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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
John 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-4

John 6:1-4. After these things — The history of between ten and eleven months is to be here supplied from the other evangelists; Jesus went over the sea of Galilee — Luke tells us (Luke 9:10) he went with his disciples into a desert belonging to Bethsaida: of the reason of which, see notes on Matthew 14:13-14; Mark 6:30-32. And a great multitude followed him — Eagerly desiring to hear so divine a teacher; because they saw his miracles, wrought on them that were diseased — And were struck with the power and goodness which he manifested in performing them. And Jesus went up into a mountain — That he might be heard and seen with the greater advantage; and there he sat with his disciples — And the multitude about him. And the passover was nigh — This circumstance, together with the observation made John 6:10, that there was much grass in the place, shows that the spring was now far advanced, and therefore determines the time of the following miracle with sufficient precision.


Verses 5-14

John 6:5-14. When Jesus lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come to him — That is, gathered round him; he saith unto Philip — Namely, after he had first taught the people many things, as we learn from the other evangelists, and had healed them, that had need of healing, Mark 6:34; Luke 9:11; Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? — He addressed himself to Philip particularly, because he, being a native of Bethsaida, was best acquainted with that country. This he said to prove him — To try what idea he had conceived of his divine power, and to give him an opportunity of observing what followed more attentively. Philip answered, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient, &c. — The Roman denarius, or penny, being equal to about seven pence half- penny of English money, two hundred of them were equal to about six pounds five shillings sterling, as much, probably, as their whole stock amounted to. One of his disciples saith — In answer to Jesus’s inquiring how many loaves they had, Mark 6:38; There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes — He meant which might be purchased of him; but what are they — To satisfy the hunger of so great a company? It seems, this disciple did not think on the proofs which Jesus had formerly given of his power, or did not form a just notion thereof. Jesus said, Make the men sit down — For an explanation of the circumstances of the miracle recorded in the following verses of this paragraph, see notes on Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:30-44. Then those men — Who were present upon this occasion, and were thus miraculously entertained, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, after all the wonderful cures he had wrought upon the sick that same day; said, This is of a truth that prophet — Who has been so long and impatiently expected by us, even the Messiah himself; that should come into the world — According to the prediction of Moses, Deuteronomy 18:18.


Verses 15-21

John 6:15-21. When Jesus perceived — Through the knowledge which he had of their thoughts and intentions; that they would come and take him by force — That they had formed a purpose of doing so; to make him a king — Believing that the Messiah was to rule as well as teach his people; he departed again unto a mountain himself alone — Having ordered his disciples to cross the lake, and dismissed the multitude. To this mountain, according to Matthew and Mark, he retired to pray. For a further explanation of this, and the following verses, to John 6:21, see notes on Matthew 14:22-33.


Verses 22-24

John 6:22-24. “In this and the two following verses,” says Dr. Campbell, “is contained a sentence more involved than any in this gospel. Indeed it is so unlike the composition of this evangelist, as to give ground to suspect that it has been injured in transcribing. He often indeed uses tautologies; but, except in this instance, they occasion no darkness or perplexity. I have adopted the reading of the Vulgate as preferable upon the whole, namely, On the morrow the people, who were on the sea-side, knowing that there had been but one boat there, and that Jesus went not into the boat with his disciples, who went alone, (other boats, however, arrived from Tiberias, nigh the place where they had eaten, after the Lord had given thanks,) knowing besides, that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, embarked, and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.”


