Calculating without Christ
Of all miracles performed by our Lord Jesus, the feeding of the five thousand is the only one recorded by each of the four Evangelists (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17). There must be something about it of special importance.
John 6:1. ‘After these things.’ After the healing of the impotent man, the persecution of the Jews because he had done these things on their Sabbath day, and after his lengthy discourse on his deity, power, and mission, he left Jerusalem and went over the Sea of Galilee. Our Lord left the presence of the unbelieving Jews (Matthew 15:13-14). What a warning to every traditional religionist!
John 6:2. This was generally the case. Almost everywhere he went he was followed by crowds, which saw the miracles and were attracted to him as a clever physician and a worker of miracles; but they totally failed to perceive that he was the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners, and the true Messiah (John 2:23-25; John 6:25-26). We see the same thing today – people following clever evangelists, faith healers, and miracle workers, but few interested in Christ the Redeemer of sinners.
John 6:3-4. Our Lord withdrew from the multitude, weary with their unbelief, weary with their self-righteousness and empty traditions, and sought a quiet place to be alone with his disciples. John noted that the Passover (a feast of the Jews) was near. The Lord's Passover had degenerated into ‘a feast of the Jews.’ The Passover was near; ‘the Lamb of God,’ who was in their midst, was unknown and unwanted!
John 6:5-6. Evidently our Lord came down from the mountain, and the great multitude, which had followed Him, was still there. Matthew says, ‘He had compassion on them and healed their sick’ (Matthew 14:14-15). The Lord then put Phillip to a strong test. He knew what he was going to do; but to test the faith of Phillip, he asked him, ‘Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?’
John 6:7. We see in Phillip a portrait of ourselves, and in his answer our own thoughts and words in daily trials and difficult situations. Phillip had seen our Lord make wine of water and heal hopeless, impotent people; yet when our Lord asked him how the multitude was to be fed, Phillip began to calculate his own resources and ability to accomplish it. Two hundred pennyworth of bread would only give each one a ‘little’ to eat. Imagine talking of ‘little’ in the presence of infinite power and riches! What is our feebleness compared to his power? What is our emptiness compared to his fullness? Instead of looking to Him, Phillip, like us, looks to himself and his own strength (Philippians 4:19).
‘The birds without barn or storehouse are fed;
From them let us learn to trust for our bread.
His saints what is fitting shall never be denied,
So long as it is written – the Lord will provide.’
John 6:8-9. Evidently unbelief is infectious! Andrew, like Phillip, seemed to forget what he had seen and learned. All of them seemed blind to the glory and power of Christ. Andrew said, ‘There is a lad here with five loaves and two fish, but what are these among so many?’ They both were calculating without Christ! (Psalms 78:19-22; Genesis 18:14.)
John 6:10. How patient the Lord was with his unbelieving disciples! There was no rebuke for either Andrew or Phillip (Psalms 103:13-14). ‘Make the men sit down.’ Mark says they sat down by companies in ranks by hundreds and fifties (Mark 6:39-40). Sit down because our God is a God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33), and the activities of the flesh must come to an end if we are to be fed the Bread of Life (Psalms 23:2).
John 6:11-12. He did not scorn the loaves because they were few nor the fish because they were small. God is pleased to use small and weak things (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). He is pleased to use means. Our Lord gave thanks! He teaches us to acknowledge God as the giver of every good gift and to own him as the one who provides! He gave to his disciples, and they gave to the people. God is pleased to use human instruments in accomplishing the work of his grace (Ephesians 4:10-13; 2 Corinthians 4:7; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). They were all filled. When he feeds us, we are satisfied (Colossians 2:9-10).
John 6:13. Then the disciples gathered up what was left and filled twelve baskets. There was abundance for all, and the boy had twelve baskets to take home. The liberal soul is made fat (Proverbs 11:25).
