FEEDING THE MULTITUDES
Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17; & John 6:1-14. Mark: “And they departed, into an uninhabited place apart, in a ship. And the multitudes saw them going, and many recognized Him; and they continued to run on foot from all the cities, and come before them, and come together to Him.” They sailed from the city of Capernaum, on the northern coast of the Galilean Sea, and, as Luke says, they went into an uninhabited region of the city of Bethsaida; i.e., into a portion of country belonging to that city. Bethsaida is on the northwest coast, and Tiberias on the west coast. This uninhabited region — i.e., a natural parkway off the coast, and perhaps about midway between these two cities. N.B. The Galilean Sea at that time was literally fenced in with cities, dotting the coast seventy-five miles in compass. Now, when He proceeds with the Twelve to embark for a rest in that desert place, the people in the cities round on the coast have a full view of them, and seeing the direction they are running, multitudes run around overland, actually arriving in the park before they do, while others come on in thronging multitudes. I saw all of this situation, and actually sailed over the route here specified, visiting all of the cities here mentioned. So you see how the eager multitudes defeated the plan of taking a rest, giving them an audience of about ten thousand instead of the solitude amid trees and rocks.
John 6:3 : “And Jesus came into the mountain, and was sitting there with His disciples.” The sea of Galilee, being depressed before the oceanic level seven hundred feet, as a natural consequence is surrounded on all sides by highlands, some of them (e.g., Mt. Hattin, on which Saladin, the Moslem general, defeated the Crusaders, thus putting an end to Christian rule in Galilee, A. D. 1187; and the Mount of Beatitudes, north of Capernaum) rising to great eminence. I saw the region off the coast on the mountain slope between Bethsaida and Tiberias, where this immense gathering took place. “And the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was nigh.” N.B. Our Lord began His ministry at the Passover by purifying the temple driving out all of the buyers and sellers. Having preached two or three weeks in Judea, He then came to Galilee, passing through and preaching in Samaria. Remaining in Galilee to the close of the year, He again attends the Passover at Jerusalem, immediately after which He returns to Galilee, where He remains, making, in all, three circuits throughout the country, and finally sending out His twelve apostles, heading six evangelistic bands. Now we see another year of our Lord’s ministry has gone by, and this great multitude, generally estimated at five thousand, but in all probability at least twice that number, as Matthew says there were five thousand, besides women and children, who, as a rule, constitute the larger half of an audience. The Jews were accustomed to go up to Jerusalem to their great solemnities by whole families, on foot, with a few donkeys and camels along to carry luggage, feeble old people, and babies, and frequently driving along sacrificial animals; thus going in great crowds for company and security against robbers and marauders. As we see here they were right on the eve of the Passover, doubtless this multitude had assembled in view of going on to Jerusalem, and attending their greatest national festival, which commemorated the birth of their nation.
Mark 6:34 : “And Jesus, going out, looked on the vast multitude, and was moved with compassion in their behalf, because they were as sheep having no shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.” We again find this frequently repeated affirmation of our Lord, “Sheep having no shepherd.” N.B. These were not heathens, nor outsiders, but the bona fide members of the Jewish Church, with their regular pastors, officers, and Church services. Still you see that in the Divine estimation they had no shepherds; i.e., no competent spiritual guides. How exceedingly pertinent does that alarming statement apply to the fallen Churches and worldly clergy of the present day! “And it already being a late hour, His disciples, coming to Him, say, That this is a desert place, and already the hour is late; send them away, that having gone into the surrounding country and villages, they may purchase for themselves bread; for they have nothing which they may eat. And responding, He said to them, You give them to eat. And they say to Him, Having gone away, must we buy two hundred pennies’ worth of bread and give them to eat?” Evidently having only two hundred pennies in the apostolical treasury. “And He says to them, How much bread have you? Go and see. And having ascertained, they say, Five loaves and two fishes. He commanded them all to sit down by companies on the green grass. And they sat by hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fishes, looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples that they may distribute to them; and He divided out the two fishes to all.”
John 6:12 : “And when they were filled, He says to His disciples, Gather ye up the remaining fragments, in order that nothing may be lost. Then they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments from the five barley loaves which remained to those who had eaten.”
Matthew 14:21 : “And those eating were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” Evidently, as you see, at least ten thousand people, fed bountifully with the five barley loaves and two fishes, about enough for five persons, as the loaves in that country are generally small. That country is notorious for baskets, and generally very large, holding several bushels. A common sight at Jerusalem is a woman coming in, sitting on her little donkey, with one of these great baskets on either side filled with market stuff — i.e., vegetables and fruits — and a baby in her arms, and no bridle on the animal; sitting astride, apparently very comfortable, and frequently singing, as I supposed, for the entertainment of the baby. Hence, one basket would hold, in all probability, ten times the original amount of the whole supply with which they began to eat. Now ten thousand have eaten, and twelve baskets full of fragments were taken up. What a wonderful flood of spiritual truth pours in from this transcendent miracle! You go into an utterly destitute place like this to hold a revival-meeting. You can hardly rake and scrape fire enough on the old smoldering chunks to kindle into a flame. When once you get it started, it rolls a deluge over the neighborhood, running the devil out, and bringing heaven down. A hundred red-hot evangelists rise up from that meeting, and carry away fire enough to start a hundred new revivals. Spiritualities are the very opposite of materialities, as God’s ways are different from man’s. In temporal things, the more we use, the less we have. In spiritual, precisely the reverse is true: the more we use and give away, the more we have. You may hardly have religion enough to keep Satan from taking you, and go out and get some poor fellow gloriously converted, and, to your surprise, you will find that you have at least ten times as much as you had before you began this good work.
John 6:14 : “Therefore the people, seeing the miracle which Jesus performed, continued to say, That this is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world;” i.e., the Christ, the Messiah of God, the Redeemer of Israel, the Shiloh, the Savior for whom Israel has waited four thousand years; thus arousing and electrifying the multitude with the most thrilling enthusiasm, as the Jews have been listening to His preaching and diagnosing His miracles these two whole years, wondering if He is really the Messiah of prophecy, and at the same time ready to rally and crown Him King, as they all distinctly understand that the Christ is to be their King, break the Roman yoke, set them free, and even transcend the glory of David and Solomon, and reign over them forever; thus infelicitously mixing up the prophecies appertaining to His first and second coming, and running into a bewilderment, which, maneuvered by Satan, conduced awfully to blind their eyes and defeat their diagnosis of Messiahship in Jesus.
JESUS WALKS UPON THE WATER
Matthew 14:22-36; Mark 6:45-56; & John 6:15-21. Mark: “And immediately He constrained His disciples to go into the ship, and to proceed before Him to the other side, toward Bethsaida, until He can send away the multitude.” This statement is calculated to puzzle the reader, because Luke 9:10, says that they were already in an uninhabited place of the city called Bethsaida. If you are only once on the spot, this apparent contradiction between Mark and Luke would suddenly vanish. The solution of the matter is, there were two towns called Bethsaida on the sea of Galilee — the one in whose vicinity these multitudes were fed is on the northwest coast; and the other, toward which they sailed after adjournment, is on the left bank of the inflowing Jordan, and near the northeast coast. The latter is known as Bethsaida Julias; the latter cognomen being added to distinguish it from the other Bethsaida, and also in honor of Julia, the Roman empress. “And having sent them away, He departed into the mountain to pray.”
John 6:15 : “Therefore, Jesus, knowing that they are about to come and seize Him, that they may make Him King, departed again alone into the mountain to pray.” Here, you see, John tells the secret; they have assembled in vast numbers to go up to Jerusalem to the Passover. This stupendous miracle so convinces them of His Christhood that they resolve to take Him into hand, and carry Him along with them to Jerusalem, and there have Him crowned King of the Jew’s. This is the reason why He had to force His own disciples to go away. They, with the multitude, were determined to crown Him King. As the people looked upon them as leaders in that momentously interesting transaction, when they saw them embark in a ship to leave, the natural effect was to weaken the enterprise in the estimation of the multitude, and postpone His coronation. So now, His disciples, having gone to their ship, are sailing away in a northeasterly direction. Having dismissed the multitude, doubtless eluding their vision, He goes away alone into the mountain to pray.