Verses 25-27

John 6:25-27. When they had found him on the other side — Namely, in the synagogue of Capernaum, as appears from John 6:59; they said unto him — As soon as the worship was over, and even before they quitted the place; Rabbi, when camest thou hither? — They ask this question because, as Jesus did not go on the preceding evening with his disciples, they expected to have found him on the other side of the sea, and could not conceive when he could come, or what imaginable means he could have of crossing the water. Jesus, modestly waiving the recital of those extraordinary circumstances which attended his passage, diverted the discourse to a more important and edifying subject; and knowing, by an intimate penetration of their very hearts, that they were governed only by carnal motives in this attendance upon him, humble and zealous as it might appear, he said — With great solemnity, Verily, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles — Because, having been eye-witnesses of the miracles which I performed, you are convinced by them that I am a divine teacher, and are now disposed to hearken unto and obey my doctrine: but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled — And have from thence concluded, that you shall gain great secular advantages by following me: having been once fed, you expect that I will feed you frequently by a miracle; and the satisfaction you have found in that meal has made you conceive great hopes of temporal felicity under my administration. These are the views with which you are following me; but you are entirely mistaken in them, for your happiness does not consist in the meat that perisheth, neither is it that sort of meat which the Messiah will give you. Hitherto Christ had been gathering hearers; he now begins to try their sincerity by a figurative discourse concerning his passion, and the fruit of it to be received by faith. Labour not for the meat which perisheth — For bodily food, or for any merely temporal blessing; not for that only, not chiefly: not at all, but in subordination to divine knowledge and grace, faith and love; the meat that endureth to everlasting life — Which, by invigorating all the faculties of the soul, and making it wise and good, holy and happy, renders it incorruptible and immortal, entitled to, and prepared for, everlasting felicity. Which meat, or which life, the Son of man shall give you — If with sincerity, earnestness, and faith, you apply to him for it. It is his gift, χαρισμα, a gift of grace, Romans 6:23 : and yet we are commanded to labour for it, as if it were to be procured by our own industry, and sold upon that valuable consideration. But when we have laboured with the utmost diligence for it, still we have not merited it as our hire, but the Son of man gives it. And it is an encouragement, that he who has the giving of it is the Son of man, our kinsman and brother; for, in consequence of that, we may hope that the sons of men, who seek it and labour for it, shall not fail to obtain it. For him hath God the Father sealed — By this very miracle, as well as by his whole testimony concerning him. Having given him authority, he has given us assurance of it; having intrusted him with unlimited powers, he hath satisfied us by undoubted proofs that he has done so. Sealing a writing is a mark of the authenticity of it. God the Father sealed his Son, or manifested that he had commissioned him to be the Teacher, Redeemer, Saviour, and Governor of his church, by causing his Holy Spirit to rest on him, by the voice from heaven uttered once and again, and by the testimony he bore to him in signs and wonders.


Verse 28-29

John 6:28-29. Then said they — Desiring to appear willing to receive his instructions, as well as his bounties; What shall we do that we may work the works of God? — Works pleasing to God, so as to secure his favour, and eternal life. Jesus answered, This is the work of God — The work most pleasing to God, and the foundation of all others; that ye believe on him whom he hath sent — That you acknowledge him for the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, (John 20:31; 1 John 4:14-15;) that you credit and obey his doctrine; rely, for acceptance with God, on his mediation; apply to him for, and receive, his pardoning and renewing grace. See on John 3:16-19. Thus our Lord calls them to a work they never thought of; the owning him to be the true Messiah; the receiving him as such, and trusting in him for salvation, present and eternal, which was necessary, notwithstanding all their acts of obedience to the law, whether moral or ceremonial.


Verse 30-31

John 6:30-31. They said, What sign showest thou — What miracle dost thou work; that we may see and believe thee? — Since thou requirest us to give thee credit, and to regard thee as invested with a higher character than has been claimed by any one before, produce thy credentials; give some evidence of a superior kind to what has been done by others. Thus these unreasonable men speak, though they had just before seen the astonishing miracle of the loaves and fishes, one of the most extraordinary displays of creating power that could well be conceived, and though several of them lived in the neighbourhood of Capernaum, where he had long multiplied his wonders! But the greatest miracles are lost on persons who are blinded by prejudice, and whose minds are earthly, sensual, and devilish! The views and opinions, however, of those that speak to Christ in this discourse, are so various, (compare John 6:34; John 6:41-42,) and the evangelist so expressly declares that there was a debate between some and others of them, (John 6:52,) that it would be wrong to imagine these to have been the perverse and ungrateful sentiments of the whole multitude, who had followed him with so much eagerness from place to place, for several days. Our fathers did eat manna — By extolling the miracle of the manna, and by calling it bread from heaven, and by insinuating that it was Moses’s miracle, the Jews endeavoured to disparage both Christ’s mission and his miracle of the loaves, which they affected to despise, as no miracle in comparison. It was only a single meal of terrestrial food, at which nine or ten thousand had been fed: whereas Moses with celestial food, fed the whole Jewish nation, in number upward of two millions, and that not for a day, but during the space of forty years in the wilderness.


