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Christ, the Bread of Life
Summary —The Five Thousand Fed. The Multitude Seek to Make Jesus a King. Jesus in the Mountain Alone. The Disciples in the Storm. Jesus Comes to Save in the Storm. The Discourse in the Synagogue of Capernaum. The Bread of Life.
1. After these things. Not immediately after, but at a later period. It was probably nearly two years after the miracle at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus went over the sea of Galilee. The scene of his ministry had changed from Jerusalem to the inland lake, or sea, around which he loved to linger. John cites the fact that it was also called the Sea of Tiberias. The latter name was then better known to Gentile readers.
2–13. And a great multitude followed him. The miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, which follows, is the only miracle of the Savior recorded by all the four Gospels. It is found in Matt. 14:13–21; Mark 6:30–44; Luke 9:10–17. From a comparison of the accounts we learn that it took place after the death of John the Baptist, and hence as late as the third year of our Lord's ministry. For notes see Matt. 14:13–21. We gain from John the information that it occurred near the passover, that is, in the early spring, about one year before the death of the Savior. Gather up the fragments that remain. God does not allow wastefulness. Nature wastes nothing, not an ounce of matter. It is the waste of man that causes want. There is food enough for all. The waste of our nation is appalling;—$800,000,000 per year in liquor; $200,000,000 on tobacco, besides all the extravagance of life. Christ bids us save; save the fragments. It is by wasting the fragments that the great wastes occurs.
14. This is of a truth that prophet. The long expected prophet, foretold in Deut. 18:15, 16, and referred to by the delegation sent to visit John the Baptist (John 1:21). This expected prophet was to be the king of Israel, the head of the kingdom of God on the earth. In other words they said: “This is the Christ.”
15. Perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king. Convinced that he was Christ, they sought to proclaim him king, to raise his standard, and establish his government. To escape their well meant efforts Jesus retired to a mountain alone. We learn elsewhere that he went to pray.
16–21. His disciples … entered into a ship. For notes on this storm on the sea, and the Lord coming to his disciples in the storm, see Matt. 14:22–31. Compare Mark 6:46–54. It is I; be not afraid. This is the gospel message of peace, on the ground—the simple ground—“It is I.” Christ's presence is peace to the soul. How often has he to speak this word of encouragement, even to his own! almost always when they are brought suddenly, or in an unusual way, face to face with him!
22. The day following. The day after the miracle, when five thousand were fed, and after the night storm on the sea of Galilee. “The people who had stood on the other side and been fed,” remained awhile because there were no other vessels, and the more willingly, because they saw that Jesus had not gone with his disciples.
25. Rabbi, when camest thou hither? He had not crossed the sea with his disciples; he had not come with them; how and when did he come? The day was the Sabbath, they had sought him in the synagogue, the question was asked there, and the discourse that follows was spoken there (see verse 59).
26. Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles. The Savior reveals to them the true motives which induced them to seek him. Henry says: “Not because he taught them, but because he fed them; not for love, but for loaves. Thus do all who seek in religion secular advantages and follow Christ for the sake of secular preferments.” People are more clamorous for earthly bread, than anxious concerning food for their souls.
27. Labour not for the meat which perisheth. The Savior does not prohibit laboring for food, but making the acquisition of food and worldly things the leading object of life. He means: Do not manifest a chief anxiety for bodily food, for the food that perishes with the using, but rather seek the meat which endureth unto everlasting life. The food of the soul; the Bread of Life. Him hath God the Father sealed. Sealing is the mark of approval, of authority. A legal document must bear the seal of the State to give it force. The Father had commissioned, authorized, and stamped his seal upon the work of the Son. His miracles were a divine seal.
28. What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? These seekers of Christ are eager for more information. He had bidden them work for the food of eternal life. What works then shall they do that they may please God and receive the divine gift?
29. This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They are startled by hearing that to please God the first requirement is faith in Christ. This is “the work of God” that pleases him. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” It is not works, but one work, that is required, a faith that would enable them to lay hold upon him who is the Bread of Life. From such faith would spring a Christlike life.
30. What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? He had pointed to himself as the object of faith, making his claim, such as had never been made by mortal man. He had spoken of his seal, or sign. They ask now for a sign.
