"Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself." (John 6:1-15)
It is a rhetorical question. Jesus stares out into the crowd of thousands of people who had gathered, and he asks, “How will we buy enough food for all these people.” In order to understand the magnitude of the dilemma, we must understand the condition of the people in the crowd.
The verse begins by explaining why the crowd had assembled. It says. “the people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.” Not only does this describe why the crowd had formed, but it also describes who is in the crowd – those who are sick! This is not a crowd of nobles who could each donate enough to feed the crowd if an offering was taken. No, these are the outcasts - the sick and needy.
So look again. You are with Jesus on the top of a hill and you see a valley full of people. They are sick, impoverished and hungry. Jesus turns to you and says, “How will be buy enough to feed all these desperate people?”
It’s impossible! And that is what Jesus wants you to understand! The crowd of people has no means to provide for their greatest need. The disciples are helpless to do anything to solve the crisis. The question Jesus asks is intended to make this point as they stare at the crowd: “This is our responsibility. These people are looking to us for help. And yet, in and of ourselves, we cannot meet the needs of all those looking to us for our care. We must do something. But the need is greater than we can meet on our own. We need a miracle!”
So they turn to Jesus. This is what He wanted in the first place. Apart from Him, they could do nothing. Because of Him, they can do more than they could ever ask or imagine. The people are fed until their empty stomachs were full and there was food left over for later.
The people in the crowd decided together: “This is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
They were oppressed and He understood their need. No one else with such authority paid any attention to people of such low and despised social status. “If Jesus was King,” they concluded, “we could have bread every day. He is the answer to our social bondage. Let’s make Jesus King so that we can break free from this life of poverty and live in prosperity by His miraculous rule!”
It was the height of Jesus’ popularity. Could He have the kingdom without the cross? May it never be! Jesus slips away knowing that the crowd would crown Him as King for all the wrong reasons. They wanted Jesus to make their life better by meeting external needs – food, health and prosperity. Jesus came for a different reason. He came to restore spiritual health, to feed our hungry souls and to help us realize that although we may be poor in the eyes of the world, we are rich in Him… if we believe. Jesus did not come to reign from the throne of a castle…he came to reign on the throne of our heart.