Before Jesus fed the five thousand (John 6) he had just delivered a sermon in which he based his authority to forgive sins on the fact that he only did what the Father gave him to do. Interestingly, he cites to them the example of Moses (John 5:45), and that because they did not believe Moses, they would not believe him.
Moses, it turns out, dealt with the same problem in Numbers 11. The people grumbled against God and his provision of manna, and God promised to fill them so full of the meat they craved until it “comes out at your nostrils” (Numbers 11:20). Moses, like Philip and Andrew after him, couldn’t see how God could provide meat to 600,000+ hungry Israelites. God told Moses, “Is the Lord’s hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23).
The people followed Jesus because of the signs he performed. Philip and Andrew thought that Jesus’ hand was shortened: how could he feed 5,000+ hungry groupies? And Jesus – forgetting all ‘seeker-sensitive’ principles – told the crowd that they only liked him because he fed their bellies.
Using the incident of Moses, manna, nostril-filling quail, and the loaves and fishes, Jesus points out that they don’t really need to have their bellies filled, but they really need their souls filled. And what was it that would fill their hungry souls? Why, the same Jesus who worked only what God told him to and fed 5,000+ in a miraculous way. “I am the bread of life,” he said. “Fill yourself with me.”
Indeed, now you shall see.