31. Our fathers did eat manna in the wilderness. He may have fed a few thousands on the day before, but what was that to feeding of the whole host of Israel for forty years in the wilderness? Is he as great a leader as Moses, in whose time the manna fell?
32. Moses gave you not that bread from heaven. It was not Moses, with whom they were disposed to compare him, who furnished the manna in the wilderness, but the Lord (Exod. 16:15). He still feeds the Israel of God on its way to the heavenly Canaan. My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. The true bread is for the soul instead of the body. It satisfies the soul's hunger and keeps it alive. The Father gives it by sending the Son, the true bread of Life. Of the true bread the manna was a type.
33. The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven. He here defines the marks of the true bread: (1) It comes from heaven; (2) It bestows life upon the soul and sustains it; (3) It is for the world, not for a single race.
34. Lord, evermore give us this bread. One cannot fail to see the resemblance to the case of the woman of Sychar. Compare the Lord's teachings there (John chap. 4) on the Water of Life.
35. Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life. They ask for this bread. He answers, it is here; I am that bread. The work of God is that you receive it by believing upon him whom he hath sent. He that cometh to me shall never hunger. He that cometh shall not hunger; he that believeth shall not thirst. It is thus shown that faith is the power that brings us to Christ. We come to him by believing.
36. I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. They had asked a work in order that they might believe, which was a confession of their unbelief. They ask for the bread of life, but they can only partake of it by believing in him. He therefore points out the one obstacle to obtaining what they had asked for.
37. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me. Christ here, as elsewhere, shows that the power is of the Father. The Jews may reject him, but all whom the Father gives, of every race, will come to him. Christ is God's gift to men, but the believers are his gift to Christ. “The gift of the Father must not be understood of a predestinating decree. Here, and in other passages, when we read of God giving his Son to his people it is the moral and spiritual state of the heart that is thought of under the word. This state of heart by which they are induced to listen to the voice of Jesus is due to God alone.—Schaff. God's chief agencies for preparing the heart are his providences, Christian influences, and “the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.”
39, 40. This is the Father's will. The Father's will is that “every one who sees the Son and believes upon him,” thus coming to, following and abiding in him, shall have eternal life, and that in the resurrection day Christ shall raise him from the grave. These verses show, (1) That there is not any secret decree of election. The will of the Father applies to every one who believes upon the Son. (2) The condition of eternal life is a faith that leads to and appropriates Christ; that makes him the Lord of the soul. (3) Christ hath brought to light immortality. He is the “resurrection and the life.”
44. No man can come to me, except the Father … draw him. Their obstinacy and unbelief (verses 41, 42) called out this. Two things are needful to come to Christ, the human will to come and the divine drawing (see John 5:40; Matt. 23:37; Rev. 22:17). God “draws” by the gospel. “It is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). If our will consents, so that we yield to the drawing, we will come to Christ.
53–56. Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood. Appropriate these by faith. Whosoever by faith trusts in the death of Christ and is “baptized into his death” (Rom. 6:3), spiritually partakes of the body and blood of Christ. So does he also who eats in loving remembrance of him the emblems that represent his body and blood. Verse 63 shows that his words must be taken in a spiritual rather than a literal sense. My flesh is meat indeed. Food indeed; for the soul, hence partaken of by faith. Dwelleth in me. See Rom. 6:1–8.
59. These things said he in the synagogue. In the ruins, called Tel Hum, supposed to be those of Capernaum, are found those of a synagogue known to have been erected in the Herodian period by its style of architecture. There is ground for believing that this is the one erected by the centurion that “loveth our nation” (Luke 7:5), and in which Christ spoke.
63. It is the spirit that quickeneth. We may paraphrase this verse thus: I shall ascend to heaven so that my body cannot be literally eaten; the flesh literally profits nothing. It is the spirit that makes alive. The spirits of men must feed upon me by faith, that they may be made alive. My words are spirit and life. He who feeds upon them will be made alive.
70. One of you is a devil. A demon, in the original; diabolical, or under the influence of the evil one.
Notice in this remarkable discourse the progressive thought: (1) In verse 33 the Lord announces the Bread of God that giveth life to the world. (2) In verses 48, 50 He declares that he is the Bread of Life. (3) Verses 6:51–56 show that the Bread of life must be eaten by partaking of his flesh and blood. (4) Verse 63 shows that this is done spiritually, by the spirit feeding upon his life and words.
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