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Bible Commentaries
John 6

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Verses 1-4

Back in Galilee

The previous chapter shows the Lord Jesus as the Son of God who gives life and will judge as the Son of Man. In this chapter we see Him as the humbled Son of Man Who gives His life in order to give life to the world and after that is glorified. The reason of the Lord’s teaching about His humiliation is the feeding of the five thousand.

John does not describe many events of Christ’s life. The few times that he does, we often find at the beginning of a chapter as the reason for a lecture, an explanation of which that event is an illustration. In John 5 it is the story of the lame, in John 6 it is the feeding of the five thousand, in John 7 it is the Feast of Booths and His presence or absence thereon, in John 8 the adulteress who is brought to Him and in John 9-10 the born blind who is given sight by Him.

In John 6:1 the Lord goes to the other side of the sea of Galilee, or of Tiberias. This sea is in the east of Galilee, in the north of Israel. The Lord has often sailed over this sea. He taught the crowds on the shore from a boat, silenced storms there and walked across it. It is a familiar journey. Many follow Him. He has become known by the signs He has done to the sick and which the crowd had seen. That is why they want to follow Him and later even take Him away by force to make Him king (John 6:15).

The seeing of signs does not work conversion. Yet the Lord does not reject them. Through the wonder of the multiplication of the loaves, He wants to teach them about Him. Before that time, when they have come ashore, He will sit on the mountain together with His disciples. He does not yet avoid the multitude, but takes a place where they can all easily see and hear Him.

John does not often speak about the disciples. Here we have one of those rare occasions. The disciples as well as we are here taught by the Lord. John also tells us what time of the year it is. It is around the Passover. If we assume that the feast mentioned in John 5 (John 5:1) means the Passover, he speaks about the Passover for the third time. In that case a year has passed since the previous chapter, without John mentioning specific words or deeds of the Lord Jesus. From the other Gospels we know that at that time the Lord was rejected in Nazareth, sent out the twelve and that John the baptist was killed.

John the evangelist mentions the Passover and calls it a “feast of the Jews”. He portrays the background for the feeding of the five thousand and the subsequent teaching. In that teaching the Lord tells us that only eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood gives part to Him. This means that He will surrender His life into death and that thus the Passover will have its fulfilment and will have come to an end as a feast of remembrance. As a remembrance feast of the redemption from Egypt, it had already lost its meaning because the people as a whole had completely deviated from God.

Verses 5-9

Philip Put to the Test

The Lord does not get tired to convince His people by blessings that show the goodness of God, in order for them to return to Him. The feeding occurs in all four Gospels, but only here there are no introductory circumstances. The emphasis is entirely on the glory of the Son who fills the whole scene. Everything is in His hand. We see His Godhead because “He Himself knew what He was intending to do”, and we see His dependent Humanity as He thanks for the food (John 6:11).

He takes the initiative and begins by asking Philip where they will buy bread to feed them all. With His question, He wants to put him to the test. He wants to see how much Philip has already understood of His glory and power. As the eternal God He knows that, but He wants to bring him to an answer that will show Philip himself, how he judges a situation, whereby it comes down to faith in Him. We sometimes hear the Lord asking us such questions as well. How do we react to situations where it comes down to faith in Him?

To Him that situation poses no problem, because in His Divine omniscience He knows what He will do (cf. John 2:24-Lamentations :; John 13:3John 18:4) and that He has the power to do so. Philip’s answer shows that he judges the situation according to human standards and that he is not elevated above the crowd in his assessment of Christ. He looks, so to speak, into the purse, sees what is in it and says that this is insufficient. As if the Lord did not know that.

Then one of the other disciples comes to the Lord. It is Andrew, the brother of Peter. Just as he brought Peter to the Lord (John 1:43), so now he brings a boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Him. Andrew is someone who brings others to the Lord Jesus. That is a beautiful characteristic. Also Andrew compares what they need with what they possess, without taking into account the Lord and His power (cf. Numbers 11:22). That is why, according to him, the breads of the little boy do not qualify either.

But this is exactly what the Son wants to use to do His work. He could have done it with much less or even made loaves of stone to saturate the crowd. In His grace, however, He uses what we give Him, even though we do not believe that it is of some value in the light of what is needed.

It is remarkable that of the four descriptions of this feeding, only John mentions that they are barley loaves. This is reminiscent of the first fruits, which are made of barley. The barley is the first fruit of the land brought to Yahweh (Leviticus 23:10; Exodus 9:31; Ruth 1:22; Ruth 2:23). The first sheaf speaks of the resurrection, about which Christ speaks several times in this chapter. He who died is also the resurrected Christ. We can therefore view this chapter in particular as a ‘resurrection chapter’.

Verses 10-13

The Multiplication of the Loaves

The Lord uses the disciples to bring peace and order to the crowd. This is possible because the place has a lot of grass. He has consciously chosen that place and thus led the crowd that has followed Him to as it were green pastures. They all sit on the soft grass. John mentions the number of men. Men are the power of the nation, but they are completely dependent on the provisions of the Lord Jesus.

Before the Lord in His Divine omnipotence divides the loaves and the fish among those who sit there, He first gives thanks. He always does everything in connection with His Father. The work of multiplication is a work that He has seen the Father do and therefore He does it (John 5:19). It is characteristic of this Gospel that we read that the Lord Jesus Himself distributes the loaves and the fish, while we know from the other Gospels that He used His disciples for that. Here He is the Son of God Who uses His power for the benefit of people and gives blessing. The blessing is abundant and everyone gets as much as he wants. There is no limit to His giving. It is up to us to make the best use of it.

The Lord has multiplied so much that there is a leftover. That appears when all are satiated. The leftover is not a mistake, but a proof of the abundance of His benefits. With Him, abundance is never waste. The leftover may not be lost and must therefore be collected. What has been left by those who have eaten is good for filling twelve hand baskets. It is possible that each of the disciples received a basket with fragments. The number twelve is reminiscent of the whole nation. The leftover indicates a supply for others yet to come, not so much for Israel alone, but for the whole world, for He is the Savior of the world.

Verses 14-15

The People Want to Make Him King

John calls the wonder of feeding a sign again. It is the fourth sign mentioned of the Lord. This sign was done in front of a large crowd. They are so impressed that they come to the correct conclusion that He is the Prophet Who would come into the world (Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18; Psalms 132:15; cf. John 4:19; John 7:40John 9:17). They even want to make Him king.

The Lord Jesus certainly fulfills the conditions attached to kingship. He has just proven that. He has provided in their material needs and that is the reason why they want to make Him king. They do want Him as their political leader. In this the crowd lets itself to be guided by the devil. They want Him, like the devil at the temptation in the wilderness suggested to Him (Matthew 4:8-1 Samuel :), to take dominion without having to die. What matters is that He meets their national pride.

The Lord knows that the people do not meet the conditions to enter His kingdom. He also does not take glory from people, as He has said in the previous chapter (John 5:41). That is why He avoids them. He will not and cannot be made their King by them, because their motives are no good. They see in Him a benefactor, but not the necessary Savior, as the Samaritan woman has come to know Him.

He goes away from them and again takes the mountain as a refuge. He first went there with His disciples (John 6:3), but now He goes alone. In this we can see a picture of the place He has taken in heaven, where He is now to intercede for His own as Advocate and High Priest. And they need that, as we see in what happens to the disciples during His absence.

Verses 16-21

The Lord Jesus Walks on the Sea

While the Lord is still on the mountain, His disciples go down to the sea. They board a ship to sail to Capernaum. It is towards evening when they leave and night falls. It says so remarkably that “Jesus had not yet come to them”. They must have looked forward to Him, but yet they left without Him.

The journey across the sea becomes more and more difficult. Apart from the fact that it is night, there is a strong wind so that the sea begins to be stirred up. When they have rowed about three or four miles they see the Lord walking on the sea and approaching the ship. Instead of recognizing Him and being happy to see Him, they become afraid. They cannot get used to the special ways in which the Son always reveals Himself. At the feeding, they only considered their natural resources and their inadequacy to provide a crowd with food. They did not think of Him and His power that is above those natural resources.

They are experiencing difficulties caused by natural elements. In the face of their force they feel powerless. When the Lord appears to their aid, they do not recognize Him as the One Who is above the natural elements and consequently also above their difficulties. He walks over them, He rules over them. They see Him and His authority over it and yet they become afraid because their mind cannot explain this. Their faith is not yet fully focused on Him.

But He knows them. He knows how they feel and speaks the reassuring words: “It is I; do not be afraid.” What a wonderful Savior He is, Who thus takes away the unbelief and the fear of His disciples!

After these words, they want to take Him into the ship. They are convinced that it is Him. Their fear is gone and their trust in Him completely restored. The moment they want to take Him into the ship, it comes ashore. The trials of the sea are over. Peace has come.

It is striking that there is no command from the Lord to calm the sea and the wind. Here His presence is sufficient. He does not even have to come aboard to save them. The desire to take Him into the ship is already enough to get ashore, in the picture: to reach salvation. It is a beautiful scene that perfectly matches this Gospel in which Christ is presented as God the Son.

Better than acknowledging Him as King, like in previous history, it is to acknowledge Him as Lord above all circumstances as well as the power of the enemy. He did not demonstrate this to the crowd, but He shows it to His disciples and to us. He is above all trials and tribulations and leads us through them.

Verses 22-25

The Crowd Seeks and Finds the Lord

The crowd watched everything that happened, as far as they could see. They did not see the events that happened at sea in which the Lord revealed Himself to His disciples in a special way. In their natural thinking there is no place for that either. What they did see, however, was that the small boat in which the disciples went, had left without Him having embarked. They are emphatically seeking the Lord Jesus. Did He board another ship then? After all, they were very close to the place where He performed that wonderful wonder, which gave them all so much to eat.

They also noticed how the Lord first gave thanks and only then distributed the bread. John mentions again emphatically that they ate of the bread after the Lord had given thanks. By doing so he emphasizes the fact that the Lord does everything in dependence of His Father. The place of the wonder has become an empty place after the departure of Christ. Thus, they leave that place because it to them it is about Him.

Their research shows that He did not board any of the other ships either. Neither are His disciples to be found there. Because they want to be with Him anyway, they board ships themselves. So they come to Capernaum to seek Him there. There they find Him, on the other side of the sea.

They are very curious as to when He arrived there, because after having checked all possibilities, it remains a mystery how He could have come there. This wonder reveals the true motive of their search for Him. They are driven by curiosity and to profit even more from Him, after they had eaten the loaves in that way. But the Lord does not satisfy their curiosity.

Verses 26-29

Working for the Food That Endures

Instead of answering their curious questions, the Lord exposes their hearts. He confronts them with their selfishness. He knows what is in man (John 2:23-Lamentations :). With yet another double “truly” followed by an emphatic “I say to you”, He establishes the important truth that they have learned nothing from the signs, but that they are only interested in satisfying their natural needs.

They have seen the signs, but missed their meaning. It does not occur to them to believe in Him as the Son of God and therefore to receive eternal life. They do not see that the sign reveals His glory. They explain the sign according to their own liking because they only seek the temporary satisfaction of earthly prosperity. They pay no attention to putting their relationship with God in order. And yet, in all things, the Lord shows His connection with God and His mission through the Father as the source of His actions. However, they can only think of a life here and now and how to enjoy it as optimally as possible in a selfish way.

The Lord points out to them that they should not be concerned in the first place with earthly and therefore by definition perishable food, but with food which has an eternal and solid value. As the Son of Man He is able to provide that. With this He indicates that it is no longer about what the Messiah can give to His earthly people. He points to Himself as the Son of Man and as the One on Whom the Father, God, has set His seal.

The fact that He is sealed by the Father means that the Father has designated Him as the One with Whom eternal life can be obtained. What He on behalf of the Father, Who is God, offers as food, is eternal life, real and unadulterated. It cannot be obtained from anyone but the Son of Man. The Father has sealed Him with the Holy Spirit at His baptism (Matthew 3:16; cf. Ephesians 1:13). Only from the Son can they receive the bread that endures.

The crowd answers with a question. They want to know what they have to do in order to work the works of God. They can only think in terms of doing something themselves, while ignoring the great problem of their sins. They don’t realize that they are sinners, and therefore deny their sins. They also deny His glory and majesty. It is reminiscent of the way of Cain who also thought he was pleasing to God by offering him a sacrifice that was the result of his own hard work, but which God did not regard (Genesis 4:3; Genesis 4:5). The same can be seen in professing Christianity which has opened itself so much to influences from Judaism and heathenism.

Because the thinking of the crowd is only about their own well-being, they misunderstood the words of the Lord. By works for the food that endures to eternal life, the Lord does not mean delivering a performance, but opening oneself up to a work of God in them. The Son is the object of faith. The Father has sealed Him and only the Father can accept Him as the foundation on which the sinner can approach God. And if it is based on faith, it is open to both Jew and Gentile. Faith is the work of God and excludes the work of man.

Verses 30-33

The Bread Out of Heaven

The crowd’s demand for a sign is once again proof of their unbelief. As if the Lord has not yet given enough signs. And they themselves have just seen a great sign in the multiplication of the loaves. It seems that the sign He has given through the feeding has not convinced them of His mission. For them, the bread He gave did not come out of heaven, but from the earth, and the fish from the sea. No, but the manna that their fathers had eaten in the wilderness, that bread, they say, came from heaven.

It is as if they were saying that the sign that Yahweh did in the wilderness (Exodus 16:15) was far greater than that of the Lord Jesus. After all, Yahweh provided food for a nation of millions for forty years. They even quote a word from the Old Testament, showing that the manna is called “bread out of heaven” (Nehemiah 9:15; Psalms 78:24; Psalms 105:40). If He, Jesus, would do such a thing, they would believe Him.

By reminding the Lord of this word from the Old Testament, they make a distinction that is not there for faith. Jesus is the same as Yahweh of the Old Testament. They also forget that the people in the wilderness finally did not believe these wonders and sinned against Him (Psalms 78:32), just as they also forget how Israel later despised the manna (Numbers 21:5).

The Lord reprimands them, once again with that emphatic, double “truly”, followed by the powerful and authoritative “I say to you”. He first points out that it was not Moses who gave them the bread out of heaven. Perhaps in John 6:31 they mean that Moses gave them the bread out of heaven and that they did not even attribute the giving of manna to Yahweh. It is very short-sighted to attribute the wonder of manna to Moses.

The Lord does not elaborate on that. It is about the ‘kind’ of bread. The bread of which they say Yahweh or Moses gave it, is bread that the people needed time after time. In addition, it could not have prevented them from dying after all (John 6:49). Therefore, the Lord proceeds directly from Moses and the bread that came out of heaven in his days, to the true bread that the Father gives out of heaven. He wants them to realize that the true life of the Father comes out of heaven and that this is now given to them, not to their fathers.

Next, He points out that the bread out of heaven is a Person, “He”, Who descends from heaven and gives life not only to a certain people, but to the world. The Lord speaks of “the bread of God” meaning Divine bread, bread that comes from God to serve as food for those to whom He gives it. It is spiritual bread, bread that must be eaten in a spiritual way. Because He gives this bread, there is life in it for those who take it. In this bread the true life for the world can be found. It is offered to everyone, indiscriminately.

Linked to ‘the bread of God’ is also the thought that God feeds Himself with the Lord Jesus. Of course this is not in the same way as people do, but as the joy for His heart (see Leviticus 21, where some translations speak of the ‘bread of the LORD (Yahweh)’, Leviticus 21:21-Song of Solomon :). What is joy for the heart of God, He gives to the world as life.

Verses 34-36

I Am the Bread of Life

The crowd reacts like the Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob (John 4:15). Just like she only thought of natural water, so does the crowd only think of natural, material bread, similar to the manna. If it would fall from heaven, as it did then, they would not have to buy it. They ignore the history of unbelief of the nation. The only thing that matters to them is the direct, easy and free-of-charge satisfaction of their natural needs.

Then the Lord forthright says that He is the bread of life as well as how someone can partake of it. Actually they can get it on their terms: directly, easily and free of charge. All they have to do is come to Him and believe in Him. If they do that, they will never be hungry or thirsty again.

In this Gospel, the Lord uses the expression “I am” seven times, each time with a different addition. Here He uses this expression the first time. The addition is
1. “the bread of life”. The other additions are
2. “the light of life” (John 8:12);
3. “the door of the sheep” (John 10:7);
4. “the good shepherd” (John 10:11);
5. “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25);
6. “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6);
7. “the true vine” (John 15:1).

The words “I am” have a great connotation. To pronounce these words is to pronounce His Name (Exodus 3:14). By pronouncing them, the crowd that comes to take Him captive falls to the ground (John 18:5-Joshua :).

On His invitation to come to Him the Lord immediately adds that He knows in His Divine omniscience what they are like. He has also told them that. They have seen Him, but they do not believe in Him. They reject Him because He does not respond to their natural desires. He asks them to do things they do not want to do, such as bowing before His majesty and confessing their sins in the light of His majesty. They have no eye for His glory. And yet He is so remarkably loving in His approach to them!

Verses 37-40

The Will of the Father

The Lord has spoken about believing in Him and coming to Him never to be hungry or thirsty again. The emphasis is on man’s responsibility. Man must believe and come. The other side, the side of God, is that He works in sinners that they go to the Lord Jesus. Those who are given to the Son by the Father come to the Lord Jesus.

The Lord mentions both sides here. On the one side there is the work of the Father: He gives to the Son. On the other side there is the sinner who must come: Who comes to Me. Both sides are true. Every sinner that comes is because He has been given by the Father and therefore is accepted by the Lord Jesus and not cast out. Because of these words, every sinner going to Him may be sure that he is accepted by Him.

These words express great certainty and they are an encouragement to those who tend to be unsteady. Whoever comes to Him, whatever his background, is accepted by Him. Whoever once has come will acknowledge that everything is the work of the Father and that the Lord Jesus has accepted him because the Father has given him to Him.

This work can take place in this manner because the Son has descended from heaven with the express purpose of not doing His will on earth, but that of the Father Who sent Him. The Father can therefore work in the sinner, because His Son has done His will on earth. As a result, the Son can accept that sinner as a gift from the Father. The sinner therefore has the certainty of his salvation in complete accordance with the will of God which has been completely fulfilled by the Son. This certainty is independent of his feelings.

Apart from receiving sinners that the Father has given Him, the Father also wants the Son to protect and secure everything He has given Him. Just as the Son has not lost anything of the bread (John 6:12), the Son will ensure that nothing is lost of what the Father has given him. Even if death would assert its claims against those who have been given to Him by the Father, that does not mean loss of what the Son has been given. “All” (John 6:39, the whole) and “everyone” (John 6:40, the individual) are perfectly safe with the Son, even if death intervenes. Indeed, the Son has the power to raise up (John 6:39; John 6:40John 6:44; John 6:54). This power to awaken also indicates that the fullness of eternal life will only be truly enjoyed in the resurrection.

The Son is completely focused on the will of the Father. He is completely aware of that will. The will of the Father is about His Son and all those whom the Father connects to Him. That connection only comes about when someone beholds the Son and believes in Him. People who believe in the Lord Jesus have seen something, or better Someone. They believe because they have seen the Son, the eyes have opened to the beauty and glory of the Son. They are attracted to Who He is. Such a person is given eternal life. The guarantee that an eternal connection has been established is proven when the Son will soon show His power by raising up the deceased believers.

Verses 41-46

The Father Teaches About the Son

This is the time when the Jews are making themselves heard again. They have listened and heard that He says of Himself that He is the bread that has come down out of heaven. That is why they grumble about Him. Now that they notice that the Lord means Himself with the bread of life, the longing for bread has disappeared and they stumble over Him (cf. Romans 9:32).

They only know the earthly circumstances, but misjudge them. He is not the Son of Joseph, but of Mary. Therefore they are on a totally wrong basis to be able to judge Him. Unbelief always leads to wrong conclusions and remains blind to the truth. Because they blindly stare at His natural origins, they cannot understand His words about having come down out of heaven. To them He is Someone from below and therefore He cannot possibly have come from above. They do not understand that He is the Man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47).

As so often, the grumbling of the Jews is again reason for the Lord to tell more important things. He reproaches them for grumbling among themselves. Grumbling about the truth makes no sense at all. It keeps the grumbler out of the truth and is also to the ruin of those who hear this grumbling.

The Lord clearly declares that only those who are drawn by the Father come to Him. He mentions the Name of the Father and He calls Him the One Who sent Him. This indicates both the special relationship between the Son and the Father as well as the special commission of the Father to the Son. Only those who believe in Him see this. Unbelief leads away from Him, whereas the Father brings to Him. The latter is a work of grace which rules out everything that belongs to man, his value, his work, his will.

It takes a merciful activity of the Father to go to the Son. That is not what the Gospel preaches to people who yearn for salvation. To them the Lord Jesus says: “Come to me” (Matthew 11:28). He does not say that to those who grumble about Him. To them He says that they cannot come. They have an attitude that makes it impossible to invite them. The final blessing in the resurrection on the last day is not for them.

As additional proof that it is impossible to believe if one is not taught by the Father, the Lord cites something the prophets have written (Isaiah 54:13). It has already been made clear by the prophets that a new situation can only be understood by those who have been taught by God as disciples. Equally, a person can only come to the Son if he is taught by the Father. All true teaching concerning the Son comes from God the Father. A religion that does not lead to the Son is not from God. A person only gains insight into what the Lord says if God gives him insight. Anyone who has received instruction from the Father about the Person of the Son comes to the Son. Whoever is in distress about his sins and goes to God is directed by Him to the Son.

We see a picture of this in the history of the famine in Egypt in the days when Joseph was viceroy of Egypt (Genesis 41:55). People come to Pharaoh in their need (there a picture of God), but Pharaoh sends them to Joseph (a picture of the Lord Jesus). The Father gives teachings concerning the Son, while it is also true that the Father is known only by the Son (John 14:9), for only the Son has seen the Father (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 6:16).

So there is a clear interaction between the Father and the Son. No one comes to the Son except he who has heard and accepted the teaching of the Father. And no one knows the Father except the Son, for the Son has seen the Father and has come to earth to make Him known. The Jews have therefore never seen the Father because they have never seen the Son with and in faith. They see in Him no more than a Man of whom they know the parents and relatives.

Verses 47-51

The Living Bread

After the Lord Jesus has presented His perfect unity with the Father and the complete harmony between Him and the Father in Their actions, he again speaks about the core of eternal life which is: faith in Him. Again He emphasizes with a double “truly” followed by an authoritative “I say to you” the truth of faith in Him as the only possibility to receive eternal life. He is the Giver of eternal life. It is inextricably linked to faith in Him.

By speaking of Himself as the bread of life He points to Himself as the Source of life and as the Giver of life. Bread is there to be eaten. By eating, a person identifies himself with what he eats. Whoever nourishes himself with the Lord Jesus, that is who accepts Him in faith, receives life, eternal life.

His Person as the bread of life is different from the manna their fathers ate in the wilderness. The contrast between the true bread, Himself, and the manna, is that eating the manna did not save from death. They ate of it every day, but in the end they all died. The only thing that keeps a man from death is eating Him as the bread that has come down out of heaven.

In John 6:50-Hebrews : the Lord Jesus speaks seven times about eating Him or His flesh as the living bread and three times about drinking His blood. This is clear and simple imagery. What we eat and drink is fully absorbed by our body and forms us. It becomes a part of us and can no longer be taken away from us. In contrast to the manna, eating from Him means that one will not die, for then one is born again not from perishable, but from imperishable seed (1 Peter 1:23). Eating of Him means receiving eternal life. It is by becoming Man that the Lord Jesus has become the bread that has come down out of heaven. This enables everyone who wants to, to eat of Him. Whoever does so, will live eternally.

To illustrate this further, the Lord then speaks about His flesh as the bread. His coming as the bread to give life is not enough. Before anyone will really be able to feed on Him, He will have to render His flesh, that is His body, in death. Only as the dead Christ He can give life. Here He already indicates that He will give His flesh, which will happen on the cross. With this He points to His atoning death. This does not only mean life for Israel, but for the entire world.

So it is about faith in His coming into the flesh on earth to be able to enter into death (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 4:2-Leviticus :). The denial that He came into the flesh is an anti-Christian heresy (2 John 1:7). The origin of this heresy proves the importance of the Son’s coming into the flesh. Otherwise the devil would not do his utmost to attack that truth.

Verses 52-59

Eating His Flesh and Drinking His blood

The Jews grumbled among themselves about earlier words. About the words concerning the eating of His flesh they argue with one another. Every truth about Him gives the enemy more reason to reveal opposition, while it strengthens the chosen ones more in their faith in Him. The dispute question is how He give them His flesh to eat. They don’t understand any of this. They look for an explanation and engage in a vigorous debate about it with each other.

With yet another double and therefore emphatically “truly” and an authoritative “I say to you” the Lord speaks about eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His blood as the only and exclusive condition to get life. The Father gives the Son as the true bread and the Son gives Himself to die. As a result, His flesh can be eaten and His blood can be drunk. The Lord does not say ‘he who eats Me’, but He speaks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. With this He presents His death.

Faith finds atonement with respect to sins and fellowship with God as a result of that atonement. It is about fully empathizing with the thought of the reality of His death. Before God, we must identify ourselves with His death and share in His death through faith, otherwise we have no life in us.

It means that I must be aware that the death of the Lord Jesus was a condition for me to be reconciled with God and thereby receive eternal life. The only way I can do that is when I see that I am a sinner who cannot exist for God and to whom God can give nothing but righteous judgment alone. Then I also see that Christ has undergone that judgment for me on the cross. When I realize that, in a spiritual sense I eat of His flesh and drink of His blood.

This is a one-time-only eating and drinking in order to receive life, i.e. eating and drinking as a convinced sinner. This is not about the Lord’s Supper at all and certainly not about the falsification of it which is called ‘eucharist’. The Supper is about eating in remembrance of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:24-Lamentations :), but here it is about eating of Himself in order to receive eternal life. It is madness to link the obtaining of eternal life to taking part in the Supper. The Lord uses the eating and drinking as a picture for believing in Him as the dead Lord in order to obtain eternal life. Eating and drinking means spiritually nourishing oneself with a dead Christ, that is believing in His substitutionary death and His resurrection.

Whoever once received life through faith in Him – that is what the Lord says in John 6:53 – needs to constantly eat His flesh and drink His blood. That is what the Lord says in John 6:54. The footnote in the Dutch TELOS-translation at John 6:53 says the following about these two aspects of eating and drinking:

In John 6:53 ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ are in Greek in the aorist so that they refer to an event that takes place once; in John 6:54 and John 6:56-Hebrews : they are in the praesens, so that they refer to events that are still going on. [End of footnote]
[Explanation of the terms ‘aorist’ and ‘praesens’: ‘aorist’ and ‘praesens’ are Greek forms of tense which also indicate how the act is presented, namely as a once-only and thus closed (aorist) or as a repeated fact (praesens)].

Continuous or repeated eating and drinking is necessary because life is in Him. This eating and drinking will continue until the resurrection, to which the Lord points by speaking of raising up on the last day. Always, for all eternity, we will be aware that we owe everything to Him Who died for us and rose from death. For the believer, His flesh is the true food and His blood is the true drink. Every believer will experience and enjoy the truth of this internally. This applies both to the one-time (spiritual) eating when someone comes to faith and to the daily (spiritual) eating and drinking of the believer.

The result of this eating and drinking is the closest fellowship. It is not only certainty, but Christ is the home for the believer and Christ lives in him. The believer has a continuous fellowship with Christ, which he maintains by feeding with Him every day.

The Lord Jesus compares the intimacy of the fellowship the believer has with Him through eating His flesh and drinking His blood with His own fellowship with the Father. His fellowship with the Father is the perfect example of fellowship. Just as He depends on the Father in everything, so does the believer depend on Him.

The Lord calls His Father “the living Father” to indicate that He shares life with the Father and that everything to live on is received from the Father. It was that living Father Who sent Him. Thus the life of the Father that is in Him has become visible on earth. The believer who eats the Son also lives according to that glorious model. By eating from the Son, the life of the Son becomes visible in the believer. Outside of the Son there is no life possible. A believer also has no life to live than only in fellowship with the Son.

In John 6:58 the Lord summarizes His teaching. When He says: “This is the bread which came down out of heaven”, He points with the word “this” not only to Himself but to the whole teaching that is connected with the bread. He is the bread that has come down out of heaven. He spoke about this in John 6:32-Micah :; John 6:38John 6:50-Colossians :. This is different from the manna the fathers ate, for they died in spite of eating the manna (John 6:32; John 6:49). From Him and everything He has said about Himself, such as His death, everyone must eat in order to live eternally (John 6:35; John 6:40John 6:50-Colossians :; John 6:53-Philemon :).

The Lord said these things in the synagogue in Capernaum. The synagogue is the learning house for the Jew. Capernaum is His father city.

Verses 60-66

A Hard Word for Unbelief

The Lord’s teaching reveals what dwells in the hearts of His disciples. Many of them oppose His radical words. There is a serious form of unbelief here, this time not of the Jews but of many of His disciples. What is a difficult statement? That He has said to them that they have no life in themselves unless they eat in the manner He has indicated (John 6:53).

They are not free from their national religious feelings which, because of what He has said, are condemned to their roots. This is unbearable for them. In the same way, there are people today who want to accept a kind of ‘Jesus’ that is to their taste, but do not need to know anything about a Jesus Who had to suffer and die for them in order to give them life. It is obvious to them that they have life because they are the people chosen by God, aren’t they?

The Lord knows what resistance His words have aroused among the masses of His disciples. In a questioning form, He tells them that they are stumbling over His words, that His words are a stumbling block to follow Him. They cannot bear His teaching about His coming down and dying. In Him God has come to earth, God revealed in the flesh to be able to die. They already reject that simple truth and do not want to believe it. How, then, will they react when they see the Son of Man, a Man, going to heaven, to the place where He was before? He testifies here of Himself that He was with God even before He became Man. He is God and Man in one Person.

In fact, they will see as much of it as of the reality of His death. Both His cross and His ascension are beyond their field of vision, limited as that remains to a reigning Messiah. They cannot understand it either because the Spirit did not give them life. And the Spirit cannot give them life because they resist the teaching of the Lord Jesus.

With the introduction of the Holy Spirit the Lord concludes His teaching of this chapter. Nothing of the flesh is of any use to understand the things He has spoken. The flesh is utterly incapable to make any contribution to the knowledge of the truth He presents.

The Spirit alone can give life, for man is dead by nature. The Spirit is the active power of the triune God. The Father gives the bread, the Son is the bread and the Spirit works the life in those who eat this bread. Everything comes from God and nothing comes from man. The words spoken by the Lord can only be understood in a spiritual way and carry the life that becomes part of everyone who believes His words.

The Lord knows that there are some among His hearers who do not believe. This is yet another striking testimony that He has complete knowledge of all things. Not only does He know what people think and say, but He also knows “from the beginning” who will not believe and also who will betray Him (John 6:71). Those who do believe do not need to boast about it, for it was the Father who gave it to them. It is sovereign grace of God. If it depended on the flesh, no man would ever come to Christ.

Now the separation becomes visible between those who reject His words and those who accept His words. The separation arises when it comes to His death as a necessity to get life. People don’t want to walk further with Him because He teaches them things they don’t like, they don’t like to hear, they ask too much of them, and cost them too much. It is the people who ‘apologize’ that they cannot accept the invitation to come to the meal because they feel they have more important things to do (Luke 14:16-Jeremiah :).

Verses 67-71

The Confession of Peter

The twelve disciples stay with Him. The Lord puts their faith in Him to the test by asking them the challenging question of whether they maybe also want to go away. They see the many disciples leave. Are they not going to live a more pleasant life than they could expect? Shouldn’t they join them? Surely there are only a few of them left, isn’t it? Doesn’t the majority see it right? Belonging to a minority always entails rejection and contempt.

The Lord knows the answer, but He wants to hear it from their own mouths. Then comes the wonderful answer of Peter. He wouldn’t know any other person to whom to turn. Who else has words of eternal life? Only the Lord Jesus does. Peter is not interested in taking advantage of the signs the Lord does, but in the spiritual meaning of what He speaks. He is not concerned with literal bread, but with spiritual food.

Not only the words of eternal life are important, but also Who speaks them. He Who speaks them is that which has been saying to them from the beginning (John 8:25). They have believed in Him as the Holy One of God, as the One Who God has sanctified for Himself. If He is everything to God, with whom would a man rather be than with Him?

The Lord answers not only Peter, but all twelve disciples, for Peter has spoken on their behalf. What Peter said does not apply to all twelve. Certainly, He has chosen all twelve of them to be with Him on earth and to follow Him on His travels through the land, to serve Him and to learn from Him (Luke 6:13). The election the Lord is talking about here is not the eternal election for heaven, but the election to be with Him on earth. Unfortunately, not all twelve have faith in Him being the Holy One of God. The Lord calls one of them “a devil” because he has entered into the service of the devil.

He knows who that devil is. He did not accidentally choose Judas as one of the twelve. Nor did he choose him to make him a traitor, as if Judas had no other choice. Judas has had enough chances to repent, but he didn’t want to.

After many disciples have left and a small company remains that remains faithful to Him, we would humanly speaking have rather postponed the veiled ‘unmasking’ of Judas for a moment. It may give the impression that the Lord is spoiling the good atmosphere that has been created by speaking of one of his disciples as ‘a devil’. Once again it proves that He is the Holy One of God. He is focused only on His God and not on man.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op John 6". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/john-6.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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