It is I be not afraid
John 6:14. Our Lord had manifested his power in feeding the great multitude with only five loaves and two fish. The crowd was impressed, amazed, and declared that surely he is the Messiah or that Prophet (John 1:21; Deuteronomy 18:15). These men, like all of Israel, were waiting and looking for a leader or a king to lead them in a successful revolt against the hated Romans (Acts 5:36-37). They did not understand that the true kingdom of the Messiah was not to be of this world (John 18:36) but within us. They knew not the meaning of the sacrifices and atonement nor the redemptive work of the Messiah. Do not be misled by those who talk of Christ the Prophet and King but who despise his cross!
John 6:15. Our Lord immediately withdrew from these ambitious men who would try to make him king over a nation of unbelievers. He came to save sinners, to redeem a people for his glory, to call out of every nation a holy people to reign forever with him in a new heaven and a new earth (Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9-10). These Jews had professed with their lips Christ as that Prophet and would by force make him KING, but there is another office, which comes in between these. Christ must officiate as PRIEST, offering himself as a sacrifice for sin. Besides, he needed not to be made king by them; he is the King! (Revelation 19:16.)
John 6:16-17. Matthew, writing on this same episode, explains the reason why the disciples boarded their ship and left for the other side. Our Lord instructed them to do so (Matthew 14:22-23).
John 6:18. It was now dark, the Lord had not come to them, and the sea was being tossed about by the wind. We live in a dark world, a world of trouble, and a world, which ‘lieth in the wicked one.’ Sometimes the Lord withholds the light of his presence even from his own; and they are allowed to be tossed about, sifted as wheat, and tried severely. But he will soon come, in his own time, when his purpose for us has been accomplished.
John 6:19-20. The disciples were pulling at the oars and had rowed about eight or nine miles when they saw the Lord Jesus walking on the water coming toward them, and they were afraid. Matthew says, ‘They were troubled.’ Think of it – troubled and afraid of their Master. But of course they had never (nor had anyone) seen nor heard of such a thing as a man walking on the sea! Mark describes their feelings more fully and notes their unbelief (Mark 6:49-52). Even believers have trouble with unbelief. ‘Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.’
John 6:21. Matthew records Peter's attempt to walk on the water (Matthew 14:28-33). The wind ceased when he came into the ship, and they were soon on land. Note their confession of faith and strong assurance in Matthew 14:32-33.
John 6:22-25. The people whose hearts were set on making this ‘miracle worker’ their king began to search for him. They knew that he had not entered the boat his disciples had taken to the other side. When they did not find Him, they also got on board ships and went to Capernaum. When they found Him, they said, ‘Master, when and how did you get over here?’
John 6:26. There was nothing wrong with their question. But to have answered them with, ‘I walked across,’ would have only added fuel to their ambition to make him an earthly king, further distracting them from his true mission. Instead of explaining how he came to Capernaum, he showed them that he was acquainted with their motives and desires. Outwardly they appeared ready to honor Him, but he read their hearts. Whether it was the miracles or the loaves and fishes, these people were interested in the flesh, materialism, earthly kingdoms, and earthly comforts. They had no concern for their souls nor their relationship with the living God (John 2:23-25).
John 6:27. The word ‘labor’ is used figuratively and signifies intense and earnest desire and effort toward obtaining that which is of great and eternal value – the Bread of Life, or the salvation of our souls. A man is foolish to be overly concerned about earthly treasure and comfort which will all perish (Mark 8:35-36; Matthew 6:31-34). Salvation is not by labor nor works but is the gift of God. Our Lord tells these people, ‘The meat which endureth to eternal life the Son of Man shall give you, for him hath the Father sealed’ or to him the Father hath given all authority to give eternal life (John 17:1-3). But those who enter do so willingly and sincerely. Those who receive the Son do so lovingly in faith. Those who feed upon the Bread of Life and win Christ do so in earnest dedication and full commitment. Those who find Christ seek him! Those who are saved call upon him! Those who enter in strive to do so!
I am the bread of life
John 6:28. This question appears to be the language of men temporarily impressed and aroused but still in the dark concerning communion with God end life eternal. It is the old self-righteousness of natural men who are ever occupied with their own doing. They supposed that they had to do some good works for God in order to earn his favor and blessings. Salvation, the natural man believes, comes to those who earn it. Men want to make God the debtor and reckon the reward to be of works and not of grace. This is illustrated by the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18), the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2:37), and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30).
John 6:29. Our Lord called them to a work they never thought of nor heard of – faith, the owning and acknowledging of him to be the true Messiah, the embracing and receiving him as the only Redeemer, and trusting him with all the concerns of their souls. This is the one thing that God requires of sinners – that they believe on the one whom he has sent into the world to save. It is not the works of the law, nor the ceremonies of the temple, but faith in Christ that saves (Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:28; Romans 4:20-25).
John 6:30-31. They thought it reasonable that he who brought forth this new doctrine of faith (which they had never heard from their teachers, the Pharisees) should confirm his mission by signs. This was strange considering the fact that he had just fed over five thousand of them with five loaves and two fish. But if you will note John 6:31 carefully, they still had in mind an earthy, Jewish kingdom like the one led by Moses, whom they said fed our fathers forty years in the wilderness (Exodus 16:12-15; Psalms 78:24-25). They were exalting Moses. They may have been saying, ‘You fed five thousand but once, but in Moses' day our fathers ate bread for forty years.’ We are interested in continual prosperity.
John 6:32. ‘You are mistaken in your opinion of that bread from heaven. It was not given to you by any power or virtue in Moses. It was my Father, not Moses, who gave you that bread.’ Moses told them that in Exodus 16:15. Also, that bread was not the true spiritual bread but was called spiritual bread by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:3 in that it was typical of Christ. 'My Father not only gave that typical bread but he gives you me, who am the true bread.’
John 6:33. The bread of God is the Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent to redeem us from the curse of the law and death by sin. That typical bread had no power against even physical death. They all died in the wilderness who ate that bread; but Christ is the true bread, for he bestows eternal life! Also, only Israel ate of the manna: but Christ is the Saviour of the world – a people from all nations.
John 6:34. ‘Lord, give us this bread.’ Their reply sounds much like the woman at the well, who said, ‘Give me that water, so that I won't have to come to this well and draw water.’ They still did not understand that he spoke of spiritual bread, spiritual life, and faith. They knew not God, understood not their sins, and had no need of a Redeemer (1 Corinthians 2:8-14). They were interested in health and wealth and a kingdom on earth!
John 6:35. ‘I AM the Bread of Life!’ (John 4:25-26; John 8:24). ‘I am the bread that giveth spiritual and eternal life, and the bread that upholdeth and maintaineth life. I am the Messiah whom God hath sent to quicken those dead in trespasses and sin.’ To ‘believe on Christ’ is to receive God's testimony concerning his Son and to rest on him alone for salvation (1 John 5:10-13). To ‘come to Christ,’ which is the effect of believing, is for the heart to receive and embrace him in loving confidence. The believer shall never hunger nor thirst; that is, he shall never need nor want anything necessary for spiritual life and eternal happiness (Colossians 2:9-10).
John 6:36. Even the very sight of Jesus Christ in the flesh and the beholding of his wondrous miracles did not bring men to believe on him. They heard his words and beheld works, which never any man did, yet they did not believe (Matthew 13:13-14; John 1:10-11). Was then his mission a failure? Did he come to earth in vain? (Romans 3:3). There can be no failure with God, as our Lord shows in his next words.
John 6:37. Here the Lord Jesus speaks of a definite company of people who have been given to him by the Father in an everlasting covenant of grace. In the face of their unbelief, he encourages himself and rejoices in God's eternal election of grace (Matthew 11:24-27). He refers to this blessed company six times in John 17 (see John 6:2; John 6:6; John 6:9; John 6:11-12; John 6:24). Each one that the Father gave to Christ in eternity past comes to him in time, as a lost sinner to be saved! He will never forget them, forsake them, nor cast them out (John 10:24-30).
The elect will hear and believe
These Jews had seen Christ, heard Him, and witnessed the great miracles, which he performed; yet they believed not! But their unbelief and the unbelief of men today shall not defeat the purpose of God in Christ. For according to John 6:37, it is certain that the Father has chosen a people in Christ, given them to Christ, and made Christ their surety, substitute, and redeemer (John 17:1-2; Ephesians 1:3-5; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). It is certain that the Father has ordained the means by which they shall be quickened, called, and believe on Christ (1 Peter 1:2; 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:21). It is certain that those chosen, called, and justified shall come to Christ and shall never perish (Romans 8:29-30; John 10:24-29).
John 6:38. Christ was on earth in the flesh to do the Father's will! The will of the Father and the will of the Son are one; for ‘I and my Father are one’ (John 10:30). But the Son is speaking as the servant (Isaiah 42:1-4). The design of God in redemption is to have a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, to have a holy people (all like Christ) to populate that new creation, and to judge and destroy all things contrary to himself; this Christ came to do! This Christ shall do! (Isaiah 53:10-11.)
John 6:39. Eternal election and eternal predestination guarantee eternal preservation. ‘The last day’ is the end of this world as we know it and the beginning of eternity. Our Lord declares it to be the sovereign will of God that all elected by the Father, redeemed by the Son, and called by the Spirit shall be raised from the grave to eternal glory and that not one shall be lost. Our salvation, security, and resurrection rest not upon anything in us now done by us, but upon the Father's choice and the Son's obedience and sacrifice! (Philippians 3:10-11; Philippians 3:20-21).
John 6:40. This verse speaks of the same people referred to in John 6:37-39 – the elect! But election is not salvation; it is unto salvation. Christ was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world; but Christ must come to earth and die. Even so, the elect are chosen to life; but they must all hear the gospel, see by faith Christ as their righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, and believe on him with a sincere heart (John 3:18; John 3:36; Romans 10:13-17; 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6).
John 6:41-42. These religious Jews were given to murmuring as those in the wilderness. Murmuring is complaining through anger, unbelief, and impatience against what they saw and heard. In this case they were offended because he said, ‘I am the true bread which came down from heaven.’ They knew, to some extent, what he was saying as indicated in John 10:30-33. But they knew nothing of his virgin birth; for they said, ‘Is not this the son of Joseph?’ How can he be the Son of God? (Matthew 1:20-23 : Luke 1:30-35). Men ascribed unto him all that they could apart from divine revelation – ‘John the Baptist, Elias, or one of the prophets’ (Matthew 16:13-17). Only anointed eyes see Christ the Son of God!
John 6:43-44. The Lord Jesus knew their thoughts and their hearts, he knew their unbelief and rejection (Isaiah 53:1-3). The following words reveal the depth, the extent, and the inability of human depravity. ‘No man’ (regardless of his intellect, ancestry, or environment) ‘can’ (is able in himself, has the ability or will or inclination of himself to) ‘come to me’ (believe on me, receive me, or trust in me) ‘except the Father which sent me’ (for the Father loveth the Son and hath given all things into his hands. The Father planned and purposed redemption, gave it to the Son to accomplish, and sent him into the world to finish it) ‘draw him’ (this drawing is the quickening, awakening, and calling of sinners to life and faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit and the word of God; 1 Corinthians 2:7-14). The Holy Spirit effectually convicts men of sin, reveals the Lord Jesus Christ to them, and they come to Christ willingly, lovingly, and obediently, being made willing (Psalms 110:1-3).
John 6:45. It is written in Isaiah 54:13, ‘And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord.’ Those drawn to Christ do not come blindly and ignorantly; they are ‘taught of God.’ The Spirit of God through the word of God (Romans 10:17), preachers of the gospel (Ephesians 4:10-13), and divine revelations teaches sinners their need of Christ and the sufficiency of Christ (John 16:8-15). Every person who hears the way of life will come to Christ. These verses clearly reveal the design of grace, the means of grace, and the results of grace.
John 6:46-47. No one should suppose that the Father must visibly appear and teach or call a sinner. To hear and learn of the Father is not to hear his audible voice nor to see Him, for the essence of God is invisible. Christ has seen the Father, and ‘he that hath seen me hath seen the Father;’ but the revelation of grace and life is by the Spirit and the word. He that hears the gospel with the heart and believes on the Lord Jesus has eternal life (1 John 5:10-13).
Dwelling in Christ
John 6:48. ‘I am that bread of life.’ The first things to note in this statement are two words, ‘I AM.’ This goes back to Moses' question in Exodus 3:13-14 when he asked the Lord, ‘What is thy name?’ The answer was, ‘I AM.’ The use of this title by our Lord Jesus at once identifies him as Jehovah of the Old Testament and confirms his Deity. Read carefully the following verses: John 8:58, John 18:4-5, John 8:12, John 10:9, John 10:11, John 14:6, John 15:1. Christ is the true and only bread that not only gives life but upholds and maintains spiritual life. He is the bread which every sinner needs and without which he will perish.
John 6:49. The manna in the wilderness was only a type of Christ, just as the rock which gave forth water was a type of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). Neither had any saving benefit nor power even to give or maintain physical life, much less spiritual life. Those who ate the manna died physically and evidently eternally, for they entered not into Canaan (Hebrews 3:17-19).
John 6:50. ‘I am the bread of life,’ who came from the highest heaven, from the bosom of the Father (1 Timothy 1:15; Galatians 4:4-5). If a man eats of me (the bread of life), he shall never die eternally. Eating Christ, the bread of life, is believing on Him, receiving him by faith. Believing on Christ is expressed by eating because eating is the reception of food to our stomachs for the sustenance of physical life, so receiving Christ by faith is the application of Christ to the soul for the beginning and continuance of spiritual and eternal life.
John 6:51. Three things are significant from this verse.
1. ‘I am the living bread.’ He is the living God, who is life, who ever lives and gives life to dead sinners (John 1:4; John 11:25; 1 John 5:11-12).
2. ‘The bread that I will give is my flesh.’ To give his flesh was to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin. It is only in the crucified Christ that we find redemption and life eternal (Hebrews 10:18-22).
3. ‘I will give Myself for the life of the world;’ not the Jews only, but for sinners of every nation; and ‘if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever’ (1 John 2:1-2).
John 6:52. The Jews, like Nicodemus, were trying to interpret spiritual things in a carnal sense (John 3:4).
John 6:53. This verse and the two which follow contain an amplification of what he said in John 6:51. While our Lord was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, he must come to earth and die. The decrees of God do not render unnecessary the obedience to and fulfillment of them. Even so, while Christ has been given a people and has redeemed them by his life and death, they must hear the gospel and believe (John 6:37-44; Romans 10:13-15). Christ must be received and believed or men have no life!
John 6:54. He that believeth on the Son has eternal life (John 5:24; 1 John 3:2). He has it now in a sure and just way (Romans 3:26), and one day he shall possess it fully (Ephesians 4:2-9).
John 6:55. It is not just eating that nourishes a man, but eating the right food! If a man eats poison, he will die. It is so spiritually. His flesh is true life-giving meat; and his blood is saving, cleansing blood. Neither is his body, given for us, typical food, but that, which actually saves. A man is not saved because he believes something or someone; but it is the Christ of scripture, the Christ of God, who alone can save (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
John 6:56-57. Christ speaks here of that living, vital union the believer has with him (John 15:1-5). The word ‘dwelleth’ is translated ‘abideth.’ Believers enjoy the most intimate union, communion, and fellowship with Christ. As the Father and Son are one, we are one in the Son (John 17:23). What he has, we have; and where he is, we are! He lives in dependence upon the Father; we live in dependence upon him. Also note: the tense of the verb is ‘eateth’ and ‘drinketh,’ meaning that we constantly feed upon Him, look to Him, and continue in him.
John 6:58-59. This is a summary of what he has declared in the previous verses. The synagogue in which he taught these things was in Capernaum.
Lord, to whom shall we go?
John 6:60. A ‘disciple’ means one who is a learner or a follower. These ‘disciples' are carefully distinguished from the twelve. They were people who followed Christ, attracted by the miracles, but who did not really believe him and to whom he did not commit himself (John 2:23-25; John 6:26). Their ignorance and false allegiance are revealed in the next few verses. One minute they would make him king; the next, they are leaving. Many of these disciples (having heard his gospel of divine visitation, 29-35, of sovereignty in salvation, 37-45, of salvation through a living union with him by faith, 48-59, and being unable to comprehend these great mysteries, 1 Corinthians 2:14, not that his language was unintelligible, but that what they heard was irreconcilable with their own views of salvation by law and works) would not receive it (John 5:40).
John 6:61. Our Lord knew what was in their hearts. ‘He knew in himself.’ That is, he did not need to hear their words; for he is omniscient (Luke 16:15; Psalms 7:9). He knew why they murmured. They were offended with his gospel. It was not what he did that offended them (for they were glad to be fed, healed, and to think of an earthly Jewish kingdom) but what he said (John 10:30-33).
John 6:62. ‘If you are offended by what I have said, what will be your reaction when all of my words are fulfilled and I enter the glory of my Father, which I have had from the beginning?’ They stumbled when he called himself the bread of life, at his declaration that he came down from heaven, that he would give his life for sinners, and that the way to obtain life was to eat his flesh and drink his blood. He now speaks of death, resurrection, and ascending up to heaven, where he was before. He did not say that these murmurers would ‘see’ his resurrected glory; but if they were offended at the possibility, what would be their response to the reality? (Acts 2:32-36.)
John 6:63. He again presses upon them what he declared in John 6:44-45. It is the Holy Spirit who quickens by the word, who gives life to dead sinners, who gives us eyes to ‘see’ Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, who gives us ‘ears’ to hear the gospel and ‘hearts’ to understand the mysteries of his grace (Matthew 16:17). The flesh (or the natural mind and human wisdom) does not profit us, nor does it have any part in the salvation of sinners. The words of Christ, the words of life, are spiritual. One cannot discern spiritual truth who has no spiritual life (1 Corinthians 2:8-12).
John 6:64-65. He declared, ‘There are some of you that believe not.’ John adds, ‘The Lord Jesus knew not only from the beginning of his ministry but from the foundation of the world who would believe, who would not believe, and who should betray him.’ This springs not only from his fore-knowledge but from his fore-ordination (Romans 8:29-30; John 10:24-28). Whatever men believe or will accept, it is God's truth that no man will nor can come to Christ nor believe on Christ except he is drawn, taught, and called supernaturally by the Spirit of God (Acts 13:48; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). This ‘drawing’ of the Father is exercised according to his sovereign will (Romans 9:11-16).
John 6:66. These disciples at large (so-called because they followed Him, partly to hear what he would say, partly to see his miracles) followed him no more. False professors may draw back, but none who truly receive Christ will fall away (1 John 2:19; Hebrews 10:38-39).
John 6:67. Our Lord desires no unwilling disciples: so, on the departure of the great crowd, he turned to the twelve and asked if they also desired to leave him. His question was a strong test, and their answer would certainly reveal whether or not a divine work of grace had been wrought in them. We are faced with the same question, ‘Will you also go away?’ (2 Timothy 4:10; Hebrews 3:6; Hebrews 3:14.)
John 6:68-69. Peter usually acted as spokesman for them. ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’ Shall we turn to the Law? Nothing there but a curse. Shall we turn to the religious organizations and the Pharisees? Nothing there but dead works and superstition. Shall we turn to our own wisdom and righteousness? Nothing there but foolishness and filthy rags. ‘Thou hast the words of eternal life.’ He is the Word of life (1 John 1:1-3), and his word giveth life (John 6:63). ‘We believe and are sure...’ Notice the order here. Natural men demand to be sure before they believe. God reverses man's order. It is impossible to be sure or to have assurance or confidence until we believe! (Psalms 27:13; 2 Corinthians 4:13.) We believe that thou art that Christ – prophesied, promised, and pictured throughout the Old Testament. We believe that thou art God in human flesh!
John 6:70-71. He chose them not only to the office of apostles, but he chose them to eternal life (John 15:16; Ephesians 1:3-4); yet one of them, Judas Iscariot, was an informer, an instrument of Satan, and a son of perdition from the beginning (Psalms 41:9; Psalms 109:8; Zechariah 11:12-13; John 17:12).
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Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on John 6". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany