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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
John 6

 

 

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Verse 1

John 6:1. After these things. Like chap. 5, this chapter opens with an indefinite note of time, ‘after these things.’ In the former instance we saw that the interval covered by the expression may have been two or three months; here, if we take the feast spoken of in chap. John 5:1 to have been the feast of Purim, the events of the two chapters 5 and 6 were not separated by more than about two or three weeks, for Purim was past and the Passover was drawing near (John 6:4). From the other Evangelists we know that Jesus went into Galilee after the imprisonment of John the Baptist (Matthew 4:12; Mark 1:14); and also that after the death of the Baptist He withdrew from Galilee (Matthew 14:13; Mark 6:31). In this Gospel we have already met with two visits to Galilee (chap. John 2:1, John 4:3; John 4:43), and another is implied in the verse before us. Which of these three is the journey spoken of in Matthew 4:12? Certainly not the first (John 2:1; John 2:11), for John was not then cast into prison (chap. John 3:24). Probably not the second, for chap. John 4:1 implies that the Baptist was still at that time engaged in active work (see note on John 4:1). It would seem therefore that the visit to which the earlier Evangelists give so much prominence, which indeed is the commencement of their detailed history of the Saviour’s public ministry, took place after the feast to which reference is made in chap. John 5:1. It is in complete accordance with this that Jesus in chap. John 5:35 uses words which appear to indicate that the Baptist’s public work was at an end. If this view be correct, the earlier Evangelists enable us completely to fill up the interval between chaps, 5 and 6. Indeed (assuming the feast of chap. 5 to be Purim), the chief objection raised against the view we advocate is that the period of three weeks is too short for the events which come in between our Lord’s journey to Galilee and the Feeding of the Multitude. Mark for instance relates the one in John 1:14 and the other in John 6:30-44. No doubt the first impression made on any reader is that such a series of events must have occupied months rather than weeks; but if the narrative be attentively examined, it will be found that there is no real ground for such an impression. The three Evangelists seem to have been led rather to give a full description of certain parts than an outline of the whole of our Lord’s ministry in Galilee. If the days seem crowded with events, the intensity of the living ministry of Jesus does but receive the fuller illustration, and we have the most impressive comment on His own words in this Gospel (John 4:34, John 9:4) and on the closing testimony of the apostle (John 21:25). Between these chapters, then, must be placed many of the most familiar chapters of the earlier Gospels. To say nothing of the wonderful miracles wrought in Capernaum and in other places on the coast of the sea of Galilee, to this interval belong the appointment of the twelve apostles, the Sermon on the Mount, the Parables of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13), the death of John the Baptist in the castle of Machaerus. But John’s omission of all that happened during our Lord’s sojourn in Galilee until the point to which this verse relates is in accord with the general structure of his Gospel; and the special reason which led him to relate the particular events of this chapter, and these only, will be noticed as we proceed. Nothing, we may add, can more strikingly illustrate the twofold character of our Lord’s teaching, as addressed to ‘the Jews’ and the doctors of the law on the one hand and to the multitudes of Galilee on the other, than a comparison of the discourse in Jerusalem which we have just considered (chap. 5) with the Sermon and the Parables spoken but a few days later.

Jesus went away to the other side of the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. From Luke 9:10 we learn that the place to which Jesus crossed over was Bethsaida, that is, Bethsaida Julias in Gaulonitis, a place near the north-eastern comer of the lake, to be carefully distinguished from Bethsaida of Galilee,. which was on the western shore. It is remarkable that John should give a twofold designation of the sea,—sea of Galilee and (sea) of Tiberias. The latter name, which perhaps was best known by those amongst whom he wrote, is used by him alone, here and in chap. John 21:1 : the former, ‘sea of Galilee,’ is the name regularly used by Matthew and Mark. In Luke’s Gospel the only name is lake of Gennesaret (chap. John 5:1).


Verses 1-21

The sixth chapter continues the conflict of Jesus with the Jews, under the same point of view as that which we found to be prominent in chap. 5. As in that chapter Jesus was the fulfilment of the sabbath, so in this He is the fulfilment of the Passover; He is the true bread, the true substance of our Paschal feast. The section now before us, contained in the first part of the chapter, may be divided into three subordinate parts—(1) John 6:1-13, the miracle of the multiplying of the bread; (2) John 6:14-15, the effect produced by the miracle upon the Galilean multitude, leading Jesus to withdraw to the other side of the sea; (3) John 6:16-21, the storm and the reassuring of the disciples.


Verse 2

John 6:2. And a great multitude followed him, because they beheld the signs which he did on them that were sick. The Greek words are very expressive pointing clearly to repeated miracles of healing, on account of which crowds followed him continually from place to place. This is the only verse in John’s Gospel corresponding with the many passages in the Synoptic Gospels that briefly record a multitude of such works (Matthew 4:24; Matthew 8:16; Matthew 9:35; Matthew 15:30; Mark 6:56; Luke 9:11, etc.); and it refers to that very Galilean ministry to which those records belong. In Judea, as in unbelieving Nazareth (Mark 6:5), ‘He could not do many mighty works.’


Verse 3

John 6:3. And Jesus went up into the mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. He retired for the purpose of rest and prayer, and that he might instruct his disciples,—the twelve who had just returned from their mission (Mark 6:30). ‘The mountain’ we must probably understand in a general sense as meaning the high ground near Bethsaida. In this part the eastern hills closely approach the lake.


Verse 4

John 6:4. Now the passover, the feast of the Jews, was nigh. On the words ‘of the Jews’ see the notes on John 1:19, John 2:13. The addition here serves to explain why Jesus did not go up to the Passover. He had been rejected by the Jews at the former Passover (John 2:18): the feast, which had before that time been robbed by them of its sanctity, belonged after their rejection of Him no longer to His Father but ‘to the Jews.’ But if Jesus did not visit Jerusalem for this festival, why is it mentioned here? It certainly serves a chronological purpose (though it must be remembered that we cannot say with absolute certainly that this was the Passover immediately following that of John 2:11); but even in such incidental notices as these John has not his eye only or chiefly on chronology. Some have supposed that it is to account for the crowds which followed Him, and which may have consisted mainly or partly of the Galilean caravan on its way to the holy city to attend the feast. But John 6:2 makes this unlikely, for it gives an entirely different explanation of the concourse. Besides which, John 6:5 seems to connect the notice of the season and the miracle to follow in such a way as to suggest rather an internal than an external relation between them. It is probable, therefore, that the Evangelist by this mention of the Passover intends to show us the light in which the whole narrative should be viewed. The miracle and the discourses alike relate to the true Passover, the reality and substance of that feast which has now, alas! become ‘the feast of the Jews.’


Verse 5

John 6:5. Jesus therefore having lifted up his eyes, and having seen that a great multitude cometh unto him. The place in which the multitudes were gathering was a desert plain at the foot of the hills.

Saith unto Philip, whence are we to buy bread, that these may eat? It was as they drew near that Jesus addressed the question to Philip. The other narratives say nothing of it, but all represent the disciples as coming to their Lord when the day began to wane to beg Him to send away the multitudes. Our Lords question to Philip, then, is entirely independent of the later petition of the twelve. Even were it otherwise, however, and were John referring to the same point of time as the other Evangelists, there would be no ground whatever for asserting that there is any discrepancy between the narratives, for none of them can contain all that passed between the disciples and their Master. Besides this, the eleven may not have heard the words, of may not have seen their significance if they did hear them.


Verse 6

John 6:6. Now this he said proving him: for he himself knew what he was about to do. Why Philip was addressed is a question often raised. The mention of the circumstance may be only the graphic touch of an eye-witness, and there may be nothing important in the Master’s choice of the disciple whose faith He is to try. Yet it is more likely that some special reason did exist. Philip may have had something to do with making provision for the wants of the company of disciples: this is not inconsistent with chap. John 12:6. Or there may have been something in the character of Philip’s mind that led to the special selection of him for trial; and the incident related in John 12:22 has been appealed to as showing a tendency on his part to a caution that might become excessive and obstructive to the development of faith. A more correct explanation may be that, intending to manifest Himself as the fulfilment of what is written in the law, Jesus turns first to one who had confessed Him as the subject of ‘the law and the prophets’ (John 1:45). He would test him, and try whether he had entered into the full meaning of his own confession.


Verse 7

John 6:7. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little. As the number of the men alone proved to be five thousand, an expenditure of 200 ‘pence’ (i.e. 200 denarii) would allow less than a denarius, or about eight-pence of our money, to twenty-five persons, and that sum would not purchase in ordinary times more than five or six ounces of bread for each. Philip might well say that it was ‘not sufficient for them.’


Verse 8

John 6:8. One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him. On the appellation here given to Andrew see on chap. John 1:40. Andrew is again associated with Philip in chap. John 12:22.


Verse 9

John 6:9. There is a little lad here which hath five barley loaves and two fishes: but what are they among so many? John shows Andrew as standing somewhat in advance of Philip, in that he does not hesitate to think that their little store may be set before the multitude, though he is perplexed at his own suggestion. This is in accordance with the fact that in the lists of the apostles Andrew takes precedence of Philip.


Verse 10

John 6:10. Jesus said, Make the people sit down. ‘The people,’ a general word, including both men and women, is used here. They are directed to sit down, partly for the sake of order and ease in the distribution of the food, but also because the Lord is preparing to set a feast before them, and they sit down with Him as His guests.

Now there was much grass in the place. So Mark speaks of the ‘green grass,’—a minute but interesting coincidence. The circumstance is one that an eye-witness would naturally note, especially after relating the direction given that the multitude should sit down. John alone has given the season of the year (John 6:4); on this day of early spring the grass would be flourishing and abundant.

