Jesus feedeth a Multitude in the Wilderness. He retireth to a Mountain. At Night he walketh on the Sea. He preacheth to the people.
After these things, Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias: (2) And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles, which he did on them that were diseased. (3) And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. (4) And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. (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? (6) And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. (7) Philip answered him, Two hundred penny-worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that everyone of them may take a little. (8) One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him, (9) There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? (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. (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. (12) When they were filled, he said unto the disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. (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. (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.
If the Reader observes what is here said of the approach of the Passover, and compares it with the opening of the last Chapter, he will perceive, that there must have been very little less than a whole year have passed between the one and the other. Here, therefore, we must bring in to our recollection what the other Evangelists have recorded of that portion in the life and ministry of Christ. The sea of Galilee, the same with what Luke calls Gennesareth, Luke 5:1 was made memorable upon many occasions for the manifestation of our Lord's glory, Luke 5:1-11 particularly after he arose from the dead. John 21:1. I do not swell the page with observations on this miracle of Jesus feeding the multitude. I sometimes purposely use shortness, (and I beg the Reader to remember it,) in order that he may be led to seek with more earnestness for the teachings of God the Holy Ghost. Let me therefore upon the present occasion, in addition to what hath been already said, Matthew 14:14; Mark 6:35; Luke 9:12. only observe, that the compassion of Jesus, manifested at those seasons, in working a miracle to supply the pressing wants of the body, and for a multitude, which the Lord then knew, and afterwards proved, were none of His, in the covenant of redemption, (see John 6:66.) should be a constant source of comfort, both for the wants of body and soul, to his people, during the whole of their time-state upon earth. My brother! I would say to every child of God, let nothing tempt you to cast away your faith, or suffer you to be cast down with fear; both your bread that perisheth with using, and that which endureth to everlasting life, shall be given, and your water sure. Isaiah 33:16. Remember Christ's own words, Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which neither have store-house nor barn, and God feedeth them! how much are ye better than the fowls? Read the whole passage, for it is very sweet. Luke 12:22-40.
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. (16) And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, (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. (18) And the sea arose, by reason of a great wind that blew. (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. (20) But he saith unto them, It is I, be not afraid, (21) Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
How little did the multitude know, that Jesus was indeed Jehovah's king in Z ion, which from everlasting had been set up in the decrees of covenant engagements! How little was Christ known then, and how little even now, by many that follow him and profess themselves to be Christians, but are no more so than by name! I do not think it necessary to notice in this place again, what hath been observed in the relation of the same account by Matthew. See Matthew 14:24. But I beg the Reader both then and now, not to lose sight of such a demonstration of Christ's Godhead, by two such mighty acts, as walking upon the sea, and causing the arrival of the ship the moment he entered it, to be at the destined place the disciples had embarked for. And doth not Jesus now in spirit walk over all the stormy dispensations of his people, to come to their relief? And doth he not after bring them home, long before their expectations, when through fire and water he brings them through into a wealthy place? Psalms 66:12.
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; (23) Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias, nigh unto the place where they did eat bread after that the Lord had given thanks: (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. (25) And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? (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. (27) Labour 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. (28) Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? (29) Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (30) They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? What dost thou work? (31) Our fathers did eat manna in the desert: as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. (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. (33) For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (34) Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. (35) And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life, he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (36) But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. (37) All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (38) For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. (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. (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. (41) The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. (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? (43) Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves: (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. (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. (46) Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. (47) Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. (48) I am that bread of life. (49) Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (50) This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. (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. (52) The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (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 shall have no life in you. (54) Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day, (55) For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. (56) He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. (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. (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. (59) These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.
I have thought it right not to break the thread of our Lord's discourse, but to go through it, and then propose a few general observations at the close, which may the Lord graciously make profitable.
And, first, I pray the Reader to remark with me, the wonderful sublimity of our Lord's words. How evidently they manifested the greatness of his Almighty character. What Prophet, what Apostle, what servant of Jehovah ever made use of such language! I am the bread of life, the living bread of God, which came down from heaven. He that eateth of this bread shall live forever! Carnal, unawakened men, may, as the Jews did, mistake the blessedness of our Lord's words, and cry out, how can this man give us his flesh to eat? But, every truly regenerated believer, will enter into the full apprehension of our Lord's meaning, and say with the Apostles, Lord! evermore give us this bread!
I detain the Reader to observe with me the beauty and aptness of the similitude. As the common bread is the staff of the body, so Christ, the heavenly bread, is the life of the soul. And, as the body cannot subsist without daily food, so neither can the soul without her spiritual support in Christ. Yea, the soul hath more need for Christ, in his person, fulness, and grace, than the body hath for the bread that perisheth. For, put the case to the worst, that by reason of a famine of bread, the body languisheth and dieth, it is but a death a little premature, and which would otherwise have died in due time. But the soul without Christ, the bread of life, must famish forever, and though existing, lives only to eternal misery.
