The back-to-back miracles of feeding the 5,000 and walking on water are proof of Jesus’ power over the natural world. As God in the flesh, Jesus could walk on liquids as easily as He could walk on solids. He could multiply matter at will, cloning fish a thousand times over and producing boatloads of bread in the place of a few rolls.
The little boy in verse 9, whom Dwight Pentecost called “an insignificant lad with an insufficient lunch,” gave what he had to Jesus and got a front-row seat to an astounding miracle. With their appetites satisfied, the crowd proclaimed the miracle-worker to be Messiah and wanted to crown Him King (v.14-15).
The faith of the crowd turned out to be very shallow. When they found Jesus the next day, He revealed that they were only seeking Him because they wanted more free food (v.25-26). Instead of seeking food that satisfied temporarily, Jesus said that they should seek that which satisfied eternally (v.27).
The crowd ignored that truth and pressed Him for more miracles, greedily suggesting that He call down food from the sky, a heavenly buffet. That request set up what is known as the “Bread of Life Discourse,” a sermon in which Jesus identified Himself no less that five times as “the bread of life” which God sent down from heaven. Jesus taught that receiving Him would result in eternal life (v.51). He referred to the act of receiving Him as Lord and Savior as “eating this bread (the bread of life),” and then “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” (v.53-58). In very strong terms (too strong for some of His followers, v.60), Jesus was saying that God’s provision for salvation — Himself — will not affect one’s life unless He is received personally, exclusively, completely, and internally.
Hearing this “hard saying” (v.60), many of Jesus’ larger group of followers turned around and became former followers. They did not want to follow a Savior who required complete surrender and desired to give them a complete internal makeover. They wanted Jesus to follow them so that He could fill their bellies and perform tricks to keep them entertained. They turned back (v.66) because they wanted to enjoy the rewards of discipleship without the requirements of discipleship.
“The Twelve” (v.67) continued to follow Jesus. They had placed their faith in Him. Fresh on their minds was the scene from the night before, when Jesus came to them, walking on the sea (v.16-21). They were convinced that He was the Son of God — the one who could both calm their fears and impart eternal life. Are you convinced?