So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. The ‘men’ are now singled out for special mention, probably because they, according to the custom of the East, sat down first. We may also suppose that the number of women and children would not be very large.


Verse 11

John 6:11. Jesus therefore took the loaves: and when he had given thanks he distributed to them that had sat down; likewise also of the fishes as much as they would. Jesus alone is mentioned, but there is no doubt that He employed the agency of His disciples. In Mark 6:41 we read that Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples to set before the multitude; but, in the very same verse, that the ‘two fishes divided He amongst them all;’ yet we cannot doubt that the mode of distribution would be the same in both cases. However done, the work of distribution was really His, and the Evangelist would fix our thoughts on Him alone. This miracle, as has often been remarked, is (with the exception of our Lord’s resurrection) the only one related by all four Evangelists. The differences in the accounts are very slight. It is curious to note that in all the other narratives of it our Lord is said to have ‘blessed’ before He brake the loaves, whereas in the two accounts of the feeding of the four thousand He ‘gave thanks’ before breaking the bread: here, however, giving thanks takes the place of blessing. When the miracle is referred to below (John 6:23), the Lord’s ‘giving thanks’ is brought into prominence. This would seem to show that the word is here used with intentional significance, probably with marked reference to the Paschal meal, at which thanksgiving played so important a part. There is a striking resemblance indeed between the description before us and the accounts of the last supper, especially that given in 1 Corinthians 11.


Verse 12

John 6:12. And when they were filled, he saith unto his disciples, Gather together the pieces that remain, that nothing be lost. The earlier Gospels relate the act of the disciples, but not the command of Jesus. John, everywhere intent on what his Master did and said, preserves for us this word. The design of the command is to bring out the preciousness of the food which Jesus had given,—not to teach a lesson of economy, or to reprove the over-scrupulous calculations of Andrew and Philip. It is usual to understand by ‘pieces’ the fragments broken by the multitude during their meal; but it is more probable that they were pieces broken by our Lord,—pieces that remained undistributed or unconsumed because of the abundance of the supply.


Verse 13

John 6:13. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with pieces from the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. The repetition of the words, ‘the five barley loaves,’ is remarkable; the writer wishes to lay emphasis on the identity of the fragments with the loaves of the original supply. Mark speaks of the collection of the fragments of the fishes (John 6:43); John, intent on the idea to be unfolded, alike in the scene and in the discourse that followed it, passes by this circumstance. The number of baskets was twelve. We can hardly doubt that each Apostle had his own ‘basket,’ and that each of these was filled. Nor is it fanciful to see in this a token that what was symbolized by the precious bread was destined for each tribe of Israel. In every narrative of this miracle the same word (cophinus) is used for basket; in the accounts of the feeding of the four thousand (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8) the word is entirely different; and where the two miracles are referred to together, each retains the word that belongs to it; so that in Matthew 16:9-10, and Mark 8:19-20, the word ‘baskets,’ repeated in our translation, answers to different words. John’s agreement with the other Evangelists in so minute a point as the use of cophinus in connection with this miracle is interesting and important.


Verse 14

John 6:14. When therefore the people saw the sign that he did, they said. ‘The people,’—i.e., the people of John 6:10, those who had been fed and satisfied. Are we, however, to understand that they saw the ‘wonder,’ but saw in it no ‘sign,’ as it is said by our Lord below, ‘Ye follow me not because ye saw signs;’ or may we suppose that even to this multitude the miracle was a sign, like the miracles of healing which they had witnessed before? (John 6:2). The latter interpretation is nearer to the words of John, and is more probable. If in any sense the cures were ‘signs’ to the beholders, the multiplying of the loaves must have been a greater ‘sign. Their own words confirm this, for they receive the miracle as the heaven-appointed token of the mission of Jesus. Still they did not really look beneath the surface; in the depth of meaning which the word has to John, the wonderful work was not apprehended as a ‘sign.’ Our Lord’s design in this chapter is, as we shall see, to remove their ignorance on this very point.

This is of a truth the prophet that cometh into the world. To an Israelite a miracle at once suggested the thought of a prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1), as the general name for one who had received a Divine mission. But here it is of the Prophet that they speak, no doubt referring to the promise of Deuteronomy 18:15 (see note on chap. John 1:21). The general expectation which lay in the hearts of men at this time clothed itself in different forms of expression, according to the events which drew it forth. Perhaps the miracle of Elisha (2 Kings 4:43) rose to their thought, or that of Elijah (1 Kings 17:14); and the memory of their ancient prophets drew along with it the promise of the Prophet now to come. More probably it was to the miracle of the manna that their minds recurred, and the work of Moses brought to recollection the promise which Moses left behind him for the last days. The words used by the people leave no doubt that here at least the Prophet is identified with the Messiah, whose most frequent designation seems to have been ‘He that cometh’ (Matthew 11:3, etc.), or more fully, ‘He that cometh into the world’ (comp. chap. John 1:9).


Verse 15

John 6:15. Jesus therefore perceiving that they were about to come and carry him off to make him king, retired again into the mountain himself alone. The thought of ‘Messiah’ is the connecting link between the exclamation related in the last verse and the purpose here mentioned. The Messiah is to reign in the royal city: to Jerusalem therefore they would now carry Him by force, and there proclaim Him king. Their words here given are taken up again in chap. John 12:13, when the Galilean multitudes go to meet Him to escort Him in triumph into Jerusalem, crying out, ‘Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel.’ But the hour for a triumphant entry has not yet arrived. Jesus reads their purpose, and frustrates it by retiring again to ‘the mountain’ (John 6:3), from which He came down to teach the multitudes and to heal their sick (Luke 9:11). The first two Evangelists tell us that He retired into the mountain ‘to pray;’ but the two motives assigned are in no way inconsistent with each other. Our Lord’s withdrawal from view after His miracles is frequently noticed in this Gospel. The reason here explained would naturally operate at other times also; but there are peculiarities of language which seem to show that John beheld in all the ‘signs’—which were occasional manifestations of the glory of Jesus—emblems of His whole manifestation, of all that lay between His coming forth from the Father and His final withdrawal from the world and return to the Father. There is a beautiful harmony between the prayer of which other Gospels speak, the solitariness (‘Himself alone’) here brought before us, and the later words of Jesus, ‘He that sent me is with me, He hath not left me alone’ (chap. John 8:29), ‘I am not alone, because the Father is with me’ (John 16:32).

No one can read the four narratives of this miracle without being struck with their essential harmony in the midst of apparent diversities. Every narrative contributes some new feature; almost every one introduces some particular which we cannot with positive certainty adjust with the other narratives, though we may see clearly that in more ways than one it might be so adjusted. It is especially necessary in this place to call attention to these other narratives, because John alone records the impression made upon the multitude, and (as has been well suggested by Godet) this impression may explain a very remarkable word used both by Matthew and by Mark. These Evangelists relate (Matthew 14:22; Mark 6:45) that Jesus ‘compelled’ His disciples to return to their boat until He should have dismissed the people. No motive for the compulsion is supplied by the two writers who use the word. If, however, this was the crisis of the Galilean ministry, and the multitudes, impressed by other recent miracles, and moved beyond measure by the last, must now be withheld from their premature design to proclaim Him king, it becomes necessary forcibly to separate the disciples as well as Himself from the excited crowds in the hour of their highly-wrought enthusiasm. Even though Jesus Himself were absent, yet if the contagious excitement of the people should communicate itself to the Galilean disciples also, the plan of His working would (humanly speaking) be frustrated. Perhaps, too, this decisive breaking with the impulses of the multitude, this practical renunciation of the honours the people would confer and of the political sovereignty to which they would raise Him, may furnish one reason for John’s selection of this miracle, already so well known in the Church. Another reason is made evident by the discourse of this chapter.


Verse 16

John 6:16. And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea. Before Jesus retired to the mountain He had constrained His disciples to leave Him for the shore: when they had left He dismissed the people, withdrawing from them, probably by exercising such influence as is implied in chap. John 5:13, John 8:59, John 10:39.


Verse 17

John 6:17. And entered into a boat, and were coming over the sea unto Capernaum. And darkness had already come on, and Jesus was not yet come to them. Probably they were intending to coast along the shore of the lake between Bethsaida-Julias and Capernaum: in this they were no doubt following their Master’s directions. The words that follow show clearly that they expected Him to rejoin them at some point on the coast.


Verse 18

John 6:18. And the sea was raging by reason of a great wind that blew. The darkness and the storm rendered their position one of great peril. There had arisen one of those sudden and violent squalls to which all inland waters surrounded by lofty hills intersected with gullies are liable. Many travellers bear witness to the fact that such storms beat with peculiar force upon the sea of Galilee. In the present instance the ‘great wind’ would seem to have been from the north. The immediate effect of the storm was to drive the disciples out to sea till they reached the middle of the lake, which is at its broadest a little south of their starting-point.


Verse 19

John 6:19. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs. If the wind had driven them southwards soon after their starting, they would be near the eastern coast at a point where the lake is about forty furlongs broad. If therefore they had rowed twenty-five or thirty furlongs, they would not be far from ‘the midst of the sea’ (Mark 6:47). The agreement between the two narratives is clearly ‘undesigned,’ and therefore the more interesting.

They behold Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the boat: and they were afraid. When Jesus drew near to the boat, it was the ‘fourth watch’ (Matthew 14:25), and therefore the darkest part of the night; some eight or nine hours had passed since they left Him with the multitude. The wind was boisterous, the sea raging, their strength was spent with rowing (Mark 6:48), when suddenly they behold Jesus walking on the sea, in the immediate neighbourhood of the boat. They knew not that it was He, and were terrified.