Verse 32-33

John 6:32-33. Jesus said, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven — It was not Moses who in ancient times gave the manna to your fathers, neither was the manna bread from heaven, though it be so called by the psalmist, on account of the thing which it typified: for it dropped from the air only; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven — It was my Father that gave to your ancestors the manna, and he now giveth you the true spiritual, heavenly bread, of which the manna was only a symbolical representation, and which is sufficient to sustain, not a single nation only, but the whole world. For the bread of God — The bread only worthy of that name; is he — Or rather, is that which cometh down, as ο καταβαινων should here be rendered, being a participle, referring to ο αρτος, the bread, which is of the masculine gender: for it appears, from what follows, that our Lord did not intend at once to lay aside the veil, wherein he had wrapped his meaning: for the request made to him in the very next verse, Give us always this bread, shows that he was not yet understood as speaking of a person, which he must have been if his expression had been as explicit as that of our translation. From heaven — Not from the aerial, but from the highest heavens; and giveth life unto the world — Not that which preserveth a mere temporal life to one people only, but imparteth spiritual and eternal life to as many of the whole world as will be persuaded to partake of it; and that from generation to generation.


Verse 34-35

John 6:34-35. Then said they, Evermore give us this bread — On which it seems our life depends: let us always live upon this heavenly manna. Thus said some of the wiser and better part of them, though they did not yet fully understand his meaning. Jesus said unto them — Proceeding to give them a clear and full explication of the important truth he spoke of; I am the bread of life — Having life in myself, and giving life to all that believe in me: nor is bread so necessary to the support of your bodies, as a believing regard to me is to the life of your souls. He that cometh unto me shall never hunger — Shall not be destitute of spiritual nourishment; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst — Shall find the most restless desires of his soul satisfied, and being conscious of having already received the noblest refreshment and nourishment, shall grow up to a state of complete and everlasting satisfaction and enjoyment. To come to him, and believe on him, are equivalent expressions; or are corresponding terms, explaining each other. Thus our Lord assigned one of the many reasons why he called himself the bread of life. See John 6:47-51. The conclusion from this part of his discourse was so evident, that he left his hearers to draw it for themselves. It was this, “Since matters are so, I am evidently greater than Moses, even in respect of that for which you extol him most. He gave your fathers manna, which was bodily food only, and nourished nothing but the natural life. But I am myself the bread of life and food of the soul, making men both immortal and happy.”


Verse 36-37

John 6:36-37. But I said, &c. — But valuable as these blessings of my grace are, you are little disposed to pursue and accept them. For ye also have seen me, and believe not — You have seen a manifestation of my true character, in my life and conversation, and have been eye-witnesses of the ample proofs which I had given of my divine mission, in the miracles which I have already performed; signs certainly sufficient to convince you that I am the Messiah: nevertheless, you do not believe that I am he, but reject me as an impostor. Therefore, your infidelity proceeds not from want of evidence, as you pretend, (John 6:30,) but from the perverseness of your own disposition. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me — Nevertheless, though you reject me, yet I shall not be universally rejected, nor shall the purposes of my mission be entirely frustrated; for all that hearken to the teaching of my Father, and in consequence thereof see themselves to be in a lost estate, guilty, depraved, weak, and wretched, and therefore follow the drawings of his grace, (see John 6:44-45, where our Lord’s meaning is explained,) will come to me — By faith: such as these the Father in a peculiar manner giveth to the Son. And him that cometh to me — Being thus convinced of sin, humbled, and penitent; I will in no wise cast out — I will give him pardon, holiness, and happiness, and even heaven, if he continue in the faith, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel. Thus our Lord encouraged his disciples, who had already believed on him; and at the same time invited those who were disposed to believe, from the consideration that he would not reject them, however low their circumstances might be, however vile they might appear in their own eyes, or however much they might have formerly injured him, by speaking evil of him and opposing him. “The expression, ου μη εκβαλω εξω, is extremely beautiful and emphatical. It represents an humble supplicant, as coming into the house of some prince, or other great person, to cast himself at his feet, and to commit himself to his protection and care. He might fear his petition would be rejected, and he be thrust out of doors: but our Lord assures him to the contrary. His house and heart are large enough to receive, shelter, and supply all the indigent and distressed.” — Doddridge.


