Five Thousand Miraculously Fed.
(See on Mr 6:31-44).
3. a mountain—somewhere in that hilly
range which skirts the east side of the lake.
4. passover … was nigh—but for the
reason mentioned (Joh 7:1),
Jesus kept away from it, remaining in Galilee.
Joh 6:14-21. Jesus Walks on
(Also see on Mr 6:45-56).
14, 15. that prophet—(See on Joh 1:21).
15. departed … to a mountain himself
alone—(1) to rest, which He came to this "desert
place" on purpose to do before the miracle of the loaves, but could not
for the multitude that followed Him (see Mr 6:31); and (2) "to pray" (Mt 14:23; Mr
6:46). But from His
mountain-top He kept watching the ship (see on Joh
6:18), and doubtless prayed both for them, and with a view to the
new manifestation which He was to give them of His glory.
16, 17. when even was come—(See on Mr 6:35).
entered into a
ship—"constrained" to do so by their Master (Mt 14:22;
Mr 6:45), in order to put an
end to the misdirected excitement in His favor (Joh 6:15), into which the disciples themselves
may have been somewhat drawn. The word "constrained" implies reluctance
on their part, perhaps from unwillingness to part with their Master and
embark at night, leaving Him alone on the mountain.
went—rather, "were proceeding."
toward Capernaum—Mark says (Mr 6:45), "unto Bethsaida," meaning
"Bethsaida of Galilee" (Joh 12:21),
on the west side of the lake. The place they left was of the same name
(see on Mr 6:32).
Jesus was not come to them—They
probably lingered in hopes of His still joining them, and so let the
darkness come on.
18, 19. sea arose, &c.—and they were
"now in the midst of it" (Mt 14:24).
Mark adds the graphic and touching particular, "He saw them toiling in
6:48), putting forth all
their strength to buffet the waves and bear on against a head wind, but
to little effect. He saw this from His mountain-top, and through
the darkness of the night, for His heart was all with them; yet would
He not go to their relief till His own time came.
19. they see Jesus—"about the fourth
watch of the night" (Mt 14:25; Mr 6:48), or between three and six in the
walking on the sea—What Job (Job 9:8) celebrates as the distinguishing
prerogative of God, "Who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and TREADETH UPON THE WAVES OF THE SEA"—What
Agur challenges as God's unapproachable prerogative, to "GATHER THE WIND IN His fists, and BIND THE WATERS IN A GARMENT" (Pr 30:4)—lo! this is here done in
flesh, by "THE Son of man."
drawing nigh to the ship—yet as though
He "would have passed by them," Mr 6:48 (compare Lu 24:28; Ge 18:3, 5;
they were afraid—"cried out for fear"
14:26), "supposing it had
been a spirit" (Mr 6:49). He
would appear to them at first like a dark moving speck upon the waters;
then as a human figure, but—in the dark tempestuous sky, and not
dreaming that it could be their Lord—they take it for a spirit.
(How often thus we miscall our chiefest mercies—not only thinking
them distant when they are near, but thinking the best the worst!)
20. It is I; be not afraid—Matthew
14:27) and Mark (Mr 6:50) give before these exhilarating words,
that to them well-known one, "Be of good cheer!"
21. willingly received him into the
ship—their first fears being now converted into wonder and
and immediately the ship was at the
land—This additional miracle, for as such it is manifestly
related, is recorded here alone. Yet all that is meant seems to be that
as the storm was suddenly calmed, so the little bark—propelled by
the secret power of the Lord of Nature now sailing in it—glided
through the now unruffled waters, and while they were wrapt in wonder
at what had happened, not heeding their rapid motion, was found
at port, to their still further surprise.
Joh 6:22-71. Jesus Followed
by the Multitudes to Capernaum, Discourses to Them in the Synagogue of
the Bread of Life—Effect of This
on Two Classes of the Disciples.
22-24. These verses are a little involved,
from the Evangelist's desire to mention every circumstance, however
minute, that might call up the scene as vividly to the reader as it
stood before his own view.
