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Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ feeding the multitude
Of all the miracles performed by the Lord Jesus the feeding of the five thousand is the only one recorded by each of the four Evangelists. This at once intimates that there must be something about it of unusual importance, and therefore it calls for our most diligent study. The Holy Spirit has if we may reverently employ such language described this miracle in the most matter-of-fact terms. No effort is made to emphasize the marvel of it. There is an entire absence of such language as an uninspired pen would naturally have employed to heighten the effect on the reader. And yet, notwithstanding the simplicity and exceeding brevity of the narrative, it is at once evident that this incident of the feeding of the hungry multitude was a signal example of Christ’s almighty power. As Bishop Ryle has noted, of all the wonderful works which our Savior did none was quite so public as this, and none other was performed before so many witnesses. Our Lord is here seen supplying the bodily needs of a great crowd by means of five loaves and two small fishes. Food was called into existence which did not exist before. To borrow another thought from Bishop Ryle: In healing the sick and in raising the dead, something was amended or restored which already existed; but here was an absolute creation. Only one other miracle in any wise resembles it His first, when He made wine out of the water. These two miracles belong to a class by themselves, and it is surely significant, yea most suggestive, that the one reminds us of His precious blood, while the other points to His holy body, broken for us. And here is, we believe, the chief reason why this miracle is mentioned by all of the four Evangelists: it shadowed forth the gift of Christ Himself. His other miracles exhibited His power and illustrated His work, but this one in a peculiar way sets forth the person of Christ, the Bread of Life.
Why, then, was this particular miracle singled out for special prominence? Above, three answers have been suggested, which may be summarized thus: First, because there was an evidential value to this miracle which excelled that of all others. Some of our Lord’s miracles were wrought in private, or in the presence of only a small company; others were of a nature that made it difficult, in some cases impossible, for sceptics to examine them. But here was a miracle, performed in the open, before a crowd of witnesses which were to be numbered by the thousand. Second, because of the intrinsic nature of the miracle. It was a creation of food: the calling into existence of what before had no existence. Third, because of the typical import of the miracle. It spoke directly of the person of Christ. To these may be added a fourth answer: The fact that this miracle of the feeding of the hungry multitude is recorded by all the Evangelists intimates that it has a universal application. Matthew’s mention of it suggests to us that it forshadows Christ, in a coming day, feeding Israel’s poor cf. Psalms 132:15 . Mark’s mention of it teaches us what is the chief duty of God’s servants to break the Bread of Life to the starving. Luke’s mention of it announces the sufficiency of Christ to meet the needs of all men. John’s mention of it tells us that Christ is the Food of God’s people.
Before we consider the miracle itself we must note its setting the manner in which it is here introduced to us. And ere doing this we will follow our usual custom and present an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:
1. Christ followed into Galilee by a great multitude, verses 1, 2.
2. Christ retires to a mountain with His disciples, verse 3.
3. Time: just before the Passover, verse 4.
4. The testing of Philip, verses 5-7.
5. The unbelief of Andrew, verses 8, 9.
6. The feeding of the multitude, verses 10, 11.
7. The gathering up of the fragments, verses 12, 13.
"After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias" (John 6:1 ).
"After these things": the reference is to what is recorded in the previous chapter the healing of the impotent man, the persecution by the Jews because this had been done on the Sabbath day, their determination to kill Him because He had made Himself equal with God, the lengthy reply made by our Lord. After these things, the Lord left Jerusalem and Judea and "went over the sea of Galilee." It is similar to what was before us in John 4:1-43.4.3 . The Son of God would not remain and cast precious pearls before swine. He departed from those who despised and rejected Him. Very solemn is this, and a warning to every unbeliever who may read these lines.
"And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased" (John 6:2 ). How completely these people failed in their discernment and appreciation of the person of Christ! They saw in Him only a wonderful Magician who could work miracles, a clever Physician that could heal the sick. They failed to perceive that He was the Savior of sinners and the Messiah of Israel. They were blind to His Divine glory. And is it any otherwise with the great multitude today? Alas, few of them see in Christ anything more than a wonderful Teacher and a beautiful Example.
"And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased." How sadly true to life. It is still idle curiosity and the love of excitement which commonly gathers crowds together. And how what we read of here is being repeated before our eyes in many quarters today. When some professional evangelist is advertised as a ‘Faith-healer’ what crowds of sick folk will flock to the meetings! How anxious they are for physical relief, and yet, what little real concern they seem to have for their soul’s healing!
"And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples" (John 6:3 ). This may be regarded as the sequel to what we read of in verse 2, or it may be connected with verse 1, and then verse 2 would be considered as a parenthesis. Probably both are equally permissible. If we take verse 2 as giving the cause why our Lord retired to the mountain with His disciples, the thought would be that of Christ withdrawing from the unbelieving world. The miracles drew many after Him, but only a few to Him. He knew why this great multitude "followed him," and it is solemn to see Him withdrawing to the mountain with His disciples. He will not company with the unbelieving world: His place is among His own. If verse 3 be read right on after verse 1, then we view the Savior departing from Judea, weary (cf. Mark 6:31 ) with the unbelief and self-sufficiency of those in Jerusalem. "He went up into a mountain into another atmosphere, setting forth the elevation with the Father to which He retired for refreshment of spirit" (Malachi Taylor). Compare John 6:15 and John 7:53 to John 8:2 for other examples in John’s Gospel.
"And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh" (John 6:4 ). This seems introduced here in order to point again to the empty condition to Judaism at this time. The Passover was nigh, but the Lamb of God who was in their midst was not wanted by the formal religionists. Yea, it was because they were determined to "kill him" (John 5:18 ), that He had withdrawn into Galilee. Well, then, may the Holy Spirit remind us once more that the Passover had degenerated into "a feast of the Jews." How significant is this as an introductory word to what follows! The Passover looks back to the night when the children of Israel feasted on the lamb; but here we see their descendants hungering! Their physical state was the outward sign of their emptiness of soul. Later, we shall see how this verse supplies us with one of the keys to the dispensational significance of our passage.
"When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" (John 6:5 ). While the multitude did not know Christ, His heart went out in tender pity to them. Even though an unworthy motive had drawn this crowd after Christ, He was not indifferent to their need. Matthew, in his account, tells us "And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them" (Matthew 14:14 ). So also Mark (Mark 6:34 ). The absence of this sentence here in John is one of the innumerable evidences of the Divine authorship of Scripture. Not only is every word inspired, but every word is in its suited place. The "compassion" of Christ, though noted frequently by the other Evangelists, is never referred to by John, who dwells upon the dignity and glory of His Divine person. Compassion is more than pity. Compassion signifies to suffer with, along side of, another. Thus the mention of Christ’s compassion by Matthew tells us how near the Messiah had come to His people; while the reference to it in Mark shows how intimately the Servant of Jehovah entered into the sufferings of those to whom He ministered. The absence of this word in John, indicates His elevation above men. Thus we see how everything is most suitably and beautifully placed. And how much we lose by our ungodly haste and carelessness as we fail to mark and appreciate these lovely little touches of the Divine Artist! May Divine grace constrain both writer and reader to handle the Holy Book more reverently, and take more pains to acquaint ourselves with its exhaustless riches. It would be a delight to tarry here, and notice other little details mentioned by the different evangelists which are omitted from John’s account such as the fact that Matthew tells us (before the miracle was performed) that "it was evening," and that the disciples bade their Master "send the multitude away" but perhaps more will be accomplished if we leave the reader to search them out for himself.
"When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great multitude come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do" (John 6:5 , John 6:6 ). In reading the Scriptures we fail to derive from them the blessings most needed unless we apply them to our own hearts and lives. Unlike all others, the Bible is a living book: It is far more than a history of the past. Stript of their local and incidental details, the sacred narratives depict characters living and incidents transpiring today. God changes not, nor do the motives and principles of His actions. Human nature also is the same in this twentieth century as it was in the first. The world is the same, the Devil is the same, the trials of faith are the same. Let, then, each Christian reader view Philip here as representing himself. Philip was confronted with a trying situation. It was the Lord who caused him to be so circumstanced. The Lord’s design in this was to "prove" or test him. Let us now apply this to ourselves.
What happened to Philip is, in principle and essence, happening daily in our lives. A trying, if not a difficult, situation confronts us; and we meet with them constantly. They come not by accident or by chance; instead, they are each arranged by the hand of the Lord. They are God’s testings of our faith. They are sent to "prove" us. Let us be very simple and practical. A bill comes unexpectedly; how are we to meet it? The morning’s mail brings us tidings which plunge us into an unlooked-for perplexity; how are we to get out of it? A cog slips in the household’s machinery, which threatens to wreck the daily routine; what shall we do? An unanticipated demand is suddenly made upon us; how shall we meet it? Now, dear friends, how do such experiences find us? Do we, like Philip and Andrew did, look at our resources? Do we rack our minds to find some solution? or do our first thoughts turn to the Lord Jesus, who has so often helped us in the past? Here, right here, is the test of our faith.
O, dear reader, have we learned to spread each difficulty, as it comes along, before God? Have we formed the habit of instinctively turning to Him? What is your feebleness in comparison with His power! What is your emptiness in comparison with His ocean fulness? Nothing! Then look daily to Him in simple faith, resting on His sure promise, "My God shall supply all your need" (Philippians 4:19 ). Ah! you may answer, It is easy to offer such advice, but it is far from easy to act on it. True. Yea, of yourself it is impossible. Your need, and my need, is to ask for faith, to p/cad for grace, to cry unto God for such a sense of helplessness that we shall lean on Christ, and on Him alone. Thus, ask and wait, and you shall find Him as good as His word. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God" (Psalms 43:5 ).
The birds without barn,
Or storehouse are fed;
From them let us learn
To trust for our bread.
His saints what is fitting
Shall ne’er be denied,
So long as, ‘tis written
"The Lord will provide."
When Satan appears,
To stop up our path,
And fills us with fears,
We triumph by faith:
He cannot take from us,
Though oft he has tried,
The heart-cheering promise,
"The Lord will provide."
"Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little" (John 6:7 ). Let us see in Philip, once more, a portrait of ourselves. First, what does this answer of Philip reveal? It shows he was occupied with circumstances. He was looking on the things which are seen the size of the multitude and such a look is always a barrier in the way of faith. He made a rapid calculation of how much money it would require to provide even a frugal meal for such a crowd; but he calculated without Christ! His answer was the language of unbelief "Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little." Fancy talking of "a little’ in the presence of Infinite Power and Infinite Grace! His unbelief was also betrayed by the very amount he specified two hundred pennyworth.
Nowhere in Scripture are numbers used haphazardly. Two hundred is a multiple of twenty, and in Scripture twenty signifies a vain expectancy, a coming short of God’s appointed time or deliverance. For example, in Genesis 31:41 we learn how that Jacob waited twenty years to gain possession of his wives and property; but it was not until the twenty-first that God’s appointed deliverance came. From Judges 4:3 we learn how that Israel waited twenty years for emancipation from Jabin’s oppression; but it was not until the twenty-first that God’s appointed deliverance came. So in 1 Samuel 7:2 we learn how that the ark abode in Kirjath-Jearim for twenty years, but it was in the twenty-first that God delivered it. As, then, twenty speaks of insufficiency, a coming short of God’s appointed deliverance, so two hundred conveys the same idea in an intensified form. Two hundred is always found in Scripture in an evil connection. Let the reader consult (be sure to look them up) Joshua 7:21 ; Judges 17:4 ; 1 Samuel 30:10 ; 2 Samuel 14:26 ; Revelation 9:16 . So the number here in John 6:7 suitably expressed Philip’s unbelief.
How surprising was this failure in the faith of Philip. One would have supposed that after all the disciples had witnessed of the Lord’s wonder-working power they had learned by this time that all fulness dwelt in Him. We should have supposed their faith was strong and their hearts calm and confident. Ah should we? Would not our own God-dishonoring unbelief check such expectations? Have we not discovered how weak our faith is! How obtuse our understanding! How earthly our minds and hearts! In vain does the Lord look within us sometimes for even a ray of that faith which glorifies Him. Instead of counting on the Lord, we, like Philip, are occupied with nature’s resources. Beware, then, of condemning the unbelief of Philip, lest you be found condemning yourself too.
How often has the writer thought, after some gracious manifestation of the Lord’s hand on his behalf, that he could trust Him for the future; that the remembrance of His past goodness and mercy would keep him calm and confident when the next cloud should drapen his landscape. Alas! When it came how sadly he failed. Little did we know our treacherous heart. And little do we know it even now. O dear reader, each of us need the upholding hand of the Lord every step of our journey through this world that lieth in the Wicked one; and, should that hand be for a single moment withdrawn, we should sink like lead in the mighty waters. Ah! nothing but grace rescued us; nothing but grace can sustain us; nothing but grace can carry us safely through. Nothing, nothing but the distinguishing and almighty grace of a sovereign God!
"One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?" (John 6:8 , John 6:9 ). Unbelief is infectious. Like Philip before him, Andrew, too, seemed blind to the glory of Christ. "What are they among so many?" was the utterance of the same old evil heart of unbelief which long ago had asked, "Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?" (Psalms 78:10 ). And how the helplessness of unbelief comes out here! "That every one may take a little," said Philip; "What are these among so many?" asked Andrew. What mattered the "many" when the Son of God was there! Like Philip, Andrew calculated without Christ, and, therefore he saw only a hopeless situation. How often we look at God through our difficulties; or, rather, we try to, for the difficulties hide Him. Keep the eye on Him, and the difficulties will not be seen. But alas! what self-centered, skeptical, sinful creatures we are at best! God may lavish upon us the riches of His grace He may have opened for us many a dry path through the waters of difficult circumstances He may have delivered us with His outstretched arm in six troubles, yet, when the seventh comes along, instead of resting on Job 5:19 , we are distrustful, full of doubts and fears, just as if we had never known Him. Such frail and depraved creatures are we that the faith we have this hour may yield to the most dishonoring distrust in the next. This instance of the disciples’ unbelief is recorded for our "learning" for our humbling and watchfulness. The same unbelief was evidenced by Israel in the wilderness, for the human heart is the same in all ages. All of God’s wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea were as nothing, when the trials of the wilderness came upon them. Their testings in "the wilderness of sin" (Exodus 16:1 ) only brought out of their hearts just what this testing brought out of Philip’s and Andrew’s, and just what similar testing brings out of ours blindness and unbelief. The human heart, when proved, can yield nothing else, for nothing else is there. O with what fervency should we daily pray to our Father, "Lead us not into temptation [trial]"!
"And Jesus said, Make the men sit down" (John 6:10 ). How thankful we should be that God’s blessings are dispensed according to the riches of His grace, and not according to the poverty of our faith. What would have happened to that multitude if Christ had acted according to the faith of His disciples? Why, the multitude would have gone away unfed! Ah! dear reader, God’s blessings do come, despite all our undeserving. Christ never fails, though there is nothing but failure in us. His arm is never withdrawn for a moment, nor is His love chilled by our skepticism and ingratitude. To hear or read of this may encourage one who is merely a professing Christian to continue in his careless and God-dishonoring course; but far otherwise will it be with a real child of God. The realization of the Lord’s unchanging goodness, His unfailing mercies despite our backslidings will melt him to tears in godly sorrow.
"And Jesus said, Make the men sit down." How patient was the Lord with His disciples. There was no harsh rebuke for either Philip or Andrew. The Lord knoweth our frame and remembers that we are dust. "Make the men sit down" was a further test; this time of their obedience. And a searching test it was. What was the use of making a hungry multitude sit down when there was nothing to feed them with? Ah! but God had spoken; Christ had given the command, and that was enough. When He commands it is for us to obey, not to reason and argue. Why must not Adam and Eve eat of the tree of knowledge? Simply because God had forbidden them to. Why should Noah, in the absence of any sign of an approaching flood, go to all the trouble of building the ark? Simply because God had commanded him to. So, today. Why should the Christian be baptized? Why should the women keep silence in the churches? Simply because God has commanded these things Acts 10:48 ; 1 Corinthians 14:34 .