Verses 38-40

John 6:38-40. For I came down from heaven — Into this lower world; not to do mine own will — Or to seek any separate interest of my own; but the will of him that sent me — Who is loving to every man, and willeth not the death of a sinner. And this is the Father’s will — This he revealeth to be his will; that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing — It is the will of my Father that every thing necessary be done, both for the conversion of sinners and for the preservation of those in the paths of righteousness who are already converted. He even willeth all men to be saved, yea, eternally saved; and in order thereto, to come to the knowledge of the truth, and to persevere therein. But he willeth these things conditionally, and not absolutely: men through his grace must repent, and bring forth fruit worthy of repentance: they must believe in Christ, and in the truths and promises of his gospel, with a faith that worketh by love: they must resist the devil, steadfast in the faith; overcome the world, and crucify the flesh: they must endure unto the end, believing, loving, and obeying; must be faithful unto death, and then they shall receive the crown of life. And this is likewise the will of him that sent me — This also he wills conditionally; that every one which seeth the Son — Seeth the character and mission of the Son in the miracles which he works, and in the other evidences wherewith his mission is attended: as in John 6:36; or who recognises the Son, views him with an attentive mind; as θεωραω seems evidently to imply; that sees him so as to know him; and in consequence of that knowledge, cordially believeth on him — Receiving him by faith, and trusting in him as an all-sufficient Saviour; may have everlasting life — It is the fixed determination of the Father, to bestow everlasting life on all who persevere in this faith; and therefore, in execution of my Father’s will; I will raise all such up at the last day — I will make them completely happy, both in soul and body, in the enjoyment of a glorious immortality: nor are there any purposes or decrees of God inconsistent with this. Thus did Jesus place the character of the Messiah in a light very different from that in which his hearers had been accustomed to view it; and taught them, that instead of temporal blessings, which they expected from him, they were to receive none but such as were spiritual.


Verses 41-47

John 6:41-47. The Jews then murmured at him — The dispositions of the greatest part of the Jews being carnal, the doctrine of our Lord respecting the spiritual nature of the blessings which his followers were to receive, and especially his affirming that he was the bread of life, and that he came down from heaven, greatly offended them. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, &c. — Was he not born into the world as other men are, and are we not well acquainted with his parents, and know him to be earth- born? How then can he pretend to have come down from heaven? Jesus answered, Murmur not among yourselves — On account of my words, for it is not want of truth in them, but want of affection to my doctrine, and your not considering the testimony God hath given to it, that makes you thus to murmur at and reject what I say. Set yourselves, therefore, to reflect seriously on your present state, and on your true interest. I know indeed that your prejudices against me are strong, and, without the influences of divine grace, will prove invincible and fatal: for, such is the moral blindness and degeneracy of human nature, that no man can come to me — Namely, by a saving faith; except the Father which hath sent me draw him — By the influence of his Holy Spirit on the heart, saving faith being of the operation of God, and the gift of God, Colossians 2:12; Ephesians 2:8. In other words, no man can believe in Christ to the saving of his soul, unless God give him power: God draws us first by good desires, not by compulsion, not by laying the will under any necessity; but by the strong and sweet, yet still resistible motions of his heavenly grace. That the expression, applied to reasonable agents, does not import any force or constraint, is plain from Jeremiah 31:3, where God says to Israel, With loving kindness have I drawn thee; that is, by the manifold benefits which I have bestowed on thee, and particularly by the revelation of my will committed to thee, and have prevailed with thee to obey me. Thus also our Lord uses the expression, John 12:32; If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto me; that is, being put to death on the cross, and raised from the dead, and exalted into heaven, and preached through the world, I will, by my word and Spirit, persuade many to follow me to heaven. Thus also, Hosea 11:4, God says, he drew Israel with the cords of a man, with bands of love. Wherefore, by the Father’s drawing men to Christ we may understand his persuading them to believe on him, by the several proofs wherewith he has supported his mission, by the doctrine of his gospel, and by those influences of his grace, which are necessary to give men a right discernment of the evidences of religion, and of the certainty and importance of the great truths of it, and to impress these things deeply on their minds. Accordingly, in the following verse, the effect which the Father’s drawing hath upon men, is described by their hearing and learning of him. It is written in the prophets, (see the margin,) they shall be all taught of God — Namely, not merely by his word, but also and especially by his Spirit, termed therefore, (Ephesians 1:17,) the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. “Before the coming of Christ the Father spake to the world concerning him by the prophets, and when he appeared in the human nature on earth, he demonstrated the truth of his mission by the testimony of John, and by voices from heaven, declaring him to be his beloved Son, and commanding all men to hear him. He did the same likewise by the doctrines which he inspired Jesus to preach, by the miracles which he gave him to perform, and by the influences of the Spirit which he empowered him to dispense.” Every man therefore, &c. — Every one that hath heard and understood what the Father hath said concerning the Messiah, whether by the prophets or by John the Baptist, or by the voices from heaven, or by my doctrine and miracles, and has also been enlightened, and drawn by the influences of the Holy Spirit; cometh unto me — Will believe on me, and cordially receive me under the character I profess. Not that any man hath seen the Father — Not that I mean, when I speak of men’s hearing and learning of God, that they can see God personally, and be taught of him in the manner that a scholar is taught of his master; save he who is of God — No man hath seen the Father personally, except the Son, who is come to men as the great ambassador from God; he, indeed, being statedly resident with him, and inseparably united to him, has seen the Father, and enjoyed that intimacy with him which no creature can pretend to have known.


Verses 48-50

John 6:48-50. I am the bread of life — Jesus, having explained the nature of the dignity which he had claimed in the foregoing part of his discourse, (John 6:33-40,) and demonstrated that it really belonged to him, here repeats what he had said John 6:35, and then runs a comparison between himself, considered as the bread from heaven, and the manna which Moses provided for their fathers in the desert, and which they admired so greatly, saying, Your fathers did eat manna, and are dead — The manna did not preserve them, either from spiritual, or temporal, or eternal death. This is the bread — That of which I now speak is the true bread; which cometh down from heaven — And is of such a nature, that a man may eat of it and not die — Not spiritually, not eternally. His soul, being quickened and made alive to God by partaking of it, shall, by continuing to feed on it, be preserved in spiritual life, and nourished to life eternal; and the death of his body will be only a short sleep, which will soon terminate in a resurrection to immortal glory.


Verse 51

John 6:51. I am the living bread — Because it was a matter of infinite importance to his hearers that they should form a just judgment of his ability to save them, and believe in him as the Saviour of the world, he affirmed a third time that he was himself the living bread, which came down from heaven to make and keep men alive to God. and render them immortal; and that all who did eat of it should live for ever, because he was about to give them his flesh to eat, by making it an expiation for the sins of the world. The intelligent reader will observe that there is a beautiful gradation in our Lord’s discourse. The first time that he called himself the bread of life, (John 6:35,) he assigned the reason of the name somewhat obscurely: He that cometh to me shall never hunger, &c. The second time he called himself the bread of life, (John 6:47,) he spake more plainly: He that believeth on me hath everlasting life; therefore, I am the bread of life. And by connecting this with the affirmation, (John 6:46,) that he was the only teacher of mankind that had ever personally seen, and conversed intimately with, the Father, he intimated that he gave life to men by his doctrine, being on that account also the bread of life. The third time he called himself bread, he added to the name the epithet of living; not only because he gives life to men by quickening their souls, raising their bodies from the dead, and making them eternally happy, but because he giveth them life in these senses, by means of his human nature, which was not an inanimate thing, like the manna, but a living substance. For he told them plainly, that the bread which he would give them was his flesh, which he would give for the life of the world — And spake of men’s eating it in order to its having that effect. But the meaning of this expression he had directed them to before, when, in calling himself the bread of life, he always joined believing on him as necessary to men’s living by him. Wherefore to eat, in the remaining part of this discourse, is to believe. See Macknight.


Verse 52-53

John 6:52-53. The Jews therefore strove among themselves — Greek, εμαχοντο, literally, they fought, that is, they debated with great violence, some being inclined to believe, others to reject this doctrine; some, doubtless, taking his words in one sense, others in another, and some vindicating, and others deriding and censuring them, and, as if what he had advanced was to be taken in a literal sense, the generality saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? — What a monstrous and unintelligible doctrine is this! Observe, reader, the effects of this discourse of Christ: the Jews are tried here; the disciples, John 6:60; John 6:66; the apostles, John 6:67. Then Jesus — Proceeding in the same figurative language he had used before, and without condescending to make any further explication; said unto them, Verily, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, &c., ye have no life in you — As if he had said, However you may censure my doctrine as unintelligible and absurd, yet nothing can be more certain than it, or more important to you. For except you be entirely united to me by a firm and lively faith in the truth and importance of my doctrine, and a cordial dependance, for acceptance with God, on the merit of the sacrifice which I shall offer for the sins of the world, thereby deriving spiritual strength and nourishment from me, through the influences of my Spirit, in the use of those means of grace which I shall institute, you can have no spiritual life in you here, nor attain eternal life hereafter. The reader will easily observe, that by eating his flesh and drinking his blood, our Lord did not mean any corporeal action whatever, but men’s receiving in faith, and with gratitude, those blessings, to confer which he assumed the human nature. The expression therefore implies a true and lively faith in “the revelation he came to make, concerning the merciful counsels of God for the salvation of sinners; or, as he himself expresses it, John 6:63, The word that he spake to them, especially concerning his incarnation, and his dying to make atonement for sin. Which articles of the Christian faith, being particularly understood here, give propriety to the metaphors of eating Christ’s flesh and drinking his blood, by which the whole of that faith is denominated. The reason is, of all the discoveries made by Christ, those concerning his incarnation, and the nature and ends of his death, received and meditated upon with a lively faith, afford sovereign and salutary nourishment unto the minds of sinners. They are as effectual for sustaining the spiritual life in the soul, as flesh, fitly prepared, is for nourishing the animal life in the body.” The sacrament of the eucharist was plainly intended to affect our minds with a sense of these important truths, and our Lord might probably think of that intended institution while he spoke: but as this was a future thing, and utterly unknown to his hearers, it would be very unwarrantable to interpret this text as chiefly referring to that ordinance. See Macknight and Doddridge.


Verses 54-58

John 6:54-58. Whoso eateth my flesh, &c., hath eternal life — Has the principles of eternal life implanted in him, and shall enjoy it; for I will raise him up, &c. For my flesh is meat indeed, &c. — My flesh and blood are the true nutriment of the soul: they feed it and make it grow: they give vigour to all the faculties, preserve it in spiritual life, and make it fit for heaven. He that eateth my flesh, &c., dwelleth in me, and I in him — By an intimate and inseparable union. As the living Father — The great source of life and felicity; has sent me, and I live by the Father — Being one with him: or, as to my human nature, live by his support, protection, and care; he continually dwelling in me, and communicating his Spirit to me in the richest abundance of gifts and graces; so he that eateth me — That confides in, and cleaves to me, by a lively operative faith; shall live by me — A spiritual, holy, and happy life, through the Spirit which I will communicate to him: he shall be united to me by an internal and vital union. This is the bread — This, of which I speak, or, I am the bread; which came down from heaven — For the purposes aforesaid. Not as your fathers did eat manna, &c. — This bread is not like the manna which your fathers ate, who died notwithstanding; and it is not to be eaten the same way that your fathers did eat the manna, nor with the same effect; for he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever — He shall be so far from dying, as your fathers did in the wilderness, that his life and happiness shall have no end, but shall run parallel with the longest line of eternity itself.


Verse 59

John 6:59. These things — The things recorded in the preceding verses; said he in the synagogue — He spoke them openly in the hearing of all the people who attended at public worship in the synagogue; and that probably after prayer, and the reading of the law, in consequence of the question said to be asked him, John 6:25. Nor are we to wonder at the dialogue which passed here; for conversations between different persons, and even debates, were not unusual in the Jewish synagogues: there are many other instances of disputes, which either Christ or his apostles had with the Jews in these places of worship. See Matthew 12:9-13; Luke 13:10-17; Acts 13:44-47; and Acts 17:17. It was evidently for wise reasons that our Lord involved a part of his discourse in figurative and mysterious language; as, in particular, that which related to eating his flesh and drinking his blood; or to his sufferings and death, and the life and salvation to be obtained thereby.


Verse 60

John 6:60. Many of his disciples — That is, of those who followed him as such; when they had heard this — Had heard the above discourse; said, This is a hard saying — A strange discourse, a doctrine difficult to be believed. Hard indeed it must have appeared, as it does still appear, to the children of the world, but sweet to the children of God. Scarce ever did our Lord speak more sublimely even to the apostles in private. Who can hear it — Who can understand, believe, and obey it? “Most of the metaphors in this discourse (and particularly that of food, to signify doctrine, and of eating and drinking, to signify believing) were abundantly easy, and might have been understood at the very first by the Jews, being found in their Scriptures, and used in their schools. Only, not being able to comprehend what he meant by his flesh, they took the whole literally, and were so offended at the thought of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, a thing not only prohibited by Moses, but repugnant to the customs of all civilized nations, that many of them who were his disciples, when they heard it, said it was absurd.”


Verses 61-65

John 6:61-65. When Jesus knew — Greek, ειδως δε ο ιησους εν εαυτω, Jesus knowing in himself; that his disciples murmured at it — Though they did not speak out their objections and scruples; said, Doth this, which you have just now heard, offend you — And do you stumble at it as incredible? What if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up αναβαινοντα, ascending; where he was before? — How much more incredible will it then appear to you, that he should give you his flesh to eat? Or, will not that convince you of the truth of my having come down from heaven? Will it not show you, likewise, that I never intended you should eat my flesh in a corporeal manner? It is very probable that what Christ here says of his ascension, was, partly at least, intended to intimate to them the necessity of taking his discourse in a figurative sense, as it would so soon be evidently impossible to eat his flesh, which was to be received into heaven. It is the Spirit — The spiritual meaning of these words; that quickeneth — By which God giveth spiritual life. The flesh

The bare, carnal, literal meaning; profiteth nothing. The words that I speak, the doctrines that I preach, unto you are spirit and life — Are to be taken in a spiritual sense; and when they are so understood and believed, or marked, learned, and digested, they are made the means of spiritual and eternal life to the hearers. There are some of you who believe not — And so receive no life by them; for Jesus knew from the beginning — Namely, of his ministry; who they were that believed not, and who should betray him — He knew the inward disposition of every particular person that heard him, and foresaw which of his disciples would be so base as to betray him. From this we infer with certainty that God foresees future contingencies:

“But his foreknowledge causes not the fault, Which had no less proved certain unforeknown.”

Therefore said I, &c. — Because I know perfectly the inward frame of your minds, that the prejudices of corrupt nature lie strongly against such a doctrine as I publish, and that nothing but divine grace can subdue them, therefore I told you plainly, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father — And it is given to those only who will receive it on God’s own terms. See the note on John 6:37; John 6:44.


Verses 66-69

John 6:66-69. From that time many of his disciples went back — This discourse of our Lord was, in all its different branches, so offensive to many, who till now had followed him, and professed to be his disciples, that, from this time, they ceased to attend on or hear him. So that he now began to purge his floor: the proud and careless were driven away, and those only remained who were meet for the Master’s use. Then said Jesus unto the twelve — Jesus, perceiving this defection to be very general, asked the twelve if they were going to leave him with the rest. Then Peter — With his usual zeal; answered, Lord — If we were really disposed to quit thee; to whom shall we go? — Or, what advantage could we expect by it? Thou hast the words of eternal life — Thou, and thou alone, speakest the words which show the way to life everlasting; and hast even now been directing us therein; and God forbid that any other hopes and views should ever be preferred by us to these! And — However others may be governed by their carnal prejudices, and a deluded multitude may treat thee with contempt; we firmly believe, and assuredly know, on the most convincing evidence, that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God — On which persuasion we are determined to cleave to thee, to continue to learn of thee as thy disciples, to confide in thee for salvation, present and eternal, and to hazard all in thy service. So that Peter’s implicit faith in our Lord’s doctrine was founded, as it was right it should be, on his faith in him as the Messiah, the Son of God.


Verse 70-71

John 6:70-71. Jesus answered them — And, yet even ye have not all acted, nor will you act, suitably to this knowledge and faith. For, have I not chosen, or elected, you twelve — To the honour and happiness of a peculiar intimacy with me, and to a station of the most distinguished eminence and importance in my church? And yet one of you, as I well know, is a devil — Is now influenced by one, and will become my accuser and betrayer. As the word διαβολος, rendered devil, sometimes signifies a false accuser, Mr. Locke considers our Lord as intimating here, that the reason why he had not more plainly declared himself to be the Messiah, was, because he knew Judas would, on that ground, have accused him of rebellion against the Romans. But, as Dr. Doddridge observes, “there does not appear to be any proof that Judas from the beginning intended to betray Christ. It is more than probable, that he at first engaged with him in expectation of secular advantages, and finding those views disappointed, he might now begin to form that detestable scheme which he afterward executed. If this was the occasion on which he first entertained the thought, as it probably might be, one would imagine that such an intimation of his secret wickedness must have struck him to the heart.” He spake of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon — He meant Judas, though he did not at this time think fit to name him. Christ called Judas a devil, because he foresaw that he would be an apostate and a traitor. So likewise in rebuking Peter, who had expressed an utter aversion to his suffering at Jerusalem, he called him Satan, on account of that one act, by which he opposed the great design of his coming into the world. And he might much more give Judas the name of devil, who resembled Satan so nearly, in the wickedness of his dispositions and actions.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on John 6:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/john-6.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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