The day following—the miracle of the
loaves, and the stormy night; the day on which they landed at
the people which stood on the other side of the
sea—not the whole multitude that had been fed, but only such
of them as remained over night about the shore, that is, on the
east side of the lake; for we are supposed to have come, with
Jesus and His disciples in the ship, to the west side, to
saw that there was none other boat there,
&c.—The meaning is, the people had observed that there had
been only one boat on the east side where they were; namely, the one in
which the disciples had crossed at night to the other, the west side,
and they had also observed that Jesus had not gone on board that boat,
but His disciples had put off without Him:
23. Howbeit, &c.—"Howbeit," adds the
Evangelist, in a lively parenthesis, "there came other boats from
Tiberias" (which lay near the southwest coast of the lake), whose
passengers were part of the multitude that had followed Jesus to the
east side, and been miraculously fed; these boats were fastened
somewhere (says the Evangelist)
nigh unto the place where they did eat bread,
after that the Lord had given thanks—thus he refers to the
glorious "miracle of the loaves"—and now they were put in
requisition to convey the people back again to the west side. For when
"the people saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they
also took shipping [in these boats] and came to Capernaum, seeking for
25. when they had found him on the other
they said, &c.—astonished at His
being there, and wondering how He could have accomplished
it, whether by land or water, and when He came; for being quite
unaware of His having walked upon the sea and landed with the disciples
in the ship, they could not see how, unless He had travelled all night
round the head of the lake alone, He could have reached Capernaum, and
even then, how He could have arrived before themselves.
26. Ye seek me, &c.—Jesus does not
put them through their difficulty, says nothing of His treading on the
waves of the sea, nor even notices their question, but takes advantage
of the favorable moment for pointing out to them how forward, flippant,
and superficial were their views, and how low their desires. "Ye seek
Me not because ye saw the miracles"—literally, "the
signs," that is, supernatural tokens of a higher presence, and a
divine commission, "but because ye did eat of the loaves and were
filled." From this He proceeds at once to that other Bread, just
as, with the woman of Samaria, to that other Water (Joh 4:9-15). We should have supposed all that
follows to have been delivered by the wayside, or wherever they
happened first to meet. But from Joh 6:59 we gather that they had probably met
about the door of the synagogue—"for that was the day in which
they assembled in their synagogues" [Lightfoot]—and that on being asked, at the
close of the service, if He had any word of exhortation to the people,
He had taken the two breads, the perishing and the living
bread, for the subject of His profound and extraordinary discourse.
27. which the Son of man—taking that
title of Himself which denoted His incarnate life.
shall give unto you—in the sense of
him hath God the Father sealed—marked
out and authenticated for that transcendent office, to impart to the
world the bread of an everlasting life, and this in the character of
"the Son of man."
28-31. What shall we do … the works of
God—such works as God will approve. Different answers may be
given to such a question, according to the spirit which prompts
the inquiry. (See Ho 6:6-8; Lu 3:12-14). Here our Lord, knowing whom He had to
deal with, shapes His reply accordingly.
29. This is the work of God—That lies at
the threshold of all acceptable obedience, being not only the
prerequisite to it, but the proper spring of it—in that sense,
the work of works, emphatically "the work of God."
30. What sign showest thou, &c.—But
how could they ask "a sign," when many of them scarce a day before had
witnessed such a "sign" as had never till then been vouchsafed to men;
when after witnessing it, they could hardly be restrained from making
Him a king; when they followed Him from the one side of the lake to the
other; and when, in the opening words of this very discourse, He had
chided them for seeking Him, "not because they saw the signs,"
but for the loaves? The truth seems to be that they were confounded by
the novel claims which our Lord had just advanced. In proposing
to make Him a king, it was for far other purposes than dispensing to
the world the bread of an everlasting life; and when He seemed to raise
His claims even higher still, by representing it as the grand "work of
God," that they should believe on Himself as His Sent One, they
saw very clearly that He was making a demand upon them beyond anything
they were prepared to accord to Him, and beyond all that man had ever
before made. Hence their question, "What dost Thou work?"
31. Our fathers did eat manna,
&c.—insinuating the inferiority of Christ's miracle of the
loaves to those of Moses: "When Moses claimed the confidence of the
fathers, 'he gave them bread from heaven to eat'—not for a few
thousands, but for millions, and not once only, but daily throughout
their wilderness journey."
