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The Feeding of the Five Thousand. John 6:1-14
Jesus back in Galilee:
v. 1. After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberius.
v. 2. And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.
v. 3. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.
v. 4. And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
See Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:10-17. After these things, without definite fixing of the time. The chances are that the journey to the Feast of Purim had taken only a few days, and that the Galilean ministry of Jesus was not influenced by the interruption. Jesus went from Capernaum or its vicinity across the Sea of Galilee or Tiberius to the northeastern shore, not far from the city of Bethsaida Julias. The intention of the Lord had been to have a few days of rest, but this purpose was not realized. For a great multitude, numbering thousands of people, went around the northern end of the lake, full of eager desire to witness the miracles which He was performing in the case of various sick and invalid persons. There is no word concerning any eagerness for the Word of salvation, but only of this curiosity, not unmixed with morbidness, which sought excitement and variety. With the multitude at His heels, Jesus ascended one of the hills in the neighborhood, and there sat down with His disciples. Though the people, on the whole, were not eager for the Word of Life, Jesus lost no chance to speak to them of the one thing needful. He also healed their sick. The evangelist notes that this incident happened shortly before the Passover of the Jews; which occurred a month after the Feast of Purim. It was, therefore, early in the spring.
Jesus tests the faith of the disciples:
v. 5. When Jesus then lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?
v. 6. And this He said to prove him; for He Himself knew what He would do.
v. 7. Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them that every one of them may take a little.
v. 8. One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto Him,
v. 9. There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes; but what are they among so many?
Jesus was busy all day, teaching and healing the sick, and hardly had time to look around. In the meantime, however, the crowd increased in number continually; the people kept coming all day long. When Jesus, then, upon the urgent request of the disciples, halted in His work of mercy and raised His eyes, He saw the assembled multitudes all around Him in the plain at the foot of the hill. The emphatic suggestion of the disciples as to the dismissal of the people at once caused a plan to form in the mind of the Lord, whose principal part concerned the disciples themselves. He proposed both to feed the multitude and to test the faith of His followers. Addressing Himself to Philip, whose acquaintance with the country hereabout might be assumed to be reasonably good, Jesus asked where there was a place at which they might buy food. His speech presupposes it as a self-evident fact that the people should be treated as the guests of the apostles and Himself. He had fully decided what He would do, but He was anxious to try out the faith of Philip, as well as that of the rest. Philip, having ascertained the amount of money at hand, answered according to, His understanding that two hundred denarii (almost thirty-four dollars) would hardly buy a sufficient quantity of bread to give to each one at least a little. Philip's anxiety had caused him to make a careful calculation. He had forgotten the first miracle at Cana as well as the many that had happened since. He figured in exactly the same way as the average person, even if he be a confessed Christian, who tends to forget that God has His own ways to figure in emergencies, if His Christians will but trust in Him. Andrew was no better than Philip, so far as his trust in the Lord was concerned. He had scouted around and found that there was a small boy present who had five barley loaves and two small fishes for his provisions, but he immediately added, in doleful helplessness, that there was no hope that this would reach with so many people present. The weakness of both disciples is repeated in numerous instances in our days. Christians are often worried with anxious care for the needs of the body. Then they sit and calculate and go through all possible cupboards and storing-places to find out whether they will have enough to sustain their lives. They forget the almighty power of their Lord.
v. 10. And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
v. 11. And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
v. 12. When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain that nothing be lost.
v. 13. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
v. 14. Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
Jesus now assumed charge of affairs, He became master of ceremonies, governor of the feast. He ordered the disciples to have the people recline on the green grass, which grew in abundance at this place, in the lowlands near the mouth of the Jordan, and had attained its full growth at this time of year. Since the men reclined in groups, it was an easy matter to find their number, which was five thousand, without women and children. Before the entire vast assembly which was now seated in anxious expectation, Jesus next took the loaves and gave thanks; He dedicated them to God by His prayer. And He at the same time proved Himself the almighty God and Lord, for His blessing upon the bread caused the miracle. The few loaves did not grow into great stacks, but they multiplied under His almighty touch during the distribution. No matter how often the disciples returned to the Lord for further supplies, there was always enough on hand. They obtained not only of the bread all that they wished for, but they were also given of the fishes, as much as everyone desired. All the people were fully satisfied, they had all that they could eat. Here was a powerful proof of the almighty power of Christ. The simple Nazarene is the Creator and Preserver of all things, who gives food and sustenance to all creatures. The hand of the Lord is not shortened even now, but is able and willing to help in all emergencies, if we but place our trust in Him. It is our duty to use the means He has given us, to do the work of our calling faithfully; then His blessing will never fail us. Incidentally, Jesus taught proper food conservation. He commanded that the disciples should pick up the small pieces that remained, the fragments, that nothing might go to waste. And when they did so, they filled twelve large wicker baskets or hampers, such as are used in the orient and elsewhere by gardeners for carrying fruit and vegetables on the back. The evangelist emphasizes that these fragments remained over and above that which had been eaten by the multitude. There is a lesson for all times in this story, namely, that infinite resources do not justify waste. There is a far cry from being anxiously careful for the future and being careful of the gifts which God has given. But the people did not draw the right conclusion from the miracle. They merely thought that this was "the beginning of that reign of earthly abundance which the prophets were thought to have foretold. " Some of them may have believed that Jesus was truly the Messiah, but the majority voiced their opinion in the statement that this man was of a truth, beyond doubt, that prophet that should come into the world, for they understood the words of Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15, of a mere man, with the spirit and the power of Moses. Note: There are many people in the midst of Christendom whose ideas concerning Christ are just as hazy as were those of the Jews on this occasion. It is only by continual study of the Bible that a full and clear understanding of the person and office of Jesus may be gained.
Christ Walks on the Sea. John 6:15-21
v. 15. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain, Himself alone.
v. 16. And when even was now come, His disciples went down unto the sea,
v. 17. and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.
v. 18. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.
v. 19. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship; and they were afraid.
v. 20. But He saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.
v. 21. Then they willingly received Him into the ship; and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
Here was evidence that the Jews had no idea as to the real meaning of the Messiah and His work, even if some of them were inclined to accept Jesus as the Christ. The intention gained adherents in their midst to snatch Jesus away suddenly and carry Him off for the purpose of making Him king. But Jesus is not a mere Helper in physical needs; His aim is not to cater to the temporal, carnal desires of men; He is no "bread-king. " He knew the hearts and minds of the people; by His omniscience He was fully aware of the ideas and intentions of the people. And therefore Jesus fled from them, since the idea of an earthly kingdom was not included in His plan of salvation. This was a crisis, and He determined to lay the matter before His heavenly Father in prayer, as everyone of His followers should do at all times; He went up into a mountain all alone. But first of all He insisted that His disciples should embark and return to the other side of the sea. By this time it was getting dark, and the disciples, having launched forth, set their course toward Capernaum, while Jesus stayed there alone. The voyage proved extremely unpleasant. A deep darkness fell upon them, and a heavy wind arose, causing the waves of the sea to roll in threatening billows. And still Jesus had not joined them, the evangelist remarks. They missed His presence sorely; there was a sense of impending disaster upon them. But handicapped as they were, the disciples nevertheless continued their efforts, rowing in the face of the storm, since it was out of the question to use the sails. It was long past midnight, and they had covered only about three miles (a stadion being about 202 yards), when they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near to the boat. Since the belief in ghosts was almost universal, the poor disciples could not explain this phenomenon and were filled with fear. But Jesus reassured them with the calm statement: It is I, do not fear. Where Jesus is, there is no need of fear; He has effectually and eternally banished all fear. His voice and His presence filled their hearts with calmness and courage. Now they were eager and willing to take Him into the boat; and no sooner had they done so than they were at the land whither they were bound. The omnipresent power of Jesus annihilates distances. He here performed another miracle, for He has absolute power over all creatures, over the roaring sea as well as over time and distance. The insignificant man Jesus is the Lord of all creation; He may, at will, abrogate any law of nature. From the distant mountain peak to the midst of the sea and then to the western shore of the lake in but a few moments of time: that is the evidence of His omni-present power. This fact redounds to the comfort of the believers at all times, Matthew 28:20. All Christians should know that their entire life with all its vicissitudes, their work, their eating and drinking, their entire mode of living is in the hands of Jesus. The care of Jesus will provide for them, will defend them against all dangers, and guard and protect them from all evil.
Christ the Bread of Life.
The surprise of the people:
v. 22. The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone;
v. 23. (howbeit there came other boats from Tiberius nigh unto the place where they did eat bread after that the Lord had given thanks;)
v. 24. when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
v. 25. And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?
On the morning after the miracle of the loaves there was great excitement and astonishment on the northeastern shore of the lake. The people that had remained in that neighborhood overnight, expecting to take hold of Jesus in the morning, were deeply perplexed. Only one boat had been at the place of the miraculous feeding, and that was the one into which the disciples had gone. This boat had not had Jesus as a passenger, and it had not returned. The question therefore was: How had Jesus gotten away? They were at a loss to explain His absence. But meanwhile other boats from Tiberius landed in the neighborhood of the place where the miracle had been performed. So the people took advantage of the opportunity thus offered. They were determined to find Jesus at all costs, and therefore they took some of the boats and crossed the lake to Capernaum. When they had finally located the object of their quest on the other side of the lake, they opened on Him with the question as to His manner of getting there, for the when includes the how. They were always scenting the abnormal, the miraculous, in connection with this man; it was the only thing which made their quest worthwhile, in their estimation. But the purposes of Jesus do not agree with their curiosity, and therefore He did not give them a direct answer. His telling of the walking on the water would have precipitated a crisis then and there.
The work of God:
v. 26. Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled.
v. 27. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you; for Him hath God the Father sealed.
v. 28. Then said they unto Him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God?
v. 29. Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.
Jesus knew the reason for their insistence, for the great interest they were showing at this time. With solemn emphasis He tells them that the reason why they sought Him was a wrong one. They had indeed seen some of His signs with their bodily eyes, but they had not given them the proper attention; they were altogether lacking in the understanding that these signs were evidences, proofs, of His divinity, of the fact that He is the Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior of mankind. Thus the meaning of the great signs before their eyes escaped them entirely. They sought Him because their concern was for their bodies and stomachs. If these were but filled; their souls were not a matter of concern to them. But their efforts were worthy of a higher cause; they should work with equal diligence, not for the perishable food of the body, but for that food which will last into life everlasting. For there is such a food which nourishes the soul and preserves the soul unto eternal life. That food alone was worth acquiring, for its effects would never lose their power. "Ye should not seek Me for the sake of transitory things; for I (this He wishes to say) am a different teacher, who does not preach of perishable food, how sowing, baking, plowing should be done; for all this ye know well even before, and Moses has taught you how ye should work. My teaching has not that aim, neither should ye come to Me for that, but that I give you an eternal food. " This spiritual food, which would strengthen unto eternal life, the Son of Man would give them, not because of special merit on their part, but freely, out of divine love and grace. For He had gone forth from the Father, as a proof of which He bore the seal of God. The miracle of the day before and other signs showed that God had commissioned Jesus as the Minister to give the food which nourishes unto everlasting life. They were a proof that the eternal Son of God could give eternal life to such as accepted Him in faith. "And that He says: The Son of Man, therewith He indicates clearly and publicly that God the Father has a Son whom they can see before their eyes, take hold of, hear, and feel; as St. John also says of Him: Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled; that same bodily person, born of the Virgin Mary, He will give you an eternal food. " Some of the people in the multitude at least were impressed by this statement of Jesus that they should labor, that they should earnestly strive to acquire food with such wonderful power, and they wanted to know what they must do in order to make themselves fit to perform such works as would be acceptable before God, as would be well-pleasing to Him. They were caught in the idea that there must be some merit on their part, that they must perform something for their salvation. But Jesus corrects that notion. There is only one thing which they should do, and that is to believe on Him whom God has sent. Faith is here spoken of as a work of man which he does in order to obtain salvation. That side of faith, trust, full and complete reliance in Jesus and His salvation, that is brought out here: the fact that every believer must accept and hold Jesus and His salvation. That is actually a work of the believer, an act of reason and will. True, this faith must be wrought by God and cannot come into being without God's power; also, faith is not a work which merits redemption, it is not that its moral excellence saves men. But when God has worked faith in the heart of man, when spiritual life has been engendered in the heart of man, then man is active in accepting that wonderful food which nourishes unto life eternal.
Bread from heaven:
v. 30. They said therefore unto Him, What sign showest Thou, then, that we may see, and believe Thee? What dost Thou work?
v. 31. Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
v. 32. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but My Father giveth you the true Bread from heaven.
v. 33. For the Bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world.
v. 34. Then said they unto Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
That Jesus demanded faith in Himself as a condition of their obtaining salvation, this the Jews now understood. They therefore demanded proof of His ambassadorship and of His ministry, which, as He claimed, elevated Him to the divine rank. It is a most peculiar thing that they did not yet understand the relation between the miracles of Jesus and His divine mission, His deity. They challenge Him to produce some extraordinary sign which would convince them beyond question, which would oblige them to believe. They put the matter so as to make Him responsible for their faith or unbelief. They expect a sign from Him something like that of Moses, who produced manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. They refer to a passage from Scripture, Psalms 78:24-25, which speaks of this wonderful feeding with bread from heaven. In a way, the expression "bread from heaven" could stand, since the manna had fallen down from the sky with the dew, but at best this was merely a figurative expression. Jesus therefore declares, with great emphasis: Not Moses gave you bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true Bread from heaven. Even in the desert it was not Moses that gave the children of Israel the manna, and so, at best, Moses can be spoken of in this connection by courtesy only; he had nothing to do with the miracle. But here matters are different; here is the true Bread from heaven given to all men by the Father. He that comes down from heaven with the purpose of giving life to the world, He is the Bread of God, Jesus the Savior. He is the Bread from heaven in deed and in truth, and by His work of giving salvation He establishes that fact beyond doubt. This saying impressed the Jews very deeply; they had but a faint conception of what the Lord might mean in speaking of this wonderful Bread, something like the woman of Samaria. They begged Jesus that He would always, at all times, give them that bread. Their understanding was still not clear, but they have caught enough of His earnestness and enthusiasm, and desire plain information. Note: A great deal has been gained if we can get the unbelievers to ask questions concerning Jesus and His salvation, perhaps persuade them of the fact that Christianity in itself is worthwhile, invite them to come to church.
Jesus the Bread of Life:
v. 35. And Jesus said unto them, I am he Bread of Life; he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst.
v. 36. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen Me, and believe not.
v. 37. All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.
v. 38. For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.
v. 39. And this is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
v. 40. And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that everyone which seeth the Son and believeth on Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Jesus now makes a plain, frank statement. He had not said that He would give the wonderful bread that came down from heaven, but He had asserted that this miraculous Bread which came down from heaven had the power to give eternal life. He Himself is that Bread of Life. No matter who it is that comes to Him, he will no more suffer with hunger, just as he that drinks of the living water of His salvation will never again be bothered with thirst. To come to Jesus means to believe in Him as the Savior of the world. All the desires and longings of the soul find their complete gratification in Him and His mercy. But although the Son of God and such perfect satisfaction was brought so neat to the Jews, yet they did not believe. They have seen Him in His ministry of miracles, and they have heard the words of life which issued from His mouth at such times, but they have refused to believe. They should know, therefore, that everything which the Father gives to the Son will come to Him. To come to Jesus is to believe; faith is a spiritual coming. The heart and the will of a person goes to Christ, is joined to Christ. All those people actually come to Jesus whom the Father has given to Him as His own. Faith is the result of God's merciful selection. It is a call and selection of grace, and therefore none of those that come to Him in faith will the Lord cast out. God's thoughts are thoughts of peace and mercy only; He has no desire for the death of any sinner. To fulfill this merciful kind purpose of His heavenly Father Jesus has come into the world. It is the will of the Father that Jesus lose none of those whom the Father has given Him. They are all equally precious in His sight, far too dearly bought to be lost. Those, therefore, whom the Father has given to the Son as His own, the Son should raise from the dead on the last day to give them the full enjoyment of the blessings and the glory which are their heritage. For the sake of clearness and emphasis, Jesus repeats the same thought. It is the will of the Father who sent the Son into the world that everyone that looks upon the Son in faith, that accepts Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, shall, without fail, have eternal life, shall become partaker of the glories of heaven by and in the resurrection. In Christ we have been chosen unto eternal life.
The murmuring Jews:
v. 41. The Jews then murmured at Him because He said, I am the Bread which came down from heaven.
v. 42. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it, then, that He saith, I came down from heaven?
v. 43. Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
v. 44. No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
v. 45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man, therefore, that hath heard and hath learned of the Father cometh unto Me.
v. 46. Not that any man hath seen the Father save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.
At this point the Jews started to grumble, to murmur among themselves, to express their disapproval. The idea that this man should Himself be that wonderful Bread which had come down from heaven seemed preposterous to them. They could not merely not understand how this could be true, but they believed themselves to be in possession of evidence to the contrary. They were sure that they knew His antecedents, they were acquainted with His mother, they knew the name of His father. Note: It has always been an offense to the reason of man that God and man are united in the person of Jesus. But the Lord here advises against all murmuring, against all attempts to make the matter plausible to reason. For no man can come to Christ by His own reason and strength. All brooding and disputing will not work faith in the heart. There must be a drawing on the part of the Father, by whose strength faith is worked in the heart. Without this work on the part of the Father there can be no faith nor any rising to eternal life. That is the origin, the reason of belief in Jesus: the Father draws to the Son; He influences heart and will in such a way that a person accepts Jesus as His Savior and disregards entirely all difficulties which his reason may experience in the understanding of the person of the Savior. God not only gives the power to come to faith and to choose the good, but He works, creates all good in man and makes him willing. Faith is altogether a work of God. "What does 'no man' mean? Do you think it refers only to a cow or ass, or some other animal? Rather 'no man' here refers to the entire human race, the whole world, no man excepted, the most powerful, the most holy, the most prudent, the wisest. It is spoken briefly, but it is a powerful phrase, which thrusts down and throws to the ground all that is called human wisdom, reason, judgment, righteousness, and holiness, also religion and worship. For to come to this article and salvation in Christ no wisdom helps, no prudence, no shedding of blood and giving of alms, nor what the entire human generation is able to do with wisdom, with piety and sanctity. For it says: No man can come to Me, except the Father draw him. This should be taught" This fact Jesus substantiates by a passage from the prophets: They will all be taught by God, Isaiah 54:13. Those that are taught of God, that have learned the lesson of their own inability and lack of strength, and therefore both hear the Father and in all things learn of Him, only they can come to faith in Christ. The Father uses no compulsion, but makes use of teaching only. He appeals to the reason and understanding, to the heart and the will of men, teaches and persuades and makes them willing. And this is possible only because God incidentally illumines the heart. In that way the Father works the willingness, in that way man becomes eager to come to Jesus by faith in His atonement. This is not to be understood as though there were any physical contact between God and man; the knowledge of God was not communicated directly, by immediate vision of God. There is only one Man who has received His Being directly from God and who is also in immediate communication with God; He it is that has seen the Father. For that reason it is essential that a Christian believe the Word of Jesus without the slightest doubt, since His deity demands as much.
Living Bread to eat:
v. 47. v. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.
v. 48. I am that Bread of Life.
v. 49. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead.
v. 50. This is the Bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die.
v. 51. I am the living Bread which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this Bread, he shall live forever; and the Bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Jesus changes neither text nor contents of His sermon in one particle. He repeats the main thoughts again to impress them upon His hearers. It is faith in Him which gives eternal life; that is the only way in which salvation may be obtained, by believing in Him. For He is that Bread of Life in which they must trust. The Jews themselves had referred to the manna in the wilderness and had called it bread from heaven. But what lasting value could be in food which did not sustain life beyond the few years of this earthly existence? Their fathers had died. But he that receives the Bread of Life by faith would have sustenance to carry him beyond this life into life eternal. Anyone partaking of Him by faith will live forever. Jesus here gave a powerful testimony of His own person. By repeating the great facts which are the substance of His sermon, Jesus wants to work faith in the hearts of His hearers. The teaching concerning Jesus, His person and His office, the great facts of His salvation, is the means by which God draws hearts to the Savior, works willingness to believe And in one short statement Jesus also tells the manner in which He will earn salvation. He will give Himself, His body, His flesh, into death, for the sake of the life of the world. The human nature of Christ was sacrificed, was given for the salvation of the whole world, for all men without exception. In this way Jesus becomes the Bread of Life, the Bread from Heaven.
Life through Christ's sacrifice:
v. 52. The Jews, therefore, strove among themselves, saying, How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?
v. 53. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, ye have no life in you.
v. 54. Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
v. 55. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
v. 56. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in Me and I in him.
v. 57. As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.
v. 58. This is that Bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers did eat manna and are dead; he that eateth of this Bread shall live forever.
v. 59. These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum.
Although Jesus had been careful to explain His figure sufficiently that all might have understood Him, yet the understanding was lacking in the greater number of His hearers. There was a division, a dispute, among them. They differed in their judgment of Him. Some severely denounced Him as insane, others suggested that there might be some truth in His words. But they all thought of physical, sensual eating and partaking. Jesus therefore summarizes the lessons which He wishes to convey once more. He tells them that it is indeed essential for everyone that wishes to have eternal life that he eat His flesh and drink His blood. It is necessary for every believer to receive Jesus altogether by faith, in His full work of atonement, active and passive obedience, shedding of blood, and all. By doing so, the believer has the assurance of eternal life and will rise on the last day to see the consummation of all glories. In this way the body of Christ is the true food, and His blood the true drink. In this way, also, the wonderful union of Christ and the believers in Him is brought about. They receive Christ spiritually and are most intimately and inseparably united with Him. They dwell in the Savior and the Savior in them. And this wonderful union extends still farther. The living Father has sent the Son; the Son, in that mysterious relationship which His eternal Sonship expresses, lives through the Father; and so both persons of the Godhead are the Fountainhead of life and give to the believer the fullness of perfect life, which will last throughout eternity. He that believes on the Son places his trust, first of all, in the human nature, in the man Jesus Christ that died for the sins of the whole world. But thereby he also accepts and clings to the divine nature, to the entire, Godhead and all His gifts. Thus the human nature of Christ is like a bridge between God and man. He that believes in Jesus the Savior has the entire Christ in himself, according to both, divine and human natures, true God and man. That the Jews put their trust in the mere historical fact of the manna in the wilderness, believing that in some way they were partakers of the benefits that came upon their fathers at that time, was altogether foolish. Only by faith in Christ, the living Bread from heaven, can eternal life be obtained. John remarks, with his usual exact specification of time and place, that this wonderful sermon was held in Capernaum, in the synagogue. It is immaterial whether it was on a Sabbath or on one of the week-days when there were services, Monday or Thursday. Jesus gave a clear and unmistakable testimony concerning Himself, full of glorious comfort to the believer.
"The Flesh of the Son of Man"
Since the time of the Reformation, the Reformed sects, almost without exception, have understood the passage John 6:51-63 of the Lord's Supper, in order to bolster up their false doctrine concerning a mere spiritual eating and drinking in the Eucharist. Their standpoint may be summarized in one sentence: "Even if Christ does give us His flesh in the Holy Supper, it still has no value; for everything depends upon the spirit."
That this position is untenable is evident from the very words. For if these words of the Lord did treat of the Lord's Supper, long before this Sacrament was instituted and known, then the real presence would certainly be taught here, a fact which all the followers of Zwingli would repudiate with the greatest severity. But the words in their connection cannot be understood but of the faith which accepts Jesus and all His works and merits. And the contrast between flesh and spirit in verse 63 has nothing whatever to do with the Eucharist, since it opposes the work of the Spirit of God to the unprofitable working of the natural condition of man. "Since, then, this is true and incontrovertible that flesh, where it is contrasted to spirit, cannot mean the body of Christ, but the old Adam, born of the flesh, it is certain, also, that here, John 6:63, the words 'Flesh profited nothing' cannot be understood of the body of Christ, because Christ there places flesh in opposition to spirit. For thus His words Bound clearly: It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profited nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. There you see plainly that He distinguishes between flesh and spirit and places the former in opposition to the latter. For He evidently teaches that life and spirit is in His words, and not in the flesh. Of the flesh He affirms that it is unprofitable. And how can it be profitable, if neither life nor spirit is found therein? If there is no life nor spirit therein, then there must be only death and sin therein. Which heretic has now been so desperate (excepting the Jews) as to understand this of the flesh of Christ? Now let the enthusiasts try themselves out; let us see what they can do; they have boasted that this was an iron wall and the certain truth; if they can make good their boast, I should like to see it. " "The eating and drinking is nothing but believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His flesh and blood for me, in order to deliver me from sin, death, devil, hell, and all misfortune. Such faith can never exist without life; therefore, he that believes must live and be just, as Habakkuk says, chap. 2:4: The just shall live by faith. Therefore the eating is done with the heart and not with the mouth. The eating with the heart does not deceive, but the eating with the mouth does; the eating with the mouth will have an end, the other lasts eternally without interruption. For the heart is nourished and fed by faith in Christ. There you see plainly that these words are not to be understood of the Sacrament of the Altar. Therefore to eat the flesh of the Son of God and to drink His blood, as has been said, is nothing else than that I believe His flesh was given for me and His blood was shed for me, and that for my sake He conquered sin, death, devil, hell, and all misfortune. Out of such faith there results a great and mighty confidence in Him and a scorn and bold courage against all misfortune, that I may henceforth fear nothing, neither sin nor death nor devil nor hell, since I know that my Lord cast them under His feet and conquered them for my sake."
The Offense of Many Disciples.
The disciples murmur:
v. 60. Many; therefore, of His disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
v. 61. When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said unto them, Doth this offend you?
v. 62. What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?
v. 63. It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
v. 64. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him.
v. 65. And He said, Therefore said I unto you that no man can come unto Me except it were given unto him of My Father.
Jesus had gained a considerable number of followers in Galilee, people that were impressed by both His miracles and His preaching and therefore accompanied Him whenever they could. These people had just heard a wonderful sermon out of the mouth of the Master. They had learned that faith is a work which God desires of men, that Jesus is the Life-giver, that the grace of God in Jesus is universal, and that none is refused, that there is an election of grace by which those whom God has given to the Son become partakers of grace, that faith is the work of God, who draws to Christ, that the believers are sure of everlasting life, that there is. a communication of attributes in the Godhead, between the divine and the human nature of Christ, that there is a mystical union between God the Father and the Son and the believers. And yet some of these disciples were offended; they found it a hard saying that the flesh and blood of this Man should give eternal life. Although this dissatisfied grumbling went on softly, the omniscience of Jesus was fully aware of it and reproved them for taking occasion to stumble here. When they would see Him ascending up into heaven, whence He came down, they would either be scandalized all the more, or they would have to be convinced. They would then also understand what He meant when He said that they must eat His flesh. For then His weak human nature would be forever imbued and united with the divine, with the heavenly manner of being. His flesh would then be spiritualized, His body glorified. That would be a visible proof of the fact that He came down from heaven. Knowing this in advance, they should remember that the spirit is life-giving, that the flesh has no value. All material, earthly things that are associated with the sinful derivation of man have no value for spiritual life. Only the words of Christ contain spirit and life, give spirit and life. The reason for their offense therefore lies not in Christ, but in themselves: they do not believe. They depend upon human, carnal understanding and interpretation of everything about them; they refuse to let the Spirit of Christ work in them and give them life. From the beginning Jesus knew that there were such among His disciples as were no true believers; from the beginning also He knew His betrayer. Once more His earnest warning goes out to them that coming to Christ is a gift of God, who draws men through faith. The fact that there are unbelievers even among the disciples is a proof of the statement that no one can believe unless he receives this faith from the Father, that no one can come to Christ by his own strength: Note: The result of freely preaching the Gospel of the unvarnished truth as to the way of salvation is ever this, that some are offended; their self-righteousness and pride rebels against the idea of free grace and mercy.
The loyalty of the Twelve:
v. 66. From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.
v. 67. Then said Jesus unto the Twelve, Will ye also go away?
v. 68. Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.
v. 69. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
v. 70. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you Twelve, and one of you is a devil?
v. 71. He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon; for he it was that should betray Him, being one of the Twelve.
In spite of the warning of Jesus, a great many of those that had followed Him for some time deliberately turned from Jesus and no longer accompanied Him on His preaching-trips. They gave up their adherence to Christ, they withdrew openly from His presence. They had not stood the test of faith. It is ever thus. In the midst of the true believers there are always some whose faith is not sound, because it is not based upon the words and works of Jesus only. Jesus now turned to the Twelve, to the apostles whom He had chosen with such great care. They were here weathering a crisis, and He put the question to them, as well that they might be confirmed in their faith, as that He might be gladdened by their confession of it. His words are partly a question, partly an affirmation: Surely you do not want to go away also! And impetuous Peter, deeply moved by the defection of the great number, answers in the name of the Twelve: Lord, to whom shall we go away? The words of eternal life Thou hast; and we have believed and are certain in our knowledge that Thou art the Christ, the Holy One, the living Son of God, the Messiah of the world. The apostles had not taken offense at the words of Christ. In the midst of apostasy and hostility the faith of the true believers is approved. It is at such times that they cling all the more closely to the Rock of their salvation, not in sentimental emotion, but in Bound trust in His Word, the Gospel of eternal life. Everyone that has truly learned and gotten the firm conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the promised Redeemer of the world, has no intention, no desire to go away from Him. The truth and power of the word has fully taken possession of his heart and mind. Note: Confession in Christ, the Savior, is confession in Christ, the Son of God, true God with the Father and the Holy Ghost. The answer of Jesus upon the glorious confession of Peter was charged with deep feeling and carried a warning, especially to one of the Twelve. For although Jesus had chosen them all in the same way and with the same seriousness, yet one of them was a devil at heart, and was merely hiding his denial and hostility under the hypocritical mask of loyalty. That was Judas Iscariot. In him the devil lived and had free play, he was Satan's willing victim and tool. That is a truly devilish crime, if a disciple, a believer, such as Judas was, that actually acknowledges Jesus as the Christ and has had many an experience in his Christian life, finally gives up his belief in the Savior and becomes an apostate. The example of Judas serves as an earnest warning to watch and to pray, lest faith be taken away and we commit the sin of Judas, betray our Lord and Savior.
Summary. Jesus feeds five thousand men, walks on the Sea of Galilee, proclaims Himself as the Bread of Life in the school of Capernaum, corrects the false offense of many of His followers, and hears the confession of loyalty from Peter.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on John 6". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20