Verse 20-21

John 6:20-21. But he saith unto them, It is I be not afraid. They were willing therefore to receive him into the boat. His voice and manner were enough to remove all their fears. They would have kept away from the apparition, affrighted; but now their will was to receive their Master. This renewed mention of the ‘will’ (compare chap. John 5:6; John 5:40) is striking and characteristic. In the first two Evangelists we read of our Lord’s entering the boat, and some have thought that the words here present a difficulty as implying a desire on the part of the disciples that was not fulfilled. But there is really no discrepancy whatever. John mentions the will only, assuming that every reader would understand that the will was carried into effect (comp. John 1:43, John 5:35).

And immediately the boat was at the land whither they went. They were making for Capernaum, and this town they reached immediately. It is plain that John intends to relate what was not an ordinary occurrence but a miracle. The first two Evangelists do not speak of it, but their words are in perfect harmony with John’s account, for immediately after the lulling of the wind then mention the completion of the voyage.

This is the fourth of the ‘signs’ recorded in this Gospel. Unlike the former miracle (the feeding of the multitude), it is not mentioned again or in any way expressly referred to; hence we have less certainty as to the position assigned to it by the Evangelist. That to him it was not a mere matter of history we may be sure; but the event is not as closely interwoven with the texture of his narrative as are the other miracles which he records. The thoughts which are here prominent are the separation of the disciples from their Lord, their difficulties amid the darkness and the storm, their fear as they dimly see Jesus approaching, the words which remove their fear, their ‘will’ to receive Him, the immediate end of all their trouble and danger. The cardinal thought is their safety when they have received Jesus. The narrative is connected with that which precedes in that, here as there, all attention is concentrated on the Redeemer Himself, who in sovereign power and in infinite grace manifests His glory. It is still more closely joined with what comes after, as it teaches on the one hand the safety of all who are with Him (John 6:37-39), and on the other the necessity of man’s receiving Him, opening his heart to His words, committing Himself to Him by faith (John 6:40). We cannot doubt that the question of Jesus and the answer of the twelve, of which we read in John 6:68, are closely linked with the teaching of that night in which the disciples found at once the end of peril and rest from toil when they saw and received their Lord.


Verse 22

John 6:22. The day following, the multitude which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other little boat there, save one, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples went away alone. During the night of the storm the multitude remained near the scene of the miracle. In the morning they are gathered on the north-eastern coast, deliberating how Jesus might be found. They saw no boat on the shore save one little boat too small to hold the twelve disciples, who could not therefore have returned in it to take away their Master: yet it was certain that when the disciples set sail the evening before Jesus did not go with them. The natural inference was that He was still on the eastern shore, but that His disciples were at Capernaum or some neighbouring place on the other side of the sea.


Verses 22-71

In the miracle of the multiplying of the bread Jesus has symbolically presented Himself as the true bread of life. This thought is now unfolded in the various discourses with which the remainder of the chapter is occupied, while at the same time the effect of these discourses is traced upon the different classes of hearers introduced to us. The subordinate parts of this section are determined by the mention of these—(1) John 6:22-40, a discourse addressed to the ‘multitude,’ which must here, as elsewhere, be carefully distinguished from the ‘Jews;’(2) John 6:41-51, a discourse to the ‘Jews’ who had ‘murmured’ at the words spoken to the multitude. The discourse contains the same great truths as those previously dwelt upon, but in a sharper and more pointed form; (3) John 6:52-59, a discourse by which the ‘Jews’ are still further irritated. Formerly they murmured; now they strive among themselves, and the discourse becomes still sharper and more pointed than before; (4) John 6:60-66, in which the effect of the truths spoken by Jesus shows itself even upon the disciples, many of whom are so offended that they walk no more with Him; (5) John 6:67-71,—while many of the disciples are thus offended, the Twelve, with the exception of Judas, are drawn more closely to Jesus, and Peter in their name makes confession of his faith.


Verse 23

John 6:23. Howbeit there came boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat the bread, after that the Lord had given thanks. Whilst they were still in wonder and doubt, other boats came across the sea near to the scene of the miracle of the preceding day. These boats were from Tiberias, and from the boatmen who brought them the multitude would learn at once that neither Jesus nor His disciples had gone thither.


Verse 24

John 6:24. When the multitude therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they themselves got into the little boats, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. If Jesus was neither on the eastern shore nor at Tiberias, He might be sought near Capernaum, in the direction of which town the disciples had sailed. John’s words clearly imply that there was an eager and diligent search for Jesus on the part of the multitude before they left the spot where they had witnessed His power. The prominence given to the thought of Jesus in these verses is very marked. What is said of the disciples has no independent value: their movements are described solely that light may be thrown upon those of their Master. When convinced that it was vain further to prosecute the search in that region, the multitude obtained possession of the smaller boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.


Verse 25

John 6:25. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him. Rabbi, when camest thou hither? The ‘other side’ denotes the western coast. Their question on finding Jesus in Capernaum but partly expresses their thoughts, which would rest as much on the how as on the ‘when’ of His coming to this place. He had not left the eastern shore with His disciples; the storm of the night must have forbidden any attempt to make the passage then; and, as they well knew, He had not come to the western shore in their company. The question is not answered, but the eager search which it implied is made to lead the way to deeper instruction as to the miracle which had drawn them to follow Him.


Verse 26

John 6:26. Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were satisfied. This solemn declaration is only seemingly discordant with John 6:2 or John 6:14. Those who witnessed a miracle of Jesus, and did not understand its significance, might be said to see the sign and yet not to see it. Indeed, John 6:14 seems to imply a third condition of mind, intermediate between these. Those who had eaten of the loaves saw in the miracle the proof that Jesus was the Prophet who should come: they saw that the wonder was significant, but the words before us show that even this stood below the true perception of the ‘sign.’ The miracle had led the thoughts of the multitude to the power and dignity of the miracle-worker, but had suggested nothing of a higher and a spiritual work, symbolized by the material bounty that had been bestowed. The design of the work in its relation to the Saviour was to manifest His glory as the Giver of the highest blessings; in its relation to the people, to fix their eyes on Him and to awaken their desire for that of which the bread had been the sign. Part of this purpose has been attained,—they have sought Him eagerly, with toil and trouble:—He must now so complete their training that they may be led to leave the carnal and seek the spiritual, that they may be brought to behold in His deeds not merely the tokens of His power to satisfy every earthly desire of His followers, but the impress of His Divine character and work.


Verse 27

John 6:27. Work not for the eating which perisheth. The rendering ‘work’ is required to bring out the connection with the following verse, in which the same word is used. The language of the original is very expressive:—‘Work,’ use all the energies of your nature, not unto partaking of perishable but of imperishable food. It is not an act of life but the active life itself that is referred to, and the object of this whole life. When we bring together this verse and that which precedes, we cannot doubt that our Lord, in speaking of working for perishable food, alludes to the labour which the multitude had undergone in their persistent search for Him. As their object in thus seeking Him had been carnal, not spiritual, this act of theirs (good and wise in itself,—most blessed, had the aim been higher and more true) was a fitting type of their life, a life occupied with the search after material good and the satisfaction of lower wants and desires.

But for the eating which abideth, unto eternal life which the son of man shall give unto you. In contrast with what they had sought in thus toiling to discover Him, Jesus sets the feast which it is His glory to offer and of which they should be eager to partake. As in John 4:14 He had spoken of the gift of water which had power to quench for ever the recipient’s thirst, so here He speaks of an eating that abides and never perishes. That verse and this are closely parallel, and each helps to explain the other. In the one Jesus says what the water that He giveth shall become in him that receiveth it: here in like manner it is not of meat that He speaks, but of ‘eating,’—not of food itself, but of food appropriated. In both passages the words ‘unto eternal life’ occur; and in each case there is some difficulty in determining whether the phrase belongs to the word preceding or to the whole thought of the clause. Yet, as in the first it is probable that ‘life eternal’ is the end attained when the fountain is opened in the soul, so in this verse ‘unto’ does not seem to belong to ‘abideth,’ but to express the object of that ‘eating’ for which they may and ought to work. Not the eating that perisheth, but the eating that abideth, must absorb their labour, that they may thus win eternal life. If this is the connection intended by John, we must certainly join the second relative ‘which’ (not with ‘eating,’ but) with the words that immediately precede, viz. ‘eternal life.’ There is nothing difficult in such a connection of the words: on the contrary, it is easier than any other, and best agrees with the following verses and with other passages in the Gospel. Almost uniformly in this chapter Jesus speaks of Himself as the bread of life, and of the Father as the Giver of the bread, while ‘eternal life’ is the result of receiving Him as the living bread (John 6:33; John 6:51; John 6:54). A close parallel is found in chap. John 10:28, ‘I give unto them eternal life,’ as also in chap. John 17:2; and the connection of the ‘Son of man’ with this gift reminds us at once of chap. John 3:14. How this gift will become theirs the later verses explain: the two points here are that this life is obtained from the Son of man—from the God-man alone, and that it is a free gift from Him. This is not inconsistent with the ‘working’ of which Jesus has spoken. The multitudes had toiled, in that they had put aside all obstacles to come to Him: having come to Him they may receive His free gift. The reception of the gift is opposed to labouring for wages or for merit, but not to earnest effort. The gift can be bestowed in its fulness on those only whose one thought and one effort are bent on receiving it: were there no such activity on our part, we could not be in a position to receive the gift without destroying the nature we possess.

For him the Father, God, did seal. For this very purpose that He might be the Giver of eternal life, was He made the Son of man, was He sent by the Father into the world. (Compare chap. John 10:36, John 17:2.) He came commissioned by the Father: on Him the Father’s seal was set. The reference is not to the miracle just related, as if Jesus would say that what they had themselves seen was the Father’s attestation of Him, the evidence which should have led them to believe in Him. This is but a small part of the truth, as what is said in chap. 5 on the witness of the Father very plainly shows. There, however, the thought is made to rest on the continued and abiding testimony of the Father: here the whole attestation is looked upon as concentrated in one past act of the Father, as included and implied in the act of ‘sending’ the Son: and this Father is ‘God,’ that God whom they themselves allowed to be the supreme source and end of all things. The special reference to the Father in this verse, where Jesus speaks of the gift of eternal life, receives its explanation from John 6:57 (which see).


Verse 28

John 6:28. They said therefore unto him, What must we do, that we may work the works of God? Our Lord’s answer seems to have been but little comprehended by ‘the multitude.’ They reply with an earnest inquiry, taking up all that they have understood, but missing the central point of His words. He had first bidden them work, His last word had spoken of the Divine authority He bore: their answer deals with ‘works of God,’ but contains no reference to eternal life or to the promise of a free gift from the Son of man. The works of the law were to them a familiar thought, and they understood that God through His new prophet was commanding them to do some new work. Their question, ‘What must we do,’ shows a teachable disposition, and a willingness to learn from Him what was the will of God. But what did they mean by ‘the works of God’? The expression is used in various senses in the Old Testament. The works of the Lord may be the works done by Him, or they may be the works which He commands and which are according to His mind. In this verse we cannot think of miracles, nor is it easy to believe that the people can have had in their thoughts the works which God produces in those who are His. In its connection here, the expression recalls such passages as Jeremiah 48:10; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Revelation 2:26. The whole phrase (with slight alteration) occurs in Numbers 8:11, in the Septuagint: ‘Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord . . . that they may work the works of the Lord.’ As the meaning in these passages is the works which the Lord would have them do, as the works of the law are those which the law prescribes, so here the works of God signify those which He commands, and which therefore are pleasing to Him.


Verse 29

John 6:29. Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe in him whom he sent. The one work which God would have them do is believing in Him whom He sent. The people had spoken of ‘works,’ thinking of outward deeds; but that which God commands is one work, faith in Jesus. This faith leads to union with Him and participation of His Spirit, and thus includes in itself all works that are pleasing to God. We must not suppose that our Lord intends to rebuke their question, ‘What must we do,’ as if He would say, It is not doing, but believing. The act of believing in Jesus, the soul’s casting itself on Him with perfect trust, is here spoken of as a work, as something which requires the exercise of man’s will and calls forth determination and effort. It is very noticeable that these words of Jesus directly touch that thought in John 6:27, which their answer (John 6:28) neglected. The work of theirs of which He had spoken was their toil to come to Him: He had prescribed no other work, but had sought to lead them to the higher object,—the attainment of the abiding nourishment, unto eternal life offered by the Son of man. So here: every disturbing or extraneous thought is put aside; and, with even unusual directness, force, and simplicity, Jesus shows that the one cardinal requirement of the Father is the reception of the Son by faith.


Verse 30

John 6:30. They said therefore unto him, What then doest thou as a sign, that we may see, and believe thee? What dost thou work? The words of Jesus had now become too plain to be misunderstood. It was clear that He would turn them away from such works as they had had in view, and fix all thought upon Himself; while at the same time His words breathed no spirit of mere self-assertion, but claimed to be an expression of the Divine will. Such a claim no other prophet had ever made; such a claim can only be justified by some special sign which no one can challenge or mistake; and the sign must correspond with the claim. The day before Jesus had been with them as a Teacher only: the miracle had constrained them to acknowledge Him as ‘the Prophet who should come.’ But the words He has just used can only suit One who is higher even than Moses. Before they can believe Him when He thus speaks (note the significant change from ‘believe in Him,’ John 6:29, to ‘believe thee,’ i.e. accept thy claims) some sign equal to the greatest wrought by Moses, or even some greater sign, must be displayed.


Verse 31

John 6:31. Our fathers did eat the manna in the wilderness. Amongst the miracles wrought by Moses the Jews seem (and with reason) to have assigned to the manna a foremost place. In a Hebrew commentary on Ecclesiastes there is preserved a saying of great interest in connection with this passage: ‘As the first Redeemer made the manna to descend, as it is written, Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you; so the later Redeemer also shall make the manna to descend, as it is written, May there be abundance of corn in the earth’ (Psalms 72:19).

As it is written, He gave them bread out of heaven to eat. Of the many characteristics distinguishing the miracle of the manna, one is here dwelt upon,—neither the abundance of its supply nor its continuance, but its source: it was ‘bread out of heaven.’ The bread with which they themselves had just been fed, though marvellously increased in quantity, was still natural bread, the bread of earth: ‘bread out of heaven’ was the proof received by their fathers that their Benefactor was the God of heaven. What similar evidence could Jesus offer? The words here quoted from Scripture do not exactly agree with any passage of the Old Testament. In Psalms 78:24 we read (following the Greek version), ‘And He rained for them manna to eat, and gave them bread of heaven;’ and in Exodus 16:4, ‘Behold I rain for you bread out of heaven.’ The words in the verse before us are therefore substantially a quotation from the psalm, with one important change introduced from the narrative of Exodus, ‘out of heaven’ for ‘of heaven.’ The change is important, because it points more distinctly to the source of the supply and not its quality only, and because the expression ‘out of heaven’ is taken up by our Lord and used by Him with marked emphasis.


Verse 32

John 6:32. Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you. The gravity of the truth declared in this verse is indicated by the solemn ‘Verily, verily,’ which now occurs for the second time in this discourse.

Moses gave you not the bread out of heaven; but my Father giveth you the bread out of heaven, the true bread. If we compare these words with John 6:26, in which the formula ‘Verily, verily’ is first used, we easily trace the advance in the thought. There, in general terms, the people are enjoined not to set their thought on the perishable food; here Jesus declares that the true bread given out of heaven is not the manna, but that which His Father is at this moment offering them. In the words of John 6:31, ‘he gave them bread,’ the multitude may have had Moses in their thoughts; but that is not the meaning of the psalmist, the context having the clearest reference to God. It is probable that our Lord here mentions Moses only to point out more distinctly the past and inferior gift of the manna by the servant of God, in contrast with the true bread now offered to them by the Father. It was not Moses who gave the manna; still less had their fathers received from him the true bread of heaven. The Father, who gave to their fathers the symbol, offers the reality now. ‘My Father,’ Jesus says, because He is leading His hearers onwards to the truth declared in the next two verses, that the ‘true bread’ given out of heaven is Himself, the Son.


Verse 33

John 6:33. For the bread of God is that which cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life unto the world. The ‘bread of God’ is the bread which God gives (John 6:32). It is not easy to decide on the translation of this verse. The Greek equally admits of two renderings, either ‘he that cometh,’ or ‘that (bread) which cometh.’ If the former is correct, our Lord begins here to identify Himself with the ‘true bread;’ if the latter, the figure is retained unexplained until John 6:35. The expressions in John 6:50; John 6:58 do not decide the point; for after John 6:35 the descent from heaven might with equal propriety be connected either with the bread or with Him whom the bread symbolized. Nor does the present tense ‘cometh down ‘compel us to refer the word to the bread; for Jesus might be designated ‘He that cometh from heaven’ (comp. chap. John 3:31) as correctly as ‘He that came from heaven:’ one description relates to nature and origin, the other to a past fact of history. On the whole, however, it seems best to carry on the thought of the bread in this verse. The very word ‘come down’ is used (Exodus 16) in the account of the manna; and the answer of the multitude in John 6:34 seems to show that no new and (to them) strange thought has come in since the mention of the Father’s gift. But if the figure is still continued in this verse, it is only a thin veil that conceals the truth. In John 6:27 the Son of man is He who gives eternal life; here it is the bread of God that giveth life unto the world.—The last word is very significant. The manna had been for ‘the fathers;’ the true bread is for the world. We are reminded at once of chap. John 3:16, ‘God so loved the world,’ and of chap. John 4:42, ‘the Saviour of the world.’ The unlimited offer also recalls chap. John 4:14, ‘Whosoever hath drunk of the water that I will give him;’ and in both cases the result is the same.


Verse 34

John 6:34. They said therefore unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. We cannot see in these words the mere expression of a desire that earthly wants may be satisfied (comp. John 4:15). This would have incurred rebuke (comp. John 6:26), and not led to clearer teaching, such as is found in the coming verses. Jesus, moreover, is not dealing with ‘the Jews’ (who meet us at John 6:41), but with the multitude,—people who were indeed no more than half enlightened, but whose minds were not shut against the truth. His words in the following verses are altogether such as He was wont to address to men who truly sought the light, though not fully conscious of what they sought.

John 6:35. Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life,—the bread, that is, that contains life in itself, and thus is able to give life unto the world. The Father giveth ‘the true bread’ (John 6:32 in giving His Son; the Son of man giveth eternal life (John 6:27) in imparting Himself. To this declaration everything has been leading,—the bread of the miracle, the manna, every reproof (John 6:26), every encouragement (John 6:27).