Reader! see, I beseech you, the vast and infinite importance of feeding spiritually on Christ. Oh! how sweet a life of faith, to be thus eyeing Christ, and knowing Christ to be the bread of life! To feel a daily longing for him, an hungering for him, as the keen appetite of an healthy laboring man doth for his daily food. It was thus holy men of old longed for Christ. They felt their need of him. They found their souls satisfied in him, and as one of them expressed it, so all of them enjoyed it, more painting for Christ than the hart for the water brooks. Reader, do not dismiss this part of our Lord's discourse, until that you have well pondered it over, and consulted those scriptures. Ps 42 and Ps 43; Ephesians 3:17; Psalms 89:16; Hosea 14:8; Ps 63.
I would beg the Reader next to notice that very precious part in this discourse of Jesus, where Christ speaks of his designation to the high office of Mediator. For Him hath God the Father sealed. Let it be observed, that within the compass of those seven words, is contained the office characters of the whole Godhead, in the appointment of the God-Man-Mediator. Him, that is, Christ, God the Father, that is, in his own peculiar personal character in the covenant. And sealing is the special act in the anointing of Christ by the Holy Ghost. How sweet, how very sweet, and richly consolatory to the soul of a believer, is it to behold the joint act of the Holy Three in One, in the mission of Christ Jesus? I pray the Reader to turn to a few scriptures in point, by way of confirmation. Isaiah 42:1-8; Ps 110; Hebrews 7:21-25; Acts 10:38; Isaiah 61:1 etc. Luke 4:18-19; Hebrews 5:1-5.
Let me lead the Reader by the hand, to a third improvement, which this most blessed discourse of Jesus teacheth. For when the Jews demanded what they should do, that they might work the work of God? Jesus made this remarkable answer, This is the work of God, (said Jesus,) that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. As if, and which in fact is truly the case, the whole work of God consists in a right belief and apprehension of God's dear Son. And small, as in some men's eyes these things may appear, it is the greatest work upon earth, and never wrought in any man's heart but by a miracle. It is indeed what Christ calls it, God's work, and not man's. It is in wrought by the Spirit of God in the heart. Oh! for grace, to believe the record which God hath given of his Son! 1 John 5:10-11.
One word more, by way of improvement, from this divine discourse of Jesus. How truly blessed is it to learn from the lips of Christ himself, that the provision made for bringing home his whole redeemed, here in grace, and hereafter in glory, is so secure, that all whom the Father hath given him shall come to him; and him that cometh, Jesus will in no wise cast out. As Moses told Pharaoh, not an hoof should be left behind. Exodus 10:26. So here, the flocks must all again pass under the hand of him that telleth them. Jeremiah 33:13. Nothing upon earth can be equal to the precious assurance of this most glorious truth. Neither can it fail, no, not in a single instance. The loss of one soul, for whom Christ died, and whom the Father gave to him, would tarnish the crown of the Lord Jesus Christ forever. But the thing is impossible. It is founded in a covenant which is ordered in all things and sure. 2 Samuel 23:5. The tenor of the covenant is everlasting, and of perpetual efficacy, and in which God himself undertakes, both for himself, and for his people, I will not, and they shall not. Jeremiah 32:40. And the Lord Jesus refers, in further confirmation of the soul-reviving truth, that as a testimony of divine teaching the coming to him proves it. All the children shall be taught of God, saith Christ. Then, saith Jesus, here is the evidence, everyone that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father. cometh unto me. Reader! it will be a blessed fulfilment of Christ's words, if you and I, from being come to Jesus for life, and salvation, hereby prove no less, that we are taught of God! Isaiah 54:13; Jeremiah 31:34. And this is to do what John the Baptist said, to set to our seal that God is true. John 3:33.
I will only detain the Reader with one observation more, from this most blessed sermon of Christ, just to call his attention to what our Lord hath said, that no man can come unto me, (said Jesus,) except the Father which hath sent me, draw him! There is somewhat very strong, both in the words of Christ, and the doctrine of Christ, as contained in this verse. No man, be his natural gifts whatsoever they may, or outward advantages of hearing God's word ever so many, can, in himself, find either a disposition or ability to come to Jesus, so as to believe in him, except my Father (that is, not to the exclusion of the quickenings of Christ, or the Holy Ghost, for all the persons of the Godhead are included in the saving act,) which hath sent me, draw him; that is, secretly and sweetly incline the heart to come to Jesus. Reader! pause over the words. They are very sweet to a child of God, and very solemn to the carnal! The child of God discovers in the everlasting love of God, the sure drawings of the Father. See Jeremiah 31:3. and take comfort. And, Reader, if God the Father draws his people to Christ, who or what shall ever draw them away? John 10:27-29.
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying: who can hear it? (61) When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? (62) What, and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? (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. (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. (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.
What disciples were these which so expressed themselves? It could not be the Apostles. Neither was it any on whom a saving work of grace had been wrought in their heart. The word disciple is comprehensive of all that go after another. And, as our Lord told the great mass which followed him, that it was because they did eat of the loaves, and were filled, for which they came to him, so when they found that such carnal enjoyments were not likely any longer to take place, they took offence, and called Christ's sayings hard. But, Reader! I pray you, do not overlook the occasion Jesus took from their murmuring to drop some most sweet and precious discourse concerning himself and his people. See John 3:13 and Commentary.
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (67) Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? (68) Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. (69) And we believe, and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. (70) Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? (71) He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
I beg the Reader to mark well the character of those who are here said to have gone back, and walked no more with Jesus. Not the Apostles. Not a single one whom the Father had given to Christ, and in whose hearts a saving work of God the Holy Ghost had been wrought. None of these are in the least hinted at. But the persons alluded to are the carnal and mere nominal disciples which followed Jesus, some, that they might eat of the loaves and fishes, and some which had hoped that Christ would set himself up as a king, to deliver the nation from the Roman yoke, under which they had long groaned. While these objects were in view, all such were ready to follow Christ. But when Jesus discountenanced all their hopes of a temporal kingdom, and in the stead of this world's opulence, spake of a cross, and self-denial to all which would follow him, their Hosannahs became soon changed into the cry of Crucify him. Reader! Is it not to be feared, from what we see daily in common life, that such instances are not singular? Is this heavenly preacher in reality better loved, in the present day of much profession, when the exalting wholly of Christ, and levelling to the dust all sinners, are made the sole subjects of his salvation? Do not all modern Pharisees equally revolt at the doctrine of a spiritual life, in Christ, and a complete self-loathing in the consciousness of their own total depravity before God?
I have often paused to admire the very tender, sweet, and gracious words of our Lord, to his few faithful followers, in the question, will ye also go away? Not as if Jesus had the smallest apprehension of the departure of any, who, from the gift of his Father, and the grace-union in himself before all worlds, were secured in the covenant, and made willing in the day of his power. Ephesians 1:4; John 6:37-40; Psalms 110:3. And, as another blessed Scripture saith, Jesus well knew what was in man. John 2:25 and who should betray him. John 13:11. But the words were sweetly expressive of the love and tenderness of the heart of Jesus to his own. It is as if Jesus had said, the departure of all that are gone is just as it should be. They none of them ever had any grace-union with me. John 17:9. But ye are mine.
And I admire the fervent zeal, and love, and attachment of Peter, expressed in the few, but striking words, he uttered on this occasion. And he spake as the mouth of the rest, that is, all but the traitor Judas. For it is plain, that at this time, and for a considerable space after, not one of the faithful Apostles had the smallest suspicion of the infamy of this awful man. And how must they have been struck with the Lord's answer to Peter: Have not I chosen you twelve? And one of you is a devil! Yes! chosen twelve to an outward office. But not the whole to inward grace. The whole twelve were indeed chosen to be Apostles. Luke 6:13. But Judas obtained only part, as Peter afterward explained it, of this ministry. Acts 1:17. No part in the book of life. Never chosen in Christ by the Father, before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4. The only part of a mere office, without union or communion in grace. Oh! the awfulness of such a state! [See Hebrews 6:4 and Commentary there.]
Precious Lord Jesus! while I behold thee, my God and Savior, as set forth in this Chapter, feeding the multitudes with the bread which perisheth with using, and becoming in the same moment to all thy people the living bread, imparting solid, substantial, soul-feeding, soul-nourishing food, for time, and for eternity; Lord, I praise thee for the distinguishing mercy, and beg of my God to excite in my heart such a craving appetite to be fed and nourished in the divine life, as none but Christ himself can satisfy! Lord! evermore give me this bread! Lift up the light of thy countenance upon my soul, and it shall put gladness in my heart, more than in the time when their corn and their wine are increased!
And art thou, dearest Lord, the sealed of the Father? Doth God the Holy Ghost prove to thy people his anointings, both of the glorious Head, and also of his members? Oh! for grace thus to receive thee, thus to come to thee, since such a rich provision is made for all the Father hath given thee, to come. Yea, methinks I would have every poor, awakened, and sensible sinner, to come. Hear, my brother, what Jesus saith. They shall all come which are of this description and character. And sure I am Jesus will accept all that so come, for he here saith, that he will in no wise cast them out. Lord! I would say for myself, and all thy redeemed family, behold! we come unto thee, for thou art the Lord our God! Thou hast the words of eternal life.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on John 6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany