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Song of Solomon
John 6 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is
Christ declares himself to be the Sustainer and Protector of the life of which he is the Source
The supply of human wants illustrated by a well known
. Chronological difficulties beset our treatment of this miraculous narrative with its varied consequences and results. Many curious and even violent measures have been resorted to with a view to solve them. Some have supposed that ch. 5. and 6. have been inverted in order, and that thus the presence of our Lord in Galilee, mentioned in ch. 4, would account for the statement of ch. 6:1 and the journey to Jerusalem of ch. 5:1, be brought into closer relation with ch. 7. We cannot see the faintest indication or evidence whatever of any such treatment of the Gospel by the authors of the manuscripts or the quotations or versions. The evangelist has just completed his record of the conflict between Jesus and the recognized leaders of the people in Jerusalem. He had introduced our Lord's own vindication (based on the highest grounds) of his own right to deal with the rabbinical restrictions upon sabbath duty. These grounds were the eternal relations of his own inner nature and consciousness with the Father's. On no occasion had Christ made the uniqueness of his personal claims and powers more explicit. He called for entire obedience to his word as the condition of eternal life, and as the key to the Scriptures of God. If we had no synoptic tradition to give a closer historical setting of the narrative which here follows, we might take Meyer's view, and say that the "after these things" (
) of ver. 1 referred to the discourse of the previous chapter, and that the "departed" (
) referred to Jerusalem as its starting point; and, notwithstanding the extreme awkwardness of the expression, we might have supposed that "the other side" of the sea was the other side of it from Jerusalem (cf.
). Some commentators appear to have a morbid fear of reducing a difficulty, or seeing a harmony, between these four narratives. One thing is dear, that they are independent of one another, are not derived from each other, do each involve side views of the event distinct from the rest, and yet concur in the same general representation. The synoptists, however, place the "feeding of the multitudes" in the midst of a group of most remarkable and varied events. It is for them one page out of many descriptive of the Galilaean ministry, and which ultimately led to grievous departure from and diminution of the temporary popularity of the great Prophet. It would seem that bitter hostility, as well as excited enthusiasm, was checkering his early ministry. The synoptics take pains to show the combined effect of his self-revelations
on his own fellow townsmen (
upon his own family (
Mark 3:19-21, 31-35
upon the populace (
upon Herod Antipas (
upon the twelve disciples (
upon John the Baptist (
upon the Father in heaven (
and parallel passages).
The canvas is crowded with scenes, the signs and wonders of healing and teaching are abundant. The blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the daemons are exorcised. The twelve apostles are chosen the sermon on the mount is delivered, the twelve are sent forth in every direction with the proclamation of the coming of the kingdom and with the call to repentance, and an excitement produced by the mission of the twelve had proved to be extensive. The crowds throng him; they have no time even to eat bread. And we judge from
that this very excitement, amounting to feverish self-glorification on their part, appears to have been one at least of our Lord's motives for the temporary withdrawal of his disciples from the multitudes. Another event of singular significance contributed to the same result. Matthew (
) takes the opportunity of describing the tragic close of John's imprisonment, and relates how John's "disciples came to tell Jesus" of the bloody deed. A sudden panic was felt by the multitude. A crisis had arrived. The great Prophet must avenge his forerunner's death or lose his hold upon the affections of the fickle mass. The people appeared to the eyes of Jesus (
) "as sheep without a shepherd." He had compassion on them, but he must make them understand the nature of the royalty as well as of the realm of the Messianic King. The true grounds for Christ's retirement are not incompatible, but mutually explanatory. The death of the renowned forerunner, of the idol of the multitude brought vividly to the mind of the Lord his own death - the foreseen sacrifice of himself. The conviction that he must give himself to a violent death - give his flesh to the hungry and starving multitude, made the decadence of his popularity in Galilee a certain consequence of any right apprehension of his mission or claims. This mastery over the powers of nature which his compassion for others prevailed on him to manifest would be misunderstood. The moral and mystic meaning of it was far more important than the superficial inferences drawn by the Galilaeans. The real lesson of the miracle would grievously offend them. But it sank deeply into the apostolic mind, and hence the various aspects which it presents in the fourfold narrative. John selects this one specimen of the Galilaean ministry on account of its typical character, and records the high and wonderful results which the Lord educed from this high and striking manifestation of his power. There is, moreover, remarkable correspondence between the fifth and sixth chapters in this respect, that Galilee, like Jerusalem, recoils from the highest claims of Jesus, and developed an antagonism or an indifference as deadly if not as malignant as that which has displayed itself in the metropolis. "He came to his own, and his own received him not."
After these things
(see note on John 5:1; not
, which would mean after this particular scene in Jerusalem) -
. after a group of events, one of which may have been this visit to the metropolis, but which included also the early Galilaean ministry as presented in the synoptic narrative, and with which John and his readers were familiar - Jesus departed from the side of the sea on which he was, and as we may judge (ver. 24) from Capernaum, now known to be his chief resting place, most probably the home of his mother, brothers, and nearest friends,
to the other side of the sea of Galilee, of Tiberias
of the Galilaean sea of Tiberias
. It does not follow that the evangelist had the southernmost portion of the lake in his mind (as Meyer suggests). Tiberius was the showy city built by Herod Antipas on the western shore of the lake. Herod called the place after the name of Tiberius Caesar, and conferred upon it many Gentile characteristics. From the time of Antipas to that of Agrippa it was the chief town of the tetrarchy. After the destruction of Jerusalem it became for centuries the site era celebrated school of Hebrew learning, and one of the sacred cities of the Jews. Jewish tradition makes it the scene of the last judgment and the resurrection of the dead. It was a modern city, which may account for the omission of its name in the synoptic narrative. Christ never visited it that we know cf. He preferred the fishing village of Bethsaida, or the more thoroughly Hebrew aspect of Capernaum. Nevertheless, "Tiberias" gave to Gentile cars the best and least dubious designation of the lake. So Pausanias (5, 7, 3) calls it the
("the lake Tiber"). Luke (
) calls it the "Lake Gennesaret
," and Matthew and Mark "the Sea of Galilee" without any other epithet. John (
) calls it "the Sea of Tiberias." This multiplicity of lake names, due in the first instance to some peculiarity of the including shores, finds easy parallels in Derwentwater and Keswick Lake, and in the "Lake of the Four Cantons," called also" Lake of Luzern," etc. Christ sought retirement from the surging crowd, and for himself and his excited disciples a time of rest and communion with the Father, who had accepted, as part of his Divine plan, the awful sacrifice of the life of John the Baptist. He went "by ship," says Matthew (
) to a desert place. In Luke's account this solitary place was towards or near (
) a city called "Bethsaida." It is difficult to believe that this is the familiar Bethsaida or "fishing town," situated a little south of Capernaum, because we are met in the account of Mark (
) with the statement that, after the miracle, the disciples were urged to go to the other side of the lake (
) towards Bethsaida. This, compared with ver. 17, is obviously in the same direction as Capernaum. Indeed, the term, "Bethsaida of Galilee," referred to in ch. 12:21 (as the Apostle Philip's residence), seems used with the view of distinguishing it from some other place of the same name. Now, Josephus ('Ant.,' 18:02, 1) mentions a
situated on the northeastern extremity of the lake. The "ruins of this city may be still seen on the rising hilly ground which here retires somewhat from the river and the lake. It was situated in
, in the tetrarchy of Philip, and therefore beyond the jurisdiction of Herod, yet not far from the road into Peraea by which the Galilaean pilgrims to the metropolis might be expected to travel. The silence of these hills provided the opportunity of retirement. But it was frustrated by the eager excitement of the multitude.
And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
There was following him a vast crowd, because they were spectators of
signs he was working on those that were sick.
The imperfect tenses here reveal a period of time that had elapsed; a group and series of healings which had touched the heart of the people. Their "following" had not been by ship, but round the head of the lake, and across the ford of the Jordan, which is still situated about two miles from the point where the river flows into the Sea of Galilee. The multitudes would easily learn the direction of the well known boat with its solitary sail, and would be, some of them, ready at the landing place, to greet the Lord on his arrival. Many hours might elapse before the crowd had reached such vast proportions as we subsequently find. It may easily have been swollen by curious and inquisitive pilgrims, or by the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages, intent on a sight of the Prophet who had preached the sermon, who had spoken in wondrous parables, who had given such striking proof that "God was with him."
And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.
And Jesus went up into the mountain;
. the high ground which everywhere surrounded the lake. The same expression,
εἰς τὸ ὄρος
, occurs very frequently in the synoptist Gospels (
). This last passage is an interesting confirmation of our text. The usage implies on the part of the four evangelists familiar acquaintance with the scenery.
And there he sat
. From this elevation they would see the gathering multitudes streaming from different points and meeting on the pebbly beach, asking each other where was the Master? and whither had the Prophet, the Healer, fled? Women and little children are in the crowd (
). Weiss, who argues that the main features of the narrative are deeply imbedded in all the traditions, summarily disposes of the later accounts of the similar event recited by Mark (
) and Matthew (
And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
The ordinary meaning of
need not be departed from (cf.
). This valuable note of time is confirmed by another hint incidentally dropped. A month later than the Passover it could not be said that "much grass" was in the place. In the late spring such a phrase would most inadequately represent the scene that was indelibly impressed on the fourfold tradition. Whatever the unnamed feast was (
), whether Trumpets, Purim, or Passover, we have reached the month Abib, when the crowds of pilgrims were gathering for their southern journey. If the Purim were the unnamed feast, then the suggestion arises that Christ's reception at Jerusalem had prevented his remaining until the Passover of that year. If the Passover be meant (
), then a year has passed between ch. 5. and 6. Nor is this a day too long for the crowd of events and teachings recorded by the synoptists as having taken place before the death of John. The note of time may be recorded as implying the dominant sentiment in the minds of the people. The great deliverance from Egyptian bondage was burned into the national conscience, and the fanatic desire for a second Moses to lead them out of Roman servitude was at such seasons fanned into a flame. The Lord had his own thought about the Paschal lamb, and knew that God was preparing a Lamb for sacrifice. In mystic, parabolic sense he foreknew that men would and must consume the flesh of this sacrifice. He was ready, moreover, to show them that he could supply all their need. The great Prophet who had said of himself, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" had just fallen beneath the executioner's axe. The people were bereft of a great prophet and leader, and to Christ's eye they were "as sheep without a shepherd." Verily he was preparing to lay down his life as a good Shepherd for these sheep - to provide for them in the future a feast of living bread. All this may rationally be admitted, without for a moment conceding that second-century
like these were the formative causes of the narrative. The miracle that follows stands on an entirely distinct basis, and is more powerfully attested than any ether miracle, except the resurrection of Christ. If it stood in John's record alone, there might be some colour for the supposition that we have merely a parable of great beauty. But the threefold tradition long anterior to John's Gospel deprives even the pseudo-John of the possibility of inventing it. On the other hand, the appearance of the narrative in John's Gospel deprives it of the
character which some have attributed to the authors of the synoptic Gospels. Thoma, in the spirit of Strauss, here imagines that the synoptists were busy in fashioning a miracle of sustenance and a portent upon the waters - a sign on land and sea - to correspond with the manna and Red Sea marvels of the Book of Exodus. "The mountain" (
) is, as he thinks, a similitude of the Mount Sinai, and, as the latter represented the giving of the Law, this was associated with the mountain of Beatitudes. He goes further, and sees in the Johannine narrative the Christian (
) feasts, and the deliverance of the Apostle Paul from shipwreck! He is even more ingenious still, and suggests that the "five thousand" fed at the first miraculous meal, with twelve baskets of fragments, correspond with the results of the first preaching of the twelve apostles, and that the seven loaves among the four thousand reflect "the many hundreds" who were benefited by the seven evangelists. He endeavours by a most elaborate process to make it appear that John has here combined into one tableau minute traces derived from the five several accounts of the two miracles. The old rationalistic theory was that the miracle was only an exaggerated poetical statement of the fact; that a good example of charity on the part of the apostles was followed by others, and so food was found for the entire multitude. This hypothesis breaks on the rock that the authors of these Gospels intended to convey a perfectly different idea. The effect of such cheap philanthropy and pragmatic travesty of a royal act would not have been that the multitudes would have rushed to the conclusion that he had done a kingly deed, or one in the least way calculated to suggest the notion that he could feed armies at his will. All efforts to extirpate by such theories the supernatural character of the occurrence fail, and force the reader back upon the plain statements of the fourfold narrative.
When Jesus then lifted up
eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?
, seated with his disciples on the rising ground in full view of the lake with its shipping and its fringe of villages, and of the gathering crowds of pilgrims to the Passover,
having lifted up his eyes, and having beheld that a great multitude cometh
unto him, saith
show that the miracle which they all, with John, prepare to describe was preceded by a day in which the Lord instructed the multitudes, "had compassion upon them," "taught them many things," "spake to them concerning the kingdom of God," "healed their sick." The first approach of the multitude was the occasion of a suggestion which Jesus made to Philip. The other evangelists record the reopening of the conversation on the same theme, stimulated by the question already put to Philip in the forenoon, and on this occasion originated by the disciples. The company arrived by the head of the lake (cf.
, "They ran afoot out of all the cities"); and the first compassionate thought is attributed by John to the Lord himself:
Whence are we to
loaves, that these multitudes may eat?
This very question shows the intimate relations between our Lord and his disciples - the touch of nature. The identification of his interests with theirs is in the "we." Why should Philip be selected for the questioning or suggestion? Luthardt argues that it was a part of the needed education of that apostle that he should have been submitted to the searching anxiety. It is indeed added -
And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
This he said to test him;
but it is doubtful whether more is involved than an endeavour to entice from Philip the answer of faith, such
, as "Lord, all things are possible to thee." Philip of Bethsaida was, moreover, in all probability, present at the wedding feast at Cans, and might have anticipated some such sign of the resources of his Lord. The other hints of Philip's character are severally consistent with this. Philip had said in the first instance to Nathanael, "Come and see." "Seeing is believing;" and Philip, on the night of the Passion, after much hearing and seeing of Jesus, said, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" for he had even then not risen to the loftiness of the perception that the Father had been and was being revealed in Christ's own life (ch. 14.). Philip's personal acquaintance with the immediate vicinity is more likely to be the reason of his being put to this proof; while the tact of the inquiry as addressed to him is an undesigned note of the identity of the Johannine Christ with that portrayed by the synoptists. Bengel's suggestion, that Philip was entrusted with the commissariat of the twelve, is hardly consistent with the fact that Judas kept the common purse. We are expressly told that Jesus did not put the question in consequence of any deficiency of knowledge or resources on his own part, but to test the character and tone of Philip's mind.
He himself knew what he was about to do.
Thus, by a slight touch, we see the blending of the distinctly human with the consciously Divine elements of that unique personality of his. There were to his Divine consciousness no gaps of reality, but he so threw himself into human conditions that he could ask the question and pass through the experience of a man. The whole
controversy is, of course, involved in the solution of the problem offered by this verse. Perhaps no greater difficulty is involved in imagining the union of the Divine and human in one personality, in which at times the Ego is the Son of God and at other times purely the Son of man, than there is in the blending of the flesh and spirit in the Divine life of our own experience. John saw this, felt this, when the question was addressed to Philip. He saw by intuitive glance, as on so many other occasions, what Christ "knew" absolutely (
) or came to know by experience and observation (
). The "trial," not the "temptation," of Philip was obvious in the form and tone of the question. The use of the word
shows that it frequently means "test," "prove," as well as "tempt." If God tempts, it is with the beneficent intention of encouraging the tempted one to succeed, to resist the allurement, to show and prove his power to bear a more serious assault. If the devil tempts (
), it is with the hope of inducing the sufferer to yield and fail.
Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
- Philip took a calculating method of meeting the difficulty, and looked at the question as one which their entire resources were unable to solve. He did not so much as think of the "whence," or from what quarter the loaves could be procured, as how much money would be required to meet the ease.
Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of loaves are not sufficient for them, that each
take a little.
was equal to about eightpence halfpenny of our money; so that the sum spoken of, probably representing the entire contents of their common purse, was only six pounds fifteen shillings, and was utterly insufficient for the purpose. The conversation preserved by Mark (
) cannot well be made part of this language of Philip, but rather follows when the short afternoon was coming on, and the long shadows indicated the near approach of darkness. Philip had told the other disciples of the Lord's question, and they had discussed the possible perils of the case and the intentions of the Lord. It is interesting to see, in Mark, that the same sum was mentioned as being insufficient for the needs of the great multitudes. John has not only abridged the narrative of the synoptists, but added a feature which is of interest, and shows how for some hours the disciples had meditated on what they fancied would be necessary, and had come to the somewhat unwelcome conclusion that they must sacrifice their entire stock of funds. The Lord had first of all made the suggestion. They now go to him, to beseech his influence to send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and
buy themselves something to eat
. When the enigmatic words burst from his lips, "Give ye them to eat," the two hundred pennyworth of bread is once more referred to by the disciples as insufficient (
Luke 9:12, 13
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him,
Verses 8, 9.
Then saith one of his disciples to him, viz. Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.
The spokesman is here specially indicated. On other occasions Andrew is singled out as the brother of Simon and friend of Philip (
). This repeated reference to the illustrious brother of Simon is a refutation of the ill-natured charge against the author of the Gospel, that he aimed at the depreciation of the character of the great apostle. Moreover, it is interesting to remember that in the
fragment on the Canon, "Andrew" is specially mentioned as being one of those present with John in Ephesus, who urged him to write his Gospel (see Introduction, IV. 2 (3)).
(possibly a lad who was brought with themselves, or who had attached himself to the twelve)
who has five barley loaves
, the bread of the poorest classes. Of this there is ample proof ('Sotah,' 2:1, quoted by Edersheim, vol. 1:681): "While all other meat offerings were of wheat, that brought by the woman accused of adultery was to be of
, because, as her deed is that of the animals, so her offering is of the food of animals." If this lad was conveying the food stock of the Lord and his apostles, it is an impressive but accidental hint that "for our sakes he became poor," and classed himself socially with the humblest.
And two fishes
. The use of this word is peculiar to our Gospel (Luke,
, the ordinary word for "fish; "but John uses the word
, the diminutive of the Greek word
, which means "savoury," eaten with bread). This opsarion mostly consisted of small fishes caught in the lake, which were dried, salted as "sardines" or "anchovies" are with ourselves for a similar purpose. This habit belonged locally to the neighbourhood of the lake, and reveals the Galilman origin or associations of the writer. The Aramaic word,
, is derived from the Greek
, and that of
, is the name for a small fish caught in the lake, the drying of which was a lucrative source of industry. Edersheim reminds us that the fish laid on the charcoal fire (
John 21:9, 10, 13
) was "
," and that of this the risen Lord, on the shore of this very lake, gave to his disciples to eat, though he guided them at that time to a shoal of
, and bade them add some of these to the
, which he was content to use still. The use of this word on these two occasions shows that, at the last, our Lord reminds his disciples of the miraculous feeding by the shore of the lake; and both narratives breathe the air of the northern parts of Galilee.
But what are these among so many?
The same lesson of the insufficiency of human resources to meet great human needs is suggested by
. Our resources at the very best are quite exhausted. Our best, our all, avails little - an expression which would apply to the numberless offers of our poor humanity and of our limited faculties to meet the moral starvation of the world. Take the Old Testament: how can the dispensation of all its provision satisfy
the need of mankind as a whole? Greek philosophy, even if it satisfy the few, the leisurely, the cynical, the learned, the wise men of the West, what will it do for the poor, the broken hearted, the consciously guilty? The good things of this life are equally powerless, and the proposals of even truth itself, apart from the gracious operations of the Spirit, would fail to meet the wants or necessities of the unbelieving.
There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
- Jesus said (the omission of
rather augments the vivid force of the statement),
Make the people
here. contrasted with the
of the next clause) recline.
Now there was much grass in the place.
As already said, this is in harmony with the note of time conveyed in ver. 4. The other evangelist (
) speaks of the people sitting down "upon the green grass" - a vivid touch this of an eyewitness; Matthew (
) also speaks of the grass; and Mark and Luke add another rememberable feature which John omits.
were distinguished from
, which last term may have included the "women and children" (
), who in no great numbers probably formed, according to Eastern custom, a company by themselves). The men
- the matter of the "number" is here put into the "accusative of closer definition" (Meyer) -
. Luke says, "in groups of fifty." Mark first declares that Jesus ordered them to sit down (
) in parties, and describes the result as having the appearance of garden beds (
), of fifty or of a hundred each. The
(Gartenbett; Homer, "Od.," 7:127; 24:247). "
," says Theophylact, "are the different divisions in gardens, in which different herbs are often planted." The image of the garden plots, with different divisions between them, forced itself on the eyewitness (see Trench, "Miracles," p. 205).
And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.
Jesus then took the loaves; and having given thanks
is used by John, whereas Mark speaks of his looking up to heaven and blessing the loaves, uttering words of praise. The Eucharistial expression corresponds with the function of the head of a household at the Paschal feast, and is another hint of relation between the Passover and the discourse which here follows)
them who were set down
. This is not incompatible with the language of the synoptists, that he gave to the disciples, they to the multitude, an undoubted allegory of the method in which all his greatest gifts have been diffused over the world; but John calls special attention to the part, the supreme part, taken in this proceeding by the Lord himself. Advantage has been taken of this to show that the narrative is a glorification of the Eucharistial meal, at which Jesus gave to his disciples the bread which he brake.
Likewise also of the fishes
as much as they wished.
This is, doubtless, the place or moment when the mighty miracle occurred.
"'Twas seed-time when he blessed the bread,
Twas harvest when he brake."
This pretty couplet, with Augmstine's and Olshausen's remarks that the processes of nature were hastened by the great organ of the Divine Creator, does not throw any light upon the phenomenon. It makes it more inexplicable, for ground corn and baked barley loaves afford no parallel with living seeds, and dead and salted fish create even greater difficulties. "Frugality exaggerated into a miracle" (Renan) is far more thinkable, though it leaves the sequel unexplained. We must either reject the narrative, notwithstanding its wonderful confirmation by two or three separate eyewitnesses, or we must accept it. If we do the latter, we see in this (and the following) miracle an assertion that the creative will of Christ is the sole cause of the additional food that was provided for the sustenance of this multitude. The Son of God added to the sum of things, to the quantity of matter, or called together from surrounding air the elements needed for the purpose, just as in hushing the storm he met force by that will of his which is the ultimate source and ground of all force. He spake in the power of Heaven, and it was done.
He gave thanks, and he distributed
When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
when they were filled, he said to his disciples. Gather together the broken pieces
- not the crumbs left on the ground by the satisfied thousands, but the pieces broken from the original loaves (see each of the synoptists, who refer to the breaking, by Jesus, of the loaves) - that remain over - not eaten by the multitudes; the superabundance of the provision is a witness to the affluence of the Giver and the reality of the gift - that nothing be lost. This sacred economy of Jesus is in harmony with and illustrative of the ways of the Creator with his universe, and of the wisdom recommended to his disciples. The other evangelists describe the facts, but do not attribute the order to the wise words of the Lord himself. Paulus, in the endeavour to make this statement confirm his rationalistic interpretation, makes sad havoc of the grammar, and, instead of translating -
Therefore they gathered
together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.
Therefore they gathered together, and filled
twelve baskets with the broken pieces of the five barley loaves which remained over to them that had eaten,
says, "For (
) they gathered together, and
, first aorist, not pluperfect] twelve baskets with the fragments [the more than enough food that had been gathered and prepared for eating] of the five loaves;" and he makes John here speak, not of remnants left
the meal, but of bread broken
the meal. Such a treatment of the text cannot be justified on any pretext. The twelve baskets full (
) are interesting in two ways. The number "twelve" naturally suggests that each one of the twelve apostles had been employed in the collection of the fragments. There is no need, with Luthardt, to imagine an unconscious reference to the twelve tribes of Israel, further than that the twelve apostles themselves were at first chosen with that reference. The number twelve points to the fact that the apostles had already been selected, though this Gospel is silent about that fact. Again, the word used for "basket" is that which is used in the three synoptic narratives, and contrasts with the
, the word used in the later account of the feeding of the four thousand. It means the ordinary wallet, or
, in which Jews, on the march, were accustomed to carry their food. In
, where the two miracles are compared with each other, the two words are again used. The "fragments," the superabundance of provision of love for all mankind, was an idea specially conveyed by our Lord as antithetic to the monopolizing doctrine of the scribes and Pharisees. It is unsatisfactory to suppose that the author of this Gospel manipulated the story as given in Mark, adapting it to his own purpose. John's narrative is full of fresh life, though not so pictorial as that of the Second Gospel. The incident of Philip and Andrew is calculated to throw much light upon the event without conflicting with the synoptists. The mythical hypothesis suggests that we have here a Messianic reproduction of the story of Elijah and the cruse of oil (
1 Kings 17:16
), or the augmentation of the oil by Elisha (
2 Kings 4:1-7
), and still more the feeding by Elisha of a hundred men with twenty loaves of bread and fresh ears of corn (
2 Kings 4:42-44
). The suggestion simply shows that there were anticipations in the prophetic career of the great prophets of the northern kingdom of that which the greater than Elijah. accomplished in vindication of his own mission.
Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
when they saw the sign which he
- when they witnessed the marvel, admitted that it was a testimony to what was special and authoritative in the great Healer and Life-giver, a "sign" of his higher nature -
said, This is
verily the Prophet that is coming into the world.
This was probably in reference to the great prediction (
) to which such frequent and solemn reference was made. From
John 1:21, 25
, we learn that the Sanhedrists distinguished between "the Christ," "the Elijah," and "that Prophet;" but these verses show how the two ideas were blended in the minds of the people. As Jesus fulfilled one or more of the predictions of the Old Testament, and embodied the foreshadowings of his entire career which were given in the temple and the sabbath, in the ritual and the priest, in the prophet and the king, it was gradually revealed to the world that in him all fulness dwelt. At all events, just as in the case of Nathanael, the prophetic gifts of Jesus suggested to the guileless man that he was King of Israel, so here we find a similar connection of ideas.
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
Jesus therefore knowing
(having found, perceived (
), by ominous movements in the crowd, or in any other way still more explicit)
that they were about to come and
by violence, or force,
seize him in order that they might make him King.
This movement was not an unnatural one. They were on the way to Jerusalem, and they were thirsting to throw off the yoke of Rome and of Herod, and probably indignant to the extreme with the "deep damnation" of John the Baptist's death. In such a frame, the display of power and resources which they had just witnessed pointed Jesus out as their popular idol, and encouraged the belief, which did not die out till it was quenched in blood. The bald suggestion would clash absolutely with the Lord's own plan, with the Father's design concerning him. It would seem that the disciples manifested great reluctance to leave Christ or the crowd; for both Matthew (
) and Mark (
) imply that Jesus had to use special means to induce them to depart (
). He compelled them to do so. If we had nothing but the synoptic narrative to guide us, we might suppose that Jesus had difficulty in resisting the desire of the disciples to remain always at his side; or that the intensity of their affection was interfering too much with the need in which he felt of retirement and solitude. John's statement here illumines the language of the other Gospels. The disciples themselves were strongly moved by the passions of the thousands; they were sharing in the general enthusiasm. To quench such an unholy or unspiritual view of the true Prophet and King, the disciples must be separated from the crowd, and Christ had to overcome by some special utterance of his authority the reluctance of the twelve to embark in their ship. Having done this, and without their help, he sent the multitudes away.
for the second time, to the mountain
(cf. ver. 3), and this time
These occasional separations from the apostles were undoubtedly part of the discipline to which they were subjected. They were taught that, when he was no longer visible to them, he might still be spiritually present and able to succour them.
And when even was
come, his disciples went down unto the sea,
The mastery of the forces of nature
Verses 16, 17.
Now when it became evening.
This must have been the "second evening;" for the miracle itself was said to he wrought when the day began to decline (
). The first evening (
) lasted from three to six p.m., the "second evening" stretched from sundown to darkness (
). The night was drawing on.
His disciples went down
from the higher ground or grassy slopes
ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν
and having embarked in a ship, they were making for the other side of the sea to Capernaum;
or as Mark (Mark 6:45) says, "towards Bethsaida." This occasions no difficulty to those who remember that there were two Bethsaidas - one, "Bethsaida
," on the northeastern end of the lake; and the other near to Capernaum, called "Bethsaida
." The two towns were so near that the latter Bethsaida might reasonably he regarded as the port of Capernaum.
And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.
Verses 17, 18.
And darkness had already come on
Jesus had not yet come to them
. This thrilling touch in John's narrative makes it more than evident that the beloved disciple was on board. He had been expecting the Master to make his appearance in some form. He had looked long and eagerly to that point on the mountainside whither he knew that Jesus had retired. The dreary and disappointed expectation, the long and weary waiting, left an indelible impression. Their natural course towards Capernaum would have been almost parallel with the shore of
lake; but it was dark and tempestuous, they could not steer.
And the sea was being roused
from its slumber
by reason of a high wind which was blowing.
If the wind came from the north, it would drift them out into the darkness and the middle of the lake, which is there, at its widest, about five miles broad,
. forty stadia, or furlongs. The statement of the next verse comes then into undesigned coincidence with
, which shows that they were "in the midst of the sea,"
. halfway from shore to shore. This would exactly correspond with the following statement.
And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.
So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.
When they had
twenty-five or thirty stadia;
. When they had rowed with a northwest wind, one "contrary to them," about three miles and a half, they would be in the midst of the broadest portion of the lake, and exposed to the force of those gales which often sweep down with astonishing fury upon lakes similarly guarded on all sides by high hills. While the wind was tossing the little lake into angry waves, it was not silent on the mountain side or summit, and Jesus (says Mark) "saw them toiling in rowing." He loved them to the uttermost. Now, Jesus never went out of his way to work a miracle, but he never went out of his way to avoid one. It seems as natural to him to make his will the cause of events as to submit to the arbitrament of circumstances. The miracle, however, was always for the benefit of others, not for his own advantage and comfort.
They beheld Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing near to the ship
. Paulus, Gfrorer, and Baumgarten-Crusius suppose that Jesus was walking "along the shore" (
is the phrase used for this movement in
ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης
as here), and that they had miscalculated their distance, and that there was no manifestation of special power on the occasion, nothing less than one of the most ordinary of all coincidences. The three narrators, each in his own manner, convey a profoundly different impression. The discovery of their Lord thus in near proximity would not have made them "cry out for fear," and say (Matthew and Mark), "It is a phantasm," an apparition, a herald of immediate destruction. The loud cry (
) is the especial note of Mark. John simply says,
They were affrighted
). They might have eagerly longed for his presence, remembering his recent display of power when "the winds and sea obeyed him." But when the deliverance came, the manner of it was unexpected, and the symbolism ineffably sublime. They could not have been ignorant of the Psalms which spoke of Jehovah walking on the sea, and mightier than its waves (see also
, "He alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth on the heights of the sea"). This visible nearness to them of the mighty power of God is enough to have startled them into cries of fear; but it is quite incompatible with the rationalistic interpretation of the event. Matthew and Mark both relate that the Lord came to them at or about the fourth watch (
. between three and six a.m.), when the first gleams of light were breaking over the eastern hills. Consequently, their peril had been prolonged and perplexing. The whole of the narrative lends itself to symbol, and suggests the impressive analogy of the calamities to which the ship of God's Church has been exposed in its long history. Often has the Church been chastised for its secular tastes and worldly passions, buffeted with the storms of the world and tormented by the waves; but in the direst extremity it has seen the deliverer approach, and at first cried out for fear, trembling at his nearness. Individual believers have often seen, in this picture of the storm and the Saviour, an
of the sore travail and victory of their faith. The disposition on the part of numerous expositors to press these analogies has strengthened the hands of the critical and rationalistic expositors. We can grant that the idea which is so fertile is more important than the narrative
, but apart from the historic fact itself, who can say that the idea would ever have dawned on human minds? We make no further attempt to think out the
of the miracle, nor can we with that view accept the
conception of the body of Christ, which some have attributed most unfairly to John's Gospel. It is enough that the will of Christ thus faced the forces of nature, and prophesied the ultimate victory which the will of glorified humanity will likewise win. The great
of Christ include his power over nature, in its physical elements and forces, in the regions of both animal and vegetable life, over human nature, diseased, crippled, devil ridden, and dead. The highest realm over which he reigned was his own Divine-human Person, as recorded
in this event,
in his transfiguration,
in his resurrection and ascension.
But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.
But he saith to them, It is I
be not afraid.
These Divine words, in a voice which reminded them of his entire personality, of all his previous beneficence, of all his knowledge of their weakness and fear, are sacredly symbolic. The Church has ever since regarded them as veritably sacramental. In the darkest hour of men and Churches, in the throes of persecution in the furnace of temptation, on a million death-beds, the same voice has been heard. tits Divine Personality, his infinite power and perfect sympathy, the conviction of his specialized regard and veritable nearness (as we count nearness), have scattered doubt and fear.
Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
Then they were willing to receive him into the ship: and straightway the ship was at the land whither they were going
. Some expositors, who find discrepancy between this statement and that of the synoptists, say, "they were willing, but did not do it,"
the vessel is said by some remarkable process to have been miraculously propelled to the shore (so Lucke, Meyer). There are many passages, however, where a similar expression is used, and where no doubt arises that that which the actors were willing to do they actually did (see
; certainly scribes were not only willing to, but actually did, wear long robes). Chrysostom felt this difficulty, and actually proposed to read
, which would remove the difficulty; and
veritably contains this reading, but it has every appearance of an unauthorized correction. The imperfect tense implies a lengthened willingness supervening on fear and outcry - a willingness or wish increased by the sound of his voice, following his first action, his apparent resolve to pass by them; and, still more, by the incident described in Matthew's Gospel, of Peter's desire to display the strength of his faith and the eminence of his position among the twelve. This occupied time, during which the wind may have been bearing them briskly in their true direction. They willed, wished, to take him into the ship, and did so, and the calm supervened as described in Matthew and Mark. Their wish is not frustrated by the fact now mentioned, but accompanied by it. "Straightway," etc. Most expositors confess this to be an additional miracle, that the twenty furlongs or thereabouts (two miles and a half) were suddenly traversed and miraculously abolished. There would be a greater miracle in this than in the two events which preceded. The annihilation of space and time is the obliteration of the very categories of thought, and would, if conveyed by the statement, suggest a
and, so far as we can see, a useless portent. It would strongly tempt us to accept the rationalistic interpretation.
does not always mean "instantaneously," but simply that the next thing to notice or observe was the fact described. Take
Mark 1:21, 29
. It does not mean that any miraculous rapidity characterized the movement of Christ to the house of Simon and Andrew (
3 John 14
; and many other passages). The author of the "Christian Year" has consecrated in sweet lines the supposed addition to the miracle -
"Thou Framer of the light and dark,
Steer through the tempest thine own ark;
Amid the howling wintry sea,
We are in port, if we have thee."
But there are so many ways in which this "straightway" may be reconciled with an ordinary disembarkation, that there is no necessity to regard it as implied in John's narrative. John so often leaves gaps unfilled in his chronology and horology that no peat emphasis need be laid upon the annihilation (save in his adoring thought) of the hour before the dawn.
The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but
his disciples were gone away alone;
The sequel of the signs
. The discussion which follows is closely linked with these two great miracles of power and love. It naturally arises out of them, and refers with great explicitness to the former of them and to its true meaning. The discussion does unquestionably alter its scope as it proceeds, and at vers. 41 and 52 "the Jews" take up a controversy which had previously been conducted by a portion of the crowd who witnessed his mighty works. Jesus declared
that he is himself the Bread of God - the Bread of life for a starving world; then
that his "flesh,"
. his wondrous
- the veritable abode of the Word of God - will constitute the food of man;
that the death of the Divine humanity, the separation of his blood and flesh, must be appropriated by men;
that only by this acceptance and entire assimilation - not only of his mission, but of his incarnation; not only of his incarnation, but of his sacrificial death - will men receive him, or live because he lives. Before the evangelist proceeds to relate this great discourse, he portrays the historical platform, the audience to which it is addressed, and this in a sentence which is unusually involved and perplexed in its construction. The first clause with its verb,
, is not completed until two or three parenthetical ideas are introduced; and then in ver. 24 the sentence is taken up or recom-menced, after which the main affirmation follows, viz.
, etc. The whole sentence is intended to explain the regathering of the crowd on the seashore at Capernaum, and that excited state of baulked curiosity with which they encountered the Lord.
The next day, the crowd which stood on the other side of the sea,
near the site of the great miracle, amazed at the departure of the disciples and the separation between them and Jesus,
and saw that there was only one little boat
- or "none other little boat there save one," and this was too small for it to be the boat which brought Jesus and his disciples thither or took the latter away - and saw
that Jesus did not enter with his disciples into the boat
in which they were accustomed to move about the lake,
but that his disciples departed alone
there came boats from Tiberias,
the principal station on the lake, the boatmen hoping to secure numerous ferry freights,
near to the place where they did eat bread after that the Lord had given thanks,
associating the marvellous gift with the holy thanksgiving of the wondrous Host). He does not say that Tiberias was near to the place where, etc., but that the boats from Tiberias came near to the place, etc. This parenthesis makes it clear that this one little boat was the only one belonging to the desert place, and could not have conveyed Jesus away.
When then the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples
- the latter had gone and not returned, and Jesus could not be found on the mountain side or summit or hollows (not until we reach this statement does the writer give the principal verb of the sentence) -
they themselves embarked in the little boats, and came to Capernaum seeking for Jesus
. This does not mean that the entire multitude took shipping. Such an exaggeration, contrary to the nature of even the most extravagant legend, some (Strauss) have tried to foist into the story for the sake of discrediting it. The geographical relation of the two places shows that there were other ways of passing from one spot to the other than by ship. That some should return by the head of the lake, and others should cross its northern are by boat to Capernaum, reveals a simple and interesting fact, which is incidentally conveyed by the synoptists, viz. that Capernaum was the customary dwelling place of our Lord during his Galilaean ministry (cf.
; and see also
(Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)
When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?
When they had found him on the other side of the sea
(other side than that on which the miracle took place, and yet near Capernaum. This contradicts the exposition which would make the site of the feeding to be on the Western side),
they said unto him, Rabbi
when earnest thou? and how happens it that thou art here?
πότε ω΅δε γέγονας
; is difficult to translate. The
practically includes the
also. The difficulty lay in the time. They were sure that Jesus had not started before the disciples, and they knew that there was no method by which the lake itself would have been available, and they want explanation. The news of his crossing the water after some fashion that would ally him to Moses, Joshua, Elijah, may easily have got disseminated, one report or another being rapidly circulated.
Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
An offer of himself as veritable bread
Jesus answered them
. he met by response their question, but not after the fashion their curiosity might dictate, omitting any reply to their unnecessary inquiry, and even refusing to answer it. The method and time were of no real moment to his questioners.
I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs
- in the sense I am desirous you should see those miracles of healing (ver. 2) or other wonders of yesterday, viz. as "signs," "symbols," of my higher nature or of my Divine commission. The first group of healings drew some of you to my side, not for my word, but for more healing; and though some others of you who ate off the bread said (ver. 14), "This is the promised Prophet that is coming into the world," you did not get beyond the outward seeming, the superficial phenomenon, you revealed by thus rushing to the couclusion that I was your Prophet and King, that you did not really discern the sign I gave, and ye are seeking me now, not because you have really seen "signs" -
because ye ate of the
loaves, and were filled up
by this temporary supply of your daily want, expecting today some new, some more impressive, characteristic of the Messianic kingdom than yesterday. You are fastening on the outward, acting on the mere physical resources which you suppose me to possess. These are not the claims I make on your loyalty or obedience.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
(work, toil, rush, as you are doing, from Bethsaida Julias to Capernaum, or from either to Jerusalem)
not for the food that is perishable,
which soon loses its effect and must be renewed, which is corruptible and worthless if not partaken of at once, which, like manna, may breed worms, or vanish in the sun; labour not for the merely outward and vanishing and perishable elements in my work. Christ did not mean that these multitudes were not to toil for their daily bread, which could only be secured for them by labour and the sweat of the brow;
but to labour for the food which endureth
unto eternal life
(this last clause Moulton would separate from the
, and considers to relate to the principal verb of the sentence;
. "labour for the abiding food,"
with a view to, or unto, eternal life
). The bread that abideth unto eternal life, however, corresponds very closely with the water of life (
), which, when once appropriated, flows and springs up with perennial energy within the soul, conferring the consciousness and the beginning of eternal life. There is a food which is imperishable and incorruptible, feeding the heavenly life within the soul, and which, if once assimilated, becomes Divine life itself. Labour for that life
which the Son of man will give to you
. This grand idea, viz. the gift of eternal life in and by Christ himself, was one of the main themes of the Gospel of John. Christ knew himself to be the Giver of eternal life - a life of perfect blessedness, irrespective of time, and sense, and flesh, and the world, and death. The Lord here calls himself "Son of man," rather than "Son of God." The whole of the subsequent discourse expands and rests upon this gift of the perfect and blessed life in and by his
. In the previous chapter attention was called to the Divine Sonship and the Divine activity. Here equal emphasis was laid upon the
sonship and on the acceptance and assimilation by man of this supreme gift. The power or function of the Son of man to bestow this life is sustained by the assertion,
(this very one)
the Father, even God, hath sealed.
)means here to ratify and accredit as worthy and competent to discharge such duties, to render indubitable, to confirm by outward visible sign. or seal, as one empowered to do so Divine a thing. The Father has made "the Son of man" the steward of his bounty. The Son of man has the key to this boundless treasure, this eternal blessing. Men, however, must labour to receive so great a gift. It will prove to be a gift, even if they put forth the most strenuous energy to receive it. This first dialogue contrasts the carnal and spiritual reasons for seeking Jesus, and brings into sharp relief the Galilaean conception of the Christ, as Miracle worker, temporal Potentate, prophetic Leader of some vast host of triumphant enthusiasts, and contrasts with it the Lord's own conception. of himself as the Giver, the Medium, the divinely appointed Almoner of a spiritual blessing, for which, while the Father-God freely and lavishly gives it, the sons of men must eagerly toil. The next question and answer bring out the moral condition on which alone the gift can be dispensed.
Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
They say unto him, What must we do, that we may work the works of God?
The works of God might be, either works like those which are wrought by God the Father, but this would be a very improbable demand; or "the works of God" may be those which God has assigned to man as the conditions of his favour. There is a breadth about the question that may cover the ground involved in Christ's declaration, but it reveals, at the same time, the self-complacency, the carnal conception on the part of these Galilaeans of their being able, competent, to fulfil along certain lines to be specified, all the required conditions. But we must not be too hard on these Galilaeans, brought up as they were to believe in the efficacy of certain rounds of specific and arbitrary duties, methods of purification, forms of service and of abstinence, pilgrimages and fastings and feastings, as well as obedience to a specific moral code. They ask quite rationally, "What must we do?" and in various forms the same question bursts from the heart of all who have, starting from utter indifference, made any progress towards, or in the direction of, holy living or of Divine pleasing.
Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
- Christ's reply really solves the great problem which had long perplexed the schools of Palestine, and often, and even to the present hour, is dividing into two hostile camps the Christian Church.
Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work
Observe, not "works," but "work" - the one work which is the germ and the consummation of all the partial workings which are often made substitutes for it. There is "one work" which God would have man do. Jesus admits that there is something to do (
) - there is a labour, an effort of the will needed to do what God requires; and this is evident enough as soon as this great work is described, viz.
That ye believe on him whom he
, here preferred by the R.T. to
), marks the simple fact and continuous act of believing with the effort tending to such result; while the aorist would have pointed to one definite act of faith (see Westcott).. To "believe on him," to habitually entrust one's self to the power and grace of Christ, to make a full moral surrender of the soul to the Lord, includes in itself all other work, and is in itself the great work of God. "It is the Christian answer to the Jewish question" (Thoma). "Faith is the life of works, works the necessity of faith" (Westcott). "Faith is the highest kind of work, for by it man gives himself to God, and a free being can do nothing greater than give himself: St. James opposes work to a faith which would be nothing but intellectual belief. St. Paul opposes faith, active faith, to works of mere observance. The 'faith' of St. Paul is really the 'work' of St. James, according to this sovereign formula of Jesus, 'This is the work of God, that ye believe'" (Godet). Luther says, "To depend on God's Word, so that the heart is not terrified by sin and death, but trusts and believes in God, is a much severer and more difficult thing than the Carthusians or all orders of monks demand." Schleiermachcr says, "This is the most significant declaration, that all eternal life proceeds from nothing else than faith in Christ."
They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
therefore to him
What then doest thou as a sign that we may see and believe thee?
There is a kind of irony in the inquiry, "What doest
There is at least some ironical mystification of the words of Jesus, "If we have not seen, as thou sayest, the sign, which we thought sufficient to induce us to hail thee as our Prophet-King, what sign wilt thou give us now? If we are to believe on thee, what sign art thou ready to show now that we may see it, and believe thee,
. take thy word as trustworthy, and so begin to consider whether it will be safe to believe in, to entrust ourselves to, thee?" It has been the peculiarity of the Jewish mind in all ages to seek after a sign, to desire some irresistible reason for invincible faith. In certain stages of immaturity and states of unrest we passionately ask for signs even now - for something more than silent words, for more than past memories, for some voice out of heaven, some gleams of glory, that "we may see and believe." These frames of mind are no whit more reprehensible than the Greek demand for unanswerable argument, for logical harmony, or for sure demonstration. They said to him,
What dost thou work?
How wilt thou vindicate thy demand for such implicit trust? This very question has been made into a reason for breaking all historic connection between the miracle of the feeding and the dialogue and discourse before us (Grotius, Kuinoel, B. Bauer, Weisse, and Schenkel). It is, however, clear that they were still revolving the work of the past day, which Jesus had depreciated
, and which, apart from the higher lesson it might have conveyed to them, and apart from the wrong conclusion they had been drawing from it, grievously perplexed them, and seemed insufficient to establish the new claim of Jesus. They, too, begin to depreciate it in comparison with a corresponding sign which Moses had wrought for their fathers. Verily if Moses had been the mediator of the portentous sign of the manna, if Moses had been its real anther, it was a much greater sign than what they witnessed at Bethsaida. For forty years the miraculous bread had been lavished upon them. Daily and weekly it proved its supernatural character. In quantity, quality, prolongation, and renewal day by day, and in its cessation when they ate the fresh corn of Canaan, they not unnaturally saw something immeasurably more vast and imposing than the offer of a single meal to a little company of five thousand men. Christ had wrought a
, but they had not seen the real
involved in it. He himself suggested that something entirely different from that meal, and different from their conclusions concerning it was the true "sign." Let him work the same adequate sign. They are not repudiating all knowledge of the feeding of the five thousand, nor revealing their ignorance of it. They are thrown back on their ingrained passion for supernatural proof, not as yet satisfied by what Christ had done.
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
Our fathers, they
ate the manna in the wilderness; even as it has been written, He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.
If Moses did this, the Christ should do more, seeing he makes this exhaustive claim upon our faith. The manna (see
.) appeared like the hoar frost out of heaven. It was gifted with numerous qualities - perishable if not immediately used, respecting in mysterious way the sabbath sanctity, attending the Israelites through their forty years" wandering, terminating when no longer wanted, utterly unlike, in quantity and quality, to what is the Oriental manna of commerce (Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' art. "Manna"). The psalmists spoke of it (
) as virtually coming down out of heaven, as "corn of heaven," as "angels' food." The Targum of Jonathan,
, says, "God caused bread to descend from heaven upon the sons of Israel," and a rabbinical commentary on Ecclesiastes, quoted by Lightfoot and Wettestein: "Redemptor prior descendere fecit pro iis manna; sic et Redemptor posterior descendere faciet manna." Consequently, they make the challenge, not as though Jesus had done no sign, but as though he had not done enough to put himself on an equality with Moses.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
Jesus therefore said to them,
with the tones of special emphasis, Verily, verily,
I say unto you, It was not Moses,
of whom you are reasonably thinking with due reverence,
the bread out of heaven.
There are two assertions here. There is also an implication, which the hearers of Jesus were called on to make.
It was not Moses who gave to your fathers the bread out of heaven, such as the historians, psalmists, and expositors speak of; for such as it was, - a needed food for the body rained on you out of heaven, - it was the gift of
, not of
Moreover, the manna was not the veritable "bread of heaven." There is a richer and more nourishing food than that, which alone deserves to be called Bread from heaven. The "corn of heaven," though God's gift, was not that of which I speak, nay, it was only the shadow and type of that.
But my Father is giving you
, even now,
the veritable bread out of heaven
); that which fully answers the description of the term - food for your spiritual sustenance, bread which will save your souls alive, which, if assimilated by you, will convey the consciousness and reality of eternal blessedness. The kind of strength which will arise within you when once appropriated, is an eternal possession, an abiding advantage; the satisfaction is not exhausted by a short interval, it remains forever. The Son of man is entrusted with power to bestow it. He is sealed and sanctified and sent into the world for this purpose. This bread is veritably from heaven. Moses did not even give, nor was he the almoner even of, the manna. All the giving then was God's work, but he whom God has sent, on whom you have to believe, is a veritable Giver of this true bread from heaven.
For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
For the bread of God is that which cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life to the world.
It is debated whether the
is "he who cometh down," or "that (bread) which cometh," etc. - whether in this verse the Lord passes at once to the identification of himself with the bread, or for a moment longer is delaying the announcement, and broadly asserting the qualities of that "bread of God," viz. that whoever and whatever it is, IT comes from heaven, and gives life, not merely to the theocratic people, but to the whole world. (The latter is the view of Hengstenberg, Lange, Meyer, Westcott, Moulton; the former translation is partially urged by Godet, who thinks our Lord here spoke amphibologically, meaning both ideas, but by the form of the expression reserving the solution of the problem.) It certainly does not follow that, if he was speaking of himself, the expression
would have been used, because, in ver. 50, after he has removed all ambiguity, he still uses the present tense,
. The present tense is that of quality rather than of time. These characteristics of the veritable bread of God must hold good. It must have a heavenly origin, life-giving power, and universality of application to human need.
is here repeated. The whole world is the object of the Divine grace and love. The bread of God must be a Divine gift, mysterious and heavenly in its origin, and must at once demonstrate its vitality, its Source, and its Giver.
Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
They said therefore to him, Lord!
His hearers have clearly been more impressed than ever with the extraordinary claims of the speaker. They have risen from the "Rabbi" of ver. 26 to "Kyrie," which implies, as the "Kyrie," or "Sir," or "Lord" of
, some advance in their tone of deference. The request that follows is neither ironical nor sarcastic, nor need it be as carnal in its spirit as the similar language of the woman of Samaria (
). They have some dim notion of "doing the works of God," and of some heavenly satisfaction given to their earthly wants. It may be that they imagine some material thing coming down out of heaven, more potent and lasting than the historic manna.
- "at all times," "continuously" -
give us this bread,
of which you speak, and which as Son of man you are able to bestow, which will not be limited in quantity, which will prove to be the elixir of life, the food of the eternal life, and which will satisfy all our hunger, abolish our poverty, make us indifferent to death. A great prayer this, which Christ showed himself not unwilling to answer in his own way.
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Jesus said to them,
now dropping all disguise, and gathering up into one burning word all the previous teaching, which they might have fathomed, but did not.
am the Bread of life;
or "that which cometh down out of heaven, the veritable life-eternal-giving Bread, which I, as the steward of the Divine bounty, am giving, is my very self, my Divine humanity." On other occasions the Lord said, "I am the Light of the world" (
), "I am the good Shepherd" (
), "I am the Resurrection and the Life" (
), "I am the veritable Vine" (
). He claims here to be giving himself to the world, as the Source of its true life. The mode in which any human being can so assimilate this Bread that it should accomplish its purposes and transform itself into life, is by "coming" or "believing." The two terms are parallel, though in "craning" there is more emphasis laid on the distinct act of the will than in "believing." The process is very impressively conveyed. He who has started to come,
he that is coming to me, shall by no means hunger; he that is believing on me -
endeavouring to effect such inward approval and surrender -
shall never thirst
responds here to the
). There is no special significance in the two-foldness of the parallel. "Coming" does not stand in any more immediate relation to "eating" than to "drinking," to the satisfaction of hunger than to that of thirst, nor does "believing" connote exclusively either the one or the other. The parallelism is a strengthening of the same idea. Approach to himself, believing surrender to the reality of his word, will satisfy the most pressing spiritual need, and do it in such a way that the hunger and thirst shall not, shall never, return. There is an invincible and unalterable assent produced by a real apprehension of Christ, which cannot be shaken out of the soul. Satisfaction of hunger may possibly (as Godet suggests) point to the supply of strength, and the appeasing of thirst to the supply of peace. The deeper idea is that the desire of the soul is satisfied, and it is not a recurrent desire. There are certain realities which, if once perceived, can never be unknown afterwards. There are consolations which, if once supplied, absolutely stanch and heal the wounds of the soul. Christ, in "coming down from heaven," by revealing the Divine Sonship in a Son of man. brings all heaven with him, opens all the Father's heart. To come to him and to believe on him is to feed on the corn of heaven and drink of that river of life, clear as crystal, which is ever issuing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.
is here decidedly adversative. It introduces the melancholy statement, that the one thing which is requisite to the full realization of the gift is that of which these questioners are ignorant)
I told you
- I said unto you -
that you have both seen me, and believe me not
; or "that you have seen me, and yet believe not." Some difficulty has arisen from our not being able to find, in the previous dialogue, the exact words here quoted. Some have supposed it to refer to an unrecorded conversation (Alford, Westcott), or even to some written sentence which is now a lost fragment of the discourse. Meyer says (without answering the suggestions of Olshausen, Hengstenberg, Godet, and others), that there is no such statement in the context, and proposes to translate
(as he says it is not unfrequently found in Greek tragedians, as if it were equivalent to
) "I would have you told;" but there is no such usage in the New Testament, and
does not seem a parallel ease. It is not at all probable that Jesus was referring to the language of
, words which were addressed to a different audience - to "Jews" at Jerusalem, and uttered many months before (Lucke and De Wette). But ver. 26 shows that Galilaeans had come to see him, and had come without belief in the great sign of his spiritual nature and claims which he had already granted. They had
him and his great miracles, it is true; but they simply longed in consequence for "more bread" and "more healing," not for himself. In ver. 30 he draws from them a confession that they had not seen enough to believe him. This thought recurs not infrequently. "Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known
"Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed" (
). The setting forth of himself ought to have induced belief apart even from works. He is so intensely conscious of the Divine reality himself, that he marvels at the unbelief of his hearers. Let them think as he does, and immediately the lifelong hunger and thirst of their souls would be satisfied. Seeing, however, is not believing in their ease; and he has already urged them to consider this lamentable spiritual blindness of theirs. The exclamation of this verse recites the obvious inference of the verses we have referred to, condenses into a sentence the spirit of what he had said,
1 Corinthians 2:8
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
Episode or, the blessedness of those who
- Many suppose a time of stillness, a break in the conversation, "a significant
," from the absence of all connection between this and the previous verse. Vers. 39, 40 would seem to have been addressed more directly to the disciples, the less susceptible hearers retiring from him or engaging in eager conversation (cf. ver. 41). Nevertheless, the Lord takes up the continuous line of his self-revelation, and ver. 37 clearly refers the "non-coming" and "non-believing" in their case to their
obliquity, and to the apparent inadequacy of sufficient proof to induce the faith which will satisfy spiritual hunger. This spiritual dulness on the part of all suggests some internal and necessary condition, which is, though yet absent, not said to be inaccessible. Seeing ought to issue in believing, but it does not; therefore there is something more than the manifestation of the Christ absolutely necessary. To that Jesus now reverts.
, the neuter is also used of persons in
and John 17:2, used concerning the whole body of real believers, the whole mass of those who, when they see, do come - the entire company of believers regarded as a grand unity, and stretching out into the future)
all that which the Father giveth me.
The subsequent descriptions of the Father's grace (vers. 44, 45) throw light on this. The "drawing of the Father," the "hearing and learning from the Father," are there declared to be conditions of "coming to Christ." All those influences on the soul, all the new-creating and spirit-quickening energies of the Holy Ghost, the new heart and tender conscience, the honest, serious desire for holy things, are broadly described in this passage as God's method and act of
to the Son of his love. There is no necessity (with Augustine) to suppose that our Lord refers to an absolute predestinating decree. For if God has not yet given these particular men to him, it does not say that he will not and may nut do so yet. The Father's giving to the Son may indeed assume many forms. It may take the character of original constitution, of predisposition and temperamerit, or of special "providential education and training, or of tenderness of conscience, or of a truthful and sincere and unquenched desire. The Father is the Divine Cause. "The giving" implies a present activity of grace, not a foregone conclusion.
All that which the Father giveth me shall reach me
- all souls touched by the Father in a thousand ways to the point of making a moral surrender to my claims, will reach me
- and him that is coming to me
. is on the way to me, is drawing near to me - I for my part will not cast out. Thus authority to refuse is claimed by Christ, and power to exclude from his fellowship and friendship, from his kingdom and glory. (
). Admission is not the working of some impersonal law, but the individual response of him who has come down to give life. As far as man is concerned, it turns on his voluntary coming, on his bare willingness to be fed with heavenly food. It is impossible, so far as responsibility is concerned, to get back of personal wish and individual will. The process of genuine coming to Christ does show that the Father is therein giving such soul to his Son. Archdeacon Watkins says, "Men have now seized one and now the other of these truths, and have built upon them in separation logical systems of doctrine which are but half truths. He (Jesus) states them in union. Their reconciliation transcends human reason, but is within the experience of human life." The greatness of the self-consciousness of Christ appears in the further proof that he proceeds to supply of this relation to the Father.
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
Because I came down from heaven
not that I might do my own will, but the will of him that sent me
John 5:19, 30
, notes). The practical, ethical force of this statement is to shape and defend the previous assurance. Christ's gracious reception and benediction is in willing harmony with, and not in opposition to, the Father's heart. There is no schism between the Father and Son. A separate will in and of itself assigned to the Son is not inconceivable, nay, it is imperatively necessary to posit, or we should lose all distinctions whatever between the Father and Son, between God and Christ. But the very separateness of the wills gives the greater significance to their moral oneness. "Not my will, but thine be done," "Not as I will, but as thou wilt," involve submission, voluntary surrender, to the Father's will; but here the Lord insists on absolute harmony and free cooperation. The bare idea of the Incarnation suggests the conditions of freedom which might conceivably issue in divarication of interest and aim. Christ declares that the Divine commission of his humanity is the spontaneous and free, but perfect, coincidence of his will with the Father's. Christ's embodiment of the Father's will, and coordination with it, make all his attractiveness to the human soul. His healing, feeding, and satisfying powers become a revelation of the Father's heart. If he will not cast out the coming ones, it is because he came down out of heaven to fulfil the Father's will (see further, vers. 44, 45), to explain the world wide hunger, to meet and execute the will of the Father. The frequent assertions by our Lord in this discourse (and in
) of his descent from heaven as One charged with a full knowledge of the Divine will, implies that the Lord was conscious of pre-existence in the very bosom of God. This was language which, with more of the same import, led St. John to the overwhelming conclusion that the Jesus whom he knew in the flesh was the Only Begotten of the Father - was the Logos made flesh.
And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
And this is the will of
that sent me, that
(with reference to)
all that he hath given me
I should not lose (
) anything, any fragment of it;
. from the entire mass of humanity thus given to me as the guerdon of my sacrificial work, given by the inward working of Divine grace which issues in their coming and reaching me, no solitary soul should be plucked out of my hand - should be let slip away into perdition or destruction. The claim of a Divine authority and absolute power could not be put more strongly. The care with which the Divine hand can protect every fragment of his universe, and hold it by its everlasting laws and keep it in the career assigned to it from the beginning, illumines this passage. Should the speaker not sustain this stupendous assumption, it is only too certain that he was giving utterance to the most reckless raving. These words cannot be honestly watered down to the language of the influence of an ethical reformer or prophetic messenger. Jesus proceeds to clinch his argument and reassert his claims as follows.
in proof of the very opposite of the supposition that I can drop one atom of this great charge,
I will raise it up
at the last day.
Reuss applies this to the resurrection of each believer on the "last day" of each life, for he seems unwilling to find in the Fourth Gospel any such idea as that of the general resurrection. But cf.
, and observe the repetition as in a wondrous refrain, vers. 40, 44, 54, in which he again speaks of the "last day" - the final consummation of his redemptive work. The next verse shows that the Lord did discriminate between eternal life already bestowed here and now, and the great consequence of such possession in the complete restoration of body as well as life. It is in the continuity and perpetuity of the eternal life that we find the condition of the resurrection life. The "when" of this "last day" is not positively asserted here.
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
is the will of
of him that sent me
that every one
, instead of the
of vers. 37, 39), treated separately and individually, who
. steadily and continuously contemplates -
(here he identifies himself with the revelation of the sonship in his own Person)
and believeth on him
. entrusts himself in a full moral surrender to
must be here especially noticed) as thus revealed -
should have eternal life
. This is the sublime law of Divine arrangement, and the fullest expression of the will of the Father (comp.
1 John 5:12
, "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life"). "
Behold and trust
." These are the conditions. The steady gaze, the full perception of the Divine Son-ship that is adequately expressed in the Son of man, issues by a Divine arrangement in life eternal. The blessedness of the life of faith, its elevation above the conditions of corruption and decay, are not all which he promises, for he added,
is carried on to the
, and so the word is in subj. aor. rather than fut. indic., and, if so, the sentence may express the fact),
that I should raise him
(not "it;" cf. ver. 39)
at the last day.
It is not improbable, as we have seen, that our Lord uttered these verses (37-40) to the innermost circle of his followers. The first discourse closes with ver. 36. The disciples looked with eager and inquisitive glances at each other and at their Lord, and received these teachings of the Lord concerning the relation he was sustaining to the Father, and the claim he made to be the Almoner of the mercy and minister of the judgment of him that sent him. This great utterance corresponds with the celebrated synoptic recital (
Matthew 11:26, 27
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
The murmur of the Jews met by additional claim that his
." The passage here following resumes the narrative of the impression produced by the extraordinary discourse that had preceded. The question of "the Jews" does not turn at all upon the explanation he had just given to his
in vers. 36-40, but goes back to the theme of vers. 29-36. "The Jews" need not be restricted to the Jewish or the aristocratic or bigoted portion of the Galilaean
, but rather to the Jewish authorities of the towns of Bethsaida and Capernaum, who had been stirred up into active opposition by the report of the miracles and of the explanation which the Lord had put upon them.
The Jews therefore murmured concerning him
. Perhaps in
means simply "whisper;" but throughout the New Testament (
1 Corinthians 10:10
1 Peter 4:9
; Wisd. 1:10) it has the malevolent meaning conveyed in the LXX. It is used to denote very rebellious feelings against God (
). The Attic writers used
Because he said, I am the Bread which cometh down from heaven.
This was a reasonable putting together of the three assertions: "I am the Bread of life" (ver. 35); "I have come down from heaven" (ver. 38); and "The bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven" (ver. 33). "The Jews" did not misunderstand his meaning. They understood it perfectly, and rebelled against it.
And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?
They were saying
) - the one to the other, murmuring in critical and angry mood, and not necessarily in his hearing; for he did not reply to their express assertion, and proceeded rather to enlarge and reiterate the great theme which he had already deduced in the hearing of his disciples. Weiss (vol. 3:6) thinks that John has here introduced an amplification which belongs to a totally different connection.
Is not this Jesus, the Son of Joseph
). We cannot argue from this passage whether Joseph was living still or had died. The murmuring is explicable on either hypothesis. The traditionary impression is that "Joseph" had fallen asleep. Either hypothesis is compatible with the language -
father and mother we know?
They may have merely meant "whose reputed parentage is well understood," without implying that either one or other no longer lived. The fact of his parentage was admitted. This is an apparent point blank contradiction to the descent of his humanity from heaven. The supposition of the truth of the immaculate and supernatural birth of Jesus is perfectly compatible with the ignorance of the "Jews" about it. This deep mystery of love could not be made matter of public discourse, nor do our narratives suggest that the fact itself was promulgated until after the Resurrection. Whatever was apprehended by the sacred society of the hill country of Judaea, or laid up in the breasts of Joseph and Mary and of the few who pondered these strange things in their holy circle at Nazareth, we know not. The synoptic narratives, though they assert the mystery, do not give the smallest indication that it was ever referred to. or made an article of faith, by Jesus himself The difficulty that besets this passage is rather the silence of John, both here and elsewhere, concerning the manner of the Lord's birth. He, who knew the mother of Jesus, and must have been acquainted with the language of Matthew and Luke, says nothing in vindication of the words of the Lord. Here was an opportunity for putting the "Jews" in the wrong, by endorsing the synoptic account which he did not embrace. We have already seen (cf. notes,
) that the underlying presupposition of the miraculous birth is the best explanation of his own words. Still his silence is remarkable. It is best accounted for by the fact that he was evermore looking to the moral, spiritual significance of all the miracles he records, as well as of those to which he vaguely refers. He is content with the words of Jesus. They are the surest explanation of the synoptic narrative. The Jews, on the basis of their general knowledge, are struck with consternation.
doth he say, I have come
down out of heaven?
This was not an irrational nor a malignant criticism. This question must have been asked by those who heard for the first time the stupendous claim. It would not seem that these interrogations were put in the heating of our Lord. His "answer" goes back to the "question" as it shaped itself in the hearts of the disciples, and involves some of the deepest truths which he had previously communicated to Nicodemus. He demands and must have a new humanity, a regenerated audience, subjects for his kingdom who are born anew or from above. He who came down from heaven insists that his true disciples must become what he is - heaven born, must have a life out of heaven. They must be "of God," they must "hear" and "learn of the Father," must be drawn by Divine hands, if they would or should come to him. No lip-homage, no fickle desire for the Messianic kingdom, would satisfy him.
Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
Verses 43, 44.
and said to them
not among yourselves
with one another
. He had searched out a deeper reason for their murmuring than their probable involuntary ignorance of certain miraculous facts.
No man can come
(is able to come)
to me except the Father, who hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day
. In the previous utterance "all" which the Father "gives" to the Son "comes" to him, reaches him, enters into close relationship with him. Here "no one is able" by the nature of the case "to come" except this process and method of a Divine giving is realized. The Father's "giving" to him is described in new terms, as "the drawing" by the Father who hath sent him. The word
almost always implies resistless or at least successful force, in the stretching of a sail, the dragging of a net, the force applied to a prisoner, the drawing of a sword (
John 21:6, 11
). It is used also in Attic writers for the internal drawing of desire towards pleasure (Plato, "Phaedr.," p. 238,
; cf. Virgil, "Ecl.," 2:65, "
sua quemque voluptas"). Our Lord also uses the word for his own attractive force, for the Divine magnetism of his cross, "If I be lifted up, I will
all men to me;" I will counteract all the power of the prince of this world (see
, note). This drawing of the Father to the Son by an internal operation on the heart must be interpreted by the attractive force of the love and sacrifice of the Father which is seen in Christ's being lifted up; and still further explained by his own subsequent assertion in ch. 14, "No man cometh unto the Father but by me." So that, while the whole action centres in Christ, the process begins and ends in the Father's heart. The Father loves the world; the Father would have all men come to him, have access to himself. To secure this Divine result he sends forth his Son with all the attractive force of love and death. This Divine humanity is a sufficient revelation of the perfect will and infinite love of God. The drawing of Christ to
is nothing less than the drawing of the Father to
; for Christ came to do the will of him that sent him. Nor is this all, for all the "internal pressing" and revelation of need and peril, the conviction of sin and righteousness and judgment by the Comforter, is at once the Father's drawing and also the attraction of the Son, and the veritable "coming" of a soul through Christ to the Father. The Father "gives" to the Son by this double process:
he manifests his own fatherly heart in Christ;
he opens men's eyes to see the Father in the Son.
No man can come to me except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him
and I will raise him up at the last day
. I, says Christ, "will complete and consummate his life at my great day of coronation and triumph." The several thoughts must be taken together, and they explain one another. The coming of men to the Father, access to God himself in the glory of the resurrection life, is the sublime consummation. Christ is sent, the Only Begotten is given, he is lifted up to draw men by the revelation of the Father's heart to himself, and thus in seeing and knowing that Christ is in the Father and the Father in him, the soul is drawn by the Father to the Son - is drawn by the Son to the Father. Yet the subjective work of the Father in the mind, moving it even to see the full meaning of the Christ and to yield to his attractive force, is strongly suggested. The direct contact of God himself with each soul that seeks, finds, and comes to him through Christ is made evident. There is, as Reuss says
"la base mystique de la theologic Chretienne," rather than the announcement of a predestinating decree. Even Calvin says, "As to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful influence of the Holy Spirit which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling."
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
It is written in the prophets
; either in the division of Scripture called "the prophets," or because the substance of the statement is found to pervade the prophets, and to receive express, if not literal, utterance in
. The prophet, on describing the glorious triumphs of the Servant of the Lord in his new kingdom, added (LXX.),
Καὶ πάντας τοὺς υἰοὺς σου
διδακτοὺς Θεοῦ καὶ ἐν πολλῇ εἰρήνη τὰ τέκνα
, "And all thy sons [I will make] to be taught of God, and in much [great] peace thy children" (cf. also
. [LXX., 38.] 34, for the same thought in other words). Godet suggests that the former passage was in the
, from the prophets - the lesson for the day. If the discourse was uttered in the synagogue of Capernaum, this is not impossible. At all events, the "and" (
) which here follows suggests that the quotation is taken from Isaiah. And they shall all be taught of God;
. direct teaching by God is the prime requisite of any spiritual apprehension, even of the mysteries of Christ the Revealer. This solemn truth is affirmed by the entire history of Christ. The vision of his majesty, even contact with his ineffable love, the sight of his humiliation and of the shedding of his precious blood, did not, by any necessarily acting law of mind, induce faith. Divine teaching by the Spirit of the Father and Son is the preliminary (see notes on John 16:5-8, on the mission of the Comforter) to believing on Christ. "Taught of God" (
), translated in Vulgate,
1 Thessalonians 4:9
), means more than the reception of one lesson in the school of God, and suggests a prolonged experience and a rich communion between the Teacher and the taught.
, referring to the
of ver. 45
, and to the quotation, is not so much every human being, as the "all" of the Messianic kingdom - the "all" of God's "sons" and "
that hath heard
the Father, and hath learned
cometh unto me.
Hearing may end in heedlessness, even when the Lord God Almighty speaks with us. His revelations at great epochs, his inner voice at special moments in our religious history, may be disregarded. The voice of God may be heard, yet not obeyed; the voice of conscience and revelation and inspiration, the sacred monitions and warnings of the heart, may all be slighted. But every one that hath heard the Father, and has also accepted the lesson - has felt the Divine drawing; being willing to do the will of the Father, he knows of the doctrine, whether it be of God, and he comes to Christ. Later on, Christ said, "Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice." It is one thing to "hear," another to "learn," another to "come." These three stages still further illumine the "drawing" of the Father, and the method which the Father has adopted of so giving men to Christ that he may ultimately fold them in his arms and press them to his heart. Lest, however, the hearers of Jesus, then or now, should conclude that the kind of direct teaching of which the prophets spake, and which he endorsed, was of that immediate kind which himself enjoyed, and which alone justifies this language, he continued -
Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.
Not that any one hath seen the Father, save he who is from God, he hath seen the Father.
"Hearing" and "learning" do not amount to the beatific vision. "No one [as John said,
] hath seen God at any time, the only begotten [Son] who is in the bosom of the Father [
πρὸς τὸν Θεόν
εἰς τὸν κόλπον
], he hath declared him" (cf.
). The full revelation of the Father is alone possible to one who is (
παρὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ
) "forth from God," yet evermore standing in close association with God. Cyril and Erasmus here suggest the fact that Christ distinguishes himself from Moses, and some suggest that Christ protests against the supposition which would make the spiritual "inner Christ" of modern speculation of more value than the historical personality. But
in association with
indicates more than mission from God, and obviously stands in indissoluble relation with the teaching of the prologue, viz. the eternal pre-existence of the personal Logos - the identity of the Person who was made flesh with the Christ of this discourse. These words bring our Lord's teaching back to a full justification or reassertion of the statement that he had come down from heaven.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth
hath eternal life.
He has here given a new turn to the conversation, and repeated what had been the substance of several discourses (
John 3:16, 18, 36
), and formed, indeed, the starting place of this (vers. 27, 35, 36). The full acceptance of Christ provides "living water" for the thirsty, "living bread," "bread from heaven," for the hungry - an inward refreshment, a Divine nourishment, an inexhaustible supply. "He that believeth on me" (whether the
were in the original text or not, they are involved in the sense)has entered on the possession of an eternal blessedness of being, superior to death, transcending time and sense - he "hath eternal life."
I am that bread of life.
repeats once more the statement of vers. 32, 35 (see notes):
I am the Bread of life.
Not only do I give you more than Moses gave your fathers, but I
the Father's Gift. I myself am the Gift - I am the Bread of which, if you partake, you will hunger no more, you will need no more, you will die no more: the life then thrilling through you will be
. "The invisible God is the Source of eternal life; the human nature of the Son of God is the visible form which contains and imparts this to the souls of men" (Archdeacon Watkins).
Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
Verses 49, 50.
Your fathers did eat the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
The Lord went back to the very words of the Jews in ver. 31. The Heaven-given manna by which Jehovah sustained the temporal life of the fathers in the wilderness did not convey the antidote to death. "The carcases [of these fathers] fell in the wilderness." He does not say, "perished out of God's sight forever," or were condemned, but that there was nothing in the eating of manna which arrested, or averted, or triumphed, over death; yet he added:
is the Bread which cometh down from heaven, in order that
may eat thereof, and may not
die. The eating of the Bread of life (the life-giving Bread), which I myself am, the thorough assimilation, the entire acceptance of me as God's Gift of life to the world, confers the very principle of life; and, though a partaker may seem to perish, he does
, notes) - he will not "taste of death," "he will never die." The life will be stronger than death; it will survive apparent extinction. Meyer says that here Christ reserves to ver. 51 the positive offer "of his own concrete Personality, and is exhibiting the true Bread, according to its real nature." Still he has said, "I am the life-giving Bread," and is undoubtedly preparing for the following announcement, which adds a new and startling thought, calculated to sustain the former one.
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
(not only the "Bread of God," the "Bread of life," the life-giving Personality, but)
the living Bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this
Bread, he will
. With this verse We see, instead of monotony, a threefold advance.
In place of the life-giving Bread, he declares himself to be as Bread, yet a living Person, possessing therefore in himself the essential principle and energy of life.
, used characteristically or universally, he points to a definite, concrete, historic fact - "that has come down out of heaven."
Instead of saying, "he may not die," we find the glorious assertion, "he
will live forever
." The kind of eating of which he speaks becomes clearer; the kind of food, the kind of death, the kind of life, all burst into light which points back to the first great word of this discourse, viz. "Labour tot that food which endureth unto eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you, for this one the Father, even God, hath scaled." "The miraculous feeding of yesterday was but the metaphor by which I was conveying this thought, that I was providing an inexhaustible supply for the eternal life of that humanity which I have assumed." In the last clause of the verse he made a yet further advance:
Yea, and the bread which I shall give is my flesh
which I shall give
the life of the world.
of the commencement of the clause show a continuation of the thought with a new departure, coordination, and progress, "Yea, and the bread which I shall give is my flesh." Though the word "flesh" is often described by some of its frequent characteristics and qualities, and might be and has been regarded as the bodily and sensuous nature, and also as the seat of sin, it is, both by Paul and John, used for the
nature of man
as a creature - its totality regarded on its earthly side, the entire "humanity" which Christ assumed, the common antithesis to "spirit" viewed as the Divine supernatural gift to man. He was (
1 Timothy 3:16
) "manifest in the flesh," in "the likeness of sinful flesh" (
) - in a flesh free from all sin. He came "in the flesh" (
1 John 2:16
1 John 4:2
). This humanity of his he gives, or rather, when he spake these words, he would give,
to be eaten
, to be assimilated by faith; and, having reached this point, he added (
. if we retain the questioned clause, which, with Meyer and Godet, we see no sufficient reason for discarding), which flesh,which humanity of his, he will further give to be slain and sacrificed for the sake of, or on behalf of, the world. This clause, which the Vatican Codex, etc., reject, proceeds clearly on the supposition that Christ advances here to the prediction and promise of his death. It is so worded as all the more to justify the emphasis he subsequently lays upon the death itself as essential to a full participation in himself. In this verse and closing utterance he prepares for further disclosures, and the flesh of Christ receives explanation from the rich and varied reference to it in the final words of the discourse, where the
is the great metaphor of his Divine humanity, and the
is the expressive description of his awful sacrifice. He, the Life-giver, the Living One, the Bread of life, the living Bread, will give himself to what men call death, that they, apprehending fully, adequately accepting the greatness of the Divine gift, may, like himself, transform death (so called death) into the portal of eternal life. These words are the new starting point for this great disclosure. The very inner thought of Jesus seems to shape itself as we read. The Paschal sacrifice, eaten at that season as the sign that the theocratic nation had been chosen to covenant and eternal relation with Jehovah, must have been present to his mind. His own approaching death and sacrifice, by which he would bind those who receive him into an eternal covenant with himself, his relation to the whole world, the gift of the Father to him, the gift of himself to the world by the Father, - all are presented to him, and the movements of his great heart reveal themselves as he proceeds.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us
flesh to eat?
The conflict among the Jews leads Christ to insist further on separate participation of his flesh and blood as the condition of life
The Jews therefore strove one with another
represents more vigorous demonstration of their difficulties than the
of ver. 41). They were not unanimous in their judgment. Some said one thing, and others said another. The "Jews" had not yet come to a unanimous opinion that this wonderful Being was talking sheer heresy or incomprehensible mystery. They knew his habit of metaphoric speech, and that underneath common imagery he was in the habit of conveying doctrines the full purport of which was not at once apparent. Some denounced him as uttering an intolerable riddle. Some saw, in a measure, through it, and hated the doctrine that was thereby conveyed. How could
be so essential to the life of the world? and how, said the pure materialist, "how can he give us his flesh to eat?" A question of great interest arises. He has already identified, in ver. 35, "coming to him," "reaching him" under the drawing of the Father, with the transcendent blessing of life eternal, of victory, over death, and resurrection. In ver. 40 "beholding" and "believing" are cognate or equivalent conditions of life and resurrection. In ver. 47, again, "believing,"
, is the essential and all-comprehensive condition. Now, has Christ added, in this verse, anything fresh to the fundamental ideas? Let it be pondered that he has already equated "believing" with eating a bread that endureth to everlasting life (vers. 27-29). He has declared himself to be the "Bread of life," and to be appropriated by "coming" and "believing." He has spoken of himself as "living Bread," which, coming for the life of the world from heaven itself, is offered as food. Now, what more than this has he said when he declared that he will offer his "
as heavenly food? The Jews undoubtedly show, by their mutual contest, that he had put some part of the previous oracle in a still more enigmatical, if not offensive, form. So far the imagery was not altogether beyond them. Here it takes on a form which excites angry controversy. If they understood him to mean "doctrine," "truth," "cause," even "office," as Head of a spiritual school - as one providing by his gracious will ample nutriment for all who would eat of the rich banquet of his words - they would, to some extent, follow him. The eating of the tree of life was a well known figure in Hebrew Scripture (
); cf. the language of Isaiah (
), the action of Ezekiel (
), and the imagery of Hosea (
). In the "Midrash on
," "eating and drinking" is said always to refer to the Law (Edersheim and Wunsche). But when he spoke of giving his "
for the life of the world, he passed beyond the limits of their interpreting power. They did not see through his imagery; nor did Jesus exactly answer the angry query which they were putting one to another.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Verses 53, 54.
Jesus said to them,
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye have eaten the flesh of the Son of man, and have drunk his blood, ye have not life in yourselves
He that eateth
, "eateth with pleasure, eagerness," is repeated four times, as perhaps a stronger expression than
my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
This result, it should be seen, is
identical with the promises made to
." Life and resurrection will really follow these acts and conditions; but then it is obvious that "beholding," "coming," "believing," must veritably cover what is contained in this last statement. There is no mere tautology. These words express more fully the original condition. They are not new conditions, but a further imaginative exposition of the former ones. The believing involves an assimilation into the very substance of the believer's nature of that which he here specifies as "flesh and blood." Reuss and Luthardt, and to some extent Moulton, admit that by "flesh and blood" he means no more than "flesh;" that under "flesh" is included "blood;" that by both he simply means "himself." Lunge urges that by "flesh" is meant "human nature" - his "manhood;" but by "flesh and blood" (see
), "inherited nature" - the humanity of Christ in "
." But he passes on to say that this manifestation culminates, is completed, in death, and, thus completed, the life of Christ is the nourishment of the real life of man. Tholuck: "The addition of
only expresses, by its main constituents, the sensible human nature." The great bulk of interpreters take the additional mention of drinking of his blood to connote an entire acceptance of the atoning sacrifice, of the Paschal blood shedding, to be effected for the deliverance of the world (so Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Lucke, Neander, Keim, Meyer, Weiss, etc.). "Eating of the flesh," then, would mean acceptance of his humanity, of the manifestation of the eternal love in the Son of man; and "drinking his blood" would mean entire mental assimilation also of the terrible culmination of his mission in violent, sacrificial death. This momentous condition of life eternal is stated both negatively and positively. Without the participation in this twofold aspect of the Lord and his work, there is no
. Unless "coming to him," "believing on him," means an acceptance of his humanity, an apprehension of that Personality in whom the Word was incarnate, and an utter surrender of the soul to the rending of that flesh and shedding of the blood which is the life,
. to the death of the Son of man, it is not the coming to him and believing on him of which he has already spoken. He that does thus eat and drink will satisfy a craving after nourishment and refreshment. Unless a man consciously or unconsciously accepts, absorbs, the sublime and wondrous gift of the Divine humanity from the second Man, the Lord from heaven, rather than from the first man, he has no life in himself. Human nature apart item the new creation and the new beginning is a dying, not a living, entity. The new life quickened by the Incarnation is not all that Christ would give. The blood of the Son of man, to be accepted in the same way. is a further exposition of the object of faith. The "eating" and "drinking" are therefore phrases which portray the very intimate and close form of that contact with, and dependence upon, the incarnation and the sacrifice of the Son of God, which Christ erewhile defines in broader, vaguer metaphor. A great question has arisen on these verses - whether our Lord is pointing to, or making prophetic reference to, the institution of the Eucharist, about which the fourth evangelist is strangely silent. Certain of the early Fathers - Chrysostom, Cyril, and Theophylact - have given it this meaning, though the great bulk of the patristic writers - Ignatius, Irenseus, Origen, Clemens Alex., Tertullian, and even Cyprian (though the passage may be applied by them to the Eucharist as
way or method of spiritually eating and drinking the Son of man) - do most obviously interpret the passage itself of direct and spiritual, not the indirect and sacramental manducation of the living Bread. The same view is presented by Eusebius, Athanasius, and Cyril of Alexandria. For the first four centuries all that was done was to apply the argument of ch. 6, in order to press the importance of communicating sacramentally. This led the Romanist writers to go further, and regard the participation in the sacramental body and blood as essential to life eternal. Pope Innocent I., Bishop of Rome, A.D. 402, was the first distinguished man who brought up out of this passage "the necessity of communicating infants;" and from the time of his synodical epistle (A.D. 417) the Latin Chinches interpreted the passage, "Except you receive the Eucharist, you have no life in you." The views of Augustine were vacillating or are dubious. Fulgentius shows that he had, to some extent, broken loose from this narrow view when he concluded that baptism without the Eucharist did convey all the benefits of the body and blood of Christ. Numerous Schoolmen (see Albertinus, 'De Eucharistia,' lib.
. 30; and Wake, 'Disc. of the Eucharist,' p. 20) rejected the sacramental interpretation, and the Reformers most justly repudiated it. Luther, Melancthon, Beza, Grotius, Owen, Lampe, Cocceius, asserted that the whole construction of the passage, which treats "coming," "believing," as the complete conditions of life and resurrection, must not be held to transform an, as yet, uninstituted ceremonial into the sole method of "believing." Notwithstanding this wide protest, the opponents of the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel - Bretschneider, Strauss, Baur, Thoma, Hilgenfeld, and numerous others - see in this passage the conception of a mystically disposed second-century divine, who placed the Eucharistic ceremony in the lips of Jesus long before the institution. But while this view can be without hesitation rejected, it is obvious that there was a spiritual participation in the "humanity" and the "sacrifice" of the Son of God which Christ called upon the Capernaites to experience - one which must have been possible to Old Testament saints, to little children; to all who are acceptable to God and accepted by him. Such participation is, without doubt, aided and rendered peculiarly possible, thinkable, in the Eucharist. These words were timed, therefore, to bear the rich and twofold sense of Holy Scripture. Observe:
The use of
, in every account of the institution of the Supper, is not without special meaning;
meaning the whole of his humanity, and the entire fulness of the sacrifice for the world; while
σῶμα καὶ αῖμα
suggest that organized personal life in which the Incarnation culminated, and the blood which was shed for the remission of sins. The
is not without reference to the new "body" in which the spirit would be ultimately enshrined.
The phrase, "drinking of the blood," is peculiar to these verses. In the Eucharist we "drink of the cup which is the new covenant in the blood of Christ." "The hand of history," says Edersheim, "has drawn out the telescope; and, as we gaze through it, every sentence and word sheds light upon the cross, and light from the cross carrying to us the twofold meaning - his death and its celebration in the great Christian sacrament."
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
- A new justification is given for this great statement:
For my flesh is
food, and my blood is
. (The two
verbals are adopted, "eating," "drinking;" but
are used very frequently by the Attic writers for "food" and "drink
," as well as for the processes of eating and drinking.) That is, Christ's flesh and blood stand in the same relation to the true life of man that food and drink do to the physical life of earth; and so, unless we duly and fully assimilate Divine humanity, we have no life in us. If we cannot assimilate food, we die. It must become part of our life blood and permeate our system; so "the coming and believing" must mean such an acceptance of the Christ that the love of God penetrates our whole being, "even the joints and marrow of soul and spirit;" unless it does so, we have no life in us. Lange, even here, presses the idea of the flesh and blood of Christ as being true food, seeing that by
contemplation we participate in the "historic form of his manifestation," and by
we drink in the blood which is the life. The difference between
is nearly that between
. The former is the antithesis of the merely apparent food; the latter would have meant genuine food answering to the ideal of food. "The true food" is the food for the inner man - food
in all reality
. The Lord was speaking to them of a unique relation which he sustained to the human race, and which cannot be explained away into some mere euphemism for the blessedness and stimulating character of the gospel message. This is made still more evident by his next words -
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I
. This mutual indwelling is illustrated elsewhere (
) by the image of the vine and its branches.
The vine abides in the branch
in the virtue of its life-giving forces. Cut away from the parent stem, it can do nothing. Fruitlessness condemns and fire consumes it.
The branch abides in the vine
, as deriving all its worth, its true place, its possibility of growth and fruit, from the vine (cf. also
1 John 3:24
1 John 4:16
). The dwelling of the believer in Christ involves an utter self-surrender to him, a recognition of the supreme claims of the God-Man and his work, a complete trust in him as the Source of all life, a sound and abiding place of rest, a justification before God as one with Christ, as one identified with him in his well pleasing to the Father. The dwelling of Christ in the believer is the fulness and riches of the Divine life. Christ liveth in him (
), thinks in his thoughts, moves through his will. This is sanctification. The believer is in Christ as the members are in the body. Christ is in the believer as God is in his temple. What is the condition of this mutual indwelling? Christ puts the condition of this Divine interpretation thus: "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." The verb is in the present tense, implying the continuous appropriation of the Divine sustenance.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
- Here is the grandest assertion of all. Christ began by speaking of himself as the Bread of God, as the life-giving Bread, as the living Bread of human souls. He made it then clear that he was this by reason of his Divine humanity given for the life of the world. He added to this that he was specially to be appropriated and accepted as a sacrifice, as the death sacrifice, involved in his giving his flesh for the life of the world. The power conferred by his death in life and life in death for man, enabled him to institute eternal life-giving relations between himself and those who entirely accept and make their own this central reality. And now, to meet the nascent objection as to the unique grandeur of his position, he adds:
As the living Father sent me.
The phrase, "living Father," occurs nowhere else (cf. "righteous Father,"
; "holy Father,"
; "the living God,"
2 Corinthians 6:16
; and above all, ch. 5:26, "As the Father hath life in himself, so he gave also to the Son to have life in himself"). Christ is speaking of the human position he assumed before them as
by the Father who has life in himself, who is more than all his laws or all his works. Not merely as the Word, but as the Word of the living Father made flesh, he stands before them.
And I live because of
"Because he lives, I live; my life is guaranteed by his." This is the premiss, the platform on which he now stands (
διὰ τὸν Πατέρα
must not be confounded with
, as M"Leod Campbell, who, in his interesting discussion on "Christ the Bread of Life," made this expression equivalent to the means and condition of the Saviour's life). From this premiss the Lord argues a corresponding relation of the believer to himself:
So he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me.
The points of comparison are:
The Father's life-imparting relation to Christ, and Christ's life-imparting relation to the believer. In both cases the life of one is the guarantee of the life of the other.
The sending of Christ by the Father, correlated with the eating of Christ by the believer.
The peculiar relation of the believer to Christ. "He that eateth me" gathers up and really comprehends all that has gone before. It is, then, possible for the believer not only to share in the Divine humanity by his faith, and also in the fulness and significance of iris (blood) death, but to have full possession of his Divine
. "He that eateth me shall live because of me" (cf. "Because I live, ye shall live also,"
). This is the vindication of the previous verse, and the climax of the argument.
This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
- Here the Lord returns once more to the starting point of the discourse.
the bread that came down from
(cf. vers. 50, 51). Already he had said, "I am the living Bread that came down from heaven," and he has expanded the statement to show how much was contained or involved in eating it. He has, moreover, emphasized the two sides of his offer of himself to the world, and shown how the twofold reception of beth sides becomes a thorough acceptance of himself, and a twofold identification of himself with his people. He forthwith returns to the original statement, and to its implied contrast with that which these sign-loving Jews had demanded.
ate, and died: he that eateth of this bread shall live forever.
This is a strong reassertion of the language of vers. 49-51. Life itself in its highest sense shall be independent of death, and will triumph over it.
These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.
- probably referring to the discourse which followed upon the contest and discussion of the Jews among themselves (vers. 52-58), or it may include the entire discussion from ver. 40 onwards -
he said in synagogue
in a synagogue
he was teaching in Capernaum.
Capernaum is thus distinctly verified as the place whither the multitudes had followed him. It was, as we learn from the synoptists, his second and habitual home in Galilee. In Warren's 'Recovery of Jerusalem,' p. 344, a description of
and of its ruins occurs, and amongst them the remains of an ancient synagogue. "On turning over a large block of stone," says Wilson, "we found the pot of manna engraved on its face." "This very symbol may have been before the eyes of those who heard the Lord's words" (Westcott). This note of time and place is important, as showing that thus early in his ministry our Lord proclaimed in Galilee, as well as in Jerusalem, the deepest things of his own consciousness and intentions; that the teaching in Galilee was not, as Renan would have us apprehend, nothing more than an idyllic progress of personal popularity and rapturous hosanna. The Lord knew that he must offend those who would by force constrain him to be their Messianic King, and made it by this discourse clear that spiritual communion with his inner life, as a Divine, Heaven-sent Representative, as One suffering and dying for the world, was the only and supreme condition of deriving and sharing in his own supernatural and eternal life. The effect of this discourse and the crisis that followed in his public ministry is now described. The words of Jesus led to deeper faith and to a more determined antagonism. "The light shone into the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." "He came to his own, and his own received him not; but to as many as received, he gave power to become sons of God."
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard
, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
The twofold effect of these instructions
The unbelief of some, which led him to predict the ascension of his humanity to where
Many therefore of his disciples.
This word is used in a wider sense than of the twelve. The synoptists tell us of much labour already done in this neighbourhood, and a considerable harvest of souls reaped, so far as a general acknowledgement of his claims and an expectation that he was the Messiah was involved:
When they heard it
. the entire instruction given in open synagogue),
said, This is a hard saying
cannot or need not be confined to any one of these
, but may easily embrace them all). The discourse was
, harsh, the opposite of
, a word used by the unprofitable servant of his master (
). It does not mean "hard to be understood," but difficult to accept or be content with. Luthardt here reiterates his conviction that there is no reference in it to the death of Christ, and that the disciples were simply unwilling to accept the idea of his supreme claims and his constant return to the. eating and drinking of his flesh and blood and identification of this eternal life with participation in his corporality. But surely Meyer and Wcstcott, etc., are far nearer to the truth in referring the expression to their unwillingness to accept the bloody death of their Messiah, or to entrust themselves to a Divine Personality whose most distinctive act would be his sacrifice. This was the gross and terrible offence which made the cross a stumbling block to the Jew (see
1 Corinthians 1:23
l, etc.). Who is able to listen to him? This seems not only to be the possible, but most probable, translation of the genitive with
. It was the language, not of "the Jews," but of "the disciples."
When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
But Jesus, knowing in
not necessarily by supernatural penetration, for many signs of impatience may have been manifested -
that his disciples murmured
(see ver. 41, note)
said unto them, Doth this cause you to stumble?
(see note on John 16:1).
and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
it does put difficulties in your way, then how will it be
if you behold the Son of man ascending up to where he was before?
This unfinished and ambiguous sentence and query have been variously interpreted. Some have argued that our Lord here simply refers to the "resurrection;" that he told his hearers they would have an opportunity of observing that, after death, he would return to where he was before, that is, to the conditions of earthly life. The striking antithesis between "descending from" and "ascending" almost compels the repudiation of this view. Did Christ, however, mean to ask them whether, under the new condition of things, all ground of offence would not be taken away? or to imply that their faith would have to be put to a still greater strain, and that they would stumble at length irretrievably? Lucke, De Wette, Kuinoel, Meyer, chiefly urge the latter, and on the ground:
That in John's Gospel the death of Christ is always looked at as his real glorification, and that therefore by
, he was referring in his euphemistic fashion to his death in the true Johannine phrase as a going to God (cf.
, a return to the Father; 14; 16:5, 28).
That John does not describe the Ascension as a physical fact. Meyer does not allow that
and John 20:17 are sufficient with this phrase to justify such a reference to the great event referred to by Mark, Luke, and Paul, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Against Meyer and those who agree with him it should be noticed that
is never used for "death" of Christ. The phrases,
, etc., are used for this purpose. Moreover, when a phrase was wanted to denote the twofold idea of uplifting on the cross and ascension to the skies,
, is the word twice used in the Fourth Gospel (
). Moreover, if death could be realized as such a
of glory and fulness of life, the offence of the cross, and scandal of participation in and dependence upon the flesh and blood of Christ, would be reduced and not augmented. To Meyer's objection that these Galilaean disciples would not see the ascending Christ, and therefore the supposition would be tantalizing, it is sufficient to reply
that, in a similar sense, there was no reason to suppose they would see the Lord suffer and die upon the cross;
that, as Christ Jesus was evidently "set forth as crucified" among the Galatians (
), so these Galilaean disciples, through the vision of the apostles, would verily see the Son of man suffer, die, and ascend. Apart also from the inappropriateness of the word
convey the subtle thought of the transfiguration of death as such, there was not, apart from resurrection and ascension to glory - which is the additional matter to which our Lord referred - any justification of the phrase, whereas it coincides decidedly with the expressions used of the pre-existing glory of the great Personality who, though calling himself "Son of man," yet consciously refers to his existence before the world was (cf.
John 17:5, 24
). Again, the
of these words stands in imposing antithesis to the repeated use of
of the previous discourse. He had been sent "from heaven," "sent by the living Father," he had "come down from heaven," "to give himself and his flesh for the life of the world" and he now leads his disciples to suspend their murmuring at the form of his discourse. They may behold and see a greater marvel yet, such a losing of his humanity in God and glory, that they will be able to apprehend more fully what he means by eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Of course, there might be some who are so entirely obtuse to the conception of this close identification with him during the time of his manifestation in the flesh, that they will be still more powerless to receive the spiritual interpretation when, for believing minds, the idea would become clear. John recorded this discourse a generation after the mighty effects of the Resurrection and Ascension had been produced. We know that long before he presented these outlines the ideas presented in it had been widely diffused. St. Paul had spoken of Christ as "the second Man from heaven," as invested and clothed in a "spiritual body," as "the last Adam," as "a life-giving Spirit," and the Epistle to the Hebrews had represented him as "having passed through the heavens that he might fill all things. Whence came such august ideas about the Man Jesus, if not from himself? The offence of the cross has never ceased, and Athenians and many since have mocked at the story of the Resurrection and Ascension; but notwithstanding this, there is an ever-increasing multitude who from the day of his ascension till now have been finally convinced. They have understood, as they would never have done without such help, that it was possible, since he had passed through these heavens that he might fill all things, to hold the most entire and intimate communion with him, both as the God-Man and as the Paschal Lamb. Moreover, the prince of this world has been cast out and judged because Christ has gone to the Father. He has been lifted up, and is drawing all men to himself. When the Son of man in the continuity of his Person shall be beheld as ascending into the glory from which he in his Divine nature descended, then those who stumbled at the idea of intimate life-giving participation in himself will "come to see that the words can only be understood spiritually" (Moulton). The ascension of the humanity to the life and glory of the pre-existent Deity of the Son of God was a conception firmly grasped by St. Paul (
), and must have been based on the Lord's own words. It is only by the exaltation of the man into God that we are able to participate in the Divine humanity. Weiss, unfortunately, cannot believe that there was any reference to the visible ascent to heaven, but simply to the termination of his earthly labours. The question, then, of ver. 62 is left to find its own answer and to give its own suggestion. But the interpretation here offered is strongly confirmed by -
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you,
are spirit, and
It is the spirit that quickeneth
, though omitted by
, is retained by all the principal editors);
the flesh profiteth nothing;
. the "flesh" taken by itself, and apart from the life-giving Spirit which is its principium. The antithesis between "flesh" and "spirit" occurs frequently in the Gospel, and is one of the great points of Pauline doctrine. The Lord does not introduce the pronoun
. The statement is generalized, though having special reference to himself, or to the spirit and flesh of the Son of man. "Flesh," in neither St. Paul nor St. John, means the sensuous nature as opposed to the intellectual nature; nor does it mean the "body" as antithetic to the "soul" - the organized material frame, to which the Jews were attributing so much and felt to be the guarantee and seal of his spiritual efficiency (Meyer) - but the "creaturely nature," the "humanity"
in all its parts. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." Christ
his humanity was fashioned by the Spirit, and the Spirit dwelt upon him with iron measurable potence. "The Logos became flesh," but that flesh itself was so ordered and prepared by the Holy Spirit as that it should sustain this lofty companionship. Christ's own flesh, his nature, his humanity
, and apart from the fulness of the Spirit, profiteth nothing. The mere human life, however spotless and ideal, could not be "eaten,"
. could not be assimilated, though to some extent it might be imitated; but imitation is not faith. The "glory" that the apostles saw "of the Only Begotten of the Father, the fulness of grace and truth," in and through that wondrous life of Christ, was the glory given to his humanity by the creative Spirit. Apart from this consideration, a manducation of his flesh, even were it physically possible, was useless. It was not possible to participate in his humanity save through the Holy Spirit which generated him and regenerates us. The sentence doubtless points back to the original constitution of man, the specialty of whose life is that it was inbreathed by the Lord God himself. The use of the saying here was to make it still more clear that he gave his flesh to eat, not through any physical process, not through any sacramental rite, but through the Spirit to our spirit. Mr. Sadler, who takes the strong sacramental view of the entire passage, says, however, wisely and forcibly here, "Even flesh cannot be given to a corpse." We receive the gift, we know the love of God, whether sacramentally or not, through the Spirit. Christ does not deny or retract the statement, "Except ye eat the flesh," etc. He simply shows in what sense he meant the
whole mutual indwelling of himself and his people to be understood
. The Spirit is the Quickener. The Spirit is the life-fashioning, life-pre-serving Energy. The flesh, the human manifestation, apart from the Spirit which makes that human life the centre of Divine effluence, the focus for its Divine energy, profiteth nothing. Some have taken these words (like Chrysostom) as a contrast between a spiritual and literal interpretation of Christ's words. Luther and many Lutherans have urged the contrast between a right celebration and a merely material use of the sacrament. So more or less Augustine and Olshausen. Canon Westcott seems to limit the original meaning of "flesh" and "spirit," the one to the visible, temporal, corporeal only, and the other to the unseen eternal order of things, and he does not give to "flesh" here the fulness of meaning which it bears in the New Testament; but he says that this utterance is not limited to either of the views just referred to, though it may include them. Archdeacon Watkins remarks, "They think of a physical eating of his flesh, and this offends them; but what if they, who have thought of bread descending from heaven, see his body ascending into heaven? They will know then he cannot have meant this. The descent of the Spirit will follow the ascent of the Son."
The words that I have
you are spirit and are life.
which I have now uttered, these teachings of mine concerning myself, are (not merely "spiritual" or "life-giving," but)
. the way and method in which the
can convey to you the
. The words which I have spoken at all times have been the effulgence of my glory, the effluence of my Spirit. The seed of the kingdom is the Word of God. The contact of the Divine Spirit with the human spirit is not through teeth and palate, but through mental and moral processes. "Thou hast the
of eternal life," said Peter (ver. 68). Christ thus works his way back again to the receptivity of the mind and heart of his disciples. Believing is not only "coming," but, as he has before implied, it is the identical process which he has called "eating his flesh and drinking his blood." Christ's words are the ministry of himself, because the chief method of communicating his life-giving Spirit. In
John 15:4, 7
the Lord used both expressions, "I" and "my words," in identical relations: "Abide in me, and I in you;" "If ye abide in me, and
abide in you," etc.
But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
But, he adds,
there are some of you that believe not
. "Some," not many, who were following him yet felt that they could not trust - could not accept his greatest revelations, these Divine assumptions, this spiritual position of his. The Divine humanity, the offered life, the cruel death, of the Son of God, the victory over death, the return to the Father, when put into words or when taught in metaphors even, were grounds of offence. The evangelist adds:
introduces the explanatory clause of the disciple who testified of these things)
(knew absolutely, rather than came to know)
from the beginning
- referring to the commencement of his public ministry, when men began to close round him (
John 1:43, 48
), not from the beginning of time, or the beginning of their unbelief (Kling); he knew by his Divine penetration into their character, by their manner and spirit, and the nakedness and openness of all hearts before him -
they were that believed not, and who it was that should betray him.
Westcott here reminds us that the first indication of the sin of Judas occurs in close association with predictions of the approaching Passion. This foreknowledge of issues is no interference with free self-consciousness in itself. It may imply that the natures thus known contained in themselves the seeds of the future growth. He knew what would be, but he did not compel it. There was possibly some fresh manifestation of feeling, of failing sympathy, even of enmity, which led the evangelist to notice the manner and interpret the mind of the Lord.
And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
And he said, For this cause have I said unto you, that no man can come unto
me, except it were given unto him of the Father
is omitted by R.T. and Tischendorf (8th edit.); the authorities seem here more equally divided); see notes on vers. 37 and 44. Christ has come completely round to the fundamental principles with which he started. The coming to him, the believing on him, the spiritual apprehension of his Divine humanity, the adoring acceptance of his precious blood, the reception of the spiritual life-giving energy which went forth from him in word, depended on the Father's "drawing" - on those fundamental characteristics of appetite and capacity to receive the grace of Christ which are subjective and are referrible to the Father's good pleasure.
does not give the hunger, but the bread. From the beginning he saw the presence of the appetite after that which he came to bestow. Sometimes a morbid absence of all hunger, a moribund cessation of thirst, may be and is transformed into passionate and life-saving eagerness by The sight of food. The Father gives both the hunger and the food, the sense of need and the heavenly supply. The love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, is the drawing of the Father through the Son to himself. The drawing of the Father is the giving of souls to the Son. A fresh thought is here added. This drawing, thus interpreted, is God's gift also to the human soul The question arises - If the Lord knew, why did he choose the traitor, or call Judas into the innermost circle (see ver. 71)?
many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
, equivalent to
). Not "from that time forwards," not a gradual thinning down or departure of some disciples, one today and another tomorrow, but a kind of rush and stampede took place. Those who a few hours before were ready to call him their Messianic King, were entirely disenchanted. The claims of Christ were so profoundly different from what they anticipated that
upon this many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
The fascination those felt who had seen some of the excellences of Jesus led them to put themselves at his disposal, to wait upon him, to desert their ordinary occupations. Hence part of the phraseology of redemption was derived from the method of Christ. Men "came" to him; they "followed" him; they "walked" with him; they could "go back," desert, forsake their Lord. These actions of his first disciples have created the vocabulary of the kingdom of God. Christ's teaching tested as well as attracted men. There was a repellent force as well as an infinite fascination. He sifted as well as saved. The very deeds and words that broke some hearts into penitence roused impatient and angry remonstrance in others. There is seen in this Gospel a continual departure and a deepening faith.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
The loyalty of the twelve, with a note of prophetic warning
Jesus therefore said unto the twelve
. He spake to them because of the wide defection from his ranks. "The twelve" have never been mentioned before in the Gospel, but this passing reference reveals acquaintance with the fact on the part of the evangelist. He assumes the historic number as perfectly explicable to his readers. The reference to the
baskets in ver. 13 almost presupposes that there were the same number of disciples, and this pathetic appeal is in harmony with the synoptic account of their "call."
Would ye also go away?
suggests a negative answer, "Ye cannot wish, can you?" (Meyer). Godet says, on the contrary, "If you wish, you can!" Westcott, "The form of the question implies that such desertion is incredible, and yet to be feared" (cf.
John 7:47, 52
John 18:17, 25
). The question is far from identical with that query which once more the Lord put to the twelve, after many subsequent months of varied activity and critical discourse, which showed how Jesus had at length broken with the narrow literalism of Judaic privilege, On that occasion he was summing up the varied convictions produced upon the Galilaean multitudes, and he asked, "But whom say ye that I am?" Here he is simply suggesting the possibility, but yet the incredibility, of his desertion by the twelve apostles, merely because he had affirmed the spiritual aims of his entire mission, and had made an unreserved offer of his Divine humanity to their need. The pathos of this inquiry shows how serious a crisis was being enacted. It has reference in its issues rather to himself than to the twelve. The critical school see in this verse the Johannine treatment of the great apostolic confession, and Weiss here agrees with it. Even Godet thinks that two such questions with their answers, under comparatively similar conditions, are improbable. He suggests that the
(ver. 66) points to a great scattering, and that months may have elapsed before the scene which John here condenses. It is more likely that John omits the later scene, and prefers to give this, which stands closely related with the immediate circumstances (cf. also
.). The context and surrounding of the scene in
appear to differ in place, occasion, query, and answer, and in the corresponding teaching that followed. The question was "the anticipation of Gethsemane" (Edersheim).
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
Verses 68, 69.
- prominent here, and in
John 13:6-11, 24, 36
, etc.; just as he is in the synoptic Gospels (see portrait of St. Peter, Introduction VIII. 3 (4)) - [then ]
answered him;Lord, to whom shall we go?
is even stronger than the
; Hast thou not drawn us to thyself, and supplied a need and craving which thou hadst first of all excited? Is there any teacher to rival thee? Can we look for another while we have thee? "Da nobis alterum te" (Augustine). The second part of this immortal reply points clearly back to ver. 63, where the Lord had declared that the words he had spoken to them were spirit and life.
Thou hast words of eternal life.
Not "the words," which would savour too much of the dogmatic and technical, but
words of life
- words which minister the Spirit of life; words which convey the Divine power, even the Holy Spirit, to our minds; words which bring those thoughts before us which we can believe, and believing which, we have eternal life. "Thou hast such words" (cf. for use of
1 Corinthians 14:26
). The third item of this confession is twofold.
We have believed, and have come to know
; so that we now do believe and know that, etc. There is a knowledge which precedes belief, and there are some great facts and ideas about Christ which lead to a higher and to a different belief (see
1 John 4:8
); but again the fullest knowledge follows belief, a notional and real assent leads to an invincible assent. Faith is the womb of assurance. This richer knowledge is mediated by love. "He that loveth not knoweth not," and the faith that evokes "love" also excites and confirms the "knowledge" that is life eternal (
). That thou art the Holy One of God The recognition of the nature of the Lord, which fell short of the great utterance of Peter in
. This was an ascription which the daemoniacs, or the devils, by their lips were ready from the first to proclaim prematurely (
). (On the holiness of Christ, on his entire consecration, and on the fact that he was sealed and sent into the world to do the Father's will, see
1 John 2:20
.) "Thou art sent on the highest mission. Thou canst accomplish all that thou hast told us; we have come to believe it, and we do know it. We cannot leave thee. We are not looking for temporal honours or Messianic splendours, but for the food that endureth unto everlasting life."
And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
- The answer of the Lord is one of the most solemn and heart-rending character, and a further hint from his own lips of what the evangelist had uttered on his own account. It is an outburst of bitter grief over the moral imperfections which are developing under this strong revelation of the Divine glory.
Did I not choose
- I, even I the Holy One of God -
you the twelve to myself
and of you one is a devil?
This "choice" is repeatedly referred to (
Acts 1:2, 24
). "He appointed twelve to be with him, that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to cast out daemons" (
). This choice was made in the full human self-consciousness and knowledge of their peculiarities. It is morally inconceivable that he, in his Divine foreknowledge, chose
to special reprobation, knowing him then to be devilish in his nature, and so that he might have his character demoralized by this close contact with Christ's holiness, and thus be trained for the damnation of the traitor's sin and doom. Yet this choice, to Christ's human nature and self-consciousness, was early seen to be one which was not softening but hardening the heart of Judas. He brought him nearer to himself, and gave him fresh opportunity of acquiring just ideas of the kingdom and its methods, and by these warnings the Lord was giving him chance after chance of escaping from what, even to the Lord's prophetic human foresight, looked like his destiny. "One of you," says he - "one is devil." Official relation to
is not salvation. Even the admission that I am the Holy One of God is not eternal life. We may compare Christ's severe rebuke to Peter, when, after the grand confession (
), he counted himself worthy to disapprove the methods of his Lord's mercy, "Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence to me; thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men." Judas did far worse - he wanted to use the Divine power of his Master for his own personal ends.
He spake of Judas Iscariot
of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
Now he spake concerning
Judas the son of Simon the Iscariot
being one of the twelve
. (For this use of
is most probably "of Kerioth," a town of Judah, mentioned in
, though Westcott cites another Kerioth in Moab (
). If this Kerioth, which Simon and his son Judas have degraded, be the Kerioth-Hezron, then it would seem that Judas was the only
among the apostles.
he it was that was about to betray him being one of the twelve
(cf. ver. 64).
gives a somewhat different turn of description to the futurity of the deed. Had it yet fully dawned on the soul of the traitor? Had he laid any plans to bring his Master to the point from which he turned so divinely? We know not.
Courtesy of Open Bible
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