He that is coming to me shall in no wise hunger. The original words are chosen with exquisite delicacy. The figure is not that of one who has achieved a toilsome and lengthened journey (as if the words ran, ‘he that at length has reached me’), but that of one whose resolve is taken, and who sets out in the right way,—he that ‘is coming’ unto Jesus shall cease to hunger. Other passages may speak of the disciple as one who has come to Jesus; this with equal truth represents him as one who is coming towards Jesus, whose aim and desire and constant thoughts are towards his Lord. The hunger of the spirit ceases, the restless want and search for satisfaction are at an end; the ‘true bread,’ that which gives real sustenance, is received.

And he that believeth in me shall in no wise ever thirst. In these words we have an image similar to the last, but not the same. The quenching of thirst is even a stronger figure than the satisfaction of hunger, and thus (as usually in the poetry of the Old Testament) the thought of the second member is an advance upon that of the first. It may seem remarkable that ‘ever’ is not joined with both members of the verse; but (as the other words also show) the first simply expresses once for all the cessation of hunger,—hunger is at an end; whilst the second suggests the continuous presence of that which banishes thirst. Faith is really set forth in both clauses. The first presents it in the simplicity and power of the act of will,—the will turned towards Jesus; the second brings it into prominence as the continuous movement of the soul towards union with Him. It is not right therefore to interpret the ‘coming’ as part of the ‘believing,’ or to take either as denoting a momentary act belonging to the beginning only of the Christian life. Each figure, with a force peculiarly its own, expresses the abiding relation of the true disciple to his Lord; but only by a combination such as is here given could we have vividly presented to us both the immediate and the continuous satisfaction of spirit which Jesus imparts. There is probably another reason for the introduction of the figure of ‘thirst.’ It is not with the manna alone that Jesus is now healing. He had fed the multitudes with bread, but the meal at which He entertained them as His guests was designed to be the symbol of the Paschal feast (see the note on John 6:4). It was natural therefore thus to enlarge the symbols, that his feast may be kept in mind, and the way prepared for the words of later verses (John 6:53-56).


Verse 36

John 6:36. But I said unto you, that ye have indeed seen me, and believe not. When had such words been uttered? Certainly the reference is not to chap. John 5:37, spoken in Jerusalem to the Jews, not to the multitude in Galilee. It is not likely that Jesus is speaking of words of censure not recorded in this Gospel; and it is hardly possible to understand the simple expression ‘I said unto you’ in the sense, I would have you know, ‘this is what I would say.’ We must take the words as referring to the substance, to the spirit if not the letter, of something previously said in this chapter, and we can do this without any violence of interpretation. It is remarkable that the people themselves have used words almost identical (John 6:30): ‘What doest Thou as a sign, that we may see and believe Thee?’that is, may see Thee in Thy working, and believe Thee. This is a confession on their part that as yet they had seen no sign that had led them to see and believe Him. The words of Jesus in John 6:26 imply that in truth they had not seen ‘signs:’ they had seen His miracles, but these had not so proved themselves to be’ signs ‘as to lead the people to see and believe Him. The charge, therefore, that ‘they seeing saw not’ is perfectly equivalent to what is said in that verse; they had indeed seen Him in the works which were the manifestation of Himself, but they had not been led to faith. The charge is very grave, but it is not made in anger, nor does it leave the accused in hopelessness: not judgment, but encouragement, is the spirit that pervades this part of the discourse. Perhaps it is for this very reason that the word is ‘I said,’ not ‘I say.’ The fact was so; it may be so still; but the state is one that need not last,—even now it may pass away.


Verse 37

John 6:37. All that which the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that is coming to me I will in no wise cast out. These words have been understood by some as a reproach: ‘How different are ye from those whom my Father giveth me!’ but such an interpretation is quite inconsistent with the context. At present, indeed, those to whom Jesus speaks are not believers; but even in their case His mission may not be a failure,—they may be given to Him, and He will not cast them out. Up to this point the only gift spoken of has been a gift to men (John 6:27; John 6:31-34), especially the Father’s gift of the Son to be the bread of life. Here the converse is suddenly introduced—the Father’s gift to the Son. What Jesus brings to men is the Father’s gift to them: what Jesus receives in the homage and belief and love of men is the Father’s gift to Him. The form of expression is remarkable, ‘all that which the Father giveth me.’ A passage closely akin to this we find in chap. 17 (which has many points of contact with this chapter), and in close connection with the gift which (John 6:27) the Son bestows, the gift of eternal life. The passage Isaiah 17:2 : ‘As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, in order that all that which Thou hast given Him, He may give to them eternal life.’ In both these verses the totality of the Father’s gift is presented first, and then the individuals who compose this gift and who themselves receive the gift which the Son bestows. The gift of the Father must not be understood by us in the sense of a predestinating decree. Both here and in the other passages of this Gospel where we read of the Father as giving to the Son His people (chaps. John 6:37; John 6:39, John 10:29, John 17:2; John 17:6; John 17:9; John 17:24, John 18:9), it is the moral and spiritual state of the heart that is thought of under the word. This state of heart by which they are prepared to listen to the voice of Jesus is due to God alone. The truth expressed here by ‘giving’ is expressed in John 6:44 by the ‘drawing’ of the Father, and in John 6:45 by ‘learning’ and ‘hearing’ from Him. Such preparation of heart is necessary: as Chrysostom expresses it, faith in Jesus is ‘no chance matter, but one that needs an impulse from above,’—from Him who worketh in us both to will and to work (Philippians 2:13). The test, then, of this work in the heart is the coming to Christ. The two words ‘come’ in this verse are different: in the first instance the meaning is ‘shall reach me;’ in the second we might almost render the words ‘he that is coming towards me.’ What was said on the 35th verse is fully applicable here, for the expression is the same. We cannot read the words without being reminded of the most touching of the Saviour’s parables: the prodigal arose and came towards his father, but when he was yet a great way off his father ran to meet him.


Verse 38

John 6:38. Because I have come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. The previous verse was full of the power and energy of love; but even then Jesus expresses no feeling or purpose of His own as the motive of His acts. He will cast out none, because such is the Father’s will, and to do this will He has come down from heaven (comp. John 6:33).

It may be well, however, to observe that a different preposition from that in John 6:33 is here used: here ‘from,’ for it is the work of Jesus; there ‘out of,’ for it is the heavenliness of His origin that is the prominent thought.


Verse 39

John 6:39. And this is the will of him that sent me, that all that which he hath given me, of it I should lose nothing. Here, as in John 6:37, the gift of the Father is represented in its totality, ‘all that which.’ As no part of the precious gift to the multitude, the gift which symbolized Himself, must be left to perish (John 6:12), so no part of the still more precious gift of the Father may be lost by the Son.
But should raise it up at the last day. Should raise ‘it,’ the whole, all that is comprehended in the gift. The ‘last day’ can denote only one great period of resurrection for the whole Church of God,—again a proof, as in John 5:28-29, that the teaching of our Lord in this Gospel is not confined to the spiritual aspect of death and resurrection. It is not the gift of eternal life that belongs to the last day. Whosoever receives the Son at once receives in Him life eternal (John 3:36, John 6:33-35); but the day of the resurrection of the body witnesses the completion of that gift of eternal life which is now bestowed. In the next verse the present and the future gifts are combined.


Verse 40

John 6:40. For this is the will of my Father, that every one which beholdeth the Son and believeth in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise him up at the last day. This verse is no mere repetition of the last, but differs from it in two important points. As in John 6:37, we pass from the thought of the general body of the Church to that of the individual members: in the Father’s will every member is embraced. Secondly, the bond of connection with Jesus is viewed from its human rather than from its Divine side. In the last verse Jesus spoke of ‘all that which’ the Father had given Him; here He speaks of ‘every one which beholdeth the Son and believeth in Him.’ The word ‘beholdeth’ is especially noteworthy, clearly including as it does an act of the will. ‘Seeing’ may be accidental, may be transient: he who ‘beholds’ is willing to stand and gaze on the object presented to his view. The word is full of instruction (comp. John 8:51, John 12:45, John 14:17, John 17:24).

At this point our lord’s discourse is interrupted. Hitherto He has been addressing the multitude: now, for the first time in this chapter, we are to read of ‘the Jews.’ i.e. (as we have observed in earlier chapters) adherents of the ruling party which was violently hostile to Jesus. Whether these Jews were amongst the multitude hitherto addressed in this discourse we cannot tell. If so, they had occupied no prominent place, but were lost in the crowd. But, as there is nothing to show that the paragraph which follows this verse relates to the same day, it is very possible that the Jews were not present at the miracle or when Jesus spoke of the bread of life, but were afterwards informed of His words. This latter supposition becomes more probable as we look into the circumstances. We know that on the day of the feeding of the multitude the Passover was at hand (John 6:4); and we cannot doubt that, however anxious the enemies of our Lord might be to linger near Him that they might catch Him in His talk, they would scrupulously observe the ritual of the feast. If we turn to Mark, we find two passages that distinctly speak of scribes who came down from Jerusalem to Galilee: one of these passages (John 3:22) belongs to a date somewhat earlier than that of the events related in this chapter, the other (John 7:1) comes in shortly after the narrative of Christ’s walking on the sea of Galilee. The same remarks apply to the Gospel of Matthew. It seems probable, therefore, that these agents of the hostile and influential party in Jerusalem hastened back to Galilee after the Passover, to resume their machinations against the prophet whom they both hated and feared.


Verse 41

John 6:41. The Jews therefore murmured concerning him, because he said, I am the bread which came down out of heaven. The ‘murmuring’ denotes more than that indistinct complaining to which we generally apply the word. The frequent and indignant expressions of discontent by the Israelites when journeying in the desert are expressed by the same word in the Septuagint, and this (comp. 1 Corinthians 10:10) seems to have fixed its meaning in the New Testament. The Jews did not complain in the presence of Jesus, but sought to foment discontent and ill-feeling amongst those who at the time had been willing hearers of His words. It is characteristic of the spirit and motives of these enemies of our Lord that their charge against Him is put in the most captious form. As in the very similar case related in chap. John 5:12, the words of nobler meaning are as far as possible left out: nothing is said about ‘the bread of life’ or ‘the bread of God.’ Indeed the bread is a mere link of connection, dropped as soon as it has served to introduce the words joined with it, to which they can (as they think) attach a charge of falsehood. On the offer of life, eternal life, they will not dwell.


Verse 42

John 6:42. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how doth he now say, I have come down out of heaven? At this time, then, it is clear that Jesus was generally regarded as Joseph’s son: the calumnies which at a later period were current amongst the Jews had not yet been resorted to. The words of the Jews do not imply that Joseph was still living, as the word rendered ‘know’ may simply denote their being acquainted with a fact,—they knew that Joseph and Mary were His parents. We need not wonder that they are ignorant of the miraculous conception.


Verse 43

John 6:43. Jesus answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. For such murmurers Jesus has only reproof. It is very strange that in our day some writers on this Gospel should have had difficulty in understanding why Jesus did not refute the objection raised by declaring the truth of the miraculous conception. Men who could so mutilate His words as practically to pervert their meaning would have been brought no nearer to conviction by such a statement, however made, but would have gathered from it material for still more malicious accusation. At first the reply of Jesus deals only with the spirit His opponents manifest.


Verse 44

John 6:44. No one can come to me except the Father which sent me shall have drawn him. In these words He would tell them that (as their unbelief and resistance show) they have not that special divine teaching without which they cannot understand Him. Hence He speaks not of the ‘drawing’ of God, but of that of the ‘Father which sent’ Him. Only like can understand like. It is as the Father of the Son that God works in us that spirit in which the Son can be received by us. The ‘drawing’ is not precisely the same as the ‘giving’ of John 6:37, but describes, so to speak, the first stage of the ‘giving;’ he that ‘hath been drawn’ by the Father is he that is given to the Son.

And I will raise him up at the last day. As the initiative of salvation belongs to the Father, the completion is the work of the Son. The Father draws and entrusts; the Son receives, keeps, imparts life, until the glorious consummation, the final resurrection. Between these two extreme terms ‘draw’ and ‘raise up’ is included all the development of the spiritual life (Godet).


Verse 45

John 6:45. It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Jesus confirms His word by a testimony from the Old Testament, not now taken from the Law (comp. John 6:31), but from the Prophets. The use of the plural ‘prophets’ has been thought to prove that the reference does not belong to any one passage; and we may certainly say that an inclusive expression like this may have been used designedly, as implying that there are many such promises, and that this tone of promise is characteristic of the book of the Prophets. Still the word which introduces the quotation, ‘And,’ a word quite needless for the Speaker’s purpose, shows conclusively that the quotation is direct. There can be no doubt that the words are taken from Isaiah 54:13, with one or two slight alterations. They describe the great and general privilege of Messianic times. The retention of the words ‘thy children’ (addressed to Jerusalem in Isaiah 54:13) might have seemed to limit the promise, which, belonging to the ‘latter days,’ is really free from all such limitations. It has been suggested (by Godet) that the synagogue lesson for the day (see John 6:59) may have included these very words (comp. Luke 4:17-21). Be this as it may (and there is no improbability in the conjecture), the quotation was well known, and carries out and illustrates the words of John 6:44. The truth of that verse is set in a new light,—presented on its human rather than on its Divine side. The ‘drawing’ is a ‘teaching:’ he that hath been drawn by the Father, is he that hath truly received the teaching of the Father.

Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me. Such true reception of the teaching is emphatically described in these words. Two stages in human experience, implied in the successful result of teaching, are separated from each other. All who hear may also learn, but many hear who will not heed, and therefore cannot learn; just as there are many who see the Son but will not remain to ‘behold the Son’ and to believe in Him (John 6:40). These varied expressions illustrate one another with wonderful beauty and power. Not one allows us to think of compulsion or the forcing of man’s will: all with one voice give glory to the Father as the source of every impulse towards the light and the life. The variety of expressions used by Jesus in the inculcation of this truth, so characteristic of the present chapter, may well remind us of the variety of the means employed by the Father in the prosecution of the work. Thus the ‘drawing’ may present to our thought especially an inward influence; the ‘teaching’ may suggest the application of Scripture truth; whilst the giving brings into view the final act of the Father when the design of His love has been fulfilled. But while each term may lead us to think most of one aspect of the Father’s work, every term really includes all its aspects and denotes the whole work.


Verse 46

John 6:46. Not that any one hath seen the Father, save he which is from God, he hath seen the Father. The words just spoken, ‘he that hath heard from the Father,’ might be understood to point to a direct communication: this however would imply a close relation to the Father such as is possessed by One alone, who hath ‘seen the Father.’ His saying that all who come to Him have first ‘heard from the Father’ might lead His hearers to infer that the descent out of heaven likewise implied nothing more than could be said of all. Such an inference this verse is intended to preclude. If they would really be ‘taught’ of the Father it can only be through Him.


Verse 47

John 6:47. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth hath eternal life. In the preceding verses Jesus has rebuked the murmuring of the Jews. They had not opened their hearts to the Father’s teaching, or their difficulty would have disappeared. He now returns to the truths out of which His foes had drawn their indictment against His truthfulness. First, however, He brings into relief those sayings which they had passed over entirely. The solemn formula, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you,’ to be followed by a higher at John 6:53, at once marks the transition and shows the importance of the truth declared. In speaking to the multitude (John 6:26) His first words had related to eternal life, and to the paramount necessity of faith (John 6:29). So here also; but the assertion is made in the briefest possible form. Even the object of the faith is left unexpressed, that the thought may entirely rest on the state of faith itself: the believer in the very act and condition of faith has eternal life. It is not often that Jesus speaks thus, omitting the words ‘in me’ or ‘in the Son;’ but there could be no real ambiguity in the present instance, and He desires to express in the most forcible manner the state of mind which formed the strongest possible contrast to that of the Jews.


Verses 47-49

John 6:47-49. The Pharisees therefore answered them, Have ye also been led astray? Hath any one of the rulers believed in him, or of the Pharisees? But this multitude which understandeth not the law are cursed. In such a matter as the acceptance of any man as Messiah, the judgment of the rulers (members of the Sanhedrin) must surely be decisive; but what ruler or (to take a wider range, and include all who accurately interpret the Law and uphold its majesty) who of the Pharisees has sanctioned the claims of Jesus? The foolish multitude may have done so, in this showing an ignorance which, in the mind of the Pharisees, deserves and brings with it a curse.—of such contemptuous treatment of the common people, as distinguished from ‘the disciples of the wise,’ many examples may be produced from the sayings of Jewish Rabbis.—Once more it may be noted, our Lord’s enemies pronounce their own condemnation in proclaiming their unbelief.


Verse 48

John 6:48. I am the bread of life. Having prepared the way by the declaration of the necessity of faith, He reaffirms what (in John 6:35) He had said of Himself. He is the bread which contains life in itself, and which therefore can give and does give life to all who receive and assimilate it.—It is interesting to observe, at a point where the discourse is really higher than it was before, a shortening of the formula employed, similar to that already met by us in John 1:29; John 1:36 (see note on John 1:35-36).


Verse 49

John 6:49. Your fathers did eat the manna in the wilderness, and died. No other bread has given life eternal. Even the manna, the bread given out of heaven, did not bestow life on their fathers, who (as the people themselves had said) ate the manna in the wilderness. It seems very probable that the addition ‘in the wilderness’ is more than a mere repetition of the words of John 6:31. It recalls Numbers 14:35, Psalms 95:8-11, and other passages in which ‘the wilderness’ is specially mentioned as the scene of disobedience and of death; and thus the fathers, who (Deuteronomy 1:32) ‘did not believe the Lord’ and died, are contrasted with the believer who ‘hath eternal life’ (John 6:47).


Verse 50

John 6:50. This is the bread which cometh down out of heaven, that any one may eat thereof, and not die. The ‘bread that cometh down out of heaven’ (repeated from John 6:33) is of such a nature, and has such an object, that one may eat of it and not die. We are not to press too much our Lord’s use of ‘one’ or ‘any one’ in this verse; but we may at least say that His studious avoidance of every word of limitation points once more to the unbounded offer of life, the offer to ‘the world’ (John 6:33). When John 6:49-50 are compared, a difficulty presents itself. It may be said that the antithesis is not complete, for is not death used in two different senses? The fathers died in the wilderness: he that eateth of the true bread shall not die. There is exactly the same twofold use of the word in chap. John 11:26 (see the note on that verse). It is sufficient here to say that in neither verse is the meaning as simple as the objection supposes. In John 6:49 we must certainly recognise a partial reference to death as a punishment of sin, and by consequence to that moral death which even in this world must ever accompany sin. In John 6:50 again physical death may seem to be excluded, but we shall see that John elsewhere regards the believer as freed (in a certain sense) even from this, so entirely has death for him changed its character,—so complete is the deliverance granted by his Lord.


Verse 51

John 6:51. I am the living bread which came down out of heaven. Once more Jesus declares that the bread of which He has spoken is Himself; but the assertion is expressed in words that differ significantly from those before employed. For ‘the bread of life’ He says now ‘the living bread:’ for ‘cometh down,’ an expression which might seem a mere figure denoting heavenly origin, He says ‘came down,’ speaking of an actual historical descent out of heaven. The former change especially is important. He has been speaking of the bread as given, but is about to declare Himself to be the Giver: therefore He says that He is the living bread, that can give itself, and with itself its inherent life. There was nothing in the ‘bread of life’ that would necessarily suggest more than means and instrument. If the tree of life in Paradise bestowed immortality on man, it was but by instrumental efficacy. ‘The living bread’ is a thought absolutely unique, and the words compel the thinks of the hearers to rest on the person of the Speaker, who in the possession of this life, and not as the precious but lifeless manna, descended out of heaven.

If any one shall have eaten of this bread, he shall live for ever. These words partly repeat and partly extend those of the preceding verse. There the nature and object of the bread are given; here the assurance that every one who makes trial of the promise shall certainly find it fulfilled to him in the gift of a life that lasts for ever.

And moreover the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world. The personal significance of the preceding words is now made even more direct, and the meaning intended cannot probably be mistaken. He gives; the bread He gives is His flesh; the gift is for the life of the world. The questions which these words have raised will be best considered in connection with our Lord’s own comment in the following verses.


Verse 52

John 6:52. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? As before, the Jews take hold of those words which are most susceptible of a merely material sense. Every word that points to a spiritual meaning they ignore; but in doing so they themselves give evidence of the clearness with which our Lord had now shown that His intention had been to fix the whole thought of His hearers on Himself, and not on His gifts. The contention of the Jews became violent as they talked of the words of Jesus: the Evangelist’s expression, literally taken, points to ‘fighting’ rather than strife (comp. Acts 7:26; 2 Timothy 2:24; James 4:2).


Verses 53-55

John 6:53-55. Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye have eaten the flesh of the Son of man, and drunk his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. As to the general meaning of this important passage there can be little or no doubt. There are some new expressions, but on the whole the imagery agrees with that employed in the earlier part of the chapter, and the blessings offered by Jesus are described again in identical language. Here, as before, life, eternal life, is promised; again ‘eating’ is the figure which describes the mode of receiving life; as in John 6:35; John 6:48; John 6:51, Jesus identifies Himself with that which when eaten gives life; and, as in John 6:44 (compare John 6:39-40), He promises that He will raise up at the last day every one who has thus received eternal life. The agreement then between these verses and the earlier part of the discourse is so marked that there can be no change in the general sense: all the expressions in previous verses in which figure is wholly or partially set aside may be brought in here also to elucidate the meaning. Our Lord therefore still teaches in regard to all who come to Him, who believe in Him, who are intimately joined to Him in the union of faith and, receiving all from Him, may be said to appropriate to themselves Himself, and to feed on Him,—that these and these alone have eternal life. There is nothing here that alters this foundation truth. The phraseology of these verses (and John 6:51) is new in the following respects: (1) Instead of the one metaphor of eating we have two, ‘eating’ and ‘drinking;’ (2) The figure of bread is dropped, giving place to ‘flesh,’ the flesh of the Son of man, which flesh is given by Him for the life of the world. (3) For the first time Jesus makes mention of His ‘blood,’—the drinking of this blood gives life. The introduction of the second metaphor, ‘drinking,’ at once recalls John 6:35, where ‘thirst’ is as suddenly brought in. As in that verse, so here, one purpose answered is the more complete realisation of a feast: the Paschal mead is always present in the symbols of this chapter. Whether this is to be taken as the only purpose will depend on the answer given to other questions which must now be asked. Does Jesus, in speaking of His flesh given for the life of the world, expressly refer to His death, His atoning death? Is it in order to point more clearly to that truth that He here brings in the mention of His blood? Are we to understand that there is a strict and real difference between the things signified by eating His flesh and drinking His blood? The last question may easily be answered: there is certainly no such difference. In John 6:35 there is a very beautiful and rapid change of aspect, but no substantial change of thought: coming to Christ is believing in Him, and the result is the satisfaction of every want, whether represented as hunger or as thirst. When the ‘flesh’ is first mentioned (John 6:51) it stands alone, as the Saviour’s gift for the life of the world; and below (John 6:57) ‘eating’ alone is spoken of, yet the result is life. As a rule, indeed, flesh is contrasted with blood in biblical language, and the two are joined together to express the physical being of man; but it is not uncommon to find flesh used by itself in this sense. Thus in the first chapter of this Gospel we read that ‘the Word was made flesh,’ whereas in Hebrews 2:14 we are taught that the Son took part in flesh and blood. It is therefore quite in accordance with the usage of Scripture that the same idea should be expressed now by the one term and now by the two combined; and the context (as we have seen) shows that this is the case here. The two expressions of these verses are thus substantially equivalent to the one expression of John 6:57. But it does not follow from this that our Lord had no special motive for thus varying His language. The cardinal thought is most simply expressed in John 6:57, ‘he that eateth me;’ and we may well believe that He would have so spoken in these verses also had He not intended to suggest special thoughts by the use of other words. In asking now what these special thoughts are, it is scarcely possible for us, in the light of events that followed, to dissociate the last clause of John 6:51 from the thought of death, or the mention of ‘the blood’ of the Son of man from the thought of the blood shed upon the cross. The words, indeed, would not at that time suggest such thoughts: they were rather a secret prophecy, like the mysterious sayings of chap. John 2:19 (‘Destroy this Temple’) and chap. John 3:14 (‘even so must the Son of man be lifted up’), and that saying so often repeated in the earlier Gospels, the command to ‘take up’ and to ‘bear’ ‘the cross.’ But this Gospel shows most plainly that the end was ever present to Jesus from the very beginning; and many of His words can only receive their proper interpretation by the application of this principle. There is another consideration which removes all doubt in this place, if the general view which has been taken of the chapter is correct. The figurative acts and language have been suggested by the Paschal meal which has just been (or is just about to be) celebrated in Jerusalem. The later chapters of the Gospel set forth Jesus as the fulfilment of the Passover, Jesus on the cross as the antitype and reality of the Paschal meal. This chapter in pointing to the type points continually to the fulfilment; but the Paschal lamb died, and the death of Jesus must therefore be regarded as part of the thought before us. Nor would it be safe to deny that mention of the blood here may even be connected, as some have supposed, with the command that the blood of the Paschal lamb should be sprinkled on the dwellings of the Israelites. So many are the links between symbol and reality which the Evangelist apprehends both in his own teaching and in the discourses recorded by him, that it is less hazardous to admit than to deny the possibility of such a connection. But even then the thought of blood shed upon the cross must not be kept separate and distinct from all else that Jesus was and did. The central thought of the chapter is undoubtedly that of a meal, a feast, an experimental reception of a living Christ which is symbolized by ‘eating’ and ‘drinking;’ and to that the whole interpretation must be subordinated. It cannot therefore be Jesus in His death, looked at as a distinct and separate act, that is before us in the mention of the blood. It must still be Jesus in the whole of His manifestation of Himself, living, dying, glorified; so that, if we may so speak, the death is to be viewed only as a pervading element of the life, only as one of the characteristics of that Christ who, not as divided but in all the combined elements of His humiliation and His glory, is from first to last the object of our faith and the satisfaction of our need. The main point, in short, to be kept in view is this, that we are here dealing with the actual nourishment, with the sustenance, with the life of the soul; with the believer, not as having only certain relations altered in which he stands to God, but as in fellowship and communion of spirit with Him in whom he believes. To maintain by faith that fellowship with Jesus in all that He was, is to eat His flesh and to drink His blood.

It may be accepted as an additional proof of the correctness of what has been said, if we observe that the very same blessings now connected with eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus have been already connected with ‘coming to Him,’ with ‘believing in Him,’ and with ‘beholding Him.’ Thus, for the first of these, comp. John 6:35; John 6:55; for the second, John 6:47; John 6:54; for the third, John 6:40; John 6:54. It is clear, therefore, that the spiritual appropriation of the life and death of Jesus is described under all the different figures of this passage. All tell us of communion, of fellowship, of a feast,—of the Lamb of God not only as the Paschal sacrifice, but as the Paschal feast.

The question now considered leads at once to another. What is the relation of these verses and this whole discourse to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? Many have held that the doctrine of the sacrament (not yet instituted, but present to the Redeemer’s mind) is the very substance of this chapter; whilst others have denied that there is any connection whatever between the two. We can adopt neither of these extreme views. On the one hand, the words of Jesus in this discourse can belong to no rite or ordinance, however exalted and however precious to His people. The act of which He speaks is continuous, not occasional,—spiritual, not external; every term that He employs is a symbol of trust in Him. But on the other hand, if alike in this chapter and in the records of the Last Supper the Paschal meal is presented to our thought, and if John specially connects this feast with the death of Christ, whilst all the other Evangelists bring into relief the relation of the Last Supper to the same death, it is impossible to say that the sacrament is altogether alien to this discourse. The relation of the Lord’s Supper to the teaching of this chapter is very nearly the same as the relation of Christian baptism to our Lord’s discourse to Nicodemus (see note on chap. John 3:5). In neither case is the sacrament as such brought before us; in both we must certainly recognise the presence of its fundamental idea. This discourse is occupied with that lasting, continuous act of which afterwards the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was made a symbol; and the sacrament is still a symbol of the unchanging truth so fully set forth in this discourse,—the believer’s union with his Lord, his complete dependence upon Him for life, his continued appropriation by faith of His very self, his feeding on Him, living on Him, his experience that Jesus in giving Himself satisfies every want of the soul.

There is not much in the particular expressions of these three verses that calls for further remark. It will be observed that there are two links connecting them with our Lord’s first address to the multitude (John 6:26): He again speaks of the ‘Son of man,’ and the words ‘food indeed’ (literally ‘true eating’) at once recall ‘the eating that abideth.’ One expression in John 6:53 is very forcible, ‘Ye have not life in yourselves,’ implying, as it does, that they who have so eaten and drunk have life in themselves. These are words which our Lord could not use without intending a special emphasis (comp. chap. John 5:26): so complete is the believer’s appropriation of the Son, who hath life in Himself, that the same exalted language may be used of the believer also, whilst he abides in fellowship with his Lord. Then he has life in himself, but not of himself. This fellowship is the substance of the next verse.


Verse 56

John 6:56. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me, and I in him. The fellowship consists in this, that the believer abides in the Life, and that He who is the Life abides in the believer. Note that here it is not ‘hath eaten;’ the ‘abiding’ is dependent on the continuance of the appropriating act.


Verse 57

John 6:57. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me. He that sent the Son into the world is the living Father,—the Being who is eternally and absolutely the Living One. The Son lives because the Father lives. This reception of life (see chap. John 5:26) is the characteristic of the Son. So, with a relation to the Son similar to the Son’s relation to the Father, the believer who receives and appropriates the Son lives because the Son, who is Life, abides in him. This is the climax of the whole discourse: for even more exalted language expressive of the same truth, that the relation between Jesus and His own has its pattern in the relation between the Father and the Son, see chap. John 17:21; John 17:23.


Verse 58

John 6:58. This is that bread which came down out of heaven. Here Jesus returns to the first theme. Since He has now set forth all that the true bread gives, the contrast with the manna is complete. ‘This’—of this nature, such as I have described it to you—‘is the bread that came down out of heaven.’ These last words illustrate the first clause of John 6:57, ‘the living Father sent me.’

Not as your fathers did eat and died: he that eateth this bread shall live for ever. The rest of the verse is in the main a forcible repetition of John 6:49-50.


Verse 59

John 6:59. These things said he, as he was teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum. These words not only give information as to the place in which the discourse (probably John 6:41-58; see note on John 6:40) was delivered, but also show the boldness with which Jesus declared truths so new and so surprising to His hearers. He spoke thus in public teaching (comp. chap. John 18:20), and that too in the presence of His powerful enemies, and in the place where their influence was greatest.


Verse 60

John 6:60. Many therefore of his disciples when they heard this said, This is an hard saying; who can hear him? The word ‘disciples’ is here used in a wide sense, including many more than the Twelve, and many who had never risen to a high and pure faith. The ‘saying’ can only be that of the preceding verses (John 6:53-57), and its hardness consisted in the fact that it pointed out one only way to life,—eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of man. These words the disciples did not spiritually comprehend, and therefore they were repelled by them.


Verse 61

John 6:61. But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured concerning this, said unto them, Doth this make you to stumble? He knew their thoughts, and because they are disciples, not Jews bent on opposing Him, He seeks to help them.


Verse 62

John 6:62. What then if ye behold the Son of man ascending where he was before? The meaning of this ascent is surely clear in itself; but if it were not, the mention of a past descent (John 6:41; John 6:51; John 6:58) would remove all doubt. Our Lord certainly refers to His ascension into heaven. He would say: ‘Is the word that speaks of the descent from heaven, of the living bread that alone can give life, of the Son’s descent from heaven to give His flesh and His blood that the world may eat and drink and live, a stumbling-block to you? If, when I am here before you, you cannot understand what is meant by eating my flesh and drinking my blood,—cannot apprehend the spiritual meaning which such words must bear,—how much more will you, in this your carnal apprehension of what I say, be made to stumble if you should see me ascending where I was before, to be no longer upon earth at all!’ As the necessity of eating His flesh must continue, what will they think then? Then the sense they have put upon His words will indeed wholly break down: then at last they may come to see that the words can only be spiritually understood.


Verse 63

John 6:63. It is the spirit that maketh to live; the flesh profiteth nothing. Jesus has spoken of ‘giving life,’ of the ‘eating of His flesh,’ as the means of gaining eternal life. In all this He has not the flesh but the spirit in view,—not the material reception of the flesh by the flesh but the appropriation of His spirit by the spirit of man. Such spiritual union of the believer with Him alone ‘maketh to live’ the flesh in itself is profitless for such an end.

The words that live spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. The word ‘I’ is emphatic, as it repeatedly has been in this discourse. The emphasis which Jesus here and elsewhere lays upon His sayings is very remarkable. He is the Word, the expression of the Father’s nature and will; His sayings are to man the expression of Himself. The words or sayings just spoken to these disciples are spirit and are life. This is their essential nature. They may be carnalised, wrongly understood, wilfully perverted; but wherever they find an entrance they manifest their true nature. They bring into the receptive heart not the flesh but the spirit of the Son of man, and thus the man, in the true sense eating the flesh of the Son of man, has life. His words received by faith bring Himself. Thus He can in two verses almost consecutive (chap. John 15:4; John 15:7) say, ‘Abide in me, and I in you,’ and ‘If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you.’


Verse 64

John 6:64. But there are some of you that believe not. Even of these who had heard the last words, so mercifully spoken for the removal of their difficulties, there were some who continued in unbelief.

For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who it was that would betray him. Another remarkable declaration by the Evangelist of the Saviour’s penetrating discernment of all hearts (compare chap. John 2:24-25), and of His knowledge from the very beginning what would be the end of His earthly course. The words seem to imply that the germ of the traitor-spirit was already in the heart of Judas, who, like many others, loved rather the glory and honour which Jesus set aside (John 6:14-15) than the spirit and the life of His words.


Verse 65

John 6:65. And he said, For this cause have I said unto you, that no one can come unto me, except it have been given unto him of the Father. They had seemed genuine disciples, but His words had been to them a stumbling-block and had not brought life. They had not really come to Him: they had not received from the Father the gift of ‘coming unto’ Jesus, but the failure had been by their own fault. Having resisted the drawing of the Father, they had lacked the due preparation of heart for receiving the words of Jesus (see the notes on John 6:37; John 6:44).


Verse 66

John 6:66. Upon this many of his disciples went beck, and walked no longer with him. Another sad reflection, as in John 6:64 : the Evangelist cannot but record the repelling influence which the light exerted on those who were not of the light. These disciples seemed to have left all that they might be followers of Christ, but now they return to the homes and the occupations they had forsaken. (The usual rendering ‘walked no more’ is in itself perfectly correct, but may be possibly understood in the sense of ‘never more,’ a sense certainly not designed.)


Verse 67

John 6:67. Jesus therefore said unto the twelve, Would ye also go? In contrast with the desertion of many is the strengthened faith of those who, being of the light, are attracted by the light. The ‘Twelve’ are here mentioned by John for the first time.


Verse 68-69

John 6:68-69. Simon Peter answered him. In accordance with the earlier records Peter stands forth as the spokesman of the Twelve, and in answer to the question of Jesus makes a confession of their faith.

Lord, to whom shall we go away? thou hast words of eternal life. (John 6:69) And we have believed, and we know that thou art the Holy One of God. The confession consists of three parts—(1) ‘Thou hast words of eternal life’ (see John 6:63); (2) ‘And we have believed’ (in contrast with John 6:64,‘there are of you some that believe not’); (3) ‘And we know,’ etc. These disciples have answered the revelation of Jesus by the faith which it demands; and now they ‘know’ with the practical knowledge of experience that Jesus is the Sent of God. The expression which Peter uses is ‘the Holy One of God.’ A similar phrase occurs in Psalms 106:16 in regard to Aaron, who is called ‘the holy one of Jehovah.’ In the case of the human priest and in that of his antitype our Lord, the general meaning is the same,—the consecrated one of God, or, in other words, He whom the Father sealed, He whom God has sent. The meaning of the word used here, ‘holy,’ must receive special consideration in other passages: see the notes on John 10:36; John 10:17. It is hardly necessary to say that the confession of Peter does not seem to be the same as that related in Matthew 16.


Verse 70

John 6:70. Jesus answered them, Did not I choose you the twelve? and one of you is a devil. Alas! even in this small circle there is an element that the light attracts not but repels. In good faith Peter had spoken of all his brethren, when he said, ‘we have believed.’ He knew not, and probably Judas himself knew not, to whom Jesus referred. The germ of the future crime and that alone as yet existed. But from the beginning Jesus knew all. Amongst the disciples He knew who would desert Him: in this inner circle He knew who would show himself a traitor—‘a devil.’ Many weaker interpretations, but all baseless, have been given of this word. The traitor will do his work at the instigation of the Evil One, and animated by his spirit: his work will be the work of the devil: he himself in doing it will be the associate of Satan: nay, as we shall see, he will be more.


Verse 71

John 6:71. Now he spake of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot. Here we meet for the first time in this Gospel with the name Iscariot; and it will be observed that (as in John 13:26) it is connected not with the name of Judas (as in John 12:4, John 13:2, John 14:22) but with that of his father. In all probability the word signifies ‘man of Kerioth,’ a town in the tribe of Judah (see Joshua 15:25). Apparently Judas was the only apostle not of Galilee, and the peculiarity of his name (identical with Judah and ‘the Jews’) is certainly not overlooked by the Evangelist. Nay, more, not only is Judas of Kerioth, that town of Judah and the Jews, his father is so too. The double link of connection seems to deepen the thought.

For he it was that was about to betray him—one of the twelve. Judas was not yet the traitor; ‘was about to’ expresses only the futurity of the event; but how much is the criminality of the germ already springing up in his heart heightened by the closing remark, in which we see at once the anger and the pathos of the Evangelist,—‘being one of the Twelve’!

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on John 6:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/john-6.html. 1879-90.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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