John 6:60 reads, “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” John 6:66 adds, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”
The above verses mark the end of Jesus’ Great Galilean Ministry, which comprised the second year of His ministry and into the first quarter of the third year. This second year of Christ’s ministry has been accurately labeled in the Thompson Chain Reference Bible as, “The Year of Popularity.” It can be further argued that Jesus reached the height of His popularity almost at the end of that 15-month period at the feeding of the five thousand, which, ironically, came only a few days before the passages from the paragraph above. The Year of Popularity closes with the crowds leaving Jesus. The mob is fickle, and its mind can change in a hurry.
The feeding of the five thousand is the only one of Jesus’ miracles recorded in all four Gospels. This miracle is significant in that it displays Christ’s miraculous powers, His fellowship and communion with the Father, and His unlimited ability to provide for His own. This event also exhibits Christ’s wisdom in crowd management, in instructing the twelve apostles to organize seated groups of fifty before the food was distributed. There was no disarray here. Had there been, had people been pushing and jostling for food, Jesus’ miracle would have been tarnished.
The reaction to this miracle by the multitudes in Galilee was one of astonishment as shown by John 6:14, where the crowds began to say to each other, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” The comment is a reference to Deuteronomy 18:15- 18, which says:
The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken… I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18).
The crowds saw Jesus as this prophesied Prophet because (a) He uttered wonderful and authoritative teachings delivered with a Moseslike authority of one who knew God intimately and who had heard His voice; and (b) they saw Jesus, like Moses and the manna of Exodus 16, was distributing bread to feed thousands.