32, 33. Moses gave you not, &c.—"It
was not Moses that gave you the manna, and even it was but from the
lower heavens; 'but My Father giveth you the true bread,'
and that 'from heaven.'"
33. For the bread of God is he,
&c.—This verse is perhaps best left in its own transparent
grandeur—holding up the Bread Itself as divine, spiritual,
and eternal; its ordained Fountain and essential Substance,
"Him who came down from heaven to give it" (that Eternal Life
which was with the Father and was manifested unto us, 1Jo 1:2); and its designed objects, "the
34. Lord, evermore give us this
bread—speaking now with a certain reverence (as at Joh 6:25), the perpetuity of the manna
floating perhaps in their minds, and much like the Samaritan woman,
when her eyes were but half opened, "Sir, give Me this water," &c.
35. I am the bread of life—Henceforth
the discourse is all in the first person, "I," "Me," which occur
in one form or other, as Stier reckons,
he that cometh to me—to obtain what
the soul craves, and as the only all-sufficient and ordained source of
hunger … thirst—shall have
conscious and abiding satisfaction.
36. But … ye have seen me, and believe
not—seen Him not in His mere bodily presence, but in all the
majesty of His life, His teaching, His works.
37-40. All that, &c.—This
comprehensive and very grand passage is expressed with a peculiar
artistic precision. The opening general statement (Joh 6:37) consists of two members: (1) "All that the Father Giveth me shall come to
me"—that is, "Though ye, as I told you, have no faith in
Me, My errand into the world shall in no wise be defeated; for all that
the Father giveth Me shall infallibly come to Me." Observe, what is
given Him by the Father is expressed in the singular
number and neuter gender—literally, "everything"; while
those who come to Him are put in the masculine gender and
singular number—"every one." The whole mass, so to
speak, is gifted by the Father to the Son as a unity, which the
Son evolves, one by one, in the execution of His trust. So Joh 17:2, "that He should give eternal life to
all that which Thou hast given Him" [Bengel]. This "shall" expresses the glorious
certainty of it, the Father being pledged to see to it that the
gift be no empty mockery. (2) "And him that
cometh to me I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT." As the former was the
divine, this is just the human side of the same thing.
True, the "coming" ones of the second clause are just the "given" ones
of the first. But had our Lord merely said, "When those that
have been given Me of My Father shall come to Me, I will receive
them"—besides being very flat, the impression conveyed would have
been quite different, sounding as if there were no other laws in
operation, in the movement of sinners to Christ, but such as are
wholly divine and inscrutable to us; whereas, though He
does speak of it as a sublime certainty which men's refusals
cannot frustrate, He speaks of that certainty as taking effect only by
men's voluntary advances to Him and acceptance of Him—"Him
that cometh to Me," "whosoever will," throwing the door wide open. Only
it is not the simply willing, but the actually coming,
whom He will not cast out; for the word here employed usually denotes
arrival, as distinguished from the ordinary word, which rather
expresses the act of coming (see Joh 8:42, Greek), [Webster and Wilkinson]. "In no wise" is an emphatic negative, to
meet the fears of the timid (as in Re 21:27, to meet the presumption of the
hardened). These, then, being the two members of the general opening
statement, what follows is meant to take in both,
38. For I came down from heaven not to do Mine own
will—to play an independent part.
but—in respect to both the foregoing
things, the divine and the human side of salvation.
the will of Him that sent Me—What this
twofold will of Him that sent Him is, we are next sublimely told (Joh 6:39,
39. And this—in the first
is the will of Him that sent me, that of
which He hath given Me—(taking up the
identical words of Joh 6:37).
I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at
the last day—The meaning is not, of course, that He is
charged to keep the objects entrusted to Him as He received
them, so as they should merely suffer nothing in His hands. For as
they were just "perishing" sinners of Adam's family, to let
"nothing" of such "be lost," but "raise them up at the last day," must
involve, first, giving His flesh for them (Joh 6:51), that they "might not perish, but have
everlasting life"; and then, after "keeping them from falling,"
raising their sleeping dust in incorruption and glory, and presenting
them, body and soul, perfect and entire, wanting nothing, to Him who
gave them to Him, saying, "Behold I and the children which God hath
given Me." So much for the first will of Him that sent Him, the
divine side of man's salvation, whose every stage and movement
is inscrutable to us, but infallibly certain.
