Chapter 6

Feeding the Five Thousand

 

6:1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias).

 

After healing the lame man at the pool of Bethesda, and defending Himself to the Pharisees, showing that he was the Creator, life giver and judge, Jesus leaves Judea again heading for the sea of Galilee (which had been renamed after Tiberius Caesar).

 

6:2 A large crowd was following him because they were observing the miraculous signs he was performing on the sick.

 

The crowds heard of his departure and followed him, having seen the great miracles he had done in healing the sick. They did not come to hear Christ's teaching, or for Him to meet the need of their souls. Some were curious, many came to be healed and others hoped that Jesus might be the one to rescue them from the Roman occupation. Most were either unaware or unconcerned about their need of salvation.

 

6:3 So Jesus went on up the mountainside and sat down there with his disciples.

 

Jesus went up into a mountain so that he could be alone with his disciples to rest and spend time teaching them. This event took place at the time just after John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod. Prior to this, Jesus had sent the twelve to villages all over Galilee. They had returned to Christ with news of their success. But Jesus knew that after giving themselves out for him, they needed to be renewed and refreshed in spirit. They needed to spend time alone with him. While we are very busy in the Lord, reaching out to the lost, delivering invites for people to come to church, working with the children and whatever else we do for the Lord, there will never be a time when we do not need to come, as we are doing now, to receive something from the Lord for ourselves and to be instructed in His word (Heb. 10:25).

 

6:4 (Now the Jewish feast of the Passover was near.)

 

It was nearly time for Passover, which meant it was spring. Passover was an important time for Jesus. It was the time when he would give his life for the sins of the world. He wants to speak to the vast crowds about this, and have an opportunity to teach them about his coming death and resurrection. This is a subject he wants us to tell others about too, for as we do lives will be changed and souls saved (Rom. 1:16 and 1 Cor. 1:18).

 

6:5-6 Then Jesus, when he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, "Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat?" (Now Jesus said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do.)

 

Jesus, since He is God, knows all things and was expecting the crowds. He had already decided to perform a miracle not only as a sign to his authority but as an introduction to his teaching about himself. Firstly he challenges his disciples' faith.

 

6:7 Philip replied, "Two hundred silver coins worth of bread would not be enough for them, for each one to get a little."

 

Philip was from Bethsaida, which was nearby. If anyone would know the answer to this question he would: where can we buy food for all these people? Was Jesus being serious? How could thirteen men cater for more than 10,000 people? A year's wages would never be enough to buy enough bread for each to have a bite. Philip only saw the impossibility of it, not the God who was standing before him who could do the impossible.

 

6:8-9 One of Jesus' disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "Here is a boy who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what good are these for so many people?"

 

Andrew, Simon Peter's brother hears the question and volunteers a similar answer. We've got no food to give, except what this little boy has brought. It is sometimes assumed it was the boys own lunch packed by his mother. Since it was barley harvest, the mother might have decided to send a thank offering to the "prophet" Jesus as was done in Elijah's time. Or possibly he was out selling bread and fish to make money for his mother. Whatever the case, it was the only bread there, and would never be enough for twelve men, let alone 5,000.

 

6:10 Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." (Now there was a lot of grass in that place.) So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.

 

Jesus does not comment on the unbelief of his disciples. What was it for him who had made the universe from nothing, who made man from the dust of the ground to feed a crowd of people with 5 loaves of bread? The disciples at least have enough faith to obey Christ. At his command they make the men sit down in orderly groups of 50 or 100. God never does anything in a disorderly manner. There is always attention to order in God's ways.

 

6:11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed the bread to those who were seated. He then did the same with the fish, as much as they wanted.

 

Jesus takes the bread in his hands, gives thanks, implores God's blessing on the food and then breaks it. The disciples then took the bread and distributed it, with the fish, among the people.

 

6:12-13 When they were all satisfied, Jesus said to his disciples, "Gather up the broken pieces that are left over, so that nothing is wasted." So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with broken pieces from the five barley loaves left over by the people who had eaten.

 

How the miracle happened cannot be explained. It was a miracle, miracles can't be explained. But not only did all the people have plenty to eat, there was plenty left over. Each disciple filled a large basket with left overs. Jesus warns them "Let nothing be wasted." There are times when God gives us plenty, but he would not have us misuse what we have, for there may soon be a time when we will not have plenty, when we will need what we have saved.

 

Jesus the Bread of Life

 

6:14 Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, "This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world."