It is indeed blessed to note the response of the disciples to this command of their Master. Their faith had failed, but their obedience did not. Where both fail, there is grave reason to doubt if there is spiritual life dwelling in such a soul. Their obedience evidenced the genuineness of their Christianity. "If faith is weak, obedience is the best way in which it may be strengthened. "Then shall ye know,’ says the prophet, ‘if ye follow on to know the Lord.’ If you have not much light, walk up to the standard of what you have, and you are sure to have more. This will prove that you are a genuine servant of God. Well, this is what the disciples seemed to do here. The light of their faith was low, but they heard the word of Jesus, ‘Make the men sit down.’ They can act if they cannot see. They can obey His word if they cannot see that all fulness dwells in Him to meet every difficulty. So they obey His command. The men sit down, and Jesus begins to dispense His blessings. And thus by their act of obedience, their faith becomes enlightened, and every want is supplied. This is always the result of walking up to the light we have got. ‘To him that hath shall more be given.’ That light may be feeble, it may be only a single ray irradiating the darkness of the mind; nevertheless, it is what God has given you. Despise it not. Hide it not. Walk up to it, and more shall be added.
"And we may notice here how all blessings come down to us through the channel of obedience. The supply for every want had been determined beforehand in the Savior’s mind, for ‘he himself knew what he would do’ (verse 6). Yet though this were so, it was to flow through this medium so intimately and inseparably is the carrying out of all God’s purposes of grace toward us connected with obedience to His commands. This is the prominent feature in all God’s people. ‘Obedient children’ is the term by which they are distinguished from those who are of the world. ‘He became obedient’ was the distinguishing feature in the character of the divine Master, and it is the mark that the Holy Spirit sets upon all His servants. Obedience and blessing are inseparably connected in God’s Word. ‘If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.’ ‘He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him’" (Dr. F. Whitfield)
"And Jesus said, Make the men to sit down." But why "sit down"? Two answers may be returned. First, because God is a God of order. Any one who has studied the works of God knows that. So, too, with His Word. When His people left Egypt, they did not come forth like a disorderly mob; but in ranks of fives see Exodus 13:18 margin. It was the same when they crossed the Jordan and entered Canaan see Joshua 1:14 margin. It was so here. Mark says, "They sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties" (John 6:40 ). It is so still: "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40 ). Whenever there is confusion in a religious meeting two or more praying at the same time, etc. it is a sure sign that the Holy Spirit is not in control of it. "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33 ).
"Make the men sit down." Why? Secondly, may we not also see in this word the illustration of an important principle pertaining to the spiritual life, namely, that we must sit down if we would be fed true alike for sinner and saint. The activities of the flesh must come to an end if the Bread of life is to be received by us. How much all of us need to ask God to teach us to be quiet and sit still. Turn to and ponder Psalms 107:30 ; Isaiah 30:15 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:11 ; 1 Peter 3:4 . In this crazy age, when almost everybody is rushing hither and thither, when the standard of excellency is not how well a thing is done, but how quickly, when the Lord’s people are thoroughly infected by the same spirit of haste, this is indeed a timely word. And let not the reader imagine that he has power of himself to comply. We have to be "made" to "sit down" frequently by sickness. Note the same word in Psalms 23:2 "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures."
"Now there was much grass in the place" (John 6:10 ). How gracious of the Holy Spirit to record this. Nothing, however trifling or insignificant, is unknown to God or beneath His notice. The "much cattle" in Nineveh (John 4:11 ) had not been forgotten by Him. And how minutely has the Word of God recorded the house, the situation of it, and the name and occupation of one of the Lord’s disciples (Acts 10:5 , Acts 10:6 )! Everything is before Him in the registry of heaven. God’s eye is upon every circumstance connected with our life. There is nothing too little for Him if it concerns His beloved child. God ordered nature to provide cushions for this hungry multitude to sit upon! Mark adds that the grass was "green" (John 6:39 ), which reminds us that we must rest in the "green pastures" of His Word if our souls are to be fed.
"So the men sat down, in number about five thousand" (John 6:10 ). This is another beautiful line in the picture (cf. the five loaves in verse 9), for five is ever the number which speaks of grace, that is why it was the dominant numeral in the Tabernacle where God manifested His grace in the midst of Israel. Five is four (the number of the creature) plus one God. It is God adding His blessing and grace to the works of His hand.
"And Jesus took the loaves" (John 6:11 ). He did not scorn the loaves because they were few in number, nor the fish either because they were "small." How this tells us that God is pleased to use small and weak things! He used the tear of a babe to move the heart of Pharaoh’s daughter. He used the shepherd-rod of Moses to work mighty miracles in Egypt. He used David’s sling and stone to overthrow the Philistine giant. He used a "little maid" to bring the "mighty" Naaman to Elisha. He used a widow with a handful of meal to sustain His prophet. He used a "little child" to teach His disciples a much needed lesson in humility. So here, He used the five loaves and two small fishes to feed this great multitude. And, dear reader, perhaps He is ready to use you weak, insignificant, and ignorant though you be and make you "mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4 ). But mark it carefully, it was only as these loaves and fishes were placed in the hands of Christ that they were made efficient and sufficient!
"And Jesus took the loaves." He did not despise them and work independently of them. He did not rain manna from heaven, but used the means which were to hand. And surely this is another lesson that many of His people need to take to heart today. It is true that God is not limited to means, but frequently He employs them. When healing the bitter waters of Marah God used a tree (Exodus 15:23-2.15.25 ). In healing Hezekiah of his boil He employed a lump of figs (2 Kings 20:4-12.20.7 ). Timothy was exhorted to use a "little wine for his stomach’s sake and his often infirmities" (1 Timothy 5:23 ). In view of such scriptures let us, then, beware of going to the fanatical lengths of some who scorn all use of drugs and herbs when sick.
"And when he had given thanks" (John 6:11 ). In all things Christ has left us a perfect example. He here teaches us to acknowledge God as the Giver of every good gift, and to own Him as the One who provides for the wants of all His creatures. This is the least that we can do. To fail at this point is the basest ingratitude.
"He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down" (John 6:11 ). Here we are taught, again, the same lesson as the first miracle supplied, namely, that God is pleased to use human instruments in accomplishing the counsels of His grace, and thus give us the inestimable honor and privilege of being "laborers together with God" (1 Corinthians 3:9 ). Christ fed the hungry multitude through His disciples. It was their work as truly as it was His. His was the increase, but theirs was the distribution. God acts according to the same principle today. Between the unsearchable riches of Christ and the hungry multitudes there is room for consecrated service and ministry. Nor should this be regarded as exclusively the work of pastors and evangelists. It is the happy duty of every child of God to pass on to others that which the Lord in His grace has first given to them. Yea, this is one of the conditions of receiving more for ourselves. This is one of the things that Paul reminded the Hebrews of. He declared he had many things to say unto them, and they were hard to be interpreted because they had become dull (slothful is the meaning of the word) of hearing, and unskilled in using the Word. Consequently, instead of teaching others as they ought they needed to be taught again themselves (Hebrews 5:11-58.5.13 ). The same truth comes out in that enigmatical utterance of our Lord recorded in Luke 8:18 : "for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have." The one who "hath" is the believer who makes good use of what he has received, and in consequence more is given him; the one who "seemeth to have" is the man who hides his light under a bushel, who makes not good use of what he received, and from him this is "taken away." Be warned then, dear reader. If we do not use to God’s glory what He has given us, He may withhold further blessings from us, and take away that which we fail to make good use of.
"He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down." One can well imagine the mingled feelings of doubt and skepticism as the twelve left the Savior’s side for the hungry multitude, with the little store in their baskets. How doubt must have given place to amazement, and awe to adoration, as they distributed, returned to their Master for a fresh supply, and continued distributing, giving a portion of bread and fish to each till all were satisfied, and more remaining at the close than at the beginning! Let us remember that Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday and today and for ever," and that all fulness dwells in Him. By comparing Mark 6:41 it will be found that there the Holy Spirit has described the modus operandi of the miracle: "He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave to his disciples." The word "brake" is in the aorist tense, intimating an instantaneous act; whereas "gave" is in the imperfect tense, denoting the continuous action of giving. "This shows that the miraculous power was in the hands of Christ, between the breaking and the giving" (Companion Bible).
He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down." What a lesson is there here for the Christian servant. The apostles first received the bread from the hands of their Master, and then "distributed" to the multitude. It was not their hands which made the loaves increase, but His! He provided the abundant supply, and their business was to humbly receive and faithfully distribute. In like manner, it is not the business of the preacher to make men value or receive the Bread of life. He can not make it soul-saving to any one. This is not his work; for this he is not responsible. It is God who giveth the "increase"! Nor is it the work of the preacher to create something new and novel. His duty is to seek "bread" at the hands of his Lord, and then set it before the people. What they do with the Bread is their responsibility! But, remember, that we cannot give out to others, except we have first received ourselves. It is only the full vessel that overflows!
"And likewise of the fishes as much as they would" (John 6:11 ). "Precious, precious words! The supply stopped only with the demand. So, when Abraham went up to intercede with God on behalf of the righteous in Sodom, the Lord never ceased granting till Abraham had ceased asking. Thus also in the case of Elisha’s oil; so long as there were empty vessels to be found in the land, it ceased not its abundant supply (2 Kings 4:6 ). Likewise also here, so long as there was a single one to supply, that supply came forth from the treasuries of the Lord Jesus. The stream flowed on in rich abundance till all were filled. This is grace. This is what Jesus does to all His people. He comes to the poor bankrupt believer, and, placing in His hand a draft on the resources of heaven, says to him, ‘Write on it what thou wilt.’ Such is our precious Lord still. If we are straitened, it is not in Him, but in ourselves. If we are poor and weak, or tried and tempted, it is not that we cannot help ourselves it is because we do not (‘All things are yours’, in Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:22 A.W.P.). We have so little faith in things unseen and eternal. We draw so little on the resources of Christ. We come not to Him with our spiritual wants our empty vessels and draw from the ocean fulness of His grace.
"‘As much as they would’. Precious, precious words. Remember them, doubting, hesitating one, in all thy petitions for faith at the throne of grace. ‘As much as they would.’ Remember them, tried and tempted one, in all thy pleadings for strength to support thee on thy wilderness way. ‘As much as they would’. Remember them, bereaved and desolate one, whose eves are red with weeping, bending over the green sod, beneath which all thy earthly hopes are lying, and with a rent in thine heart that shall never be healed till the morning of resurrection remember these words as thy wounded and desolate spirit breaks forth in mournful accents on a Savior’s ear for help and strength. And, guilty one, bowed down with a lifetimes load of sin, traversing the crooked bypaths of the broad road to ruin; a wilful wanderer from thy God; as the arrow of conviction penetrates thy soul, and as thine agonizing voice is heard crying for mercy remember these precious, precious words, ‘as much as they would’. ‘Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast outí" (Dr. F. Whitfield).
"When they were filled" (John 6:12 ). God gives with no niggardly hand. "When they were filled" what a contrast is this from the words of Philip, "That every one of them may take a little’? The one was the outpouring of Divine grace, the other the limitation of unbelief. Christ had fed them from His own inexhaustible resources, and when He feeds His people He leaves no want behind. Christ, and He alone, satisfies. His promise is, "He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" (John 6:35 ). Do you know, dear reader, what it is to be "filled" from His blessed hand-filled with peace, filled with joy, filled with the Holy Spirit!
"Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost" (John 6:12 ) All were filled and yet abundance remained! How wonderful and how blessed this is. All fulness dwells in Christ, and that fulness is exhaustless. Countless sinners have been saved and their souls satisfied, and yet the riches of grace are as undiminished as ever. Then, too, this verse may be considered from another angle. "Gather up the fragments." There was abundance for all, but the Lord would have no waste. How this rebukes the wicked extravagance that we now behold on every hand! Here, too, the Holy One has left us a perfect example. "Gather up the fragments" is a word that comes to us all. The "fragments" we need to watch most are the fragments of our time. How often these are wasted! "Let nothing be lost"! "Gather them up" your mis-spent moments, your tardy services, your sluggish energies, your cold affections, your neglected duties. Gather them up and use them for His glory.
"Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten" (John 6:13 ). How this confirms what we have said about giving out to others. The loaves were augmented by division and multiplied by subtraction! We are never impoverished, but always enriched by giving to others. It is the liberal soul that is made fat (Proverbs 11:25 ). We need never be anxious that there will not be enough left for our own needs. God never allows a generous giver to be the loser. It is miserliness which impoverishes. The disciples had more left at the finish than they had at the beginning! They "filled twelve baskets," thus the twelve apostles were also provided with an ample supply for their own use too! They were the ones who were enriched by ministering to the hungry multitude! What a blessed encouragement to God’s servants today!
In closing, let us call attention to another of the wonderful typical and dispensational pictures which abound in this Gospel. The passage which has been before us supplies a lovely view of the activities of God during this dispensation. It should be carefully noted that John 6:0 opens with the words, "After these things." This expression always points to the beginning of a new series cf. John 5:1 ; John 7:1 ; John 21:1 ; Revelation 4:1 , etc. In John 4:0 we have two typical chapters which respect the Gentiles see the closing portions of chapters 15 and 16. Hence John 5:0 begins with "After this." John 5:0 supplies us with a typical picture of Israel see chapter 17. Now as John 6:0 opens with "After these things," we are led to expect that the dispensational view it first supplies will respect the Gentiles again and not the Jews. This is confirmed by the fact that the remainder of the verse intimates that Christ had now left Judea and had once more entered Galilee of the Gentiles. Further corroboration is found in that Philip and Andrew figure so prominently in the incident which follows cf. John 12:20-43.12.22 which specially links them with the Gentiles. In the remainder of the passage we have a beautiful view of Christ and His people during the present dispensation. Note the following lines in the picture:
First, we behold the Lord on high and His people "seated" with Him John 4:3 ). This, of course, typifies our standing; what follows contemplates our state. Second, we are shown the basis of our blessings: "And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh" (verse 4). The Passover speaks of "Christ our passover sacrificed for us" (1 Corinthians 5:7 ). But note, it is not only "the passover" which is mentioned here, but also "the passover, a feast" (note the absence of this in John 2:13 !), which beautifully accords with what follows typically, believers feeding on Christ! But we are also told here that this "passover" was "a feast of the Jews." This is parallel with John 4:22 "Salvation is of the Jews." It is a word to humble us, showing our indebtedness to Israel, cf. Romans 11:18 : "Thou bearest not the root, but the root thee." Third, the people of God, those who in this dispensation are fed, are they who "come unto Him" (verse 5) Christ. Fourth, Christ’s desire (verse 5) and purpose (verse 6) to feed His own. Fifth, His saints are a people of little faith (cf. Matthew 8:26 ), who fail in the hour of.testing (verses 5-9). Sixth, His people must "sit down" in order to be "fed." Seventh, Christ ministers to His people in sovereign grace ("five loaves" and "five" thousand men, (verses 10, 11) and gives them a satisfying portion "They were filled" (verse 12).
It is beautiful to observe that after the great multitude had been fed, there "remained" twelve full baskets, which tells of the abundance of grace reserved for Israel. This also gives meaning to, "A feast of the Jews was nigh" (verse 4).
Let the following questions be studied with a view to the next chapter:
1. Why did Christ "depart"? verse 15.
2. Why were the disciples "afraid"? verse 19.
3. What spiritual lessons may be drawn from verses 17 to 217
4. How harmonize the first half of verse 27 with Ephesians 2:8 , Ephesians 2:9 ?
5. What is meant by Christ being "sealed"? verse 27.
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ walking on the sea
We begin with our customary Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:
1. The Response of the people to the miracle of the loaves: verses 14, 15.
2. The Retirement of Christ to the mount: verse 15.
3. The Disciples in the storm: verses 16-19.
4. The Coming of Christ to them: verses 20, 21.
5. The people follow Christ to Capernaum: verses 22-25.
6. Christ exposes their motive: verse 26.
7. Christ presses their spiritual need upon them: verse 27.
The opening verses of the passage before us contain the sequel to what is described in the first thirteen verses of John 6:0 . There we read of the Lord ministering, in wondrous grace, to a great multitude of hungry people. They had no real appreciation of His blessed person, but had been attracted by idle curiosity and the love of the sensational "because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased" (verse 2). Nevertheless, the Son of God, in tenderest pity, had supplied their need by means of the loaves and the fishes. What effects, then, did this have upon them?
Christ had manifested His Divine power. There was no gainsaying that. The crowd were impressed, for we are told, "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle which Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet which should come into the world" (John 6:14 ). The title "that prophet" has already been before us in John 1:21 . The reference is to Deuteronomy 18:15 , where we read that, through Moses God declared, "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." These men, then, seemed ready to receive the Lord as their Messiah. And yet how little they realized and recognized what was due Him as "that prophet" the Son of God incarnate. Instead of falling down before Him as undone sinners, crying for mercy; instead of prostrating themselves at His feet, in reverent worship; instead of owning Him as the Blessed One, worthy of their hearts’ adoration, they would "take him by force to make him a king" (John 6:15 ); and this, no doubt, for their own ends, thinking that He would lead them in a successful revolt against the hated Romans. How empty, then, were their words! How little were their consciences searched or their hearts exercised! How blind they still were to the Light! Had their hearts been opened, the light had shone in, revealing their wretchedness; and then, they would have taken their place as lost and needy sinners. It is the same today.
Many there are who regard our Lord as a Prophet (a wonderful Teacher), who have never seen their need of Him as a Refuge from the wrath to come a doom they so thoroughly deserve. Let us not be misled, then, by this seeming honoring of Christ by those who eulogize His precepts, but who despise His Cross. It is no more a proof that they are saved who, today, own Christ as a greater than Buddha or Mohammed, than this declaration by these men of old "This is of a truth that prophet which should come into the world," evidenced that they had "passed from death unto life."
"When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force" (John 6:15 ). This is very solemn. Christ was not deceived by their fair speech. Their words sounded very commendable and laudatory, no doubt, but the Christ of God was, and is, the Reader of hearts. He knew what lay behind their words. He discerned the spirit that prompted them. "Jesus therefore perceived" is parallel with John 2:24 , John 2:25 : "But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man." "Jesus therefore perceived" is a word that brings before us His Deity. The remainder of verse 15 is profoundly significant and suggestive.
"When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone" (John 6:15 ). These Jews had owned Him (with their lips) as Prophet, and they were ready to crown Him as their King, but there is another office that comes in between these. Christ could not be their King until He had first officiated as Priest, offering Himself as a Sacrifice for sin! Hence the doctrinal significance of "He departed again into a mountain himself alone," for in His priestly work He is unattended cf. Leviticus 16:17 !
But there was also a moral and dispensational reason why Christ "departed" when these Jews would use force to make Him a King. He needed not to be made "a king," for He was born such (Matthew 2:2 ); nor would He receive the kingdom at their hand. This has been brought out beautifully by Mr. J. B. Bellet in his notes on John’s Gospel: "The Lord would not take the kingdom from zeal like this. This could not be the source of the kingdom of the Son of Man. The ‘beasts’ may take their kingdoms from the winds striving upon the great sea, but Jesus cannot (Daniel 7:2 , Daniel 7:25 ). This was not, in His ear, the shouting of the people bringing in the headstone of the corner (Zechariah 4:7 ); nor the symbol of His People made willing in the day of His power (Psalms 110:3 ). This would have been an appointment to the throne of Israel on scarcely better principles than those on which Saul had been appointed of old. His kingdom would have been the fruit of their revolted heart. But that could not be. And besides this, ere the Lord could take His seat on Mount Zion, He must ascend the solitary mount; and ere the people could enter the kingdom, they must go down to the stormy sea. And these things we see reflected here as in a glass."
It should be noted that Matthew tells us how Christ "went up into a mountain apart to pray" (Matthew 14:23 ); so, too, Mark (Mark 6:46 ). The absence of this word in John is in beautiful accord with the character and theme of this fourth Gospel, and supplies us with another of those countless proofs for the Divine and verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. In this Gospel we never see Christ praying (John 17:0 is intercession, giving us a sample of His priestly ministry on our behalf in heaven: note particularly verses 4 and 5, which indicate that the intercession recorded in the verses that follow was anticipatory of Christ’s return to the Father!), for John’s special design is to exhibit the Divine glories of the Savior.
"And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship" (John 6:16 , John 6:17 ). Matthew explains the reason for this: "And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away" (Matthew 14:22 ). The Lord desired to be alone, so He caused the disciples to go on ahead of Him. It would seem, too, that He purposed to teach them another lesson on faith. This will appear in the sequel.
"And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them" (John 6:17 ). What we have here, and in the verses that follow, speaks unmistakably to us. It describes the conditions through which we must pass as we journey to our Home above. Though not of the world, we are necessarily in it: that world made up of the wicked, who are like "the troubled sea." The world in which we live, dear reader, is the world that rejected and still rejects the Christ of God. It is the world which "lieth in the wicked one" (1 John 5:19 ), the friendship of which is enmity with God (James 4:4 ). It is a world devoid of spiritual light; a world over which hangs the shadow of death. Peter declares the world is "a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19 ). It is dark because "the light of the world" is absent.
"It was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them." Sometimes Christ withholds the light of His countenance even from His own. Job cried, "when I waited for light, there came darkness" (Job 30:26 ). But, thank God, it is recorded, "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness" (Psalms 112:4 ). Let us remember that the darkness is not created by Satan, but by God (Isaiah 45:7 ). And He has a wise and good reason for it. Sometimes He withholds the light from His people that they may discover "the treasures of darkness" (Isaiah 45:3 ).
"Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of the great wind that blew" (John 6:17 , John 6:18 ). This tested the faith and patience of the disciples. The longer they waited the worse things became. It looked as though Christ was neglectful of them. It seemed as though He had forgotten to be gracious. Perhaps they were saying, If the Master had been here, this storm would not have come up. Had He been with them, even though asleep on a pillow, His presence would have cheered them. But He was not there; and the darkness was about them, and the angry waves all around them fit emblems of the opposition of the world against the believer’s course. It was a real test of their faith and patience.
And similarly does God often test us today. Frequently our circumstances are dark, and conditions are all against us. We cry to the Lord, but He "does not come." But let us remind ourselves, that God is never in a hurry. However much the petulance of unbelief may seek to hasten His hand, He waits His own good time. Omnipotence can afford to wait, for it is always sure of success. And because omnipotence is combined with infinite wisdom and love, we may be certain that God not only does everything in the right way, but also at the best time: "And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him" (Isaiah 30:18 ).
Sometimes the Lord "waits" until it is eventide before He appears in His delivering grace and power. The darkness becomes more gloomy, and still He waits. Yes, but He waits "to be gracious." But why? Could He not be gracious without this waiting, and the painful suspense such waiting usually brings to us? Surely; but one reason for the delay is, that His hand may be the more evident; and another reason is, that His hand may be the more appreciated, when He does intervene. Some times the darkness becomes even more gloomy, well-nigh unbearable; and still He waits. And again, we wonder, Why? All is it not that all our hopes may be disappointed; that our plans may be frustrated, till we reach our wit’s end (Psalms 107:27 )! And, then, just as we had given up hope, He breaks forth unexpectedly, and we are startled, as were these disciples on the stormlashed sea.
"So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea" (John 6:19 ). These lines will, doubtless, be read by more than one saint who is in a tight place. For you, too, the night is fearfully dark, and the breakers of adverse circumstances look as though they would completely swamp you. O tried and troubled one, read the blessed sequel of John 6:17 , John 6:18 . It contains a word of cheer for you, if your faith lays hold of it. Notice that the disciples did not give up in despair they continued "rowing" (verse 19)! And ultimately the Lord came to their side and delivered them from the angry tempest. So, dear saint, whatever may be the path appointed by the Lord, however difficult and distasteful, continue therein, and in His own good time the Lord will deliver you. Again we say, Notice that the disciples continued their "rowing." It was all they could do, and it was all that was required of them. In a little while the Lord appeared, and they were at the land. Oh may God grant both writer and reader perseverance in the path of duty. Tempted and discouraged one, remember Isaiah 30:18 (look it up and memorize it) and continue rowing!
There is another thing, a blessed truth, which is well calculated to sustain us in the interval before the deliverance comes; and it will if the heart appropriates its blessedness. While the storm-tossed disciples were pulling at the oars and making little or no progress, the Lord was on high not below, but above them master of the situation. And, as Matthew tells us, He was "praying." And on high He is now thus engaged on our behalf. Remember this, O troubled one, your great High Priest who is "touched with the feeling of your infirmities" is above, ever living to intercede. His prayers undergird you, so that you cannot sink. Mark adds a word that is even more precious "And he saw them toiling in rowing" (John 6:48 ). Christ was not indifferent to their peril. His eye was upon them. And even though it was "dark" (John 6:17 ) He saw them. No darkness could hide those disciples from Him. And this, too, speaks to us. We may be "toiling in rowing" (the Greek word means "fatigued"), weary of the buffeting from the unfriendly winds and waves, but there is One above who is not unconcerned, who sees and knows our painful lot, and who, even now, is preparing to come to our side. Turn your eyes away from your frail barque, away from the surrounding tempest, and "look off unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith" (Hebrews 12:1 ).
"So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid" (John 6:19 ). This shows how little faith was in exercise. Matthew tells us, "And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled" (Matthew 14:26 ). Think of it, "troubled" and "afraid" of Jesus! Does some one say, That was because the night was dark and the waves boisterous, consequently it was easy to mistake the Savior for an apparition? Moreover, the sight they beheld was altogether unprecedented: never before had they seen one walking on the water! But if we turn to Mark’s record we shall find that it was not dimness of physical sight which caused the disciples to mistake their Master for a spectre, but dullness of spiritual vision: "They considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened." Their fears had mastered them. They were not expecting deliverance. They had already forgotten that exercise of Divine grace and power which they had witnessed only a few short hours before. And how accurately (and tragically) do they portray us so quickly do we forget the Lord’s mercies and deliverances in the past, so little do we really expect Him to answer our prayers of the present.
"But he saith unto them, "It is I; be not afraid" (John 6:20 ). This is parallel in thought with what we had before us in verse 10. The scepticism of Philip and the unbelief of Andrew did not prevent the outflow of Divine mercy. So here, even the hardness of heart of these disciples did not quench their Lord’s love for them. O how deeply thankful we ought to be that "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities" (Psalms 103:10 ). From beginning to end He deals with us in wondrous, fathomless, sovereign grace. "It is I," He says. He first directs their gaze to Himself. "Be not afraid," was a word to calm their hearts. And this is His unchanging order. Our fears can only be dispelled by looking in faith to and having our hearts occupied with Him. Look around, and we shall be disheartened. Look within, and we shall be discouraged. But look unto Him, and our fears will vanish.
"Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went" (John 6:21 ). Now that He had revealed Himself to them; now that He had graciously uttered the heart-calming "Be not afraid"; now that He had (as Matthew and Mark tell us) spoken that well-known word "Be of good cheer": they "willingly’ received him into the ship." Christ does not force Himself upon us: He waits to be "received." It is the welcome of our hearts that He desires. And is it not just because this is so often withheld, that He is so slow in coming to our relief i.e. "manifesting himself" to us (John 14:21 )! How blessed to note that as soon as He entered the ship, the end of the voyage was reached for them. In applying to ourselves the second half of this twenty-first verse, we must not understand it to signify that when Christ has "manifested’’ Himself unto us that the winds will cease to blow or that the adverse "sea" will now befriend us; far from it. But it means that the heart will now have found a Haven of rest: our fears will be quieted; we shall be occupied not with the tempest, but with the Master of it. Such are some of the precious spiritual lessons which we may take to ourselves from this passage.
"The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) When.the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus" (John 6:22-43.6.24 ). The multitude, whose hearts were set on making the Miracle-worker their "king," apparently collected early in the morning to carry their purpose into effect. But on seeking for Jesus, He was nowhere to be found. This must have perplexed them. They knew that on the previous evening there was only one boat on their side of the sea, and they had seen the disciples depart in this, alone. Where, then, was the Master? Evidently, He who had miraculously multiplied five loaves and two fishes so as to constitute an abundant meal for more than five thousand people, must also in some miraculous manner have transported Himself across the sea. So, availing themselves of the boats which had just arrived from Tiberias, they crossed over to Capernaum, in the hope of finding the Lord Jesus there; for they knew that this city had, for some time, been His chief place of residence. Nor was their expectation disappointed.
"And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled" (John 6:25 , John 6:26 ). There was, perhaps, nothing wrong in their question, "Rabbi, when camest thou hither?" But to have answered it would not have profited them, and that was what the Lord sought. He, therefore, at once showed them that He was acquainted with their motives, and knew full well what had brought them thither. Outwardly at least, these people appeared ready to honor Him. They had followed Him across the sea of Galilee, and sought Him out again. But He read their hearts. He knew the inward springs of their conduct, and was not to be deceived. It was the Son of God evidencing His Deity again. He knew it was temporal, not spiritual blessing, that they sought. When He tells them, "Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles (or "signs") but because ye did eat of the loaves," His evident meaning is that they realized not the spiritual significance of those "signs." Had they done so, they would have prostrated themselves before Him in worship. And let us remember that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever." Christ still reads the human heart. No secrets can be withheld from Him. He knows why different ones put on religious garments when it suits their purpose why, at times, some are so loud in their religious pretensions why thy profess to be Christians. Hypocrisy is very sinful, but its folly and uselessness are equally great.
"Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you" (John 6:27 ). The expression used here by Christ is a relative and comparative one: His meaning is, Labor for the latter rather than for the former. The word "labor" is very expressive. It signifies that men should be in deadly earnest over spiritual things; that they should spare no pains to obtain that which their souls so imperatively need. It is used figuratively, and signifies making salvation the object of intense desire. O that men would give the same diligence to secure that which is imperative, as they put forth to gain the things of time and sense. That to which Christ bids men direct their thoughts and energies is "meat which endureth" abideth would be better: it is one of the characteristic words of this Gospel.
When our Lord says, "Labor... for that meat (satisfying portion) which endureth unto everlasting life," He was not inculcating salvation by works. This is very clear from His next words "which the Son of man shall give unto you." But He was affirming that which needs to be pressed on the half-hearted and those who are occupied with material things. It is difficult to preserve the balance of truth. On the one hand, we are so anxious to insist that salvation is by grace alone, that we are in danger of failing to uphold the sinner’s responsibility to seek the Lord with all his heart. Again; in pressing the total depravity of the natural man, his deadness in trespasses and sins, we are apt to neglect our duty of calling on him to repent and believe the Gospel. This word of Christ’s, "Labor . . . for the meat which endureth" is parallel (in substance) with "Strive to enter in at the strait gate" (Luke 13:24 ), and "every one presseth into the kingdom of God" (Luke 16:16 ). "For him hath God the Father sealed" (John 6:27 ). What is meant by Christ being "sealed" by God the Father? First, notice it is as "Son of man" that He is here said to be "sealed." That is, it was as the Son of God, but incarnate. There are two prime thoughts connected with "sealing:" identification, and attestation or ratification. In Revelation 7:0 we read of God’s angel "sealing" twelve thousand from each of the tribes of Israel. The sealing there consists of placing a mark on their foreheads, and it is for the purpose of identification: to distinguish and separate them from the mass of apostate Israel. Again, in Esther 8:8 we read, "Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse." Here the thought is entirely different. The king’s "seal" there speaks of authority. His seal was added for the purpose of confirmation and ratification. These, we doubt not, are the principle thoughts we are to associate with the "sealing" of Christ.
The historical reference is to the time when Christ was baptized Acts 10:38 . When the Lord Jesus, in marvellous condescension, had identified Himself with the believing remnant in Israel, taking His place in that which spoke of death, the Father there singled Him out by "anointing" or "sealing" Him with the Holy Spirit. This was accompanied by His audible voice, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Thus was the Christ, now about to enter upon His mediatorial work, publicly identified and accredited by God. The Father testified to the perfections of His incarnate Son, and communicated official authority, by "sealing" Him with the Holy Spirit. This declaration of Christ here in verse 27 anticipated the question or challenge which we find in verse 52, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" The sufficient answer, already given, was "for him hath God the Father sealed." So, too, it anticipated and answered the question of verse 30: "What sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee?" Just as princes of the realm are often authorized by the king to act in governmental and diplomatic affairs on his behalf, and carry credentials that bear the king’s seal to confirm their authority before those to whom they are sent, so Christ gave proof of His heavenly authority by His miracles: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10:38 ).
It is blessed to know that we, too, have been "sealed": Ephesians 1:13 . Believers are "sealed" as those who are approved of God But observe, carefully, that it is in Christ we are thus distinguished. "In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise." Christ was "sealed" because of His own intrinsic perfections; we, because of our identification and union with Him! "Accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6 ) gives us the same thought. Mark, though, it is not said (as commonly misunderstood) that the Holy Spirit seals us, but that the Holy Spirit Himself is God’s "Seal" upon us the distinguishing sign of identification, for sinners do not have the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:19 ).
Let the student ponder the following questions, preparatory to our next chapter:
1. What does the question in verse 28 intimate?
2. What is the meaning of verse 29?
3. What do verses 30 and 31 demonstrate in connection with those people?
4. In how many different respects is "bread" a suited emblem of Christ?
5. What is the meaning of verse 35 Does a believer ever "hunger" or "thirst"?
6. Who have been given to Christ by the Father? verse 37.
7. What comforting truth is found in verse 39?
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ, the Bread of Life
Below we give an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:
1. The Inquiry of the legalistic heart: verse 28.
2. The Divine answer thereto: verse 29.
3. The Scepticism of the natural heart: verses 30, 31.
4. Christ the true Bread: verses 32-34.
5. Christ the Satisfier of man’s heart: verse 35.
6. The Unbelief of those who had seen: verse 36.
7. Christ’s Submission to the Father’s will: verses 37-40.
It is both important and instructive to observe the connection between John 5:0 and John 6:0 : the latter is, doctrinally, the sequel to the former. There is both a comparison and a contrast in the way Christ is presented to us in these two chapters. In both we see Him as the Source of life, Divine life, spiritual life, eternal life. But, speaking of what is characteristic in John 5:0 , we have life communicated by Christ, whereas in John 6:0 we have salvation received by us. Let us amplify this a little.
John 5:0 opens with a typical illustration of Christ imparting life to an impotent soul: a man, helpless through an infirmity which he had had for thirty-eight years, is made whole. This miracle Christ makes the basis of a discourse in which He presented His Divine glories. In verse 21 we read, "As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them: even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." The same line of thought continues through to the end of verse 26. Thus, Christ there presents Himself in full Godhead title, as the Source and Dispenser of life, sovereignly imparted to whom He pleases. The one upon whom this Divine life is bestowed, as illustrated by the case of the impotent man, is regarded as entirely passive; he is called into life by the all-mighty, creating voice of the Son of God (verse 25). There is nothing in the sinner’s case but the powerlessness of death until the deep silence is broken by the word of the Divine Quickener. His voice makes itself heard in the soul, hitherto dead, but no longer dead as it hears His voice. But nothing is said of any searchings of heart, any exercises of conscience, any sense of need, any felt desire after Christ. It is simply Christ, in Divine sufficiency, speaking to spiritually dead souls, empowering them (by sovereign "quickening") to hear.
In John 6:0 Christ is presented in quite another character, and in keeping with this, so is the sinner too. Here our Lord is viewed not in His essential glories, but as the Son incarnate. Here He is contemplated as "the Son of man" (verses 27, 53), and therefore, as in the place of humiliation, "come down from heaven" (verses 33, 38, 51, etc.). As such, Christ is made known as the Object of desire, and as the One who can meet the sinner’s need. In John 5:0 it was Christ who sought out the "great multitude" of impotent folk (verses 3, 6), and when Christ presented Himself to the man who had an infirmity thirty and eight years, he evidenced no desire for the Savior. He acted as one who had no heart whatever for the Son of God. As such he accurately portrayed the dead soul when it is first quickened by Christ. But in John 6:0 the contrast is very noticeable. Here the "great multitude" followed him (verses 2, 24, 25), with an evident desire for Him we speak not now of the unworthy motive that prompted that desire, but the desire itself as illustrative of a truth. It is this contrast which indicates the importance of noting the relation of John 5:0 and 6. As said in our opening sentences, the latter is the sequel to the former. We mean that the order in the contents of the two chapters, so far as their contents are typical and illustrative, set forth the doctrinal order of truth. They give us the two sides: the Divine and the human; and here, as ever, the Divine comes first. In ,John 5:0 we have the quickening power of Christ, as exercised according to His sovereign prerogative; in John 6:0 we have illustrated the effects of this in a soul already quickened. In the one, Christ approaches the dead soul; in the other, the dead soul, now quickened, seeks Christ!
In developing this illustration of the truth in John 6:0 , the Holy Spirit has followed the same order as in John 5:0 . Here, too, Christ works a miracle, on those who typically portray the doctrinal characters which are in view. These are sinners already "quickened," but not yet saved; for, unlike quickening, there is a human side to salvation, as well as a Divine. The prominent thing brought before us in the first section of John 6:0 is a hungry multitude. And how forcibly and how accurately they illustrate the condition of a soul just quickened, is obvious. As soon as the Divine life has been imparted, there is a stirring within; there is a sense of need awakened. It is the life turning toward its Source, just as water ever seeks its own level. The illustration is Divinely apt, for there are few things of which we are more conscious than when we are assailed by the pangs of hunger. But not so with a dead man, for he is unconscious; or with a paralyzed man, for he is incapable of feeling. So it is spiritually. The one who is dead in trespasses and sins, and paralyzed by depravity, has no hunger for God. But how different with one who has been Divinely "quickened"! The first effect of quickening is that the one quickened awakes to consciousness: the Divine life within gives capacity to discern his sinfulness and his need of Christ.
Mark, too, what follows in the second section of John 6:0 . The same line of truth is pursued further. Here we see the disciples in darkness, in the midst of a storm, rowing towards the Place of Consolation. What a vivid illustration does this supply of the experiences of the newly quickened and so awakened soul! It tells of the painful experiences through which he passes ere the Haven of Rest is reached. Not yet is he really saved; not yet does he understand the workings of Divine grace within him. All he is conscious of is his sense of deep need. And it is then that Satan’s fiendish onslaughts are usually the fiercest. Into what a storm is he now plunged! But the Devil is not permitted to completely overwhelm the soul, any more than he was the disciples in the illustration. When God’s appointed time arrives, Christ draws nigh and says, "I am: be not afraid." He stands revealed before the one who was seeking Him, and then is He "willingly received into the ship" He is gladly embraced by faith, and received into the heart! Then the storm is over, the desired haven is reached, for the next thing we see is Christ and the disciples at "Capernaum" (place of consolation). Thus, in the feeding of the hungry multitude, and in the delivering of the disciples from the storm-tossed sea, we have a most blessed and wonderful illustration of Christ meeting and satisfying the conscious need of the soul previously quickened.
It will thus be seen that all of this is but introductory to the great theme unfolded in the middle section of John 6:0 . Just as the healing of the impotent man at the beginning of John 5:0 introduced and prepared the way for the discourse that followed, so it is in John 6:0 . Here the prominent truth is Christ in the place of humiliation, which He had voluntarily entered as man, "come down from heaven"; and thus as "the bread of life" presenting Himself as the Object who alone can supply the need of which the quickened and awakened soul is so conscious. 
"Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" (John 6:28 ). This question appears to be the language of men temporarily impressed and aroused, but still in the dark concerning the way to Heaven. They felt, perhaps, that they were on the wrong road, that something was required of them, but what that something was they knew not. They supposed they had to do some work; but what works they were ignorant. It was the old self-righteousness of the natural man, who is ever occupied with his own doings. The carnal mind is flattered when it is consciously doing something for God. For his doings man deems himself entitled to reward. He imagines that salvation is due him, because he has earned it. Thus does he reckon the reward "not of grace, but of debt." Man seeks to bring God into the humbling position of debtor to him. How unbelief and pride degrade the Almighty! How they rob Him of His glory!
"What shall we do that we might work the works of God?" It seems almost incredible that these men should have asked such a question. Only a moment before, Christ had said to them "Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you" (verse 27). But the carnal mind, which is enmity against God, is unable to rise to the thought of a gift. Or, rather, the carnal heart is unwilling to come down to the place of a beggar and a pauper, and receive everything for nothing. The sinner wants to do something to earn it. It was thus with the woman at the well: until Divine grace completed its work within her, she knew not the "gift of God" (John 4:10 ). It was the same with the rich young ruler: "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18 ). It was the same with the stricken Jews on the day of Pentecost: "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37 ). It was the same with the Philippian jailer: "Sirs, what must I do to be " saved? (Acts 16:30 ). So it was with the prodigal son "Make me as one of thy hired servants" (one who works for what he receives) was his thought (Luke 15:19 ). Ah! dear friends, God and man are ever the same wherever you find them!
"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29 ). In what lovely patient grace did the Lord make reply! In blessed simplicity of language, He stated that the one thing that God requires of sinners is that they believe on the One whom He has sent into the world to meet their deepest need. "This is the work of God" means, this is what God requires. It is not the works of the law, nor the bringing of an offering to His temple altar; but faith in Christ. Christ is the Savior appointed by God, and faith in Him is that which God approves, and without which nothing else can be acceptable in His sight. Paul answered the question of the Philippian jailer as the Lord before him had done "What must I do to be saved?": "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" was the reply (Acts 16:31 ). But again we say, Man had rather do than "believe." And why is this? Because it panders to his pride: because it repudiates his utter ruin, inasmuch as it is a denial that he is "without strength" (Romans 5:6 ): because it provides for him a platform on which he can boast and glory. Nevertheless, the one and only "work" which God will accept is faith in His Son.
But, perhaps some one will raise the question, Is it possible that I can ever enter heaven without good works? Answer: No; you cannot enter heaven without a good character. But those good works and that character of yours must be without a flaw. They must be as holy as God, or you can never enter His presence. But how may I secure such a character as that? Surely that is utterly impossible! No, it is not. But how then? By a series of strivings after holiness? No; that is doing again. Do nothing. Only believe. Accept the Work already done the finished work of the Lord Jesus on our behalf. This is what God asks of you give up your own doings and receive that of My beloved Son. But are you ready to do this? Are you willing to abandon your own doings, your own righteousness, and to accept His? You will not till you are thoroughly convinced that all your doings are faulty, that all your efforts fall far short of God’s demands, that all your own righteousness is tarnished with sin, yea, is as "filthy rags." What man will renounce his own work in order to trust to that of another, unless he be first convinced that his own is worthless? What man will repose for safety in another till he be convinced that there is no safety in trusting to himself? It is impossible. Man cannot do this of himself: it takes the work of God." It is the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, and that alone, which brings the sinner to renounce his own works and lay hold on the Lord Jesus for salvation.
O dear reader, we would solemnly press this upon you. Is the finished work of Christ the only rock on which your soul is resting for eternal life, or are you still secretly trusting to your own doings for salvation? If so, you will be eternally lost, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it "He that believeth not shall be damned." Your own doings, even if they were such as you wish them to be, could never save you. Your prayers, your tears, your sorrowings for sin, your alms-givings, your church-goings, your efforts at holiness of life what are they all but doings of your own, and if they were all perfect they could not save you. Why? Because it is written, "By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." Salvation is not a thing to be earned by a religious life, but is a free gift received by faith Romans 6:23 .
"They said therefore unto him, What sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? What dost thou work?" (John 6:30 ). How this exhibits the works of unbelief! How difficult it is, yea impossible, for the natural man, of himself, to accept Christ and His finished work by "simple" faith! Truly, nothing but the Spirit of God can enable a man to do it. The Lord had said, "Believe." They replied, "Show us a sign." Give us something we can see along with it. Man must either see or feel before he will believe. "We do not mean to say that salvation is not by believing on Christ, but we want some evidence first. We will believe if we can have some evidence on which to believe. Oh, perfect picture of the natural heart! I come to a man one who has probably for years been making a profession of religion and I say to him, ‘Have you got eternal life dwelling in you? Do you know that you are a saved man, that you have passed from death unto life?’ The reply is, ‘No, I am not sure of it.’ Then you do not believe on the Lord Jesus. You have not accepted the finished work of Christ as yours. He replies, ‘Yes, I do believe on Christ.’ Then remember what He has said, ‘He that believeth hath everlasting life.’ He does not hope to have it. He is not uncertain about it. ‘He hath it,’ says the Son of God. The man answers, ‘Well, I would believe this if I could only feel better. If I could only see in myself some evidences of a change, then I could believe it, and be as certain of it as you are.’ So said these people to the Lord give us some evidence that we may see and believe. Do you not see that you are thus making salvation depend on the evidences of the Spirit’s work within you, instead of the finished work of the Lord Jesus for you? You say, I would believe if I could only feel better if I could only see a change. God says, Believe first, then you shall feel then you shall see. God reverses your order, and you must reverse it too, if you would ever have peace with God. Believe, and you will then have in your heart a motive for a holy life, and not only so, you will walk in liberty, and peace, and joy" (Dr. F. Whitfield).
"They said therefore unto him, What sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? What dost thou work?" The force of that is this: You have asked us to receive you as the One sent of God. What sign, then do you show; where are your credentials to authorize your mission? And this was asked, be it remembered, on the morning following the feeding of the five thousand! It seems unthinkable. Only a few hours before they had witnessed a miracle, which in some respects, was the most remarkable our Lord had performed, and from which they had themselves benefitted. And yet, does not our own sad history testify that this is true to life? Men are surrounded by innumerable evidences for the existence of God: they carry a hundred demonstrations of it in their own persons, and yet how often do they ask, What proof have we that there is a God? So, too, with believers. We enjoy countless tokens of His love and faithfulness; we have witnessed His delivering hand again and again, and yet when some fresh trial comes upon us something which completely upsets our plans, the removal, perchance, of some earthly object around which we had entwined our heart’s affections we ask, Does God really care? And, maybe, we are sufficiently callous to ask for another "sign" in proof that He does!
"Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat" (John 6:31 ). Here they drew a disparaging contrast between Christ and Moses. It was the further workings of their unbelief. The force of their objection was this: What proof have we that Thou art greater than Moses? They sought to deprecate the miracle they had witnessed on the previous day by comparing Moses and the manna. It was as though they had said, ‘If you would have us believe on you as the Sent One of God, you must show us greater works. You have fed five thousand but once, whereas in Moses’ day, our fathers ate bread for forty years!’ It is striking to note how they harped back to their "fathers." The woman at the well did the same thing (see John 4:12 ). And is it not so now? The experiences of "the fathers", what they believed and taught, is still with many the final court of appeal.
"Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat." Their speech betrayed them, as is evident from their use of the word "manna." The late Malachi Taylor pointed out how this was "a name always used by their father, of wilfulness, persistently ignoring Jehovah’s word ‘bread’, and now uttered by them, because it was so written. It is notable that they of old never called it anything at all but ‘manna’ (meaning ‘What is this?’), except when they despised it (Numbers 21:5 ); and then they called it ‘light bread.’ And Jehovah named it ‘manna’ in Numbers 11:7 when the mixed multitude fell a lusting for the flesh-pots of Egypt. What lessons for us as to our thoughts of Christ, the Bread of God! In Psalms 78:24 , where God is recounting the evil ways of Israel through the wilderness, He calls it ‘manna’; but in Psalms 105:40 , where all His mercies pass in review, calling for praise, it is called ‘bread’. Again we say, What lessons for us!"
"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not the bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven" (John 6:32 ). With good reason might our blessed Lord have turned away from His insulting challengers. Well might He have left them to themselves. But as another has said, "Grace in Him was active. Their souls’ interests He had at heart" (C.E.S.). And so, in wondrous condescension, He speaks to them of the Father’s "Gift", who alone could meet their deep need, and satisfy their souls. And has He not often dealt thus with thee, dear reader? Cannot you say with the Psalmist, "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities" (Psalms 103:10 )? Instead of turning away in disgust at our ingratitude and unbelief, He has continued to care for us and minister to us. O how thankful ought we to be for that precious promise, and the daily fulfillment of it in our lives, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee."
"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven." The error of the Jews here should be a warning to us. They thought Moses gave them the manna. But it was God and not Moses. He was only the humble instrument. They ought to have looked through the instrument to God. But the eye rested, where it is ever so prone to rest on the human medium. The Lord here leads them to look beyond the human instrument to God "Moses gave you not that bread... but my Father," etc. O what creatures of sense we are. We live so much in the outward and visible, as almost to forget there is anything beyond. All that we gaze upon here is but the avenue to what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard. All the temporal gifts and blessings we receive are but the finger of the Father beckoning us within the inner shrine. He is saying to us, ‘If My works be so beautiful, if My gifts be so precious, if My footprints be so glorious, what must I be?’ Thus should we ever look through nature, to nature’s God. Thus shall we enjoy God’s gifts, when they lead us up to Him; and then shall we not make idols of them, and so run the risk of their removal. Everything in nature and in providence is but the "Moses" between us and God. Let us not be like the Jews of old, so taken up with Moses as to forget the "greater than Moses," whence they all proceed.
"For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world" (John 6:33 ). The Father’s provision for a dying world was to send from heaven His only begotten Son. There is another suggestive contrast here, yea, a double one. The manna had no power to ward off death the generation of Israel that ate it in the wilderness died! How, then, could it be the "true bread"? No; Christ is the "true bread," for He bestows "life." But again: the manna was only for Israel. No other people in the desert (the Amorites, for instance) partook of the manna; for it fell only in Israel’s camp. But the true Bread "giveth life unto the world." The "world" here does not include the whole human race, for Christ does not bestow "life" on every descendant of Adam. It is not here said that the true Bread offereth "life unto the world," but He "giveth life." It is the "world" of believers who are here in view. The Lord, then, designedly employs a word that reached beyond the limits of Israel, and took in elect Gentiles too!
"For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world." Three different expressions are used by our Lord in this passage, each having a slightly varied meaning; the three together, serving to bring out the fulness and blessedness of this title. In verse 32 He speaks of Himself as the "true bread from heaven": "true" speaks of that which is real, genuine, satisfying; "from heaven" tells of its celestial and spiritual character. In verse 33 He speaks of Himself as "the bread of God," which denotes that He is Divine, eternal. Then, in verse 35 He says, "I am the bread of life": the One who imparts, nourishes and sustains life.
"Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread" (John 6:34 ). This was but the outcome of a fleeting impression which had been made by His words. It reminds us very much of the language of the woman at the well, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw" (John 4:15 ), and those who recall our comments on that verse will remember the motive that prompted her. The words of these men but served to make their rejection of Him more manifest and decisive when they fully grasped His meaning: verse 36 proves this conclusively"But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not."
"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life" (John 6:35 ). The Lord places Himself before us under the figure of bread. The emblem is beautifully significant, and like all others used in Scripture calls for prolonged and careful meditation. First, bread is a necessary food. Unlike many other articles of diet which are more or less luxuries, this is essential to our very existence. Bread is the food we cannot dispense with. There are other things placed upon our tables that we can do without, but not so with bread. Let us learn the lesson well. Without Christ we shall perish. There is no spiritual life or health apart from the Bread of God.
Second, bread is a Food that is suited to all. There are some people who cannot eat sweets; others are unable to digest meats. But all eat bread. The physical body may retain its life for a time without bread, but it will be sickly, and soon sink into the grave. Bread, then is adapted to all. It is the food of both king and artisan. So it is with Christ. It meets the need of all alike; He is able to satisfy every class of sinners rich or poor, cultured or illiterate.
Third, bread is a daily food. There are some articles of food which we eat but occasionally; others only when they are in season. But bread is something we need every day of our lives. It is so spiritually. If the Christian fails to feed on Christ daily, if he substitutes the husks of religious forms and ceremonies, religious books, religious excitement, the glare and glitter of modem Christianity, he will be weak and sickly. It is failure at this very point which is mainly responsible for the feebleness of so many of the Lord’s people.
Fourth, bread is a satisfying food. We quickly fire of other articles of diet, but not so with this. Bread is a staple and standard article, which we must use all our lives. And does not the analogy hold good again spiritually? How often have we turned aside to other things, only to find them but husks! None but the Bread of life can satisfy.
Fifth, let us note the process through which bread passes before it becomes food. It springs up the blade, the ear, the full corn in the ear. Then it is cut down, winnowed, and ground into flour, and finally subjected to the fiery process of the oven. Thus, and only thus, did it become fit to sustain life. Believer in Christ, such was the experiences of the Bread of God. He was "bruised for our iniquities." He was subjected to the fierce fires of God’s holy wrath, as He took our place in judgment. O how wonderful God forbid that we should ever lose our sense of wonderment over it. The Holy One of God, was "made a curse for us." "It pleased the Lord to bruise him." And this in order that He might be the Bread of life to us! Let us then feed upon Him. Let us draw from His infinite fulness. Let us ever press forward unto a more intimate fellowship with Him.
"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst" (John 6:35 ). In verse 33 Christ had spoken of giving life to "the world" the world of believers, the sum total of the saved. Now He speaks of, the individual "he that cometh to me... he that believeth. A similar order is to be observed in verse 37 note the "all" is followed by "him." There is, no doubt, a shade of difference between "believing on" Christ, and "coming to" Him. To "believe on" Christ is to receive God’s testimony concerning His Son, and to rest on Him alone for salvation. To "come to" Him which is really the effect of the former is for the heart to go out to Him in loving confidence. The two acts are carefully distinguished in Hebrews 11:6 : "without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is: and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him." I must know who the physician is, and believe in his ability, before I shall go to him to be cured.
But what are we to understand by "shall never hunger" and "shall never thirst"? Does the Christian never "hunger" or "thirst"? Surely; then, how are we to harmonize his experience with this positive declaration of the Savior? Ah! He speaks here according to the fulness and satisfaction there is in Himself, and not according to our imperfect apprehension and appreciation of Him. If we are straitened it is in ourselves, not in Him. If we do "hunger" and "thirst," it is not because He is unable, and not because He is unwilling, to satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst, but because we are of "little faith" and fail to draw daily from His fulness.
"But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not" (John 6:36 ). Even the sight of Christ in the flesh, and the beholding of His wondrous miracles, did not bring men to believe on Him. O the depravity of the human heart! "Ye also have seen me, and believe not." This shows how valueless was their request: "Lord, evermore give us this bread" (verse 34). It is unspeakably solemn. They trusted in Moses (John 9:28 ), they had rejoiced for a season in John the Baptist’s light (John 5:35 ); they could quote the Scriptures (John 6:31 ), and yet they believed not on Christ! It is difficult to say how far a man may go, and yet come short of the one thing needful. These men were not worse than many others, but their unbelief was manifested and declared; consequently, Christ addresses them accordingly. This, indeed, would be the result in every case, were we left to our own thoughts of Christ. Be warned then, dear reader, and make sure that yours is a saving faith.
"But I said unto you, that ye also have seen me, and believe not." Was, then, the incarnation a failure? Was His mission fruitless? That could not be. There can be no failure with God, though there is much failure in all of us to understand His purpose. Christ was not in anywise discouraged or disheartened at the apparent failure of His mission. His next word shows that very conclusively, and to it we turn.
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" (John 6:37 ). Here the Lord speaks of a definite company which have been given to Him by the Father. Nor is this the only place where He makes mention of this people. In John 17:0 He refers to their seven times over. In verse 2 He says, "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." So again in verse 6 He says, "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: Thine they were, and thou gavest them me." And again in verse 9 He declares, "I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine." See also verses 11, 12, 24. Whom those are that the Father gave to Christ we are told in Ephesians 1:4 "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." Those given to Christ were God’s elect, singled out for this marvellous honor before the foundation of the world: "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation" (2 Thessalonians 2:13 ). But let us notice the exact connection in our passage wherein Christ refers to the elect.
In verse 36 we find our Lord saying to those who had no heart for Him, "ye also have seen me, and believe not." Was He, then, disheartened? Far from it. And why not? Ah! mark how the Son of God, here the lowly Servant of Jehovah, encourages Himself. He immediately adds, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." What a lesson is this for every under shepherd. Here is the true haven of rest for the heart of every Christ worker. Your message may be slighted by the crowd, and as you see how many there are who "believe not" it may appear that your labor is in vain. Nevertheless "the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his" (2 Timothy 2:19 ). The eternal purpose of the Almighty cannot fail; the sovereign will of the Lord Most High cannot be frustrated. All, every one, that the Father gave to the Son before the foundation of the world "shall come to him." The Devil himself cannot keep one of them away. So take heart fellow-worker. You may seem to be sowing the Seed at random, but God will see to it that part of it falls onto ground which He has prepared. The realization of the invincibility of the eternal counsels of God will give you a calmness, a poise, a courage, a perseverance which nothing else can. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58 ).
"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me." But while this is very blessed, it is solemnly tragic and deeply humbling. How humiliating for us, that in the presence of incarnate life and love in the person of the Lord of glory, no one would have come to Him, none would have benefitted by His mission, had there not been those who were given to Him by the Father, and on whose coming He could, therefore, reckon. Man’s depravity is so entire, his enmity so great, that in every instance, his will would have resisted and rejected Christ, had not the Father determined that His Son should have some as the trophies of His victory and the reward of His coming down from heaven. Alas that our deadness to such love should have called forth such sighs as seem to breathe in these very words of Christ!
"And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37 ). Let us not miss (as is so commonly done) the connection between this clause and the one which precedes it. "Him that cometh to me" is explained by "all that the Father giveth me." None would come to Him unless the Father had first predestinated that they should, for it is only "as many as were ordained to eternal life" that believe (Acts 13:48 ). Each one that the Father had given to Christ in eternity past, "cometh" to Him in time comes as a lost sinner to be saved; comes having nothing, that he may receive everything.
The last clause "I will in no wise cast out" assures the eternal preservation of everyone that truly cometh to Christ. These words of the Savior do not signify (as generally supposed) that He promises to reject none who really come to Him, though that is true; but they declare that under no imaginable circumstances will He ever expel any one that has come. Peter came to Him and was saved. Later, he denied his Master with an oath. But did Christ "cast him out"? Nay, verily. And can we find a more extreme case? If Peter was not "cast out," no Christian ever was, or ever will be. Praise the Lord!
"For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John 6:38 ). This is most instructive. The force of it is this: Those whom the Father had given the Son all of them would come to Him. It was no longer the Son in His essential glory, quickening whom He would, as in verse 21, but the Son incarnate, the "Son of man" (John 6:27 ), receiving those the Father "drew" to Him (John 6:44 )! "Therefore be it who it might, He would in no wise cast him out: enemy, scoffer, Jew or Gentile, they would not come if the Father had not sent them" (J.N.D.). Christ was here to do the Father’s will. Thus does Christ assure His own that He will save to the end all whom the Father had given Him.
"For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." How greatly does this enhance the value of the precious words at the close of the preceding verse, when we see that our coming to Christ is not attributed to man’s fickle will, but as the effect of the Father’s drawing to the Savior each one given to Him in the counsels of that Father’s love before the foundation of the world! So, too, the reception of them is not merely because of Christ’s compassion for the lost, but as the obedient Servant of the Father’s will, He welcomes each one brought to Him brought by the unseen drawings of the Father’s love. Thus our security rests not upon anything in us or from us, but upon the Father’s choice and the Son’s obedient love!
"And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day" (John 6:39 ). How blessedly this, too, explains the closing words of verse 37! Eternal predestination guarantees eternal preservation. The "last day" is, of course, the last day of the Christian dispensation. Then it shall appear that He hath not lost a single one whom the Father gave to Him. Then shall He say, "Behold I and the children which God hath given me" (Hebrews 2:13 ).
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40 ). Christ had just spoken of the Father’s counsels. He had disclosed the fact that the success of His ministry depended not on man’s will for that was known to be, in every case, so perverse as to reject the Savior but on the drawing power of the Father. But here He leaves, as it were, the door wide open to any one any where who is disposed to enter: "that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life." Yet it is instructive to note the order of the two verbs here: "believing" on Christ is the result of "seeing" Him. He must first be revealed by the Spirit before He will be received by the sinner. Thus did our Lord disclose to these men that a far deeper and infinitely more important work had been entrusted to Him than that of satisfying Israel’s poor with material bread not less a change than that of raising up at the last day all that had been given to Him by the Father, without losing so much as one.
The following questions are submitted to help the student for the next chapter on John 6:41-43.6.59 :
1. Wherein does verse 44 rebuke their "murmuring"?
2. What ought to have been their response to verse 44?
3. Who are the "all" that are "taught of God"? verse 45.
4. What is meant by "not die"? verse 50.
5. What are the various thoughts suggested by "eat"? verse 51.
6. What is the difference in thought between verses 53 and 56?
7. What is meant by "I live by the Father"? verse 57.
 We do not think the time would be wasted if the above paragraphs were re-read before proceeding farther.
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ in the Capernaum Synagogue
The following is submitted as an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:
1. The murmuring of the Jews: verses 41, 42.
2. Christ’s rebuke: verses 43-45.
3. The glory of Christ: verse 46.
4. Christ, the Life-giver: verses 47-51.
5. The criticism of the Jews: verse 52.
6. Christ’s solemn reply: verse 53.
7. The results of feeding on Christ: verses 54-59.
The first thirteen verses of John 6:0 describe the feeding of the multitude, and in verses 14 and 15 we are shown what effect that miracle had upon the crowd. From verse 16 to the end of verse 21 we have the well-known incident of the disciples in the storm, and the Lord walking on the sea and coming to their deliverance. In verses 22 to 25 we see the people following Christ to Capernaum, and in verses 26 to 40 we learn of the conversation which took place between them and our Lord most probably in the open air. At verse 41 there is a break in the chapter, and a new company is introduced, namely, "the Jews"; and from verse 59 it is clear that they were in the synagogue. In this Gospel "the Jews" are ever viewed as antagonistic to the Savior see our notes on verse 15. Here they are represented as "murmuring" because the Lord had said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." This does not prove that they had heard His words which are recorded in verse 33. Note it does not say in verse 41 that the Lord had said this "unto them": contrast verses 29, 32, 35! Most probably, the words He had spoken to "the people" of verse 24 words which are recorded in the verses which follow, to the end of verse 40 had been reported to "the Jews." Hence, verses 41 to 59 describe the conversation between Christ and the Jews in the Capernaum synagogue, as the preceding verses narrate what passed between the Savior and the Galileans. The Holy Spirit has placed the.two conversations side by side, because of the similarity of their themes.
"The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven" (John 6:41 ). "In John ‘the Jews’ are always distinguished from the multitude. They are the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judea. It would, perhaps, be easier to understand this Gospel, if the words were rendered ‘those of Judea’, which is the true sense" (J.N.D.). These Jews were "murmuring," and it is a significant thing that the same word is used here as in the Septuagint (the first Gentile translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) of Israel murmuring in the wilderness. In few things does the depravity of the human heart reveal itself so plainly and so frequently as in murmuring against God. It is a sin which few, if any, are preserved from.
The Jews were murmuring against Christ. They were murmuring against Him because He had said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." This was a saying that of. fended them. And why should that cause them to murmur? They were, of course, completely blind to Christ’s Divine glory, and so were ignorant that this very One whom some of them had seen grow up before their eyes in the humble home of Joseph and Mary in Nazareth, and the One that some of them, perhaps, had seen working at the carpenter’s bench, should make a claim which they quickly perceived avowed His Deity. It was the pride of the human heart disdaining to be indebted to One who had lain aside His glory, and had taken upon Him the form of a servant. They refused to be beholden to One. so lowly. Moreover, they were far too self-satisfied and self-righteous to see any need for One to come down from heaven to them, much less for that One to die upon the Cross to meet their need and thus become their Savior. Their case, as they thought, was by no means so desperate as that. The truth is, they had no hunger for "the bread which came down from heaven." What light this casts on the state of the world today! How it serves to explain the common treatment which the Lord of glory still receives at the hands of men! Pride, the wicked pride of the self-righteous heart, is responsible for unbelief. Men despise and reject the Savior because they feel not their deep need of Him. Feeding upon the husks which are fit food only for swine, they have no appetite for the true Bread. And when the claims of Christ are really pressed upon them they still "murmur"!
"And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?" (John 6:42 ). This shows that these Jews understood Christ’s words "I am the bread which came down from heaven" as signifying that He was of Divine origin; and in this they were quite right. None but He could truthfully make the claim. This declaration of Christ meant that He had personally existed in heaven before He appeared among men, and, as His forerunner testified, "He that cometh from above is above all" (John 3:31 ): above all, because the first man and all his family are of the earth, earthy; but "the second man is the Lord from heaven" (1 Corinthians 15:47 ). And for the Lord to become Man required the miracle of the virgin birth: a supernatural Being could only enter this world in a supernatural manner. But these Jews were in total ignorance of Christ’s superhuman origin. They supposed Him to be the natural son of Joseph and Mary. His "father and mother," said they, "we know." But they did not. His Father, they knew not of, nor could they, unless the Father revealed Himself unto them. And it is so still. It is one thing to receive, intellectually, as a religious dogma, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; it is altogether another to know Him as such for myself. Flesh and blood cannot reveal this to me (Matthew 16:17 ).
"Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:43 , John 6:44 ). This word is very solemn coming just at this point, and it is necessary to note carefully its exact connection. It was a word which at once exposed the moral condition and explained the cause of the "murmuring" of these Jews. Great care must be taken to observe what Christ did not say, and precisely what He did say. He did not say, "No man can come to me, except the Father hath given him to me," true as that certainly is. But He spoke here so as to address their human responsibility. It was not designed as a word to repel, but to humble. It was not closing the door in their face, but showed how alone that door could be entered. It was not intended as an intimation that there was no possible hope for them, rather was it a pointing out the direction in which hope lay. Had Saul of Tarsus then been among the number who heard these searching words of Christ, they would have applied in full force in his own case and condition; and yet it became manifest, subsequently, that he was a vessel of mercy, given to the Son by the Father before the foundation of the world. And it is quite possible that some of these very Jews, then murmuring, were among the number who, at Pentecost, were drawn by the Father to believe on the Son. The Lord’s language was carefully chosen, and left room for that. John 7:5 tells us that the Lord’s own brethren (according to the flesh) did not believe on Him at first, and yet, later, they ranked among His disciples, as is clear from Acts 1:14 . Let us be careful, then, not to read into this 44th verse what is not there.
"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44 ). These words of Christ make manifest the depths of human depravity. They expose the inveterate stubbornness of the human will. They explain the "murmuring" of these Jews. In answering them thus, the obvious meaning of the Savior’s words was this: By your murmuring you make it evident that you have not come to Me, that you are not disposed to come to Me; and with your present self-righteousness, you never will come to Me. Before you come to Me you must be converted and become as little children. And before that can take place, you must be the subjects of Divine operation. One has only to reflect on the condition of the natural man in order to see the indubitable truth of this. Salvation is most exactly suited to the sinner’s needs, but it is not at all suited to his natural inclinations. The Gospel is too spiritual for his carnal mind: too humbling for his pride: too exacting for his rebellious will: too lofty for his darkened understanding: too holy for his earthbound desires.
"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him." How can one who has a high conceit of himself and his religious performances admit that all his righteousnesses are as filthy rags? How can one who prides himself on his morality and his religiousness, own himself as lost, undone, and justly condemned? How can one who sees so little amiss in himself, who is blind to the fact that from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot there is no soundness in him (Isaiah 1:6 ), earnestly seek the great Physician? No man with an unchanged heart and mind will ever embrace God’s salvation. The inability here, then, is a moral one. Just as when Christ also said, "how can ye, being evil, speak good things?" (Matthew 12:34 ). And again, "How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another?" (John 5:44 ). And again, "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive" (John 14:17 ). Water will not flow uphill, nor will the natural man act contrary to his corrupt nature. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, and equally impossible is it for a heart that loves the darkness to also love the light.
The depravity of man is, from the human side, the only thing which will explain the general rejection of the Gospel. The only satisfactory answer to the questions, Why is not Christ cordially received by all to whom He is presented? Why do the majority of men despise and reject Him? is man is a fallen creature, a depraved being who loves sin and hates holiness. So, too, the only satisfactory answer which can be given to the questions, Why is the Gospel cordially received by any man? Why is it not obstinately rejected by all? is, In the case of those who believe, God has, by His supernatural influence, counteracted against the human depravity; in other words, the Father has "drawn" to the Son.
The condition of the natural man is altogether beyond human repair. To talk about exerting the will is to ignore the state of the man behind the will. Man’s will has not escaped the general wreckage of his nature. When man fell, every part of his being was affected. Just as truly as the sinner’s heart is estranged from God and his understanding darkened, so is his will enslaved by sin. To predicate the freedom of the will is to deny that man is totally depraved. To say that man has the power within himself to either reject or accept Christ, is to repudiate the fact that he is the captive of the Devil. It is to say there is at least one good thing in the flesh. It is to flatly contradict this word of the Son of God "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him."
Man’s only hope lies outside of himself, in Divine help. And this is what we meant above when we said that this word of Christ was not intended to close the door of hope, but pointed out the direction in which hope lay. If it be true that I cannot get away from myself; if it be true that my whole being is depraved, and therefore at enmity with God; if it be true that I am powerless to reverse the tendency of my nature, what then can I do? Why, acknowledge my helplessness, and cry for help. What should a man do who falls down and breaks his hip? He cannot rise: should he, then, lie there in his misery and perish? Not if he has any desire for relief. He will lift up his voice and summon assistance. And if these murmuring Jews had believed what Christ told them about their helplessness, this is what they had done. And if the unsaved today would only believe God when He says that the sinner is lost, he, too, would call for a Deliverer. If I cannot come to Christ except the Father "draws" me, then my responsibility is to beg the Father to "draw" me.
In what, we may inquire, does this "drawing" consist? It certainly has reference to something more than the invitation of the Gospel. The word used is a strong one, signifiying, the putting forth of power and obliging the object seized to respond. The same word is found in John 18:10 ; John 21:6 , John 21:11 . If the reader consults these passages he will find that it means far more than "to attract." Impel would give the true force of it here in John 6:44 .
As said above, the unregenerate sinner is so depraved that with an unchanged heart and mind he will never come to Christ. And the change which is absolutely essential is one which God alone can produce. It is, therefore, by Divine "drawing" that any one comes to Christ. What is this "drawing"? We answer, It is the power of the Holy Spirit overcoming the self-righteousness of the sinner, and convicting him of his lost condition. It is the Holy Spirit awakening within him a sense of need. It is the power of the Holy Spirit overcoming the pride of the natural man, so that he is ready to come to Christ as an empty-handed beggar. It is the Holy Spirit creating within him an hunger for the bread of life.
"It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God" (John 6:45 ). Our Lord confirms what He had just said by an appeal to the Scriptures. The reference is to Isaiah 54:13 : "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord." This serves to explain, in part at least, the meaning of "draw." Those drawn are they who are "taught of God." And who are these, so highly favored? The quotation from Isaiah 54:0 tells us: they are God’s "children"; His own, His elect. Notice carefully how our Lord quoted Isaiah 54:13 . He simply said, "And they shall be all taught of God." This helps us to define the "all" in other passages, like John 12:32 : "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto Me." The "all" does not mean all of humanity, but all of God’s children, all His elect.
"Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (John 6:45 ). This also throws light on the "drawing" of the previous verse. Those drawn are they who have "heard" and "learned of the Father." That is to say, God has given them an ear to hear and a heart to perceive. It is parallel with what we get in 1 Corinthians 1:23 , 1 Corinthians 1:24 : "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness: But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God." "Called" here refers to the effectual and irresistible call of God. It is a call which is heard with the inward ear. It is a call which is instinct with Divine power, drawing its object to Christ Himself.
"Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father" (John 6:46 ). This is very important. It guards against a false inference. It was spoken to prevent His hearers (and us today) from supposing that some direct communication from the Father is necessary before a sinner can be saved. Christ had just affirmed that only those come to Him who had heard and learned of the Father. But this does not mean that such characters hear His audible voice or are directly spoken to by Him. Only the Savior was [and is] in immediate communication with the Father. We hear and learn from the Father only through His written Word! So much then for the primary significance of this verse according to its local application. But there is far more in it than what we have just sought to bring out.
"Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father." How this displays the glory of Christ, bringing out, as it does, the infinite distance there is between the incarnate Son and all men on earth. No man had seen the Father; but the One speaking had, and He had because He is "of (not "the Father" but) God." He is a member of the Godhead, Himself very God of very God. And because He had "seen the Father," He was fully qualified to speak of Him, to reveal Him see John 1:18 . And who else could "declare" the Father? How else could the light of the Father’s love and grace have shined into our hearts, but through and by Christ, His Son?
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life" (John 6:47 ). Christ still pursues the line of truth begun in verse 44. This forty-seventh verse is not an invitation to sinners, but a doctrinal declaration concerning saints. In verse 44 He had stated what was essential from the Divine side if a sinner come to Christ: he must be "drawn" by the Father. In verse 45 He defined, in part, what this "drawing" consists of: it is hearing and learning of the Father. Then, having guarded against a false inference from His words in verse 45, the Savior now says, "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." Believing is not the cause of a sinner obtaining Divine life, rather is it the effect of it. The fact that a man believes, is the evidence that he already has Divine life within him. True, the sinner ought to believe. Such is his bounden duty. And in addressing sinners from the standpoint of human responsibility, it is perfectly proper to say ‘Whosoever believeth in Christ shall not perish but have eternal life.’ Nevertheless, the fact remains that no unregenerate sinner ever did or ever will believe. The unregenerate sinner ought to love God, and love Him with all his heart. He is commanded to. But he does not, and will not, until Divine grace gives him a new heart. So he ought to believe, but he will not till he has been quickened into newness of life. Therefore, we say that when any man does believe, is found believing, it is proof positive that he is already in possession of eternal life. "He that believeth on me hath (already has) eternal life": cf. John 3:36 ; John 5:24 ; 1 John 5:1 , etc.
"I am that bread of life" (John 6:48 ). This is the first of the seven "I am" titles of Christ found in this Gospel, and found nowhere else. The others are, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12 ); "I am the door" (John 10:9 ); "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:11 ); "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25 ); "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6 ); "I am the true vine" (15:l). They all look back to that memorable occasion when God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, and bade him go down into Egypt, communicate with His people, interview Pharaoh, and command him to let the children of God go forth into the wilderness to worship Jehovah. And when Moses asked, Who shall I say hath sent me?, the answer was, "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you" (Exodus 3:14 ). Here in John, we have a sevenfold filling out of the "I am" I am the bread of life, etc. Christ’s employment of these titles at once identifies Him with the Jehovah of the Old Testament, and unequivocally demonstrates His absolute Deity.
"I am that bread of life." Blessed, precious words are these. ‘I am that which every sinner needs, and without which he will surely perish. I am that which alone can satisfy the soul and fill the aching void in the unregenerate heart. I am that because, just as wheat is ground into flour and then subjected to the action of fire to fit it for human use, so I, too, have come down all the way from heaven to earth, have passed through the sufferings of death, and am now presented in the Gospel to all that hunger for life.’
"Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die" (John 6:49 , John 6:50 ). This is an amplification of verse 48. There He had said, "I am that bread of life"; here He describes one of the characteristic qualities of this "life." The Lord draws a contrast between Himself as the Bread of life and the manna which Israel ate in the wilderness; and also between the effects on those who ate the one and those who should eat the other. The fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, but they died. The manna simply ministered to a temporal need. It fed their bodies, but was not able to immortalize them. But those who eat the true bread, shall not die. Those who appropriate Christ to themselves, those who satisfy their hearts by feeding on Him, shall live forever. Not, of course, on earth, but with Him in heaven.
"This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die" (John 6:50 ). It is obvious that Christ gives the word "die" a different meaning here from what it bears in the previous verse. There He had said that they, who of old ate manna in the wilderness, "are dead": natural death, physical dissolution being in view. But here He says that a man may eat of the bread which cometh down from heaven, and "not die": that is, not die spiritually and eternally, not suffer the "second death." Should any object to this interpretation which gives a different meaning to the word "death" as it occurs in two consecutive verses, we would remind him that in a single verse the word is found twice, but with a different meaning: "Let the dead bury their dead" (Luke 9:60 ).
This is one of the many, many verses of Scripture which affirms the eternal security of the believer. The life which God imparts in sovereign grace to the poor sinner, is not a life that may be forfeited; for, "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Romans 11:29 .) It is not a life which is perishable, for it is "hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3 .) It is not a life which ends when our earthly pilgrimage is over, for it is "eternal life." Ah! what has the world to offer in comparison with this? Do the worldling’s fondest dreams of happiness embrace the element of unending continuity? No, indeed; that is the one thing lacking, the want of which spoils all the rest!
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven" (John 6:51 ). How evident it is then that Christ is here addressing these Jews on the ground, not of God’s secret counsels, but, of their human responsibility. It is true that none will come to Him save as they are "drawn" by the Father; but this does not mean that the Father refuses to "draw" any poor sinner that really desires Christ. Yea, that very desire for Christ is the proof the Father has commenced to "draw." And how Divinely simple is the way in which Christ is received "If any man [no matter who he be] eat of this bread he shall live forever." The figure of "eating" is very suggestive, and one deserving of careful meditation.
In the first place, eating is a necessary act if I am to derive that advantage from bread which it is intended to convey, namely, bodily nourishment. I may look at bread and admire it; I may philosophize about bread and analyze it; I may talk about bread and eulogize its quality; I may handle bread and be assured of its excellency but unless I eat it, I shall not be nourished by it. All of this is equally true with the spiritual bread, Christ. Knowing the truth, speculating about it, talking about it, contending for it, will do me no good. I must receive it into my heart.
In the second place, eating is responding to a felt need. That need is hunger, unmistakably evident, acutely felt. And when one is really hungry he asks no questions, he makes no demurs, he raises no quibbles, but gladly and promptly partakes of that which is set before him. So it is, again, spiritually. Once a sinner is awakened to his lost condition; once he is truly conscious of his deep, deep need, once he becomes aware of the fact that without Christ he will perish eternally; then, whatever intellectual difficulties may have previously troubled him, however much he may have procrastinated in the past, now he will need no urging, but promptly and gladly will he receive Christ as his own.
In the third place, eating implies an act of appropriation. The table may be spread, and loaded down with delicacies, and a liberal portion may have been placed on my plate, but not until I commence to eat do I make that food my own. Then, that food which previously was without me, is taken inside, assimilated, and becomes a part of me, supplying health and strength. So it is spiritually. Christ may be presented to me in all His attractiveness, I may respect His wonderful personality, I may admire His perfect life, I may be touched by His unselfishness and tenderness, I may be moved to tears at the sight of Him dying on the cruel Tree; but, not until I appropriate Him, not until I receive Him as mine, shall I be saved. Then, He who before was outside, will indwell me. Now, in very truth, shall I know Him as the bread of life, ministering daily to my spiritual health and strength.
In the fourth place, eating is an intensely personal act: it is something which no one else can do for me. There is no such thing as eating by proxy. If I am to be nourished, I must, myself, eat. Standing by and watching others eat will not supply my needs. So, dear reader, no one can believe in Christ for you. The preacher cannot; your loved ones cannot. And you may have witnessed others receiving Christ as theirs; you may later hear their ringing testimonies; you may be struck by the unmistakable change wrought in their lives; but, unless you have "eaten" the Bread of life, unless you have personally received Christ as yours, it has all availed you nothing. "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever." Divinely simple and yet wonderfully full is this figure of eating.
"And the bread that I will give is my flesh" (John 6:51 ). Exceedingly solemn and exceedingly precious is this. To "give" His "flesh" was to offer Himself as a sacrifice, it was to voluntarily lay down His life. Here, then, Christ presents Himself, not only as One who came down from heaven, but as One who had come here to die. And not unto we reach this point do we come to the heart of the Gospel. As an awakened sinner beholds the person of Christ, as he reads the record of His perfect life down here, he will exclaim, "Woe is me; I am undone." Every line in the lovely picture which the Holy Spirit has given us in the four Gospels only condemns me, for it shows me how unlike I am to the Holy One of God. I admire His ways: I marvel at His perfections. I wish that I could be like Him. But, alas, I am altogether unlike Him. If Christ be the One that the Father delights in, then verily, He can never delight in me; for His ways and mine are as far apart as the east is from the west. O what is to become of me, wretched man that I am! Ah! dear reader, what had become of every one of us if Christ had only glorified the Father by a brief sojourn here as the perfect Son of man? What hope had there been if, with garments white and glistening. and face radiant with a glory surpassing that of the midday sun, He had ascended from the Mount of Transfiguration, leaving this earth forever? There is only one answer: the door of hope had been fast closed against every member of Adam’s fallen and guilty race. But blessed be His name, wonderful as was His descent from heaven, wonderful as was that humble birth in Bethlehem’s lowly manger, wonderful as was the flawless life that He lived here for thirty-three years as He tabernacled among men; yet, that was not all, that was not the most wonderful. Read this fifty-first verse of John 6:0 again: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." Ah! it is only in a slain Christ that poor sinners can find that which meets their dire and solemn need. And His "flesh" He gave in voluntary and vicarious sacrifice "for the life of the world": not merely for the Jews, but for elect sinners of the Gentiles too. His meritorious life was substituted for our forfeited life. Surely this will move our hearts to fervent praise. Surely this will cause us to bow before Him in adoring worship.
"The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (John 6:52 ). "It is difficult, or rather impossible, to say what was the precise state of mind which this question indicated on the part of those who proposed it. It is not unlikely that it expressed different sentiments in different individuals. With some it probably was a contemptuous expression of utter incredulity, grounded on the alleged obvious absurdity of the statement made: q.d., ‘The man is mad; can any absurdity exceed this? We are to live for ever by eating the flesh of a living man!’ With others, who thought that neither our Lord’s words nor works were like those of a madman, the question probably was equivalent to a statement ‘These words must have a meaning different from their literal signification, but what can that meaning be?’
"These ‘strivings’ of the Jews about the meaning of our Lord’s words were ‘among themselves’. None of them seemed to have stated their sentiments to our Lord, but He was perfectly aware of what was going on among them. He does not, however, proceed to explain His former statements. They were not ready for such an explication. It would have been worse than lost on them. Instead of illustrating His statement, He reiterated it. He in no degree explains away what had seemed strange, absurd, incredible, or unintelligible. On the contrary, He becomes, if possible, more paradoxical and enigmatical than ever, in order that His statement might be more firmly rooted in their memory, and that they might the more earnestly inquire, ‘What can these mysterious words mean?’ He tells them that, strange and unintelligible, and incredible, and absurd, as His statements might appear, He had said nothing but what was indubitably true, and incalculably important" (Dr. John Brown).
"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:53 ). This verse and the two that follow contain an amplification of what He had said in verse 51. He was shortly to offer Himself as a Substitutionary victim, an expiatory sacrifice, in the room of and in order to secure the salvation, of both Jews and Gentiles. And this sacrificial death must be appropriated, received into the heart by faith, if men are to be saved thereby. Except men "eat the flesh" and "drink the blood" of Christ, they have "no life" in them. For a man to have "no life" in him means that he continues in spiritual death: in that state of condemnation, moral pollution, and hopeless wretchedness into which sin has brought him.
Observe that it is as Son of man He here speaks of Himself. How could He have suffered death if He had not become incarnate? And the incarnation was in order to His death. How this links together the mysteries of Bethlehem and Calvary; the incarnation and the Cross! And, as we have said, the one was in order to the other. He came from heaven to earth in order to die: "but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26 ).
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death" (Hebrews 2:9 ). "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you." Difficult as this language first appears, it is really blessedly simple. It is not a dead Christ which the sinner is to feed upon, but on the death of One who is now alive forever more. His death is mine, when appropriated by faith; and thus appropriated, it becomes life in me. The figure of "eating" looks back, perhaps, to Genesis 3:0 . Man died (spiritually) by "eating" (of the forbidden fruit) and he is made alive (spiritually) by an act of eating!
"Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54 ). Notice the change in the tense of the verb. In the previous verse it is, "Except ye eat"; here it is "whoso eateth." In the former, the verb is in the aorist tense, implying a single act, an act done once for all. In the latter, the verb is in the perfect tense, denoting that which is continuous and characteristic. Verse 53 defines the difference between one who is lost and one who is saved. In order to be saved, I must "eat" the flesh and "drink" the blood of the Son of man; that is, I must appropriate Him, make Him mine by an act of faith. This act of receiving Christ is done once for all. I cannot receive Him a second time, for He never leaves me! But, having received Him to the saving of my soul, I now feed on Him constantly, daily, as the Food of my soul. Exodus 12:0 supplies us with an illustration. First, the Israelite was to apply the shed blood of the slain lamb. Then, as protected by that blood, he was to feed on the lamb itself.
"Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." This confirms our interpretation of the previous verse. If we compare it with verse 47 it will be seen at once the "eating" is equivalent to "believing." Note, too, that the tense of the verbs is the same: verse 47 "believeth," verse 54 "eateth." And observe how each of these are evidences of eternal life, already in possession of the one thus engaged: "He that believeth on me hath eternal life"; "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life."
This passage in John 6:0 is a favorite one with Ritualists, who understand it to refer to the Lord’s Supper. But this is certainly a mistake, and that for the following reasons. First, the Lord’s Supper had not been instituted when Christ delivered this discourse. Second, Christ was here addressing Himself to un-believers, and the Lord’s Supper is for saints, not unregenerate sinners. Third, the eating and drinking here spoken of are in order to salvation; but eating and drinking at the Lord’s table are for those who have been saved.
"For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:55 ). The connection between this and the previous verse is obvious. It is brought in, no doubt, to prevent a false inference being drawn from the preceding words. Christ had thrown the emphasis on the "eating." Except a man ate His flesh, he had no life in him. But now our Lord brings out the truth that there is nothing meritorious in the act of eating; that is to say, there is no mystical power in faith itself. The nourishing power is in the food eaten; and the potency of faith lies in its Object.
"For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." Here Christ throws the emphasis on what it is which must be "eaten." It is true in the natural realm. It is not the mere eating of anything which will nourish us. If a man eat a poisonous substance he will be killed; if he eat that which is innutritious he will starve. Equally so is it spiritually. "There are many strong believers in hell, and on the road to hell; but they are those who believed a lie, and not the truth as it is in Christ Jesus" (Dr. J. Brown). It is Christ who alone can save: Christ as crucified, but now alive for evermore.
"He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him" (John 6:56 ). In this, and the following verse, Christ proceeds to state some of the blessed effects of eating. The first effect is that the saved sinner is brought into vital union with Christ, and enjoys the most intimate fellowship with Him. The word "dwelleth" is commonly translated "abideth.’ It always has reference to communion. But mark the tense of the verb: it is only the one who "eateth" and "drinketh" constantly that abides in unbroken fellowship with Christ.
"He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." This language clearly implies, though it does not specifically mention the fact, that Christ would rise from the dead, for only as risen could He dwell in the believer, and the believer in Him. It is, then, with Christ risen, that they who feed on Him as slain, are identified so marvelously identified, that Scripture here, for the first time, speaks of union with our blessed Lord.
"As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me" (John 6:57 ). How evident it is, again, that Christ is here speaking of Himself as the Mediator, and not according to His essential Being: it is Christ not in Godhead glory, but as the Son incarnate, come down from heaven. "I live by the Father" means He lived His life in dependence upon the Father. This is what He stressed in replying to Satan’s first assault in the temptation. When the Devil said, "If thou be the Son of God, command," etc., he was not (as commonly supposed) casting doubt on the Deity of Christ, but asking Him to make a wrong use of it. "If" must be understood as "since," same as in John 14:2 ; Colossians 3:1 , etc. The force of what the Tempter said is this: Since you are the Son of God, exercise your Divine prerogatives, use your Divine power and supply your bodily need. But this ignored the fact that the Son had taken upon Him the "form of a servant" and had entered (voluntarily) the place of subjection. Therefore, it is of this the Savior reminds him in His reply "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." How beautifully this illustrates what Christ says here, "I live by the Father"! Let us then seek grace to heed its closing sentence: "so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." Just as the incarnate Son, when on earth, lived in humble dependence on the Father, so now the believer is to live his daily life in humble dependence on Christ.
"This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever" (John 6:58 ). There is an important point in this verse which is lost to the English reader. Two different words for eating are here employed by Christ. "Your fathers did eat (ephazon) manna"; "he that eateth (trogon) of this bread shall live forever." The verb "phago" means "to eat, consume, eat up." "Trogo signifies to feed upon, rather than the mere act of eating. The first, Christ used when referring to Israel eating the manna in the wilderness: the second was employed when referring to believers feeding on Himself. The one is a carnal eating, the other a spiritual; the one ends in death, the other ministers life. The Israelites in the wilderness saw nothing more than an objective article of food. And they were like many today, who see nothing more in Christianity than the objective side, and know nothing of the spiritual and experiential! How many there be who are occupied with the externals of religion outward performances, etc. How few really feed upon Christ. They admire Him objectively, but receive Him not into their hearts.
"These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum" (John 6:59 ). What effect this discourse of Christ had on those who heard Him will be considered in our next chapter. Meanwhile, let the interested reader meditate upon the following questions:
1. At what, in particular, were the disciples "offended": verses 60, 61?
2. What is the meaning of verse 63?
3. What is the force of the "therefore" in verse 65?
4. What does the "going back" of those disciples prove: verse 66?
5. Why did Christ challenge the twelve: verse 67?
6. What was the assurance of Peter based on: verse 68?
7. Why was there a Judas in the apostolate: verse 71? How many reasons can you give?
Exposition of the Gospel of John
Christ and His Disciples
The following is submitted as an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:
1. Many disciples offended at Christ’s discourse: verse 60.
2. Christ’s admonition: verses 61-65.
3. Many disciples leave Christ: verse 66.
4. Christ’s challenge to the Twelve: verse 67.
5. Simon Peter’s confession: verses 68, 69.
6. Christ corrects Peter: verse 70.
7. The betrayer: verse 71.
The passage before us is one that is full of pathos. It brings us to the conclusion of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee. It shows us the outcome of His ministry there. Here, He had performed some wonderful miracles, and had given out some gracious teachings. It was here, that He had turned the water into wine; here, He had healed the nobleman’s son, without so much as seeing him; here, He had fed the hungry multitude. Each of these miracles plainly accredited His Divine mission, and evidenced His Deity. None other ever performed such works as these. Before such evidence unbelief was excuseless. Moreover, He had presented Himself, both to the crowd outside and to the Jews inside the synagogue, as the Bread of life. He had freely offered eternal life to them, and had solemnly warned that, "except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you" (verse 53). What, then, was their response to all of this?
It is indeed pathetic to find that here in Galilee Christ met with no better reception than had been His in Judea, and it is striking to see how closely the one resembled that of the other. He had begun His ministry in Judea, and, for a season, His success there, judged by human standards, seemed all that could be desired. Crowds followed Him, and many seemed anxious to be His disciples. But all is not gold that glitters. It soon became evident that the crowds were actuated by motives of an earthly and carnal character. Few gave evidence of any sense of spiritual need. Few, if any, seemed to discern the real purpose of His mission. A spirit of partisanship was rife, so we read, "When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, he left Judea, and departed again into Galilee" (John 4:1 , John 4:3 ).
How was it, then, in Galilee? It was simply a repetition of what had happened in Judea. Human nature is the same wherever it is found: that is why history so constantly repeats itself. Here in Galilee, the crowds, had followed Him. For a brief season, He was their popular idol. And yet, few of them manifested any signs that their consciences were stirred or their hearts exercised. Fewer still understood the real purport of His mission. And now that He had declared it, now that He had pressed upon them their spiritual need, they were offended: many who had posed as His disciples, turned back, and walked no more with Him.
How many of the Lord’s servants have had a similar experience. They entered some field of service, and for a time the crowd thronged their ministry. For a season they were popular with those among whom they labored. But, then, if the servant was faithful to his Master, if he pressed the claims of Christ, if he shunned not to declare all the counsel of God, then, how noticeable the change! Then, arose a "murmuring" (John 6:41 ); there was a "striving" among those who heard him (John 6:52 ); there was a querulous "This is a hard saying" (verse 61); there was a "many" of "the disciples" going back, and walking "no more with him" (verse 66). But sufficient for the servant to be as his Master. Let him thank God that there is a little company left who recognize and appreciate "the words of eternal life" (verse 68), for they are of far greater price in the sight of God than "the many" who "went back." Ah! dear reader, this is indeed a living Word, mirroring the fickle and wicked heart as faithfully today as it did two thousand years ago!
"Many therefore of his disciples, when they heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" (John 6:60 ). The wonderful discourse in the synagogue, following the one given to the people on the outside, was now over. We are here shown the effect of it on the disciples. A "disciple" means one who is a learner. These "disciples" are carefully distinguished from "the twelve." They were made up of a class of people who were, in measure, attracted by the person of Christ and who were, more especially, impressed by His miracles. But how real this attraction was, and how deep the impression made, we are now given to see. When Christ had presented Himself not as the Wonder-worker, but as the Bread of God; when He had spoken of giving His flesh for the life of the world, and of men drinking His blood, which signified that He would die, and die a death of violence; when He insisted that except they ate His flesh and drank His blood "they had no life" in them; and, above all, when He announced that man is so depraved and so alienated from God, that except the Father draw him, he would never come to Christ for salvation: they were all offended. It will be seen, then, that we take the words, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" as referring to the whole of the discourse which Christ had just delivered in the Capernaum synagogue.
"Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" The simple meaning of this is, that these disciples were offended. It was not that they found the language of Christ so obscure as to be unintelligible, but what they had heard was so irreconcilable with their own views that they would not receive it. What their own views were, comes out plainly in John 12:0 . When Christ signified what death He should die, "The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up?" (verse 34).
In applying the above verse to ourselves, two things should be noted. First, that when today professing Christians criticize a servant of God who is really giving out Divine truth, and complain that his teaching is "An hard saying," it is always to be traced back to the same cause as operated here. Many disciples will still reject the Word of God when it is ministered in the power of the Spirit, and they will do so because it conflicts with their own views and contravenes the traditions of their fathers! In the second place, note that these men complained among themselves. This is evident from the next verse: "When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it." They did not come directly to Christ and openly state their difficulties. They did not ask Him to explain His meaning. And why? Because they were not really anxious for light. Had they been so, they would have sought it from Him. Again we say, How like human nature today! When the Lord’s messenger delivers a word that is distasteful to his hearers, they are not manly enough to come to him and tell him their grievance, far less will they approach him seeking help. No, like the miserable cowards they are, they will skulk in the background, seeking to sow the seeds of dissension by criticizing what they have heard. And such people the servant of God will have no difficulty in placing: they may wear the badge of disciples, but he will know from their actions and speech that they are not believers!
"When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?" (John 6:61 ). How solemn this is! These men could not deceive Christ. They might have walked with Him for a time (verse 66); they might have posed as His disciples (verse 60); they might have taken their place in the synagogue (verse 59), and listened with seeming attention and reverence while He taught them; but He knew their hearts: those they could not hide from Him. Nor can men do so today. He is not misled by all the religiosity of the day. His eyes of fire pierce through every mask of hypocrisy. Learn, then, the consummate folly and utter worthlessness of "a form of godliness" without its power (2 Timothy 3:5 ).
"When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?" How this evidenced, once more, His deity! At the beginning of our chapter He had been regarded as a "prophet"; but a greater than a prophet was here. Later, an insulting contrast had been drawn between Moses and Christ; but a greater than Moses was before them. Neither Moses nor any of the prophets had been able to read the hearts of men. But here was One who knew in Himself when these disciples murmured. He knew, too, why they murmured. He knew they were offended. Plainly, then, this must be God Incarnate, for none but the Lord Himself can read the heart.
"What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?" (John 6:62 ). Here we have the third great fact which this chapter brings out concerning Christ. First, He referred to the Divine incarnation: He was the Bread which had "come down from heaven" (verse 41). Second, He was going to die, and die a death of violence: the repeated mention of His "blood," showed that (verses 52, 55, etc.). Third, He would ascend to heaven, thus returning to that place from whence He had come. His ascension involved, of necessity, His resurrection. Thus does our chapter make dear reference to each of the vital crises in the history of Christ.
"What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?" Soon would the Son of God return to that sphere of unmingled blessedness and highest glory from whence he came to Bethlehem’s manger; and that, in order to go to Calvary’s Cross. But He would return there as "the Son of man." This is indeed a marvel. A man is now seated upon the throne of the Father the God-man. And because of His descent and ascent, heaven is the home of every one who, by eating His flesh and drinking His blood, becomes a partaker of His life. And because of this, earth becomes a wilderness, a place of exile, through which we pass, the children of faith, as strangers and pilgrims. Soon, thank God, shall His prayer be answered: "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am" (John 17:24 ).
"What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?" This is one of several intimations that during the days of His earthly ministry the Lord Jesus looked beyond the Cross, with all its dread horror, to the joy and rest and glory beyond. As the apostle tells us in Hebrews 12:2 , "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame." It is striking to note how the ascension is made typically prominent at the beginning of John 6:0 : see verses 3 and 15 "Jesus went up into a mount."
It is to be observed that Christ did not positively declare that these murmurers should "see" Him as He ascended, but He merely asked them if they would be offended at such a sight. It seems to us He designedly left the door open. There is no room for doubt but that many became real believers for the first time after He had risen from the dead. The fact that 1 Corinthians 15:6 tells us He was seen of "above five hundred brethren" proves this. It is quite likely that some of these very men who had listened to His blessed teaching in the Capernaum synagogue were among that number. But at the time of which our lesson treats they were unbelievers, so He continued to address them accordingly.
"It is the Spirit that quickeneth" (John 6:63 ). The Lord here presses upon His critics what He had first said in verse 44. To believe on Him, to appropriate the saving value of His death, was not an act of the flesh: to do this, they must first be "drawn by the Father," that is, be "quickened by the Spirit." There must be life before there can be the activities of life. Believing on Christ is a manifestation of the Divine life already in the one that believes. The writer has no doubt at all that the words, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth," refer to the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. John 6:63 is complementary to verse 21. In the former, "quickening" is referred to both God the Father, and God the Son; here, to God the Holy Spirit. Thus by linking the two passages together we learn that regeneration is the joint work of the three Persons in the Holy Trinity. So, in like manner, by linking together Ephesians 1:20 , John 10:18 and Romans 8:11 , we learn that each Person of the Trinity was active in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
"It is the Spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63 ). This is indeed a searching word and one that greatly needs emphasizing today. The flesh "profiteth nothing." The flesh has no part in the works of God. All fleshly activities amount to nothing where the regeneration of dead sinners is concerned. Neither the logical arguments advanced by the mind, hypnotic powers brought to bear upon the will, touching appeals made to the emotions, beautiful music and hearty singing to catch the ear, nor sensuous trappings to draw the eye none of these are of the slightest avail in stirring dead sinners. It is not the choir, nor the preacher, but "the Spirit that quickeneth." This is very distasteful to the natural man, because so humbling; that is why it is completely ignored in the great majority of our modern evangelistic campaigns. What is urgently needed today is not mesmeric experts who have made a study of how to produce a religious "atmosphere," nor religious showmen to make people laugh one minute and weep the next, but faithful preaching of God’s Word, with the saints on their faces before God, humbly praying that He may be pleased to send His quickening Spirit into their midst.
"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63 ). This confirms our interpretation of the first part of the verse. Christ is speaking of regeneration, which was the one great need of those who were offended at His teaching. They could not discern spiritual things till they had spiritual life, and for that they must be "quickened" by the Spirit of God. First, He told them who did the quickening "the Spirit"; now He states what the Spirit uses to bring about that quickening the "words" of God. The Spirit is the Divine Agent; the Word is the Divine instrument. God begets "with the word of truth" (James 1:18 ). We are born again of incorruptible seed, "by the word of God" (1 Peter 1:23 ). We are made partakers of the Divine nature by God’s "exceeding great and precious promises" (2 Peter 1:4 ). And here in John 6:63 Christ explains how this is: the words of God are "spirit, and they are life" That is, they are spiritual, and employed by the Holy Spirit to impart life. Thus, we say again, The great need of today, as of every age, is the faithful preaching of God’s Word; "not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (1 Corinthians 2:4 ). What is needed is less anecdotal preaching, less rhetorical embellishment, less reliance upon logic, and more direct, plain, pointed, simple declaration and ex- position of the Word itself. Sinners will never be saved without this "the flesh profiteth nothing"!
"The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." How Christ here maintained the balance of truth! "It is the Spirit that quickeneth" speaks of the Divine side. In connection with it man has no part. There, the "flesh" is ruled out entirely. Are we, then, to fold our arms and act as though we had no obligations at all? Far from it. Christ guards against this by saying, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." This was addressed to human responsibility. These "words" are given to be believed; and we are under direct obligation to set to our seal that God is true. Let then the sinner read God’s Word; let him see himself mirrored in it. Let him take its searching message to himself; let him follow the light whithersoever it leads him; and if he be sincere, if he is truly seeking God, if he longs to be saved, the Holy Spirit shall quicken him by that same Word of life.
"But there are some of you that believe not" (John 6:64 ). This affords further confirmation of what we have said above. Christ was addressing human responsibility. He was pressing upon His hearers their need of believing on Him. He was not deceived by outward appearances. They might pose as His disciples, they might seem to be very devoted to Him, but He knew that they had not "believed." The remainder of the verse is a parenthetical statement made by John (under the inspiration of God) at the time he wrote the Gospel. "For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him." Very striking is this. It is one more of the many evidences furnished by this fourth Gospel, that Christ is none other than the Son of God.
"And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" (John 6:65 ). Here He repeats what He had said in verse 44. He is still addressing their responsibility. He presses upon them their moral inability. He affirms their need of Divine power working within them. It was very humbling, no doubt. It furnished proof that "the flesh profiteth nothing." It shut them up to God. To the Father they must turn; from Him they must seek that drawing power, without which they would never come to Christ and be saved. Not only "would not" but could not. The language of Christ is unequivocal. It is not "no man will," but "no man can come unto me, except it were given him of my Father." The will of the natural man has nothing to do with it. John 1:13 expressly declares that the new birth is "not of the will of the flesh." Contrary this may be to our ideas! distasteful to our minds and hearts; but it is God’s truth, nevertheless, and all the denials of men will never alter it one whit.
"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him" (John 6:66 ). While the preceding verses contain words of Christ which were addressed to human responsibility, we must not overlook the fact that they also expressed the Divine side of things. The "drawing" of the Father is exercised according to His sovereign will. He denies it to none who sincerely seek; but the truth is, that the seeking itself, the desire for Christ, is the initial effect of this "drawing." That all men do not seek Christ may be explained from two view points. From the human side the reason is that, men are so depraved they love the darkness and hate the light. From the Divine side, that any do seek Christ, is because God in His sovereign grace has put forth a power in them which overcomes the resistance of depravity. But God does not work thus in all. He is under no moral obligation so to do. Why should He make an enemy love Him? Why should He "draw" to Christ, one who wants to remain away? That He does so with particular individuals is according to His own eternal counsels and sovereign pleasure. And once this is pressed upon the natural man he is offended. It was so here: "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." What a contrast was this from what occurred at the beginning of that day! Then, the many had crossed the Sea and sought Him out; now, the many turned their backs upon Him: so unreliable and so fickle is human nature.
"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." This verse is parallel with what we read of in Luke 4:0 : "But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman which was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian" (verses 25-27). Here Christ, in the synagogue of Nazareth, pressed upon His hearers how in the past God had most evidently acted according to His mere sovereign pleasure. And what was the effect of this on those who heard? The very next verse tells us: "And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath." And human nature has not changed. Let the sovereign rights of God be emphasized today, and people will be "filled with wrath"; not only the men of the world will be, but the respectable attenders of the modern synagogue. So it was here in our lesson: "From that time many of his disciples went back." From what time? From the time that Christ had declared, "No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father" (verse 65). This was too much for them. They would not remain to hear any more. And mark it carefully, that those who left were "many of his disciples." Then let not the one who faithfully preaches the sovereignty of God today be surprised if he meets with a similar experience.
"Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?" (John 6:67 ). Christ desires no unwilling followers; so, on the departure of the "many disciples," He turns to the twelve and inquires if they also desire to leave Him. His question was a test, a challenge. Did they prefer to be found with the popular crowd, or would they remain with what was, outwardly, a failing cause? Their answer would evidence whether or not a Divine work of grace had been wrought in them.
"Will ye also go away?" The same testing question is still being put to those who profess to be the followers of Christ. As He sees some being carried along by the different winds of erroneous doctrines, now blowing in every direction; as He beholds others going back into the world, loving pleasure more than they love God; as He marks others offended by the faithful and searching ministry of His servants, He says to you and to me, "Will ye also go away?" O that Divine grace may enable us to stand and to withstand. O that we may be so attracted by the loveliness of His person that we shall gladly go forth "unto him, without the camp (the camp of Christianized Judaism) hearing his reproach" (Hebrews 13:13 ).
"Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:68 ). A blessed reply was this. The wondrous miracles had attracted the others, but the teaching of Christ had repelled them. It was the very opposite with the apostles, for whom, as usual, Peter acted as spokesman. It was not the supernatural works, but the Divine words of the Lord Jesus which held them. Peter had, what the "many disciples who went back" had not the hearing ear. Christ had said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (verse 63), and Peter believed and was assured of this: "Thou hast the words of eternal life" he confessed. "The words of Christ had sunk deep into his soul. He had felt their power. He was conscious of the blessing they had imparted to him" (C.E.S.). It is ever this which distinguishes a true Christian from the formal professor.
"And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:69 ). Notice carefully the order here: "We believe and are sure." It is the Divinely appointed and unchanging order in connection with spiritual things, It supplies one out of a thousand illustrations that God’s thoughts and ways are different, radically different, always different, from ours. Whoever heard of believing in order to be sure? Man wants to make sure first before he is ready to believe. But God always reverses man’s order of things. It is impossible, utterly impossible, to be sure of Divine truth, or of any part thereof, until we have believed it. Other illustrations of this same principle may be adduced from Scripture. For example, the Psalmist said, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" (Psalms 27:13 ). This also is the very opposite of human philosophy. The natural man says, ‘Seeing is believing’; but the spiritual man believes in order to see. So, again, in Hebrews 11:3 we read, "Through faith we understand." How many desire to understand the mystery of the Trinity or the doctrine of election, before they will believe it. They might live to be as old as Methuselah, and they would "understand" neither the one nor the other until they had faith in what God had revealed thereon. It is through faith that we do understand any part of Divine truth. "We believe and are sure." To sum up: assurance, vision, knowledge, are the fruits of "believing." God rewards our faith by giving us assurance, discernment and understanding; but the unbelieving are left in the darkness of ignorance so far as spiritual things are concerned.
"And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the Living God." Certainty that Christ is "the Son of the living God" comes not by listening to the labored arguments of seminary professors, nor by studying books on Christian Evidences, but by believing what God has said about His Son in the Holy Scriptures. Peter was sure that Christ was the Son of God, because he had believed "the words of eternal life" which he had heard from His lips. It is indeed striking to note that in Matthew’s Gospel this confession is placed right after the apostles had seen Christ walking on the waters and after they had received Him into the ship (Matthew 14:33 ); for it is thus that Israel, in a coming day, will be brought to believe on Him (cf. Zechariah 12:10 ). But here in John’s Gospel, which treats of the family of God, this confession is evoked by the assurance which comes from believing His words. How beautifully this illustrates the opening verse of John’s Gospel, and how evident it is that God Himself has placed everything in these Gospels!
"Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve" (John 6:70 , John 6:71 ). "Jesus answered them." This was in reply to Peter’s avowal, "We believe and are sure." Christ showed that He knew better than His disciple. It was the omniscience of the Lord Jesus displayed once more. He was not deceived by Judas, though it is evident that all the apostles were. Proof of this is found in the fact that when He said, "One of you shall betray me," instead of them answering, Surely you refer to Judas, they asked, "Lord, is it I?" But from the beginning Christ knew the character of the one who should sell Him to His enemies. Yet not now will Christ openly identify him. What we read of in verse 71 is the apostle’s inspired comment, written years afterwards.
That Judas was never saved is clear from many considerations. Here in our text Christ is careful to except him from Peter’s confession "We believe." So, too, in John 13:0 . After washing the feet of His disciples, which symbolized the removal of every defilement which hindered communion with Him, He said, "Ye are clean," but then He was careful to add, "but not all" (John 13:10 ), and then John supplies another explanatory comment "for he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean" (verse 11). Again; the fact that Christ here calls him a "devil" and this was six months before he betrayed Him proves positively that he was not a child of God. Acts l:25 "Judas by transgression fell" is sometimes appealed to in proof that he fell from grace. But the first part of the verse makes quite clear what it was from which Judas fell: it was "ministry and apostleship." This raises the question, Why was there a Judas in the apostolate? The Divine answer to our question is furnished in John 17:12 , where Christ tells us plainly that "the son of perdition" was lost in order that "the Scriptures might be fulfilled." The reference was to Psalms 41:9 and similar passages. When that prophecy was uttered it seemed well-nigh incredible that the Friend of sinners should be betrayed by one intimate with Him. But no word of God can fall to the ground. It had been written that, "Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me," and the son of perdition was lost in order that this scripture might be accomplished. But why did God ordain this? Why should there be a Judas in the apostolate? Mysterious as this subject is, yet, a number of things seem clear. The following ends, at least, were accomplished:
1. It furnished an opportunity for Christ to display His perfections. When the Son became incarnate, He declared, "Lo I come to do thy will, O God" (Hebrews 10:7 ), and this will of God for Him was written "in the volume of the book." Now in that book it was recorded that a familiar friend should lift up his heel against him. This was indeed a sore trial, yet was it part of the Divine will for God’s Servant. How, then, does He act? John 6:70 answers: He deliberately "chose" one to be His apostle, whom He knew at the time was a "devil"! How this displays the perfections of Christ! It was in full subjection to the Divine will, "written in the book," that He thus acted. Even though it meant having Judas in closest association with Him for three years (and what must that have been to the Holy One of God!), though it meant that even when He retired from His carping critics to get alone with the twelve, there would then be a devil next to Him, He hesitated not. He bowed to God’s will and "chose" him!
2. It provided an impartial witness to the moral excellency of Christ. His Father, His forerunner, His saved apostles, bore testimony to His perfections; but lest it should be thought that these were ex parte witnesses, God saw to it that an enemy should also bear testimony. Here was a man that was "a devil"; a man who was in the closest possible touch with the life of Christ, both in public and in private; a man who would have seized eagerly on the slightest flaw, if it had been possible to find one; but it was not: "I have betrayed the innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4 ), was the unsought testimony of an impartial witness!
3. It gave occasion to uncover the awfulness of sin. The fulness of redemption must bring to light the fulness of the wickedness of that for which atonement is to be made: only thus could we thoroughly see what is that terrible thing from which we are saved. And how could the heinousness of sin be more fittingly exposed at that time than by allowing a man to company with the Savior, to be inside the circle of greatest earthly privilege, and to be himself convinced of the innocency of that One who was to be the sacrificial victim; and yet, notwithstanding, for him to basely betray that One and sell Him into the hands of His enemies! Never was the vileness of sin more thoroughly uncovered.
4. It supplies sinners with a solemn warning. The example of Judas shows us how near a man may come to Christ and yet be lost. It shows us that outward nearness to Christ, external contact with the things of God, is not sufficient. It reveals the fact that a man may witness the most stupendous marvels, may hear the most spiritual teaching, may company with the most godly characters, and yet himself never be born again.
5. It tells us we may expect to find hypocrites among the followers of Christ. A hypocrite Judas certainly was. He was not a deceived soul, but an out and out impostor. He posed as a believer. He forsook the world and followed Christ. He went out as a preacher and heralded the Gospel (Matthew 10:4 ). He did not manifest any offense at the teaching of Christ, and did not follow those who turned back and walked no more with Him. Instead, he remained by the Savior’s side right up to the last night of all. He even partook of the passover supper, and yet all the time, he was an hypocrite; and his hypocrisy was undetected by the eleven. And history repeats itself. There are still wolves in sheep’s clothing.
6. It shows us that a devil is to be expected among the servants of God. It was thus when Christ was here on earth; it is so still. Scripture warns us plainly against "false prophets," and "false apostles" who are "the ministers of Satan." And the case of Judas gives point to these warnings. Whoever would have expected to find a "devil" among the twelve! Whoever would have dreamed of finding a Judas among the apostles chosen by Christ Himself! But there was. And this is a solemn warning to us to place confidence in no man.
7. It affords one more illustration of how radically different are God’s thoughts and ways from ours. That God should appoint a "devil" to be one of the closest companions of the Savior; that He should have selected "the son of perdition" to be one of the favored twelve, seemed incredible. Yet so it was. And as we have sought to show above, God had good reasons for this selection; He had wise reasons for this appointment. Let this, then, serve to show us that, however mysterious may be God’s ways, they are ever dictated by omniscience!
The following questions are to help the student prepare for the next chapter on John 7:1-43.7.13 :
1. What relation does verse 1 have to the rest of the lesson?
2. What do you know about the feast of tabernacles? verse 2. Look up Old Testament references.
3. Who are "His brethren" verse 3?
4. Why did His brethren make the request of verse 4?
5. To what was Christ referring in verses 6 and 8?
6. In view of verses 1 and 8, why did Christ go to the feast at all? verse 10.
7. What is the meaning of the last clause of verse 10?
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on John 6". "Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany