and within our own physical bodies to find and experience this place of rest and restoration. Oh dear brother, dear sister—please don’t miss and please don’t lose sight of this truly awesome and incredible reality, for within this passage of scripture we come face to face with what is perhaps one of the greatest needs within our own lives, as well as finding ourselves in the reality and truth that is contained within the twenty third chapter of the Old Testament book of the psalms. I still cannot escape the truth that if we want to truly understand the reality and concept of restoration we must first understand and come face to face with the fact that at the very heart of restoration is the truth and manifestation of rest. It would be very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in the word “restoration,” and completely and utterly miss out on the fact that at the very heart of restoration is the manifestation and demonstration of rest. I friendly believe best there can be no restoration for our souls without and apart from first entering into that place or rest—a place which only the Lord as our shepherd can lead and bring us into. It is possible for us to find and experience restoration for our souls and even for our physical bodies, however, at the very heart and center of that restoration there must be a tangible manifestation and demonstration of rest. I would dare say that it is utterly and completely impossible to truly find and experience restoration for our souls as the psalmist David so eloquently put it without allowing ourselves to first be brought into the place of rest.

I am convinced that in order to truly understand that which is found within the sixth chapter—both what took place at the beginning, as well as that which took place at the conclusion and end—it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we allow ourselves to take in and drink from the deep well that is twenty third chapter of the Old Testament book of the psalms. What we find in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms is actually quite astonishing and truly remarkable when you take the time to think about it, for what we find within the words of this psalm is a wonderful picture—not only of the being led beside still waters, not only being made to lie down in green pastures, and not only to find the restoration of our souls, but also the awesome and wonderful reality that it is the Lord alone as our shepherd that can make such a reality truly manifested within our hearts and lives. What perhaps so astonishes me about the words we find within this passage of Scripture in the Old Testament is that David doesn’t simply write and declare that the Lord is a shepherd, or even that the Lord is like a shepherd, but rather that the Lord is as shepherd, and the Lord is my shepherd. The psalmist David begins and opens up this passage of Scripture by writing and declaring that the Lord is indeed and is in fact “my shepherd.” We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the awesome reality that is found in the person of Jesus the Christ. In fact, once we have come face to face with and encountered the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, there is a passage which is found in the New Testament gospel of Matthew which helps shed and shine even more light on to the reality of the Lord as our shepherd, and what the Lord as our shepherd truly means for our individual lives. With that being said, I invite you to consider the words which are written and found within the twenty-third chapter beginning with the first verse of the chapter and continuing through to the end. Consider if you will the following words which are written and found concerning the Lord as our shepherd, and what the Lord as our shepherd truly does mean for our lives, and what that reality looks like:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalm 23:1-6).

There are only six verses within the twenty third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, and yet the truth that is found and contained within it is absolutely and utterly remarkable and astounding when you take the time to think about it. This particular passage begins and opens with David the psalmist emphatically declaring concerning the Lord that the Lord was indeed and was in fact His shepherd. David began this particular psalm by emphatically proclaiming and declaring how the Lord was indeed his shepherd, which was a reality he would surely have understood being a shepherd of his father’s sheep as well. When you read the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms you will come face to face with the fact that the Lord is our shepherd, and because the Lord is our shepherd we shall not want. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this reality, for it is because the Lord is our shepherd, and it is because the Lord is a shepherd that we shall not be in want. How absolutely wonderful and amazing it is to think about and consider that the very first reality the Lord declared concerning the Lord as our shepherd is that because He is our shepherd we shall not want. Immediately following the declaration that he should and would not be in want, David then goes on to write and declare concerning the Lord that He makes him to lie down in green pastures, and how He leads him beside still waters. What’s more, is the fact that David would go on to write concerning the Lord as his shepherd that He restores His soul, and leads Him in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. As I sit here this morning, I can’t help but read the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms and come face to face with how the reality of these words are wonderfully and powerfully demonstrated in the person of Jesus the Christ as His life is written and recorded within the four gospels found within the New Testament. As I sit here this morning and think about the words which are written and recorded within the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms, I can’t help but see the reality of these words being manifested within the person of Jesus the Christ, and that which Jesus the Christ offers and provides those whom He encountered on a daily and consistent basis. The declarations which David the psalmist makes within this single Old Testament book of the Psalms is quite astonishing and quite remarkable—particularly and especially when you think about and consider the fact that the words which he penned are directly applicable to the person of Jesus the Christ whom the New Testament authors emphatically write and speak of as the great shepherd. Before we get into that reality, it is necessary that we turn and direct our attention to a passage which is found in the New Testament gospel of Matthew concerning Jesus the Christ, and how He responded when He looked out upon a great multitude of people who had gathered themselves unto Him. Consider if you will the words which are found in the New Testament gospel of Matthew in the ninth chapter of the book:

“As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marveled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of devils. And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith He unto His disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:32-38).