 

When the men who had followed Jesus to the mountain saw this miracle he had performed they felt certain that he was the prophet who Moses wrote about (Deut. 18:18-19). Truly Moses had never performed a miracle like this. With such a man as their King, nothing would be impossible. They would overthrow the Romans, they would never need to work or be hungry again. It is surprising what will move a crowd, especially one that has no care for their souls, but only for their bodies.

 

The world today is full of people who have no thought for eternal things. Their minds are fixed only on what can bring them a temporary kind of pleasure. That is what sometimes leads them to be addicted to gambling, drink, drugs, pornography. I knew a man who spent all his money on prostitutes. Men's hearts are too closed and too hard. They are not looking for a Saviour who will save them from their sins. Jesus desperately wanted these people to turn to him and be saved (Isa. 45:22). He wanted to show them that he had come to give his life for the world so that they could be forgiven and saved from their sins. Then their hearts desire would be fixed on things above, eternal things. But even Christians can be caught up with the things of the world instead of the things of God. God's word commands us (Col. 3:1-2).

 

6:15 Then Jesus, because he knew they were going to come and seize him by force to make him king, withdrew again up the mountainside alone.

 

Jesus had no intention of pandering to the people or to fulfill the desires of their flesh. He had not come to do that. He would not be made to do anything by mere men. So he retires to a mountain alone, where no doubt he prays that the hearts of the people might be open to his teaching that he is the bread of life, so that they could receive what they so desperately needed - the salvation of their souls.

 

Trust and do not Fear

 

6:16 Now when evening came, his disciples went down to the lake.

 

Before leaving he ordered his disciples to get into the boat by themselves and go across the sea to the other side, to Capernaum, thus escaping the crowds. We do not know how they thought that Jesus would join them, but they did as he told them.

 

6:17-18 Got into a boat, and started to cross the lake to Capernaum. (It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.) By now a strong wind was blowing and the sea was getting rough.

 

A great storm and wind arose which blew against the course of the ship, so that the disciples were forced to let down the sails and row. They rowed for 3 or four miles and were getting nowhere - I assume they had been rowing in circles, since the sea of Galilee at its widest is only 6 miles across.

 

6:19-21 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they caught sight of Jesus walking on the lake, approaching the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, "It is I. Do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat came to the land where they had been heading.

 

As they continued rowing they saw Jesus walking towards them on the sea and they were terrified, probably thinking it was a ghost. Sailors minds will imagine all kinds of things as they stare death in the face.

But Jesus words of reassurance remove all fear. "It is I, do not be afraid". Have you ever been really afraid, like these, men, thought you would die, what if you did? Jesus is there. Do not be afraid. He wanted these disciples to face a difficult situation, it brought the fear out of them so that they would learn to trust in God, no matter what happened.For as soon as they did trust Him, as soon as they let Jesus into the boat, not only was the storm gone as if it had never happened, but they were safely at their destination without having to do any more rowing. Jesus had taken care of it all, and had taken perfect care of twelve men. Sometimes the Lord will let us face difficulties so that we can learn to trust him and not be afraid (Isa. 12:2).

 

Seeking Christ

 

6:22 The next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the lake realized that only one small boat had been there, and that Jesus had not boarded it with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone.

 

The following morning after Jesus had fed the five thousand and had come to His disciples walking on the water the people who had remained on the same side as Jesus  came down to the seashore to find that there were no boats there at all.  They remembered that on the previous evening there was only one boat that the disciples had taken and that Jesus did not go with them.  

 

6:23-24 But some boats from Tiberias came to shore near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

 

They could only assume that He had gone back to Capernaum another way. As they stood there other boats came across the sea from Tiberias so they decided to get into these boats to look for Jesus in Capernaum. The Scripture exhorts all men to seek the Lord (Isa. 55:6) that He will be found by those who do so with all their heart (Jer. 29:13 and Matt. 7:7) and they will live (Amos 5:4).  

 

6:25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"

 

Their searching was rewarded for they found Jesus but notice how they addressed him. We saw in the last study in verse two that they followed Him because they saw the signs of the Messiah, in verse fourteen they acknowledged Him as the Prophet and verse fifteen they wanted to make Him king. Now the following morning it comes down to "teacher", Rabbi, no wonder Jesus did not entrust Himself to any man (John 2:24), for human nature is so fickle. They asked Him how He had got there for it was not possible for Him to have arrived before they did by walking around the sea, they did not know that He had walked on the water.  Jesus did not answer their question but challenged their motives.