40. And this—in the second
is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one
which seeth the Son and believeth on Him—seeing the Son
believeth on Him.
may have everlasting life, and I will raise him
up at the last day—This is the human side of the same
thing as in the foregoing verse, and answering to "Him that cometh
unto Me I will in no wise cast out"; that is, I have it expressly
in charge that everyone that so "beholdeth" (so vieweth) the Son as to
believe on Him shall have everlasting life; and, that none of
Him be lost, "I will raise him up at the last day." (See on Joh 6:54).
41-46. Jews murmured—muttered, not in
our Lord's hearing, but He knew it (Joh 6:43; Joh 2:25).
he said, I am the bread,
&c.—Missing the sense and glory of this, and having no relish
for such sublimities, they harp upon the "Bread from heaven." "What can
this mean? Do we not know all about Him—where, when, and of whom
He was born? And yet He says He came down from heaven!"
43, 44. Murmur not … No man—that
is, Be not either startled or stumbled at these sayings; for it needs
divine teaching to understand them, divine drawing to submit to
44. can come to me—in the sense of Joh 6:35.
except the Father which hath sent
me—that is, the Father as the Sender of Me and to
carry out the design of My mission.
draw him—by an internal and
efficacious operation; though by all the means of rational
conviction, and in a way altogether consonant to their moral nature
(So 1:4; Jer 31:3; Ho 11:3, 4).
raise him up, &c.—(See on Joh 6:54).
45. written in the prophets—in Isa
54:13; Jer 31:33, 34; other
similar passages may also have been in view. Our Lord thus falls back
upon Scripture authority for this seemingly hard saying.
all taught of God—not by
external revelation merely, but by internal illumination,
corresponding to the "drawing" of Joh 6:44.
Every man therefore, &c.—that is,
who hath been thus efficaciously taught of Him.
cometh unto me—with absolute
certainty, yet in the sense above given of "drawing"; that is, "As
none can come to Me but as divinely drawn, so none thus drawn shall
fail to come."
46. Not that any man hath seen,
&c.—Lest they should confound that "hearing and learning of
the Father," to which believers are admitted by divine teaching,
with His own immediate access to Him, He here throws in a parenthetical
explanation; stating, as explicitly as words could do it, how totally
different the two cases were, and that only He who is "from God" hath
this naked, immediate access to the Father. (See Joh 1:18).
47-51. He that believeth, &c.—(See
on Joh 3:36; Joh
48. I am the bread of life—"As he that
believeth in Me hath everlasting life, so I am Myself the everlasting
Sustenance of that life." (Repeated from Joh 6:35).
49. Your fathers—of whom ye spake (Joh 6:31); not "ours," by which He
would hint that He had a higher descent, of which they dreamt
did eat manna … and are
dead—recurring to their own point about the manna, as one of
the noblest of the ordained preparatory illustrations of His own
office: "Your fathers, ye say, ate manna in the wilderness; and ye say
well, for so they did, but they are dead—even they whose
carcasses fell in the wilderness did eat of that bread; the Bread
whereof I speak cometh down from heaven, which the manna never did,
that men, eating of it, may live for ever."
51. I am, &c.—Understand, it is of
Myself I now speak as the Bread from
heaven; of Meif a man eat he shall live
for ever; and "THE Bread which i will give is
my Flesh, which i will give for the life of the world." Here,
for the first time in this high discourse, our Lord explicitly
introduces His sacrificial death—for only rationalists can
doubt this not only as that which constitutes Him the Bread of life to
men, but as THAT very element IN Him which
possesses the life-giving virtue.—"From this time we hear
no more (in this discourse) of "Bread"; this figure is dropped, and the
reality takes its place" [Stier]. The
words "I will give" may be compared with the words of
institution at the Supper, "This is My body which is given for
22:19), or in Paul's report
of it, "broken for you" (1Co 11:24).
52. Jews strove among themselves—arguing
the point together.
How can, &c.—that is, Give us His
flesh to eat? Absurd.
53-58. Except ye eat the flesh … and drink
the blood … no life, &c.—The harshest word He had
yet uttered in their ears. They asked how it was possible to eat
His flesh. He answers, with great solemnity, "It is
indispensable." Yet even here a thoughtful hearer might find
something to temper the harshness. He says they must not only "eat His
flesh" but "drink His blood," which could not but suggest
the idea of His death—implied in the separation of one's
flesh from his blood. And as He had already hinted that it was to be
something very different from a natural death, saying, "My flesh
I will give for the life of the world" (Joh 6:51), it must have been pretty plain to
candid hearers that He meant something above the gross idea which the
bare terms expressed. And farther, when He added that they "had no
life in them unless they thus ate and drank," it was impossible
they should think He meant that the temporal life they were then
living was dependent on their eating and drinking, in this gross sense,
His flesh and blood. Yet the whole statement was certainly confounding,
and beyond doubt was meant to be so. Our Lord had told them that in
spite of all they had "seen" in Him, they "did not believe" (Joh 6:36). For their conviction
therefore he does not here lay Himself out; but having the ear not only
of them but of the more candid and thoughtful in the crowded
synagogue, and the miracle of the loaves having led up to the most
exalted of all views of His Person and Office, He takes advantage of
their very difficulties and objections to announce, for all time, those
most profound truths which are here expressed, regardless of the
disgust of the unteachable, and the prejudices even of the most
sincere, which His language would seem only designed to deepen. The
truth really conveyed here is no other than that expressed in
6:51, though in more emphatic
terms—that He Himself, in the virtue of His sacrificial death, is
the spiritual and eternal life of men; and that unless men voluntarily
appropriate to themselves this death, in its sacrificial virtue, so as
to become the very life and nourishment of their inner man, they have
no spiritual and eternal life at all. Not as if His death were the
only thing of value, but it is what gives all else in Christ's
Incarnate Person, Life, and Office, their whole value to us
54. Whoso eateth … hath,
&c.—The former verse said that unless they partook of
Him they had no life; this adds, that whoever does so "hath
and I will raise him up at the last
day—For the fourth time this is repeated (see Joh 6:39,
40, 44)—showing most
clearly that the "eternal life" which such a man "hath" cannot
be the same with the future resurrection life from which it is
carefully distinguished each time, but a life communicated here
below immediately on believing (Joh 3:36; 5:24, 25); and giving to the resurrection of
the body as that which consummates the redemption of the entire
man, a prominence which in the current theology, it is to be
feared, it has seldom had. (See Ro 8:23; 1Co 15:1-58, throughout).
56. He that eateth … dwelleth in me and I in
him—As our food becomes incorporated with ourselves, so
Christ and those who eat His flesh and drink His blood become
spiritually one life, though personally distinct.
57. As the living Father hath sent me—to
communicate His own life.
and I live by the Father—literally,
"because of the Father"; My life and His being one, but Mine that of a
Son, whose it is to be "of the Father." (See Joh 1:18;
he that eateth me, … shall live by
me—literally, "because of Me." So that though one
spiritual life with Him, "the Head of every man is Christ, as the
head of Christ is God" (1Co 11:3; 3:23).
58. This is that bread, &c.—a sort
of summing up of the whole discourse, on which let this one further
remark suffice—that as our Lord, instead of softening down His
figurative sublimities, or even putting them in naked phraseology,
leaves the great truths of His Person and Office, and our participation
of Him and it, enshrined for all time in those glorious forms of
speech, so when we attempt to strip the truth of these figures, figures
though they be, it goes away from us, like water when the vessel is
broken, and our wisdom lies in raising our own spirit, and attuning our
own ear, to our Lord's chosen modes of expression. (It should be added
that although this discourse has nothing to do with the Sacrament of
the Supper, the Sacrament has everything to do with it, as the
visible embodiment of these figures, and, to the believing
partaker, a real, yea, and the most lively and affecting
participation of His flesh and blood, and nourishment thereby of the
spiritual and eternal life, here below).
59. These things said he in the
synagogue—which seems to imply that what follows took place
after the congregation had broken up.