With these words we come face to face—not only with the reality of Jesus teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and disease among the people, but we also find Jesus looking out upon the multitude and being moved with compassion on them. Why? Why did Jesus look upon the crowd and have compassion on them? What did He see when He looked out upon the crowd and multitude of people which was before Him? This is actually quite an important question to think about and consider, for it helps us understand what Jesus saw when He looked out over and looked out upon the crowds of people. This passage is perhaps one of—if not the greatest passages in all of Scripture concerning what Jesus saw when He looked out upon the crowds and multitudes of people which gathered themselves before and unto Him during His time of public ministry. The apostle Matthew writes and records concerning Jesus the Christ that when He saw the multitudes He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss out on the tremendous importance of that which is found in this passage of Scripture, for to do so would be to miss out on the incredible ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ while He walked upon this earth. The apostle Matthew is very clear that when Jesus saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd—a similar reality which is found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark. If you begin reading with and from the thirty-second verse of the sixth chapter, you will find the following words which directly link the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand to the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, as well the words which we find in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms. Consider if you will the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Mark beginning with the thirty-second verse of the chapter, and how it directly ties into that which we find in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, as well as the words which are written and recorded in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms:

“And they departed into a desert place by ship privately. And the people saw them departing, and many knew Him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, His disciples came unto Him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: send them away, that they m ay go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred penny worth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? Go and see. And when they they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And He commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided He among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:32-44).

Pause for a moment and consider the tremendous reality of the words which are written and found within this passage of Scripture, for by doing so we come face to face with the awesome and incredibly reality of what is found—not only within the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, not only with that which is found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, but also with that which is found in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms. It is so absolutely important and necessary that when we read the words which are written in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John we understand them within the context of how the other authors wrote concerning this same event, for when John Mark wrote concerning this event he was sure to include the fact that when Jesus looked upon the great crowd of people which were before Him, he was moved with compassion toward them because He saw they were as sheep without a shepherd—a reality which was written and found within the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew. This reality of Jesus looking upon the crowd and being moved with compassion on them because He saw them as sheep without a shepherd helps shine an even greater amount of light on to that which is written and found within the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John, for within this passage we find Jesus inviting the great multitude and company of people to sit down in the grass, as well as inviting them into a place of restoration, fellowship, community, and provision. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find in the opening verses of the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of John is a truly wonderful and remarkable picture of the opening verses which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms. David—when writing and penning the words which are found in the Old Testament book of the Psalms—not only spoke of the Lord as being his shepherd, but David also emphatically declared that he shall not be in want, how the Lord makes him to lie down in green pastures, how the Lord leads him beside still waters, and how the Lord restores his soul. Perhaps the only thing we don’t find in the New Testament gospel account of the feeding of the five thousand is the picture of the Lord leading the people beside still waters. At least to our knowledge there is absolutely no indication within any of the accounts of this event within the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ that there were any streams of water which were present there. Even with that being said, we find within this passage of Scripture a wonderful picture of the Lord looking upon this great company of people as a shepherd, and seeing them as sheep without a shepherd. What’s more, is that within this passage of Scripture we find those who were gathered before Him not being in want, for the Lord would provide for them in that desert place—provision that would not require them to do for themselves what He was perfectly capable and willing to do. Furthermore, it would be in this passage of Scripture that we would find the Lord offering restoration for the souls of those who gathered together before Him, and even caused them to sit down in green pastures.

As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about and consider the awesome and wonderful reality of the Lord as our shepherd, and how the Lord was moved with compassion upon the great company which were before Him, for He saw them as sheep without a shepherd. We dare not miss the awesome and incredible connection that exists within this passage, and how it directly applies to that which we find in the Old Testament book of the Psalms. The entire reality of Jesus feeding the five thousand people was not merely about provision and feeding them in that desert place, but it was about Jesus the Christ being moved with compassion when looking upon them, for He saw them as being sheep without a shepherd. Looking out upon the crowd of people and seeing them as sheep without a shepherd He desired to do for them so they wouldn’t have to go and do for themselves what they could very well have done. It’s truly remarkable to think about and consider the awesome and wonderful reality that Jesus could have sent the crowds away, and could have sent them into the country and into the cities in order that they might buy food for themselves. Jesus could have very easily sent the crowds away into the cities in order that they might buy for themselves food, however, the gospel authors paint the picture that Jesus chose not to do so. Not only did Jesus choose not to send the crowds away, but Jesus also chose not to send the crowds away and make them seek provision for themselves. So long as there were loaves of bread and fish present in this place, and so long as Jesus the living Bread was pressing in this place, the people would not have to leave the presence of Jesus after hearing Him teach and speak in order that they might provide for themselves. This actually brings me to an incredibly important thought to consider—namely, how many times men and women gather themselves together to hear and listen to the words and preaching of the gospel, and yet they are being sent away in order that they might provide for themselves as they see fit, and as they see necessary. What I absolutely love about the words which are found within this passage of Scripture is that Jesus would not send the crowds away, and Jesus would not send the crowds away in order that they might purchase bread and meat for themselves. Rather than sending the crowds away, Jesus deliberately and intentionally chose to provide for them in that place by blessing, breaking and multiplying the loaves of bread and the few small fish that were present in that place. Even though that place was a desert place, and even though there were only five loaves of bread and a few small fish, those which were gathered there on this particular day were in the presence of the living Bread which came down from heaven.

What so amazes me about what we find within this passage is not necessarily how the passage begins, but how the passage concludes and ends. Although this passage begins and opens up with a great multitude and company of people appearing before Jesus and His disciples in this desert place, Jesus would not send them away without providing for them physically. This passage and this encounter with Jesus would find Jesus instructing the disciples to have the great company sit down in groups of fifty in the grass in that place, for there was much grass where they were. What’s more, is that it would be in that place where the living Bread which came down from heaven would provide for them physically, and would meet their needs physically in order that they would not depart from the presence of the Lord hungry and faint along the way. Taking this a step further I cannot help but think about and consider the fact that Jesus would not send the crowds away which gathered themselves together before Him, and yet when you come to the end of the chapter you will find the crowds and disciples departing from the presence of Jesus the Christ themselves. What’s more, is that the crowds and disciples which gathered themselves before and in the presence of Jesus, and which even partook of the loaves of bread and of the fish would later turn back and would no more walk with Jesus. If you begin reading with and from the sixtieth verse of this chapter you will find that when many of the disciples heard the words which Jesus the Christ spoke unto them concerning His being the bread come down from heaven, as well as the words which He spoke concerning partaking of His flesh and blood, they thought within themselves that such words were a hard saying, and they could not understand who could hear and who could handle such words. It’s worth noting that when you read the words which the apostle John wrote in this passage you will discover that Jesus asked the crowds and company of people point blank whether or not the words which He spoke offended them. This question would immediately be followed by Jesus declaring unto them that it was the Spirit that quickens, and how the flesh profits nothing. Moreover, Jesus would go on to declare that the words which He spoke unto them were spirit, and they are life. Then, Jesus goes on to drop a bombshell on those which were present before Him—as if the fact that many of them had a hard time with the words which He had already spoken—for He declared unto those which were present on this day that there were some who believed not. The apostle John then goes on to write how Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him. What is so tragic about how the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of John ends is that it ends with the following words: “many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” (John 6:66).

HOW DID IT COME TO THIS? What would begin with Jesus being moved with compassion concerning the people which gathered themselves before Him would eventually culminate in Jesus emphatically declaring how there were some among them who did not believe. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand this, for by the time the chapter draws to a close we find many of the disciples going back, and walking no more with Jesus the Christ. There is not a doubt that a great number of those which went back, and many of those which chose to walk no more with Jesus the Christ were in fact those who partook of the loaves of bread and of the fish. I am completely and utterly convinced that there were a great many men and women who partook of the loaves of bread and partook of the fish, and yet despite the physical provision that was made available unto them, they chose to go back and walk no more with Jesus the Christ because of the words which He spoke. How absolutely and incredibly interesting it is to think about and consider the fact that it’s possible for men and women to experience the provision of the Lord Jesus Christ within their lives, and even how the Lord causes them to lie down in green pastures, and restore their souls, and yet such individuals could choose to go back and walk no more with Jesus—simply because of the words which He spoke unto them. There were those who were able to handle the provision, but when it came to Jesus challenging their thinking, and challenging what they believed, they could not handle such a reality within their hearts and lives, and chose to go back and walk no more with Him. It’s quite astonishing and remarkable to think about and consider the fact that there were a great number of men and women who partook of the loaves of bread, and who partook of the fish which Jesus had caused them to eat, and yet by the time it was all said and done, many of them went back and chose not to walk with Him any longer. There is within this passage of Scripture a tremendous challenge for us, and how even though the Lord is our shepherd, and even though we shall not want, and even though the Lord can cause us to lie down in green pastures and lead us beside still waters, we can still choose to go back and walk no more with Him because of the words which He speaks unto us. Oh, how many of us can handle the provision of the living God, and can handle the provision of Jesus the Christ, and yet when it comes to the teaching of Jesus the Christ, we have a hard time with the words He speaks, and become offended and choose to turn back and walk no more with Him. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves when reading the words contained within this passage is whether or not we have become offended with the words which Jesus has spoken unto us, and whether or not we have ears to hear that which Jesus the Christ desires to speak to us. Are we capable and are we able to hear and listen to the words which Jesus the Christ seeks to speak to us, and are we able to remain walking with and following Him—despite the fact that He can and will challenge our thinking and our beliefs? Oh that we would ask ourselves whether we can truly handle the words which Jesus speak unto us—words which are Spirit and words which are life. Are we able to consistently walk with Jesus—even when walking with Him might be uncomfortable and He directly challenges our thinking and our beliefs. Oh that we would understand that walking with Jesus is not always about provision, but it is also about teaching, exhortation, correction and rebuke, and just as the word of God is for teaching, exhortation, correction and rebuke, so also is the living Word and so also is the living Bread which came down from heaven also Himself about teaching, correction, rebuke, and exhortation.

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