 

6:26 Jesus replied, "I tell you the solemn truth, you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate all the loaves of bread you wanted.

 

He brings into the open the real reason why they came seeking Him. It was not for any spiritual benefit but for material gain only. They had not come seeking the Kingdom of God as He had taught them to (Matt. 6:3).

 

The Bread of Life

 

6:27 Do not work for the food that disappears, but for the food that remains to eternal life — the food which the Son of Man will give to you. For God the Father has put his seal of approval on him."

 

He tries to turn their hearts and minds from material to spiritual things by pointing out that the things we obtain by our own labours will not remain but perish and will never satisfy (Ecc. 2:11). In contrast to this the food that Jesus provides endures for ever for it is the Word of God (Matt. 24:35). This He is able to give because He is the Son of Man on whom the Father has set His seal. The miracles, healings,His authorative teaching and the Holy Spirit descending and remaining upon Him is proof of this (Mark 1:10-11).

 

6:28 So then they said to him, "What must we do to accomplish the deeds God requires?"

 

Is there a glimmer of light beginning to dawn in their souls (2 Cor. 4:6). From their conversation it does not seem to be so as they appear to be more taken up with how they can do the works of God for their own benefit and to earn entrance into Heaven.  How many people are misled into thinking that they can work the works of God in order to obtain His approval and gain entrance into Heaven  instead of believing and receiving Jesus Christ as the Saviour of their souls (Tit. 3:5 and Eph. 2:8-9). As Christians it is not a question of working the works of God but letting Him work in and through us (1 Cor. 3:9, Mark 16: 20, Acts 19:11 and Acts 21:19).

 

6:29 Jesus replied, "This is the deed God requires — to believe in the one whom he sent."

 

Jesus tells them straight that the one thing that God requires of them above all else is to believe on the One whom He has sent into the world good works will follow (Eph. 2:10 and Tit. 2:14).

 

6:30 So they said to him, "Then what miraculous sign will you perform, so that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?

 

In asking Him for a miracle to prove that He is the Messiah they show that they still do not believe. In their continued reasoning they have now convinced themselves that the feeding of the 5000 was no proof of who Jesus is. We can learn a lesson from them for if we try to reason things out with God in unbelief then we too will convince ourselves of anything we care to believe.

 

6:31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' "

 

So what about this miracle of providing food they say, it happened before when the manna from heaven was given in the wilderness (Exod. 16:14-15).

 

6:32 Then Jesus told them, "I tell you the solemn truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but my Father is giving you the true bread from heaven.

 

Jesus now directs their thoughts to deeper spiritual things by telling them that Moses did not give them the true bread from heaven, the food that feeds the soul, but the Father has now given it through His Son.

 

6:33 For the bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

 

This true bread is not made of dough to feed the stomach but is a Person who has come down from heaven and imparts not a physical but a spiritual life and He is given not just to the Jew but to the world.

 

6:34 So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread all the time!"

 

Hearing these words of Jesus  seem to have grasped the truth. They have a desire for this spiritual bread of life and in asking Him to give them this bread they do not call Him rabbi as they did at the beginning of the conversation but Lord!  

 

6:35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. The one who comes to me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in me will never be thirsty.

 

Jesus now tells them plainly that He is this Bread of Life that has been sent from heaven. He has this life in himself (John 5:26) and He gives this life. To receive it they must come to Him believing and they will be filled and satisfied (Matt. 5:6).

 

6:36 But I told you that you have seen me and still do not believe.

 

Although they had seen Him and had full proof of His Divinty by the signs and miracles He had done they still did not believe!

 

6:37 Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never send away.

 

They had expressed a desire for this bread but it is not  given on demand for it is a sovereign gracious act of God. Jesus says that all those that will be saved are given to Him by the Father and the one who will come to Him He will by no means turn away (John 6:44).

 

6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me.

 

Jesus did not come from heaven for His own purposes but the specific will of His Father.

 

6:39 Now this is the will of the one who sent me — that I should not lose one person of every one he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day.

 

It is God's will that all those who receive Jesus Christ as Saviour and therefore belong to Him shall not be lost but be eternally secure in Him. They shall be resurrected unto eternal life in the day when Christ returns.

 

6:40 For this is the will of my Father — for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."