“And when it was evening, His disciples embarked upon the sea, and having come into the ship, they were going across the sea to Capernaum.” Bethsaida Julias, toward which Mark says they were going, is in the same direction, but several miles beyond Capernaum. Hence there is harmony among the writers. “And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them; and the sea wrought, a great wind blowing.” The sea of Galilee, depressed seven hundred feet below the Mediterranean, and consequently surrounded by mountains and highlands, is quite subject to sudden squalls, often very violent, and dangerous to the small vessels they used in that day. When I was there last fall, it was my good fortune to sail round and over that beautiful sea in a most excellent boat, quite secure amid the storms, having been built for the especial accommodation of the German emperor, who visited that country the preceding year. “Therefore, having come about twenty-five or thirty furlongs [i.e., three or four miles], they see Jesus walking about on the sea, and being near the ship, and they were afraid.” Mark says, “Thought it was a specter” — i.e., a ghost — not distinctly recognizing, perhaps, even human personality. There-fore they were all alarmed and cried out with affright. Matthew 14:27 : “Immediately He spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer; I am here; fear not.”
PETER WALKING ON THE WATER & SINKING
“And Peter, responding to Him, said, Lord, if Thou art here, command me to come to Thee on the waters. And He said, Come. And Peter having come down from the ship, was walking about on the waters to come to Jesus.
And seeing the wind strong, became alarmed; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord, save me! And immediately Jesus, reaching forth His hand, took him, and says to him, O ye of little faith, why did you doubt? And they, coming into the ship, the wind ceased. And those in the ship, coming, worshipped Him, saying, Truly, Thou art the Son of God.” These last mentioned as falling down, worshipping, and confessing His Christhood, were evidently the sailors in charge of the ship. We have here, in the example of Peter, a most notable illustration confirming the omnipotence of faith, as illustrated here by Peter looking at Jesus. So long as he kept his eye on Him, with perfect security he could run all around over the stormy sea. You who have never been in a storm at sea will hardly duly estimate the trepidation inspired by the rolling waves, thundering seas, and raging billows. Now, you must remember, the sea was not smooth and calm when Peter walked over it, but racked with storms and plowed with tempests, vividly illustrating the stormy ocean of probationary life. Just as Peter could walk over the stormy sea with perfect security, so long as he kept his eye on Jesus, so can you tread with safety the tempest-racked billows of life’s stormy ocean, swept by cyclones from the bottomless pit, so long as you keep your eye of faith on Jesus, and pay no attention to the roaring billows, nor the barking of the hell-hounds. The moment you take your eye from Jesus, and look at your adverse circumstances, and begin to estimate the power of your temptations, you will begin to sink; and if you do not, like Peter, cry out, “Lord, save, I perish,” you will sink forever, as hell has no bottom.
John 6:21 : “Then they wished to take Him in the ship, and immediately the ship was at the land to which they were going.” That land was Genesareth, and the city of Capernaum. Several hours had elapsed in their vain attempt to make headway against a strong northeast wind. When they took Jesus aboard, responsive to His bidding, the tempest lulls, and the sea calms. Therefore, with energetic rowing, they soon disembark at Capernaum, their destination.
Mark 6:51 : “He came up to them into the ship; and the wind ceased, and they were exceedingly astonished among themselves, and marveled. For they did not understand concerning the loaves; for their heart was hardened.” This stupendous miracle of feeding the multitudes the preceding afternoon, should have so thoroughly convinced them of His Christhood as to prepare them to recognize the lulling of the storm and calming the sea as the normal prerogative of Omnipotence, and consequently produce no surprise. Man is a trinity, consisting of spirit, heart, or soul, mind, and body. Hence the heart or spirit, and not the intellect, is the diagnoser of Divine phenomena.
“With the heart we believe unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10),
and under the illumination of the Holy Spirit, our spirit interpenetrates and comprehends the deep things of God. Hence, if you would understand the Bible, and diagnose Divine phenomena, and become truly wise in the deep things of God, get all the rocks of depravity eliminated from your heart, leaving it soft, tender, and filled with perfect love. Then you can go down into the profound mysteries of revealed truth, flooded with new spiritual illuminations, and progressively edified by fresh revealments of the Divine attributes in glory, though you never saw a college nor inherited Solomonic genius. These apostles all needed the sanctifying fire of Pentecost to melt their hearts so thoroughly and illuminate them so perfectly, that they would never again stagger at the ipse dixit of the Almighty. “And having crossed over, they came to the Genesareth land, and disembarked; and they, coming out from the ship, immediately those recognizing Him having run throughout all that surrounding country, began to carry in the sick on beds, when they heard that He was there. And when He went into the villages or cities or countries, they were continuously placing the sick in the forums, and entreating Him that they may touch the hem of His garment; and so many as touched Him were saved.” The stupendous and extraordinary miracle of feeding the ten thousand shook the whole country with the tread of an earthquake, thrilling the people with an incorrigible enthusiasm, to scour the whole country round about, far and wide, and bring in all the invalids, maniacs, demoniacs, and epileptics, while they had an opportunity to come in contact with the wonderful Healer.
PUZZLE OF THE MULTITUDE
John 6:22-71. “On the following day the multitude, standing beyond the sea, saw that there was no other ship except one, and that Jesus did not go along with His disciples into the ship, but that His disciples departed alone. Other ships came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate the bread, our Lord giving thanks.” Tiberias is on the west coast, Bethsaida on the northwest, and Capernaum due north. The mountain park where He fed the multitudes is off the coast, in full view of the sea, and about equidistant from Bethsaida and Tiberias. Hence our ships soon set out from Tiberias to Capernaum, carrying many of the multitudes on the track of the disciples, as this was the best they could do, because Jesus having disappeared the preceding evening after sending away His disciples and dismissing the multitude, they knew not His whereabouts. “And when the multitude saw that Jesus is not there, nor His disciples, they embarked in ships, and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. And finding Him beyond the sea, they said to Him, Master, when did You come hither? Jesus responded to them, and said, Truly, truly, I say unto you, You seek Me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” The multitudes did not know that Jesus, after spending a few hours in prayer alone in the mountain, had walked out on the stormy sea in the midnight darkness, and joined His tempest-tossed disciples, saving them and the ship from a watery sepulcher, consequently they were seriously puzzled when they find Him beyond the sea. You observe here He makes no answer to the question propounded by idle curiosity — a profitable example for us all. His time was precious, and so is ours. Good Lord, help us to economize it! But He proceeds at once to preach to them the solid gospel truth they so much needed, reading the superficial and carnal motives which actuated them by thousands to follow Him for the loaves and fishes, as we see this day verified on all sides; e.g., immigrants into a city or village depositing their membership in the Church which presents the most capacious opening for the patronage of their business, thus going for the loaves and fishes instead of the Living Bread. “Labor not for the food that perisheth, but the food that endureth unto eternal life, which the Son of man doth give to you; for this the Father, God, hath sealed.” The reason why our bodies are mortal is because they receive their constituency from mortal food, consisting of many different elements, segregated by vital affinity, the chemical forces incessantly counteracting till they predominate over the vital, when death and disintegration ensue, this mortal returning to the dust whence it came; meanwhile, the human spirit, being a unit, is unsusceptible of this disintegration, as leaving no component parts, it is impregnable by the laws of chemical affinity. Therefore it is immortal, and can never die. This immortality, having been conferred by the Almighty, is forever perpetuated by our identity with Him.
THE WORKS NECESSARY TO SALVATION
“What must we do that we may work the works of God?” i.e., do the works which God requires in order to our salvation. To this important question, propounded by the multitude, our Savior’s answer is clear, explicit, and unequivocal “Jesus responded and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you may believe on Him whom He has sent.” This answer dumbfounds all the ritualists and legalists of all ages and nations, illustrating the utter falsity of the great dogma of salvation by works, which enslaves Pagans, Moslems, Papists, and Protestants, deluding them with the silly infatuation that God needs something which we can give or do, oblivious to the grandeur, sublimity, and glory of His omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, possessing millions of worlds, and ready to speak into existence millions more.
“And they said unto Him, Then what miracle do You perform that we may see and believe? Do what You may do? Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as has been written, He gave unto them bread from heaven to eat.” (Psalms 78:24.) The Jews always look back to the manna, which they ate forty years in the desert of Arabia, as the greatest miracle in their history. Now that Jesus is performing stupendous miracles, the recent multiplication of the loaves and fishes actually reminding them of the copious quantities of bread which so long fell nightly from heaven, sufficient to feed three millions of people, they now cut the matter short by asking Him to feed them incessantly, as Moses, His great predecessor, had done. “Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father giveth to you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He that cometh down from
‘heaven, and giveth life to the world. Then they said to Him, Lord, always give unto us this bread. Then Jesus said to them, I am the Bread of Life; he that cometh unto Me may never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.” The manna, with which God kept them from starving to death forty years, while following the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night through the vast burning deserts of Arabia, is the magnitudinous type of Christ, who, by His omnipotent grace, momentarily administered by the Holy Spirit, perpetuates our spiritual life, while we roam through this desert-waste of sin and sorrow, verifying our probation till duly tested and tried, when the Master will say, “Come up higher.” Hence we have here the significant affirmation, “I am the Bread of Life.”
“But I said unto you, That you have seen and you do not believe;” i.e., they had seen the wonderful miracle of feeding the multitudes, so vividly illustrating the mysterious sustenance of the human spirit by the Holy Spirit. “Every one which the Father giveth unto Me, shall come unto Me; and him that cometh unto Me, I will in nowise cast out, because I have come down from heaven; not that I may do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. But this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everything which the Father bath given unto Me, I shall lose nothing of the same, but I will raise it up in the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that every one seeing the Son and believeth on Him, may have eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day.” Here our Savior goes down into the deep and incomprehensible truth of election, so prominently revealed in many Scriptures. There are really two sides to the atonement. While Christ died for all objectively — i.e., evolving the gracious possibility of universal salvation; subjectively, the atonement only reaches the elect, whom the Father has given Him, and whom He draws to Him by His Spirit. There is no confliction between this election and human free agency, though finite minds may not be able to reconcile these two distinct cardinal truths of Revelation.
“Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? Will Saul come down as Thy servant bath beard? O Lord God of Israel, I beseech Thee, tell Thy servant. And the Lord said, He will come down. Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up.” (1 Samuel 23:11-12.)
This notable item in the history of David’s flight from Saul throws light on the apparent irreconcilability of the Divine sovereignty and human agency. David, with his six hundred braves, takes refuge in the city of Keilasi, the men receiving him with fulsome flattery, and promising to stand by him under every emergency. David enjoyed that gift so important to us all, “discernment of spies” (1 Corinthians 12:10), which enabled him to read men like books. Suspicious of their fidelity, he falls on his knees, and talks to the Lord about the matter, as you see in the above Scripture. Do you not observe the answer God gives him in reference to the coming of Saul and the perfidy of the Keilites — “He will come down;” “They will deliver thee up.” David understood the Word of the Lord, and knew that, while no conditions were expressed, they were implied. So he, that moment, blows his bugle, rallies his men, and gives marching orders for a “double quick,” assuring them that they are among traitors, and the enemy is close on their track. Consequently, Saul, constantly posted as to the movements of David, hearing that he had left Keilah, never came, but took a shorter route on his track; while, of course, the Keilites did not deliver him up, as he was not there, and Saul did not come to receive him. Thus we see that even the Divine decrees are not incompatible with human agency. The thing for us to do is to heed the warning, “Make your calling and election sure.” We can all enjoy the blessed consolation of identity with God’s elect, and that is certainly enough for us. Let us do our utmost to prevail on all of the non-elect to become candidates for life, salvation, sanctification, and heaven, assuring them that God will, in mercy, elect them. This deep and mysterious truth, evolved by our Lord in that memorable sermon in the synagogue of Capernaum, not only puzzled and appalled the multitude, but, with other profound and immutable realities, deep-seated in the Divine economy, actually deflected many of His disciples. “Therefore the Jews continued to murmur concerning Him, because He said, I am the Bread having come down from heaven; and they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How now does He say, That I have come down from heaven?” You see, the great difficulty on the part of the people was to comprehend the Divine hemisphere of His Christhood, prone, in their carnal cogitations, to turn incessantly to the human. “Jesus responded and said to them, Do not murmur with one another. No one is able to come unto Me unless the Father who sent Me may draw him, and I will raise him up in the last day.” The Holy Spirit has been in the world from the beginning, drawing to the Son all whom the Father has given Him; so that, in a mysterious way, the elect of all nations, heathen, Mohammedan, Greek, Latin, and Anglican, will all get there, and stand on the right hand of the Judge, acquitted in that great day. God forbid that we should stumble over the deep truths of His kingdom! Like little children at the feet of Jesus, taught by the Holy Ghost, let us receive them by simple faith, having time and eternity in which to explore and comprehend them.
“It has been written in the prophets, They shall all be taught of God; every one hearing from the Father, and learning, cometh unto Me.” Millions who have never heard the gospel, taught by the Holy Ghost, will, in some mysterious way, reach the kingdom. We must not depreciate human agency, nor lay too much emphasis on it. “Not that any one has seen the Father, but Him who is with God, the same bath seen God.” The present tense here reveals the fact that Jesus was with God while on earth. We must not lean unduly to the human side of the Messiahship, thus obscuring the grand fact of His omnipresence, simultaneously in heaven, earth, and all other worlds. “Truly, truly, I say unto you, That he that believeth bath eternal life.” Wonderful simplicity of the redemptive scheme, faith being the isolated and only condition of receiving eternal life! N.B. This saving faith is neither intellectual nor creedistic, but spiritual. (Romans 10:10.) “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and are dead; He is the bread who cometh down from heaven, in order that whosoever may eat of Him, indeed, may not die.” Here He is leading their minds away from the temporal side of salvation, illustrated by the manna, which their ancestors had eaten and died, to the spiritual, involving the grand, fundamental truth of soul-life, maintained and perpetuated by the Omnipotent Creator and Mediator. “I am the living bread, having come down from heaven; if any one may eat of Me, the bread, he shall never die; but the bread which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Beginning with the exceedingly familiar history of the manna, which they, in their carnal diagnosis, apprehended in a simple material sense, but which was really the greatest type of Christ in Old Testament symbolism, He now endeavors to lead them on from the type to the Antitype. Here they stumble, and many of His disciples fall.
EATING HIS FLESH & DRINKING HIS BLOOD
“Therefore the Jews continued to contend with one another, saying, How is this Man able to give unto us His flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Unless you may eat the flesh of the Son of man, and may drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, bath eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day. For My flesh is the true nutriment, and My blood the true drink.
He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, abideth in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live through the Father, truly, he that feedeth on Me shall also live through Me. He is the bread who came down from heaven; not as the fathers ate, and are dead; he that eateth this bread shall live forever. He spoke these things, teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” Our Savior is just now winding up the second year of His ministry, which has been a sweeping revival from the beginning, starting out from that greatest revival the world had seen, under the preaching of John the Baptist, but soon far transcending it, not only shaking all Israel with the tread of a spiritual earthquake, but with the meager news facilities of that day, so far as the heathen nations heard the paradoxical and joyful news, they actually came from the ends of the earth, to see His mighty works, and hear His inimitable preaching. As a rule, in a great, spreading revival, the majority evanesce, and only the faithful minority hold on. The time has come in our Lord’s ministry when bottomrock truth must be preached, though it will sift His following like the hurricane, weeding out of the forest every dead and fragile tree, and only leaving the tough and thrifty, to receive new impetus in their enlarged capacity, and grow into gianthood. They now hear from His lips this profoundest truth that has ever rung in their ears; i.e., eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Now what is meant by drinking His blood? N.B. Faith is the spiritual organ receiving everything from God. We read that the blood redeems, cleanses, and sanctifies. Therefore we conclude that drinking His blood is spiritually, through faith, involving entire consecration, so apprehending and appropriating the infallible promises of God, to thoroughly and radically expurgate our spirits by the cleansing blood, as to sanctify us wholly, keep us under the blood, clean, pure, and spotless, amid all the contaminations of this dark, wicked, God-forgetting world, robed and ready to meet our Heavenly Bridegroom when He shall descend and call His saints. What do we understand by eating His flesh? In a similar manner, spiritually, through faith, we are so to receive the great truths of God’s Word, appertaining to the glorification of our Lord’s body, when He flew away to heaven, that we not only have faith for entire sanctification in the blood, but for the glorification of our bodies similitudinously to the glorious body of our ascended Lord, culminating in our translation, when He comes for His saints, or our felicitous participation of the first resurrection. (Revelation 10:6.) And thus our transformation, soul and body, into the blessed similitude of the risen and glorified Jesus, our only Paragon, Exemplar, and glorious Prototype. Thus, by faith, we are to live momentarily in the spiritual and faithful diagnosis, apprehension, and appropriation of these transcendent realities, whose normal effect is to make us unselfish, unworldly, angelic, and Christ-like in our meditations, conversation, and deportment, always abounding in the work of the Lord, daily and hourly watching and waiting for His return.
THE GREAT APOSTASY
“Therefore many of His disciples, having heard, said, This is a hard speech; who is able to hear it? And Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples are murmuring concerning this, said to them, Does this offend you? Therefore, if you may see the Son of man ascending up where He was formerly — [Here is an ellipsis: “What would you do?”] It is the Spirit that createth life; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words which I have spoken unto you are spirit and life.” Popular religion is pre-eminently materialistic, and to that extent utterly worthless, illusory, and fatal to its deluded votaries, who look at fine houses, eloquent preachers, robed clergy, pipe-organs, fantastical choirs, pompous ceremonies, and all sorts of Church machinery, and thus lose sight of the meek and lowly Jesus, who had not a place to lay His head, but went about doing good. Here you see, from the plain words of Jesus, the pure spirituality of His religion..
He positively affirms that it is the Spirit who creates in us spiritual life, and that “the flesh profiteth nothing,” thus utterly abnegating the essentially of water baptism, Eucharist, Church ordinances, edifices, and everything else appertaining to the body, and constituting ecclesiastical rights, ceremonies, and ruachinery. Do not understand us to depreciate any of these temporal institutions. They are all right in their place, a miniature survival of the symbolic dispensation, having their place in the educational department of the gospel. They are like clothes on the man, which are no essential part of the human organism. When these temporalities monopolize our affections, and become substitutes for saving grace, Satan always transforms them into idols, and turns them into greased planks, on which he slides their poor deluded followers into hell. The deliverances of the Savior at this point are so decisive and explicit as forever to sweep all controversy from the field. The Jewish Church at that time, ministry and membership, were spiritually dead, and utterly bewildered in the fogs of ritualism, locked tight in dead formality and hollow hypocrisy, with a noble exception here and there. Consequently this deep, spiritual teaching threw bombshells in all directions.
“But there are certain ones of you who do not believe.” For Jesus, from the beginning, knew that “there are some who do not believe, and there is one who is about to betray Him.” This is the first insinuation against Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve. “And He said, On this account, I have said to you, That no one is able to come unto Me unless it had been given unto him from the Father.” We see from this statement that there was no bogus about Judas. God, who is no respecter of persons, had given unto him the grace to come to Jesus, and we see that he was one of those who “had been given of the Father.” N.B. This date of our Lord’s ministry is at the expiration of two years, during which the enemy had been pulling on Judas, through the office of apostolical treasurer, to corrupt the simplicity of his heart with the love of money. The visitation of the Spirit to Judas, his call to the discipleship, and even to the apostleship, did not vitiate his spiritual freedom, nor discontinue his probation. “Therefore from that, many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” The revelation at this point favors the conclusion that the apostasy was really enormous, actually bringing the problem face to face with the inspired Twelve. You see the reason why this great apostasy took place, cutting down the ranks of discipleship to the faithful few. It was because our Lord evolved those deep and magnitudinous truths of entire sanctification and coming glorification, at the same time elucidating the pure spirituality of His kingdom. A modern critic, in a parallel case — i.e., a preacher offending and alienating the majority of his members by proclaiming, expounding, elucidating, and enforcing the great doctrine and precious experience of entire sanctification — would say, “He made a great mistake.” If so, he is in good company, as, you see, Jesus made the same, alienating the multitude of His disciples, so they “went back, and walked no more with Him.” Thus you see this was a finality with those disciples. John, our inspired author, lived to be a hundred and one years old, thus surviving nearly all of those apostatizing disciples. He, with the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, tells us that this was a finale with them, and “they walked no more with Him.” Let this incident be duplicated in any of our Churches, and tempests of censure will be poured on the preacher from pulpits and pews, and, in all probability, ecclesiastical decapitation supervene. Yet the man is faithfully walking in the footprints of Jesus. I would have been run away from almost every Church to which I ever went to preach, if God had not vindicated His truth with earthquakes and volcanoes of convicting power, thus, in the majority of cases, revealing hell and the devil so awfully to the people that, affrighted and appalled, they fell and cried for mercy, even the magnates of the Church piling down at the mourners-bench. I am happy to say that this obtained in the majority of cases in my ministry of forty-six years; the minority, running me off, and in one instance actually hauling me out of my circuit for a crazy man. This is a notable, exemplary case, which every preacher would do well to consider. The Preacher of all preachers actually upset the multitude of His members by preaching the deep truths of entire sanctification, so “they turned back, and walked no more with Him.” The man who does the same at the present day is denounced for making an awful mistake. Who will dare say that Jesus made a mistake? Not one. He knew all about those people. They had followed Him two years in a superficial, slipshod way. He told them nothing but the truth, which they all had to see and experience if they ever got to heaven. He had waited on them two years to get ready for this profound and telling sermon on entire sanctification. He knew they would never get to heaven on that shallow- water religion. When we were in the harbor at Athens, Greece, and getting ready to land, my comrade exclaimed, “Brother Godbey, they are going away as fast as they can.” It was a Russian ship on which we had. sailed from Asia in our homeward bound voyage, and we could not speak their language. So we were in quite a dilemma till a man, in broken English, notified us that a storm was coming, and they were making for deep water, and would land us after the storm passed by. As in time of storm all ships go for deep water, so should the Christian voyager on time’s stormy ocean make for deep water all the time, forever avoiding shoals and quicksands. Jesus knew that those people would never reach the kingdom, and it was not worth while to carry them any longer as dead weights on the gospel- wheel, so He went down to bottom-rock truth, and alienated a host of them. Do you not know that the very same results would follow the same preaching throughout Christendom today? Yet you know it is the very thing that ought to be done, as the people who will not receive these deep, spiritual truths are sure to make shipwreck this side the pearly gate.
“Then Jesus said to the twelve, Do you also wish to go back? Simon Peter said to Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed, and we know that Thou art the Holy One of God.” Peter was a great, big, club-fisted, Herculean rustic, illiterate, having been brought up amid the rough-and-tumble life of those hardy fishermen, who, like a hippopotamus, could live in water or on land, and hardly know the difference, never having gone to school a day in his life, and utterly destitute of what the world calls culture and refinement; but he had a great, big head, full of good, natural, common sense. Therefore he was a suitable speaker for the apostolical cohort. When a dying infidel, surrounded by the cultured members of the club, was exhorted to “hold on,” he replied,
“Why, I have nothing to hold to!” How significantly true! If infidelity is true, we need not bother ourselves about it, because we are just as safe as those who spend their lives in the study and advocacy of their skeptical dogmatism. The same we may say of Universalism. A Universalist preacher met his appointment in a strange community, showing up (in his own estimation) no hell for any and heaven for all; winding up, asked his audience if he should make another appointment. After a moment of profound silence, an old man, rising, said, “If you have preached the truth, we do not need any more of it; if lies, we do not want any more of them.” So, in either case, his work was done. Peter abundantly vindicates his own good, solid, common sense when he answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” “There is none to whom we can go, if we give You up, except hell and the devil, and we do not want them; so we will stay with You, and abide our destiny.” O that all the preachers and members of the present generation would emulate the practical intelligence of the fisherman! What a stampede this deep, spiritual preaching now makes in the Churches, the people literally stullifying themselves, and becoming laughing-stocks for devils! If they can’t stand Scriptural holiness on earth, what will they do in heaven? If they can not stand a heart-searching holiness preacher, how will they stand before the Judge of quick and dead?
“Jesus said to them, Have I not chosen you twelve? And one of you is devilish. And He was speaking of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon; for he was about to betray Him, being one of the twelve.” We see here what Jesus had chosen Judas as well as all the balance, and (verse 65) He had actually been given to Him by the Father. This is a delicate and controverted point, on which we merely give you the revealed Word as we have it, and forbear an elaborate exegesis. N.B. Two years of our Lord’s ministry have rolled away before we hear a solitary word impeaching the Christian character of Judas. Jesus had actually sent him out, with his apostolical comrades, to preach the gospel of the kingdom throughout all Israel. He had been honored of God in casting out devils and healing of the sick. Diabolos, which reads “devil,” E.V., is primarily an adjective, meaning “devilish,” as I here translate it. We have no date of his apostasy, which culminated in betrayal and suicide. The presumption is that Jesus exposed his guilt very soon after his lapse. It is certain that at this date — i.e., the end of two years’ ministry — Satan has so pulled on him that he is leaning off in that way, and has become “devilish.” This warning should have convicted and restored him; but unfortunately for him, he continued to lean more and more to worldliness, and especially the love of money, during the ensuing year of our Lord’s ministry, till he finally so yielded, at the Last Supper, that “Satan entered into him,” precipitating him away to perpetrate the dark crimes of betrayal and murder.
We have now followed our Lord through two years of His ministry; which normally began at the Passover, April 14, A. D. 30; after which, returning to Galilee, His native land, He preached till the next Passover, which He visited, soon afterward coming back to Galilee. Now, as we have already seen, the multitude, being determined to take Him with them to Jerusalem, and there crown Him King, He evaded them, going alone into the mountain at nightfall, and walking over the sea, joining His disciples in the ship at midnight. So this Passover He declines to attend, spending the time in the North; this being the third Passover of His ministry, having begun at one; returned to Jerusalem, and attended the second; and now intermits the third, remaining in Galilee; finally at the fourth, winding up His ministry on the cross. So we now start out at the beginning of the third and last year of our Savior’s ministry.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 6". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany