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Bible Commentaries
John 6

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-14

VI. The Crisis to Galilee.

John 6:1-14 . The Feeding of the Five Thousand.

John 6:1 is the natural sequel to work in Galilee, not in Judæ a. Similarly John 7:1 would naturally follow work in the south, not in the north. The author has probably modified the order in which the material out of which his gospel has grown took shape. We should therefore connect John 6 with John 4, and John 5 with John 7. [83] The account of the miracle cannot in all details be reconciled with the Synoptic account. In particular it leaves no room for the day of teaching ( Mark 6:34), after which, not as here ( John 6:5) when Jesus first sees the crowd, comes the conversation with the disciples and the miracle. But it presents several details, the parts played by Andrew and Philip, the fact that the scanty store procurable had to be obtained from a lad, the danger arising from the enthusiasm of the crowd, etc., which are not in themselves improbable, and which help us to realise the scenes as described in the other gospels. For the name Tiberias (p. 29), cf. Josephus, Wars, iii. 3, 5. The mention of the Passover, omitted in some Patristic authorities but in no MSS or VSS, is made either to account for the presence of the crowd, when people were on the move, or to point to the following Eucharistic teaching, the Christian rite as the continuation of, or contrast to, the Jewish Passover. The gathering up of the broken pieces is here attributed to the Lord’ s command. The lesson, which the author uses it to teach, of the grateful use to the full of God’ s bountiful giving, is clear.

[83] [On the general subject of disarrangements in the Fourth Gospel see Lewis; also Moffatt, Intro. to Lit. of NT, 550ff., who points out the close correspondence between chs. 4 and 6.— A. J.Q.]

Verses 15-25

John 6:15-25 . After the Miracle: the Walking on the Sea.— Though the details are obscure, Jn. gives the key to the situation by recording the dangerous enthusiasm of the crowds, as later on he shows the dangers which threatened from their disillusionment. If we compare the other accounts it would seem that Jesus made the disciples, who no doubt shared the popular excitement, put off in their boat while He dealt with the crowd. Then He retires to the higher ground to pray. As He does not return the disciples put out to sea (?) in the direction of Bethsaida. After rowing about three or four miles, they see Him on, or “ by” the sea, and are frightened. He reassures them, and they wish to take Him into the boat but do not do so, probably a true detail. Soon after, they reach land nearer Capernaum than perhaps they had intended. The story now returns to the crowd. Those who had not dispersed after seeing the disciples put out, and knowing there was no other boat for Him to use, take the opportunity afforded by the coming of boats from the W. side to cross to where they expect He must have gone, Capernaum. They are said to find him, not there, but across the sea, perhaps between Bethsaida and Capernaum. The account, though difficult, is not impossible, and does not seem to be dominated by the theological tendency of the author.

Verses 26-40

John 6:26-40 . The Desire for a Sign: the True Manna.— After raising their expectations He had refused to go forward. In answer to their surprise at finding Him so soon across the lake He tells them why. Their hopes are confined to the material. They must seek the higher food, which leads to true life. They ask what they are to do. Believe in God’ s Messenger. But He has refused to act as God’ s Messiah. By what sign will He justify His claim to their faith? Will He give the new manna from heaven which Messiah was expected to give? ( Cf. Apoc. Baruch, 298, “ The treasure of manna shall again descend from on high.” ) They quote Psalms 78:24. That points, Jesus replies, to God, not Moses, as the Giver. He is fulfilling His promise. The Son is the true manna, food of the higher life of man (Philo, “ He calleth the Divine word, eldest of things that are, Manna” ). But for their unbelief the gift would be theirs, John 6:37-40 though full of Johannine phrase and thought, is most easily understood in the light of the historical situation. It meets the complaint that He has refused those who would hail Him as Messiah. He replies that He does not reject arbitrarily, but acts according to the Father’ s will. All whom He “ gives,” into whose hearts He puts the desire to be true disciples, will be received. These He will raise “ at the last day.” The teaching here given does not set aside the popular Christian expectation of a final “ day” ( cf. John 5:28 f.).

Verses 41-51

John 6:41-51 . The Murmuring of the “ Jews.”— The changes of persons here ( cf. John 6:22, the multitude), and of place in John 6:59, show that this chapter is not intended to record a continuous conversation, but to give specimens of Christ’ s teaching as the author has come to see its meaning, of objections raised and how they were answered. Jesus’ claims are challenged on the ground of His lowly origin ( cf. Luke 4:22, Mark 6:3). The answer takes up the thought of John 6:37-40. Those alone will accept such an one to whom the Father gives the grace to hear the teaching promised in the prophets ( Isaiah 54:13). All, who will hear, shall be taught, though ( John 6:46) the teaching is not given by direct vision, but through faith in God’ s Messenger. In John 6:48 ff. the meaning of what has preceded is summed up. Jesus is the support of men’ s spiritual life. The old manna could not avert physical death, the new brings true life, over which physical death has no power. The thought is now carried to a further stage, which could hardly have had any meaning to the men of Christ’ s own generation. The bread which He will give, His flesh, is for the life of the world, a declaration of the propitiatory character of Christ’ s death, which clearly reflects later thought ( cf. Scott, pp. 122ff.).

Verses 52-65

John 6:52-65 . Further “ Jewish” Objections.— Further advance is made by the use for the first time of the phrase, “ to eat the flesh.” To their question “ How?” Jesus answers that the gift of life can be obtained only by such means. The reference to the sacrificial death is made clearer by the addition “ and drink His blood.” The true life can be gained only by the assimilation of the “ Body” and the “ Blood,” the life set free by death for wider purposes. Those who partake of this “ true” food gain abiding union with Christ. The expressions used here are intelligible only in the light of Christian Eucharistie experience. John 6:60 ff. is historically important as describing the crisis in Galilee, when many even of the best disposed took offence and fell away. In place of their material expectations He offered them a spiritual conception of the kingdom. It proved a stumbling-block. What would their feelings be when He left them, His life ended without the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom? This seems to be the meaning of John 6:62, though possibly it may mean that the glories of the future would provide a solution of present difficulties. He knows the hollowness of the professions of man. This the author interprets as a reference to Judas. The recorded words of Jesus are of wider application; He knew how His higher teaching had alienated the crowd. John 6:66 ff. is sometimes regarded as a duplicate version of the crisis, the failure of disciples, the reference to Judas, the apologetic aim of showing that his treachery was foreseen. The Lord’ s doubts as to the Twelve have not the appearance of a Christian invention. The author interprets the confession at Cæ sarea Philippi ( Mark 8:27 ff.). Perhaps the saying about Judas reflects the language of the rebuke to Peter ( Mark 8:33). The view that the confession is a clinging to faith in spite of disappointment agrees with the Synoptic account of the Baptist’ s message from prison ( Matthew 11:2-6, Luke 7:19-23).

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on John 6". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pfc/john-6.html. 1919.
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