60-65. Many … of his disciples—His
pretty constant followers, though an outer circle of them.
hard saying—not merely harsh, but
insufferable, as the word often means in the Old Testament.
who can hear—submit to listen to
61, 62. Doth this offend … What and
if, &c.—that is, "If ye are stumbled at what I have said,
how will ye bear what I now say?" Not that His ascension itself
would stumble them more than His death, but that after recoiling from
the mention of the one, they would not be in a state of mind to
take in the other.
63. the flesh profiteth nothing—Much of
His discourse was about "flesh"; but flesh as such, mere flesh,
could profit nothing, much less impart that life which the Holy
Spirit alone communicates to the soul.
the words that I speak … are spirit and
… life—The whole burden of the discourse is
"spirit," not mere flesh, and "life" in its highest, not
its lowest sense, and the words I have employed are to be interpreted
solely in that sense.
64. But there are some, &c.—that is,
"But it matters little to some of you in what sense I speak, for ye
believe not." This was said, adds the Evangelist, not merely of the
outer but of the inner circle of His disciples; for He knew the
traitor, though it was not yet time to expose him.
65. Therefore said I, &c.—that is,
"That was why I spoke to you of the necessity of divine teaching which
some of you are strangers to."
except it were given him—plainly
showing that by the Father's "drawing" (Joh 6:44) was meant an internal and
efficacious operation, for in recalling the statement here He
says, it must be "given to a man to come" to Christ.
66-71. From that time,
&c.—or, in consequence of this. Those last words of our Lord
seemed to have given them the finishing stroke—they could not
stand it any longer.
walked no more—Many a journey, it may
be, they had taken with Him, but now they gave Him up finally!
67. the twelve—the first time they are
thus mentioned in this Gospel.
Will ye also go away?—Affecting
appeal! Evidently Christ felt the desertion of Him even by those
miserable men who could not abide His statements; and seeing a
disturbance even of the wheat by the violence of the wind which
blew away the chaff (not yet visibly showing itself, but open to
His eyes of fire), He would nip it in the bud by this home
68. Then Simon Peter—whose forwardness
in this case was noble, and to the wounded spirit of His Lord doubtless
Lord, to whom, &c.—that is, "We
cannot deny that we have been staggered as well as they, and
seeing so many go away who, as we thought, might have been retained by
teaching a little less hard to take in, our own endurance has been
severely tried, nor have we been able to stop short of the question,
Shall we follow the rest, and give it up? But when it came to
this, our light returned, and our hearts were reassured. For as soon as
we thought of going away, there arose upon us that awful question,
'To whom shall we go?' To the lifeless
formalism and wretched traditions of the elders? to the gods many and
lords many of the heathen around us? or to blank unbelief? Nay, Lord,
we are shut up. They have none of that 'ETERNAL LIFE' to offer us whereof Thou hast been
discoursing, in words rich and ravishing as well as in words staggering
to human wisdom. That life we cannot want; that life we have learnt to
crave as a necessity of the deeper nature which Thou hast awakened:
'the words of that eternal life' (the authority to reveal
it and the power to confer it). Thou hast: Therefore will we stay with
69. And we believe,—(See on Mt 16:16). Peter seems to have added this not
merely—probably not so much—as an assurance to his
Lord of his heart's belief in Him, as for the purpose of fortifying
himself and his faithful brethren against that recoil
from his Lord's harsh statements which he was probably struggling
against with difficulty at that moment. Note.—There are
seasons when one's faith is tried to the utmost, particularly by
speculative difficulties; the spiritual eye then swims, and all truth
seems ready to depart from us. At such seasons, a clear perception that
to abandon the faith of Christ is to face black desolation, ruin and
death; and on recoiling from this, to be able to fall back, not
merely on first principles and immovable foundations, but on
personal experience of a Living Lord in whom all truth is wrapt up
and made flesh for our very benefit—this is a relief
unspeakable. Under that blessed Wing taking shelter, until we are again
fit to grapple with the questions that have staggered us, we at length
either find our way through them, or attain to a calm satisfaction in
the discovery that they lie beyond the limits of present
70. Have not I chosen … and one of you is a
devil:—"Well said, Simon-Barjonas, but that 'we' embraces not
so wide a circle as in the simplicity of thine heart thou thinkest; for
though I have chosen you but twelve, one even of these is a 'devil'"
(the temple, the tool of that wicked one).