 

It is the Father's will to save all those who see, that is, see the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and believe on Him ( Luke 3:6, Tit. 2:11 and Acts 2:21) and to  give them eternal life (John 17:2-3).  It is the Lord Jesus Christ that shall raise them from the day in when He comes again (John 11:25).

 

Christ The Bread of Life

 

6:41-42 The Jews who were hostile to Jesus began complaining about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven," and they said, "Isn't this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"

 

The unbelief of the Jews blinds their minds to the truth about Jesus. They consider Him a mere man, the son of Mary and Joseph, so how can he say I came down from heaven? They were wrong about this of course, for Christ is not the son of Joseph but the Son of God (Luke 1:35).

 

6:43-44 Jesus replied, "Do not complain about me to one another. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.

 

Jesus warns them to stop their murmuring. The fault did not lie with his teaching. The reason could not believe was that they were blinded by Satan (2 Cor. 4:4). Christ's claim that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him is shown to be true in the case of these Jews. They remained dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1) and alienated from the life of God because of the hardness of their hearts (Eph. 4:18). None of them were able, of themselves, to come to Christ.

 

They had come to see Christ physically, but what Jesus means is to know him spiritually and savingly, to be  joined with him by faith. No one can truly and savingly believe in Christ without first being drawn by the Father.

 

What does that mean? The word drawn does not denote compunction. God does not force anyone to come to Christ. Rather he works to woo and win a man to Christ. Gill says "as music draws the ear and love the heart... So God enlightens the understanding ...and sweetly allures by the power of his grace, to engage the soul to come to Christ and give up itself to him." By His drawing God causes men to respond to Him without any coercion.

 

Many Jews believed that all would one day rise from the dead. Here Christ points to himself as the source and power behind that resurrection (John 11:25). His promise to all who believe is that they will be raised incorruptible (1 Cor. 15:52) to eternal life with Him and not be hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:11 and Rev 20:6).

 

6:45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to me.

 

God had made this known In the OT scriptures, "They shall all be taught by God." Men who are dead in sins need a revelation from God. God brings this revelation by His Spirit through the preaching of His Word. He reveals to men that they are sinners (Rom. 3:23), that they are under the sentence of eternal death but that they can be freely forgiven by trusting in Christ who died for their sins and rose again (Rom. 6:23). Only God by His Spirit through His word is able to make the soul understand this and pursuade a man or woman to put their faith in Jesus. This faith itself is created by God in their hearts, again by divine persuasion "for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God."

"Whoever has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me." Whenever the word of God is heeded and acted upon, men will come to him in faith for salvation. There is no compunction implied here. There are of course those who have heard but who refuse to receive God's instruction and obey it.

 

6:46. (Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God — he has seen the Father.)

 

All this happens in the invisible realm of the Spirit. God does not appear to man in order to teach them, for he has revealed himself in the person of His Son. No one has ever seen God the Father, but Christ has, and Christ fully reveals him to men (John 1:18 and John 14:9). For only Christ knows and possesses fully all the attributes of God (Col. 2:9).

 

6:47 I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life.

 

Christ's message, which is fully dependable, is that he, the one who came from God, will give eternal life to whoever believes in Him.

 

6:48 I am the bread of life.

 

Christ reasserts the truth that he is the bread of life, for he came down from heaven to give life to the world. Bread gives us physical life - it has life or nutrition in itself. Christ, the eternal Word of God, possessing eternal life in Himself is able to give it to those who believe in Him.

 

6:49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

 

Christ still wants to turn the people's mind from the natural bread they had come seeking. Christ always turns men's thoughts from temporal, earthly things to eternal, heavenly things. What is the true worth of natural bread? The Jew's ancestors had eaten manna in the wilderness, but they all died.

 

6:50 This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die.

 

Christ had come as the bread which men may eat of and not die. The words, may eat of it, are an invitation from Christ that we should partake of himself.

 

6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

 

Christ has life in himself, for He is the self existent and self sufficient One. So He is the Living bread. He came into the world as a baby to share our humanity that he might die for our sins and bring us back to God. As God he could not die, so he became man that he take the punishment and consequences of our sin on himself. "I will give my flesh for the life of the world," is a reference to his death on the cross.

 

When Christ died on the cross it was for the whole world. This has become clear in John (John 3:16 and John 1:29). Jesus died for you, whoever you are, for he died for the whole world.

 

6:52 Then the Jews who were hostile to Jesus began to argue with one another, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

 

Christ's teaching began a new quarrel among the Jews. Jesus would give them his flesh to eat? Was he a cannibals? Their unspiritual minds were unable to see beyond a literal explanation of Christ's words. Since they were not born from above, they had no spiritual understanding at all (1 Cor. 2:14).

 

6:53-54 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

 

Christ continues teaching about his death on the cross. Unless they can eat his flesh and drink his blood they have no life in them. Of course, as Jesus makes clear in v 63, he does not intend that men should physically eat his flesh and drink his blood. Rather, he means that men should believe in Him, that when he died, giving his body to be broken and his blood to be shed for their sins, it was that they might have eternal life. Unless men do believe this, they remain spiritually dead. Christ repeats His promise to all who believe that they will rise to eternal life.

 

6:55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

 

Christ flesh and blood are the true food and drink, giving life to the soul which is what really matters for man. It is not the flesh but the spirit which gives man his life (Gen. 2:7).

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6:56 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him.

 

Those who have faith in Christ's death and resurrection are joined to Him. They live in him and he dwells in them, an eternal spiritual relationship has begun.

 

6:57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who consumes me will live because of me.

 

The Son does not exist on His own, but has his life as one with the Father. So the eternal life we have is not in ourselves, but is the divine life of Christ which he shares with us, for we are born of His Spirit and share his divine nature with Him.

 

This verse is not a reference to the communion service. However, the communion is an important reminder to us of our relationship and of the basis on which that relationship was formed and so it help us keep the relationship fresh and vital, like a wedding anniversary to a marriage.

 

6:58 This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread your ancestors ate, but then later died. The one who eats this bread will live forever."

 

Natural bread feeds the life of the natural body, but the living bread gives life to the soul. Only Christ can do this, and He will do this for all who believe in Him.

 

6:59. Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

 

All this teaching was given by Christ in the synagogue at Capernaum.

 

6:60-65 Then many of his disciples, when they heard these things, said, "This is a difficult saying! Who can understand it?" When Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining about this, he said to them, "Does this cause you to be offended? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascending where he was before? The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help! The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus had already known from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) So Jesus added, "Because of this I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has allowed him to come."

 

We are not told what the Jews' reaction was to the further expounding of Christ's teaching. Most likely they all walked away shaking their heads. They were not able to understand it. Even Christ's disciples, who had followed him began to murmur, for they too were dead in sins and His teaching applied to them. The teaching of the cross became a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:23). They could not understand for they were not prepared to understand. As Christ had already taught hem, only those who are willing to receive and respond to the divine revelation about Himself will realize the truth of this teaching (1 Cor. 1:24).Christ asks, "does it make you stumble, can you not accept it?" The men were still carnal (1 Cor. 2:14). What if they saw him, as some of them did, return to heaven, will they believe then? (Matt. 28:17) Jesus knew all along who did and did not believe and the one who would betray him. He knows all who make sincere decisions to receive Him as Saviour - and he knows those who do not really believe.

 

6:66 After this many of his disciples quit following him and did not accompany him any longer.

 

This was too much for some and they decided to no longer follow Him. Those who do not really believe are ultimately unable to remain with those who do (1 John 2:19).

 

6:67 After this many of his disciples quit following him and did not accompany him any longer.

 

Seeing them leave, Christ turns to the twelve and asks if they wish to follow. Sometimes it seem to us that nobody wants to know or hear our message.

 

6:68-69 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!"

 

Simon Peter is self appointed spokesman of the group. He may not have understood a word that Jesus said either, but he continued to trust in Jesus Himself. "Lord, to whom shall we go - you have the words of eternal life" - even if we don't understand all you say, we believe and are sure that you are the Christ the Son of God."

 

6:70-71 Jesus replied, "Didn't I choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is the devil?" (Now he said this about Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for Judas, one of the twelve, was going to betray him.)

 

Christ wishes Peter to take hold of what he had been teaching. Jesus had chosen the twelve, they had not chosen him. Peter says they are loyal to him, Jesus knew they were not as loyal as they boasted. All would forsake him, even Peter, in his hour of need, but one of them would do far more - for Judas Isacriot would betray him to his enemies The point is that Christ knew all about Peter and the others, yet he took them on. It is not in man to be saved, it was not in Peter or the others. Christ had taught them that all is of God and only by responding to God's offer can we receive His free gift of eternal life, for salvation is of the Lord. v65. Even Peter's confession of Christ as God's Son, was a revelation granted by God (Matt. 16:17).

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