A. Preparation for the miracle.
1. (1-4) A crowd gathers to Jesus near the Sea of Galilee.
After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.
a. After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee: John now records some of the acts and words of Jesus in the Galilee region, north of Judea. John mainly recorded things that Jesus did and said in Judea and Jerusalem, but sometimes included material that the other gospel writers also wrote of, mainly in the Galilee region.
b. Then a great multitude followed Him: This miracle is also recorded in the other three Gospel accounts. Luke mentioned that on this occasion Jesus went out to a deserted place to be alone (Luke 9:10), yet the crowds followed Him there. In spite of this imposition, Jesus still served the multitude with great compassion.
c. They saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased: Luke 9:11 tells us that Jesus also taught this multitude, something that John doesn’t specifically mention.
i. Morris gives the sense of the Greek verbs of John 6:2: “The multitude ‘kept following’ Jesus because they ‘continually saw’ the signs that He ‘habitually did’ on the sick.” (Morris)
d. The Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near: John is the only one of the four Gospel writers who told us this took place near the time of the Passover. Perhaps this great multitude was made up of Galilean pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.
i. Passover is associated with the Exodus and God’s sustenance of Israel in the wilderness. Jesus would soon sustain this multitude in their small “wilderness” with bread from heaven – both literally and spiritually.
ii. Went up on the mountain: “The ‘high ground’ is the sharply rising terrain east of the lake, well known today as the Golan heights. From there one overlooks the level plain east of the river and the lake.” (Bruce)
2. (5-7) Jesus asks Philip a question.
Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.”
a. Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat? Perhaps Jesus asked Philip this question because he was from Bethsaida (John 1:44) and this was near where this miracle took place (Luke 9:10).
i. “John does not say, as Mark does (Mark 6:34 f.), that the crowd had been listening to Jesus’ teaching all day, but this explains his concern about feeding them.” (Bruce)
b. He said this to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do: Jesus knew what miracle He was about to perform, but wanted to use the opportunity to teach His disciples. For Jesus this wasn’t only about getting a job done (feeding the multitude), but also about teaching His disciples along the way.
i. Philip had already seen Jesus do many miracles; there should have been no question to him about the divine resources Jesus had.
c. Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient: Their problem was in at least two parts. First, they didn’t have the resources to buy bread and to feed the multitude. Second, even if they had the money it would be impossible to purchase enough bread to feed them all.
i. With greater faith and knowledge, Philip might have said: “Master, I don’t know where the food is to feed this crowd but You are greater than Moses whom God used to feed a multitude everyday in the wilderness, and God can certainly do a lesser work through a Greater Servant. You are greater than Elisha, whom God used to feed many sons of the prophets through little food. What is more, the Scriptures say that man shall not live by bread alone, and You are great enough to fill this multitude from the words of your mouth.”
d. Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them: Philip’s knowledge of the situation was accurate and impressive (two hundred denarii is more than six month’s wages), but his knowledge was useless in getting the problem solved.
i. Philip thought in terms of money; and how much money it would take to carry out God’s work in a small way (every one of them may have a little). We often limit God the same way, looking for how God’s work can be done in the smallest way. Jesus wanted to use a completely different approach and provide in a big way.
ii. “He was a man of figures; he believed in what could be put into tables and statistics. Yes; and like a great man and other people of his sort, he left out one small element in his calculation, and that was Jesus Christ, and so his answer went creeping along the low levels.” (Maclaren)
iii. “Philip was apparently a matter-of-fact person (John 14:8), a quick reckoner and good man of business, and therefore more ready to rely on his own shrewd calculations than on unseen resources.” (Dods)
3. (8-9) Andrew’s help.
One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”
a. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother said to Him, “There is a lad here”: Andrew once again introduced someone to Jesus. First it was his brother Peter (John 1:40-42). Now it was a lad with some barley loaves and two small fish.
i. “The word for ‘lad’ is a double diminutive, probably meaning ‘little boy’.” (Morris)
b. Five barley loaves: Barley was always regarded as simple food, more often fit for animals than for people. This means it is likely that the young boy came from a poor family.
i. In the Talmud, there is a passage where one man said, “There is a fine crop of barley” and another man answered, “Tell it to the horses and donkeys.”
ii. “Barley scarcely bore one-third of the value of wheat in the east: see Revelation 6:6. That it was a very mean fare appears from Ezekiel 13:19, where the false prophetesses are said to pollute the name of God for handfuls of barley, i.e. for the meanest reward.” (Clarke)
iii. Two small fish: “While the other Evangelists use the ordinary word for fish (ichthys), John calls them osparia, indicating that they were two small (perhaps salted) fish to be eaten as a relish along with the cakes of barley.” (Bruce)
c. What are they among so many? There wasn’t much to work with, but God doesn’t need much. In fact, God doesn’t need any help – but He often deliberately restrains His work until He has our participation.
i. “Small things are not always contemptible. It all depends on the hands in which they are.” (Taylor)
B. The five thousand are fed.
1. (10) Jesus commands the group to sit down.
Then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.
a. Make the people sit down: Jesus was in no panic or hurry. He had a huge catering job to fulfill, but went about His work in an orderly way, making them sit down upon the grass.
i. One might say that Jesus here fulfilled the role of the loving Shepherd in Psalm 23:1-2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. That Psalm also gave the picture of the Lord as a host, serving a meal to His servant as a guest: you prepare a table for me…you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over…I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:5-6).
b. The men sat down, in number about five thousand: Jesus administered everything in an orderly way. Yet, they had to come under Jesus’ order to receive Jesus’ miraculous provision. The ones who came under Jesus’ order would soon be filled to the full.
i. “Our blessed Master has glorious leisure, because he is always punctual. Late people are in a hurry; but he, being never late, never hurries.” (Spurgeon)
2. (11) The five thousand are fed.
And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.
a. When He had given thanks: Jesus only had a few loaves of bread and a few fish, but He was determined to give His Father thanks for what He did have.
i. “For five little cakes and two sprats Christ gave thanks to the Father; apparently a meagre cause for praise, but Jesus knew what he could make of them, and therefore gave thanks for what they would presently accomplish. ‘God loves us,’ says Augustine, ‘for what we are becoming.’ Christ gave thanks for these trifles because he saw whereunto they would grow.” (Spurgeon)
b. Jesus took the loaves… He distributed them to the disciples: The miracle resided in the hands of Jesus, not in the distribution. Little is much in His hands.
i. “A moment ago, they belonged to this lad, but now they belong to Christ. ‘Jesus took the loaves.’ He has taken possession of them; they are his property.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “The multiplication of the food was obviously not done with great fanfare.” (Tenney) This is so true that we aren’t told specifically where the multiplication happened. It seems to have happened as Jesus broke the bread and fish and distributed them to the disciples. “It was not the integral loaves or integral fishes that were multiplied, but the broken portions of them.” (Trench)
· Most everyone ate and was filled, but had no idea that a miracle was happening.
· The disciples did not do the miracle; they simply distributed the miraculous work of Jesus.
iii. Bread comes from grain, which has the power of multiplication and reproduction within itself. But when it is made into bread, the grain is crushed, making it “dead” – no one ever multiplied wheat by planting flour. Yet Jesus can bring life from death; He multiplied loaves of bread made from dead, crushed grain and from dead fish.
iv. “These five loaves (by a strange kind of arithmetic) were multiplied by division, and augmented by subtraction.” (Trapp)
c. He distributed them to the disciples: Jesus relied on the labor of the disciples in this great miracle. He could have created bread and fish in the pocket or bag of every person, but He didn’t. Jesus deliberately chose a method that brought the disciples into the work.
i. Jesus refused to miraculously make bread to feed Himself in the wilderness temptations; but He did for others and with others what He would not do for Himself.
d. As much as they wanted: God’s supply was extravagant, as much as any of them wanted. All ate until they were completely satisfied.
i. “For the significance of this story we must bear in mind that the figure of eating and drinking is widely used in the Old Testament. It is a figure of prosperity… and it is often used of the blessings the people of God would enjoy in the Promised Land.” (Morris)
ii. As much as they wanted also included the little boy who gave the five loves and two fish. The boy himself ended up with more than he started with. It certainly was an adequate lunch for himself; but he gave it to Jesus and He it turned into an all-you-can-eat buffet for the boy as well.
3. (12-13) Gathering up the fragments of the feast.
So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.” Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten.
a. When they were filled: Jesus was generous, giving everyone as much as they wanted. This was a remarkable miracle, and some think that the disciples should have (or could have) anticipated that Jesus would do such a thing.
i. Old Testament passages warn against doubting God’s provision: Yes, they spoke against God: They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” (Psalm 78:19) 2 Kings 4:38-34 is an example of God multiplying barley loaves, though this miracle of Jesus was on a much greater scale.
ii. Though the disciples did not understand or anticipate the miracle, Jesus invited them to participate in it. They distributed the miraculously multiplied bread and fish. Without their work, no one would have been fed.
iii. Jesus demonstrated to them the giving character of God – the same character God desires to build within us. Proverbs 11:24 says, There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. This bread was multiplied as it was “scattered.”
b. Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost: Jesus was generous, but never wasteful. Jesus wanted to make good use of everything.
i. “The fragments are not the half-eaten morsels and crumbs which might well be left for birds and beasts, but the broken portions which He had handed for distribution.” (Trench)
ii. “The term used for ‘basket’ (kophinos) usually denotes a large basket, such as might be used for fish or bulky objects.” (Tenney)
C. The reaction to the miracle.
1. (14) Jesus as the Prophet predicted by Moses.
Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”
a. When they had seen the sign that Jesus did: The way Jesus provided bread for a multitude in the open air (something of a wilderness) reminded those men of how God worked through Moses to feed Israel with manna in the wilderness.
b. Truly this is the Prophet: Moses predicted the coming of the Prophet they expected: The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear. (Deuteronomy 18:15) If the coming Prophet was to be like Moses, it made sense that he would also feed the people miraculously as Moses did.
i. This crowd was willing to support Jesus so long as He gave them what they wanted – bread. It’s easy to criticize how the crowd loved Jesus for the bread He gave them, but we often only love Jesus for what He give us. We must also love and obey Him simply for who He is – Lord and God.
ii. “A rabbi of a later date is credited with the observation that ‘as the first redeemer caused manna to descend… so will the last redeemer cause manna to descend’, and the general idea seems to have been current in the first century.” (Bruce)
2. (15) The people attempt to make Jesus their earthly king.
Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
a. They were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king: King was a political title. The crowd was willing to support Jesus because they wanted to use Him to throw off Roman oppression either directly in Judea or indirectly through Herod Antipas in Galilee.
i. “Suddenly there was this unusual man Jesus. He had miraculous power. So they must have said something like this to themselves, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get Him on our side and get Him to help us drive out the Romans?’” (Boice)
ii. “If the Galileans did not live directly under Roman control, as their brethren in Judea did, their ruler Herod Antipas was a creature of Rome, and they experienced no feelings of patriotic pride as they contemplated the Herodian dynasty.” (Bruce)
b. He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone: Jesus wasn’t impressed or seduced by a crowd that wanted to make Him king. He turned His back on the crowd and went to pray because Jesus was more interested in being with His Father in heaven than in hearing the applause of the crowd.
i. “But to Jesus the prospect of an earthly kingdom was nothing else than a temptation of the devil, and He decisively rejected it.” (Morris)
ii. “He saw the crowds were in great excitement and were meaning to come and violently carry Him off and declare Him their king and Messiah in opposition to the civil power; perhaps already He saw His disciples beginning to be caught in that wild enthusiasm.” (Trench)
iii. “He who is already King has come to open His kingdom to men; but in their blindness men try to force Him to be the kind of king they want; thus they fail to get the king they want, and also lose the Kingdom He offers.” (Morris)
D. Jesus walks on the water.
1. (16-17) The disciples go out on the Sea of Galilee.
Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.
a. His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat: Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus made His disciples get into the boat (Mark 6:45). They set off across the Sea of Galilee because Jesus told them to do it.
i. “According to Mark 6:45, Jesus ‘compelled’ (anankazo) his disciples to embark and go back across the lake; perhaps he saw that they were being infected with the crowd’s excitement.” (Bruce)
b. It was already dark: Several of the disciples were fishermen, all accustomed to fishing on this very lake. When they got into the boat, the thought of rowing across the lake at night did not concern them.
c. Jesus had not come to them: This actually was the second time Jesus dealt with His disciples on a stormy Sea of Galilee. In the first storm (Matthew 8:24), Jesus was present with them in the boat and He rebuked and calmed the storm. In this storm Jesus asked His disciples to trust His unseen care and concern for them.
2. (18) The wind disrupts their efforts to cross the Sea.
Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing.
a. Then the sea arose: The wind alone was bad enough, but the wind also whipped up the waters, making for troublesome seas.
b. A great wind was blowing: The Sea of Galilee was and is well known for its sudden, violent wind storms that quickly make the lake dangerous.
i. “The Sea of Galilee is six hundred feet below sea level, in a cuplike depression among the hills. When the sun sets, the air cools; and as the cooler air from the west rushes down over the hillside, the resultant wind churns the lake. Since the disciples were rowing toward Capernaum, they were heading into the wind; consequently, they made little progress.” (Tenney)
3. (19) Jesus comes to His disciples, walking on the water.
So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid.
a. When they had rowed about three or four miles: In the first storm upon the Sea of Galilee the disciples were terrified (Matthew 8:25-26). In the beginning of the second storm they were more frustrated than afraid. Jesus told them to row across the lake and despite their hard work, they seemed to make little progress.
i. Matthew 14:25 says this happened in the fourth watch of the night, sometime between three and six in the morning. So, they rowed hard for perhaps six to eight hours, and had only come a little more than half way across the lake (three or four miles).
ii. They were in this place of frustration at the will of Jesus, doing exactly what He told them to do. Additionally, Mark 6:48 says that Jesus watched the disciples as they rowed across the lake. His eye was on them all the time. They were in the will of Jesus and watched by Jesus, yet working hard in frustration all the time.
iii. “Up on the hillside Jesus had prayed and communed with God; as he set out the silver moon had made the scene almost like the daylight; and down on the lake he could see the boat with the rowers toiling at the oars…He had not forgotten. He was not too busy with God to think of them.” (Barclay)
iv. “He is on the mountain while we are on the sea. The stable eternity of the Heavens holds Him; we are tossed on the restless mutability of time, over which we toil at His command.” (Maclaren)
b. They saw Jesus walking on the sea… and they were afraid: Mark 6:49-50 says the disciples were afraid because they thought Jesus, walking on the water, was a ghost or a spirit.
i. Mark “adds the remarkable detail that Jesus ‘meant to pass-by them’ i.e. overtaking, as though He had wished that the mere vision of Himself should prove sufficient support and assurance to them.” (Trench)
ii. The disciples were not ready for any kind of supernatural help. They knew what Jesus commanded them to do and they set out to do it – but without any direct help from Jesus. So they were surprised and afraid to see supernatural help coming to them.
iii. Jesus also gave them reasons and reminders to trust His supernatural help. Undoubtedly, they took with them at least some of the twelve baskets of leftover bread (John 6:13), yet they were still shocked when the supernatural help came to them on the sea.
4. (20) The calming words of Jesus.
But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
a. It is I: For Jesus, it was enough to announce His presence. He was with His disciples and would meet them in their frustration and fear.
i. “There are places in this Gospel where the words ego eimi have the nature of a divine designation (as we shall see on 8:24, 28), but here they simply mean ‘It is I’.” (Bruce)
b. Do not be afraid: Jesus came to bring supernatural help and comfort to His disciples. His presence gave them what they needed, even though He came in an unexpected way.
i. We know from Matthew 14:28-32 that after this Peter asked Jesus if he could come out and walk on the water and Peter did walk on the water – for short time.
5. (21) Jesus brings them to their destination.
Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
a. Then they willingly received Him into the boat: The implication was that Jesus would not come unless He was willingly received. Even walking on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus waited to be welcomed by His disciples.
b. Immediately the boat was at the land where they were going: When they hadwillingly received Him into the boat, the miraculous happened. This was a remarkable miracle. The work that was so frustrating a few moments before suddenly was divinely accomplished.
i. “From this detail given by John it is inferred that the ship seemed to move automatically, without sail or oar, in obedience to His will: so that without effort of the disciples or crew it quickly passed over the remaining distance (two miles or so) and came to shore.” (Trench)
ii. One could say that Jesus rescued His disciples from frustration and futility. Jesus wants us to work hard; but He never wants us to work in futility. Their work had not been a waste, but it waited for the touch of divine power and presence.
c. Immediately the boat was at the land where they were going: Such a remarkable miracle was helpful for the disciples, especially because Jesus had just refused an offer to be recognized as a King Messiah. This assured them that He was full of divine power even though He did not claim a throne according to popular expectation and opinion.
i. “How far they were from the place at which they landed, when our Lord came to them, we know not. But the evangelist seems to speak of their sudden arrival there as extraordinary and miraculous.” (Clarke)
ii. “A dying saint hath no sooner taken death into his bosom, but he is immediately landed at the quay of Canaan, at the kingdom of heaven.” (Trapp)
E. Jesus, the bread of life.
1. (22-24) The crowd follows Jesus and His disciples to Capernaum.
On the following day, when the people who were standing on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other boat there, except that one which His disciples had entered, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with His disciples, but His disciples had gone away alone—however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks—when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
a. On the following day: The day after the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and the night crossing of the Sea of Galilee, many of the crowd that was fed by Jesus and the disciples wondered where they went. They saw the disciples (without Jesus) leave in a boat, and now they noted that Jesus was not there with them.
i. Other boats came from Tiberias: “The fact parenthetically introduced, verse 23, that boats from Tiberias had put in on the east shore, is an incidental confirmation of the truth that a gale had been blowing the night before.” (Dods)
b. They also got into boats and came to Capernaum, seeking Jesus: These people were from the same crowd that Jesus fed and the same crowd that wanted to force Jesus to be recognized as an earthly king (John 6:14-15).
i. “The crowd, then, made sure that Jesus was nowhere in the vicinity, and that there was no sign of the disciples returning to fetch him, so they crossed to the west side to look for him.” (Bruce)
ii. “That is, as many of them as could get accommodated with boats took them and thus got to Capernaum; but many others doubtless went thither on foot, as it is not at all likely that five or six thousand persons could get boats enow to carry them.” (Clarke)
2. (25-27) Jesus responds to their first question: Rabbi, when did You come here?
And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You come here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
a. When did You come here? Jesus did not answer this question. The answer would have been, “I walked over the Sea of Galilee in the night time to help My disciples, then I miraculously transported our boat across the remaining distance of the Sea. That’s when and how I came here.”
i. Later in this chapter, John tells us that this took place at the synagogue in Capernaum at a Sabbath service (John 6:59). Also, according to Matthew 15, Jewish leaders from Jerusalem came to Capernaum to question Jesus. They were also part of this crowd.
b. You seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled: Instead of telling them when and why He came, Jesus told them why they came – because they wanted more food miraculously provided by Jesus.
i. Often we can learn more from understanding the reason we ask God a question than from the answer to the question itself. This was the case with those who followed Jesus around the Galilee and asked the question.
ii. They wanted the bread, but more than just the bread; they also wanted the display of the miraculous and a miracle king to lead them against their Roman oppressors.
iii. “They were quite unaffected by the wisdom of His words and the beauty of His deeds, but a miracle that found food precisely met their wants, and so there was an excited but impure enthusiasm, very unwelcome to Jesus.” (Maclaren)
c. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures for everlasting life: Those asking this question of Jesus went to a lot of trouble to follow and find Him. Yet their work was for the food which perishes – things that fill a stomach and rule and earthly kingdoms. Jesus wanted to them labor for the food which endures for everlasting life.
i. Jesus made a contrast between material things and spiritual things. It is almost universally true that people are more attracted to material things than spiritual things. A sign that says free money and free food will get a bigger crowd than one that says spiritual fulfillment and eternal life.
ii. “He struck at the root of the materialistic aspirations of these carnally-minded Galilaeans.” (Tasker)
d. Which the Son of Man will give you: They were rightly impressed at the miracle of bread worked through Jesus; but He wanted them to be more impressed for the spiritual food He brings by a miracle.
i. Son of Man: “He avoids using the term ‘Messiah’ or any other which would have appealed to his hearers’ militant aspirations. The designation ‘the Son of Man’ suited his purpose well enough; it was not current coin in their religious or political vocabulary and could therefore bear whatever meaning he chose to put on it.” (Bruce)
e. Because God the Father has set His seal on Him: A seal was a mark of ownership and a guarantee of the contents. They should have confidence in Jesus because God the Father has “guaranteed” Him.
i. “If the aorist tense of the verb ‘sealed’ (Gk. esphragisen) suggests that we identify the sealing with one particular event, we should probably think of our Lord’s baptism (cf. John 1:32-34).” (Bruce)
ii. “Sealed, by undoubted testimony, as at His baptism; and since, by His miracles.” (Alford)
iii. “As a person who wishes to communicate his mind to another who is at a distance writes a letter, seals it with his own seal, and sends it directed to the person for whom it was written, so Christ, who lay in the bosom of the Father, came to interpret the Divine will to man, bearing the image, superscription, and seal of God, in the immaculate holiness of his nature, unsullied truth of his doctrine, and in the astonishing evidence of his miracles.” (Clarke)
3. (28-29) Jesus answers their second question: What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?
Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”
a. What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus told them, Do not labor for the food which perishes (John 6:27). In reply, they used the same word Jesus used and asked, “How shall we labor for this?”
i. The sense behind their question seemed to be, “Just tell us what to do so we can get what we want from You. We want Your miracle bread and for You to be our Miracle King; tell us what to do to get it.”
ii. Those who questioned Jesus seemed sure that if only Jesus told them what to do, they could please God by their works of God. For these people, as with many people today, pleasing God is found in the right formula for performing works that will please God.
b. This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent: Jesus first and foremost commanded them (and us) not to do, but to trust. If we want to do the work of God, it begins with trusting Jesus.
i. A parent does not only want obedience from their child; a relationship of trust and love is even more important to the parent. The hope is that obedience grows out of that relationship of trust and love. God wants the same pattern in our relationship with Him.
ii. The first work is to believe in Him whom He sent, yet God is also concerned about our obedience. In this sense our faith in Him is not a substitute for works; our faith is the foundation for works that truly please God.
iii. Maclaren on the contrast between works and work: “They thought of a great variety of observances and deeds. He gathers them all up into one.”
iv. “The priest says, ‘Rites and ceremonies.’ The thinker says, ‘Culture, education.’ The moralist says, ‘Do this, that, and the other thing,’ and enumerates a whole series of separate acts. Jesus Christ says, ‘One thing is needful…This is the work of God.’” (Maclaren)
v. “This is a most important saying of our Lord, as containing the germ of that teaching afterwards so fully expanded in the writings of St. Paul.” (Alford)
4. (30-33) Jesus answers their third question: What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do?
Therefore they said to Him, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
a. What sign will You perform then: The crowd that heard Jesus at the synagogue in Capernaum followed Him from the feeding of the 5,000. Yet there were also among them Jewish leaders from Jerusalem (Matthew 15:1, John 6:41). These heard the excited talk of the miraculous feeding, but wanted to see it again. As well, those who ate wanted to eat again!
i. “They have again come under the influence of the Scribes from Jerusalem who have come up (Matthew 15:1: Mark 7:1) to Capernaum to counteract Him and drive Him away.” (Trench)
b. Our fathers ate the manna in the desert: Jesus’ questioners hoped to manipulate Him into providing daily bread for them, just as Israel had from God during the Exodus. They even knew how to quote Scripture in the attempt (“He gave them bread from heaven to eat”, Psalm 105:40).
c. My Father gives you the true bread from heaven: We might paraphrase the reply of Jesus like this: “What other work will I do? This is the work: to give you the Word of God and eternal life in and through Me. This is the spiritual bread you must feast on to have life.”
i. “Our Lord does not here deny, but asserts the miraculous character of the manna.” (Alford)
d. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven: Jesus tried to lift their minds above earthly things and on to heavenly realities; to an understanding that He is necessary for spiritual life just as bread is necessary for physical survival.
i. “The bread of God was he who came down from heaven and gave men not simply satisfaction from physical hunger, but life. Jesus was claiming that the only real satisfaction was in him.” (Barclay)
5. (34-40) Jesus answers their fourth request: Lord, give us this bread always.
Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
a. Give us this bread always: We wonder if those who travelled across the Sea of Galilee to find and meet Jesus were hungry when they had this conversation with Jesus. They wanted the material bread Jesus miraculously provided, and they wanted it always.
i. When we are hungry, we feel as though food will answer all our problems. It’s the same way with almost all other practical difficulties we find ourselves in. Just as Jesus tried to lift their understanding above their material, physical needs, so we need to have our minds lifted.
ii. “What they wanted, he would not give; what he offered, they would not receive.” (Bruce)
iii. Lord, give us this bread always: “Kurie should probably be translated Sir in this verse rather than Lord, as it is clear from verse 36 that these Galilaeans did not believe in Jesus.” (Tasker)
b. I am the bread of life: In Jesus’ answer, He hoped to lift up their eyes from material bread and earthly kingdoms, and on to spiritual realities. They needed to put their confidence in Jesus instead of in material bread.
i. “This is the first of the distinctive ‘I am’ sayings of this Gospel (where Jesus uses ego eimi with a predicate).” (Bruce)
c. He who comes to Me shall never hunger: Jesus explained that the one who comes to Him – that is, receives Him, believes upon Him – will find his spiritual hunger satisfied in Jesus.
i. “The coming here meant is performed by desire, prayer, assent, consent, trust, obedience.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “This verse should not be regarded as an abstract statement. It constitutes an appeal. Since Jesus is the bread of life men are invited to come to Him, and to believe on Him.” (Morris)
iii. “Faith in Christ is simply and truly described as coming to him. It is not an acrobatic feat; it is simply a coming to Christ. It is not an exercise of profound mental faculties; it is coming to Christ. A child comes to his mother, a blind man comes to his home, even an animal comes to his master. Coming is a very simple action indeed; it seems to have only two things about it, one is, to come away from something, and the other is, to come to something.” (Spurgeon)
d. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out: Jesus made it clear that coming to Jesus begins with the work of the Father, and He will receive all who come to Him.
i. All that the Father gives Me: “‘All’ is neuter, which makes it very general, ‘everything’, although persons are certainly meant.” (Morris)
ii. I will by no means cast out: “Our blessed Lord alludes to the case of a person in deep distress and poverty, who comes to a nobleman’s house, in order to get relief: the person appears; and the owner, far from treating the poor man with asperity, welcomes, receives him kindly, and supplies his wants. So does Jesus.” (Clarke)
iii. “I will not not, cast out out. A powerful speech, and a most comfortable consideration. Who would not come to Jesus Christ upon such sweetest encouragement?” (Trapp)
e. Not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me: As Jesus invited them to come to Him, He also reminded them that He was safe to come unto. He wasn’t interested in His own agenda, but in His Father’s will.
f. All He has given Me I should lose nothing: This was another compelling reason to come unto the Son – all who are given of the Father and come to Him, He keeps safe.
g. Everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life: This is the wonderful destiny of all who are given of the Father and come to Jesus.
i. In all this, Jesus had in mind both the broad community of believers (All that the Father gives Me will come to Me…should raise it up) and the individual believer (the one who comes to Me…will raise him up).
ii. Everyone who sees the Son: “In this ‘gazes upon’ the Son there is certainly a reference to the bronze serpent that was lifted up by Moses in the wilderness upon a pole (shaped like a cross, as Rabbinical tradition says), and everyone who looked on it was healed.” (Trench)
6. (41-46) Jesus explains why they reject Him.
The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.”
a. Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? The people complained about Jesus, thinking what He said about Himself was too big, too exalted (How is it then that He says, “I have come down from heaven?”)
i. “Six times in this immediate context Jesus says that he ‘came down from heaven’ (6:33, 38, 41, 50, 51, 58). His claim to heavenly origin is unmistakable.” (Tenney)
ii. “This was one of the real difficulties of the contemporaries of Jesus. The Messiah was to come ‘in the clouds,’ suddenly to appear; but Jesus had quietly grown up among them.” (Dods)
iii. The Jews then complained: “‘The Jews,’ not as we might expect, ‘the Galileans,’ probably because John identifies this unbelieving crowd with the characteristically unbelieving Jews.” (Dods)
b. Do not murmur among yourselves: As Jesus spoke to the crowd at the synagogue, they murmured and commented among themselves.
i. “‘Murmured’ indicates discontent. It is the confused sound that runs through a crowd when they are angry and in opposition.” (Morris)
c. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him: The Jews thought that they were all chosen by God by virtue of their physical, natural birth. Jesus made it clear that God must draw them before they can come to God. Everyone who responds to the Father will respond to the Son.
i. “Unless God thus draw, no man will ever come to Christ; because none could, without this drawing, ever feel the need of a Saviour.” (Clarke)
ii. We often like to feel as though we “lead” in our relationship with God. In truth, He calls and we come. This understanding of God’s initiative in salvation should make us more confident in evangelism, knowing that God is drawing people, and we can expect to see those whom the Father draws come to Him.
iii. “The word which John uses for to draw is helkuein. The word used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew when Jeremiah hears God say as the Authorized Version has it: ‘With loving-kindness have I drawn thee’ (Jeremiah 31:3).” (Barclay)
iv. “That this ‘drawing’ is not irresistible grace, is confessed even by Augustine himself, the great upholder of the doctrines of grace. ‘If a man is drawn, says an objector, he comes against his will. (We answer) if he comes unwillingly, he does not believe: if he does not believe, he does not come. For we do not run to Christ on our feet, but by faith; not with the movement of the body, but with the free will of the heart…Think not that thou are drawn against thy will; the mind can be drawn by love.’” (Alford)
v. “Drawing, or alluring, not dragging is here to be understood. ‘He,’ say the rabbins, ‘who desires to cleave to the holy and blessed God, God lays hold of him, and will not cast him off.’ Synops. Sohar. p. 87. The best Greek writers use the verb in the same sense of alluring, inciting, &c.” (Clarke)
vi. “Chrysostom says, ‘This expression does not remove our part in the coming, but rather shews that we want help to come.’” (Alford)
vii. Draws “has the same latitude of meaning as ‘draw.’ It is used of towing a ship, dragging a cart, or pulling on a rope to set sails. But it is also used, John 12:32, of a gentle but powerful moral attraction.” (Dods)
d. And I will raise him up at the last day: All those who do come to Jesus drawn by the Father will receive eternal life and will be resurrected at the last day.
e. And they shall all be taught by God: Jesus quoted from Isaiah 54:13, which may have been part of the synagogue reading for that Sabbath. The idea is that all those who belong to God are taught by God, being drawn to Him (everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me).
i. “God will teach His people Himself, i.e. He will teach then within their hearts. Only those who are taught in this fashion will come to Jesus.” (Morris)
ii. “This was as much as to say, ‘The Father has never taught you. You have learned nothing from him, or you would come to me; but in your rejection of me you prove that you are strangers to the grace of God.’” (Spurgeon)
f. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me: Those who have a revelation from God the Father will come to His Son and Perfect Representative. To hear and learn from the Son is to hear and learn from the Father.
i. “But whether it is also true that every one whom God teaches comes is not here stated; the kai maqwn introduces a doubtful element.” (Dods)
ii. “If, as some believe, Isaiah 54 as included in the appointed synagogue lessons for this period of the year, then the words quoted by Jesus may have been fresh in the minds of many of his hearers.” (Bruce)
g. He has seen the Father: Jesus here again insisted on His unique relationship to God the Father. He claimed a relationship and connection with God the Father that no one else had.
i. “Their unbelief does not alter the fact, nor weaken His assurance of the fact.” (Dods)
ii. “He is teaching the theologians about the Godhead, how that the Unity of God is not the final word of revelation concerning the one God. So long as it is thought that there is but one Person in the Godhead, the Incarnation and the whole scheme of Redemption cannot possibly be understood.” (Trench)
7. (47-51) The true bread from heaven.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
a. He who believes in Me has everlasting life: We read this staggering statement with two main thoughts in mind. First, what it means to “believe” in the sense Jesus meant; that is, to trust in, rely on, and cling to. It is a trusting love. Second, we think of the astounding nature of this claim. No other prophet or holy man of the Bible ever said such a thing; “Believe in me and find everlasting life.”
b. I am the bread of life: Jesus repeated and continued the use of this metaphor. As bread is necessary for physical life, so Jesus is necessary for spiritual and eternal life.
i. “Every man feeds on something or other. You see, one man getting his Sunday newspaper; how he will feed on that! Another goes to frivolous amusements, and he feeds on them. Another man feeds upon his business, and upon the thought of his many cares! But all that is poor food; it is only ashes and husks. If you did but possess true spiritual life, you would know the deep necessity there is of feeding upon Christ.” (Spurgeon)
c. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead: The spiritual bread Jesus offers is even greater than the manna Israel ate in the wilderness. What they ate only gave them temporal life; what Jesus offers brings eternal life.
d. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever: Jesus spoke in a figure of speech. The metaphor of eating and drinking was common in Jesus’ day, and pointed to a taking within one’s innermost being.
i. “When a man once takes it (‘eat’ is in the aorist tense, of the once-for-all action of receiving Christ) he will not die.” (Morris)
ii. Many Christians through history have taken this passage as speaking of the Christian practice of communion, the Lord’s Table as instituted by Jesus on the night before His crucifixion (Luke 22:14-23), celebrated among early Christians (Acts 2:42) and taught on in Paul’s letters (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Many have thought that receiving the bread and cup of the Lord’s Table is essential for salvation, and that all who do are guaranteed salvation.
iii. A different opinion has been suggested by several other commentators, that what Jesus spoke of here is not communion, the Lord’s Table – yet the concept is related to that of communion. “Our Lord in this discourse is not indeed speaking directly of the Lord’s Supper, but he does expound the truth which the Lord’s Supper conveys.” (Bruce)
iv. “Many commentators speak as though the word ‘flesh’ self-evidently marked a reference to Holy Communion. It, of course, does nothing of the sort. It is not found in the narratives of the institution, nor in 1 Corinthians 10, nor in 1 Corinthians 11 in connexion with the sacrament. Nor is it common in the Fathers in this sense.” (Morris)
v. “The Fathers commonly expounded this part of our Saviour’s sermon as spoken of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper; and so fell into that error, that none but communicants could be saved; wherefore they also gave the sacrament to infants, and put it into the mouths of dead men.” (Trapp)
vi. “He is saying: ‘You must stop thinking of me as a subject for theological debate; you must take me into you, and you must come into me; and then you will have real life.’” (Barclay)
vii. “Crede et manducasti, said Augustine, ‘believe’ – or, rather, trust – ‘and thou hast eaten.’” (Maclaren)
e. The bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world: Jesus plainly explained what He meant by bread in this context. That bread was His flesh, given for the life of the world. It was His soon-coming work on the cross when He gave His life as a sacrifice pleasing to God the Father and as a substitute for guilty sinners.
i. Morris on the use of flesh: “It is a strong word and one bound to attract attention. Its almost crude forcefulness rivets attention on the historical fact that Christ did give Himself for man.”
ii. “To give one’s flesh can scarcely mean anything other than death, and the wording here points to a death which is both voluntary (‘I will give’) and vicarious (‘for the life of the world’).” (Bruce)
iii. “The words, then, are a cryptic allusion to the atoning death that Christ would die, together with a challenge to enter the closest and most intimate relation with Him.” (Morris)
iv. “Now, brothers and sisters, the food of your faith is to be found in the death of the Lord Jesus for you; and, oh, what blessed food it is!” (Spurgeon)
v. “Here our Lord plainly declares that his death was to be a vicarious sacrifice and atonement for the sin of the world; and that, as no human life could be preserved unless there was bread (proper nourishment) received, so no soul could be saved but by the merit of his death.” (Clarke)
vi. Jesus explained that receiving Him as bread was not receiving Him as a great moral teacher, example, or prophet. It was not receiving Him as a good or great man or noble martyr. It was receiving Him in light of what He did on the cross, His ultimate act of love for lost humanity.
8. (52-59) Receiving Jesus in the fullest sense.
The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
a. How can this Man give us His flesh to eat? It’s probable that the Jewish leaders willfully misunderstood Jesus at this point. He just explained that the bread was His body that would be given as a sacrifice for the life of the world (John 6:51). They willfully twisted His words to imply a bizarre cannibalism.
i. This was the result of their quarreling (The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves). “They differed in their judgment of Him. Some impatiently denounced Him as insane; others suggesting that there was truth in His words.” (Dods)
ii. “Our Savior was, however, led to make these remarks from the fact that the ignorant Jews, when he talked about eating his flesh, and drinking his blood, really thought that he meant that they were to turn cannibals, and eat him up. You may well smile at so ridiculous an idea; yet you know that the idea is still prevalent in the Church of Rome. The Romish priest solemnly assures us that the people who eat the bread and drink the wine, or the stuff he calls bread and wine, do actually act the part of cannibals, and eat the body of Christ, and drink his blood.” (Spurgeon)
b. Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you: Jesus responded to their willful misunderstanding by speaking even more boldly, amplifying the point made at John 6:51 – His “flesh” was His laid-down life.
i. Bread of life is a metaphor. Bread from heaven is a metaphor. Living bread is a metaphor. Bread of God is a metaphor. It doesn’t surprise that Jesus extends the bread metaphor to His actual, soon-to-come sacrifice on the cross.
ii. “He gave them a further statement which they, doctors of the Law well versed in the theory of Sacrifices, would not fail to understand. The ‘eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood’ was a plain allusion to the Sacrificial idea.” (Trench)
iii. The crucified and risen Jesus must be received and internalized – metaphorically eating – or there is no true spiritual life, no eternal life.
iv. “Eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood point to that central saving act described otherwise in, say, John 3:16. Christ’s death opens the way to life. Men enter that way by faith… Eating the flesh and drinking the blood represent a striking way of saying this.” (Morris)
v. “Our Lord went further still, and spoke in mystic language of the necessity for drinking His blood. The figure was suggestive of a way into life through death and sacrifice.” (Morgan)
vi. “In verse 54 it is the person who eats the flesh of the Son of Man and drinks his blood that will be raised up by him at the last day; in verse 40 the same promise is held out to ‘every one who sees the Son and believes in him’.” (Bruce)
c. My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed: The sacrificed life of Jesus is food and drink for the hungry and thirsty soul. When we receive and internalize Jesus Christ and Him crucified for us, we truly abide in Jesus, and He in us (abides in Me, and I in him).
i. Such radical statements offend many; in part this was Jesus’ intent. In response to those who twisted His words and meaning, He made the metaphors stronger, not weaker. He refused to back down from the truth: I am the bread of life, and the substance of that bread is His sacrifice on the cross, the giving of His flesh and blood. What He gave at the cross, we must receive.
ii. “The actual flesh and blood, the human life of Christ, was given for men; and men eat His flesh and drink His blood, when they use for their own advantage His sacrifice, when they assimilate to their own being all the virtue that was in Him.” (Dods)
iii. Abides in Me, and I in him: “He lives in them, and they in him; for they are made partakers of the Divine nature: 2 Peter 1:4.” (Clarke)
d. He who feeds on Me will live because of Me: Those who do come to Jesus, believe upon Him, feed upon Him will find life. They will live, but not because they have found or earned the answer, but because Jesus has freely given what He won at the cross – because of Me.
i. He who feeds on Me: “That is, that partaketh of my person, merits, passions, privileges; he that receiveth me in all mine offices and efficacies.” (Trapp)
ii. “In eating and drinking, a man is not a producer, but a consumer; he is not a doer or a giver forth; he simply takes in. If a queen should eat, if an empress should eat, she would become as completely a receiver as the pauper in the workhouse. Eating is an act of reception in every case. So it is with faith: you have not to do, to be, or to feel, but only to receive.”(Spurgeon)
e. He who eats this bread will live forever: Jesus offers us heavenly bread for eternal life, but we must eat it. Faith in Jesus is not compared with tasting or admiring, but with eating. Jesus says that we must have Him within us, and we must partake of Him.
· Seeing a loaf of bread on a plate will not satisfy our hunger.
· Knowing the ingredients in the bread will not satisfy our hunger.
· Taking pictures of the bread will not satisfy our hunger.
· Telling other people about the bread will not satisfy our hunger.
· Selling the bread will not satisfy our hunger.
· Playing catch with the bread will not satisfy our hunger.
· Nothing will satisfy our hunger and bring us life except actually eating the bread. He who eats this bread will live forever.
f. These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum: This remarkable discourse of Jesus, starting at John 6:26 and including the back and forth with His listeners happened during a synagogue service. Jesus likely was given the freedom of the synagogue, the opportunity to speak to the congregation.
i. “‘These things He spoke in a synagogue, teaching in Capernaum,’ and no doubt on a Sabbath, as several MSS. add.” (Trench)
F. Reacting to the Radical Statements of Jesus.
1. (60-64) Many disciples turn away.
Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him.
a. This is a hard saying: This refers to that which is hard to accept, not to what is hard to understand. No doubt, these disciples (disciples in the broad sense, not the narrower sense) found Jesus’ words somewhat mysterious, but it was the parts they did understand that were really disturbing.
i. “It is little wonder that the disciples found the discourse of Jesus hard. The Greek word is skleros, which means not hard to understand; but hard to accept.” (Barclay)
b. Does this offend you? Jesus understood the offence many of His listeners took at His teaching, yet He didn’t change the teaching or feel it was His fault. Jesus didn’t preach just to please His audience. If that was His concern, He would have instantly taken back what was just said, seeing His audience was offended. Jesus didn’t take it back. He challenged and confronted them even more.
i. “The events of this chapter had made it all too clear that following Him meant something different from anything they had anticipated. Nothing is said to give us a clear idea of their views, but the probability is that they were interested in a messianic kingdom in line with the general expectation.” (Morris)
c. What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? Jesus essentially said, “If all this has offended you, what will you think when you see Me in glory, and have to answer to Me in judgment?” Better to be offended now and to get over it, than to be offended on that day.
d. It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing: This could well be the theme statement for this whole discourse of Jesus. He continually called them and us to put heart and focus on spiritual realities, not material things.
i. “The Spirit imparts life to the believer; it is not transmitted by the process of physical eating.” (Tenney)
e. Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe: Because Jesus is God, He had the divine prerogative to know the heart of man. Yet it is entirely possible that Jesus knew this simply as a Man submitted to the Father and gifted by the Holy Spirit. He was never deceived by a false faith, nor by the one who would betray Him.
2. (65-66) The spiritual reason why many walked away.
And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.
a. Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father: Jesus rebuked their own material and earthly motivations for following Him. If they did not seek Him by the Spirit instead of seeking Him for food and a kingdom, then they had not come to Him at all.
i. Perhaps they followed Him halfway around the Sea of Galilee, but they did not truly come to Jesus until they came in the sense of believing in Him, trusting Him, loving Him (John 6:35).
b. From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more: Once Jesus effectively discouraged every material and earthly motive for following Him, many stopped following. They were also discouraged and perhaps confused by the deliberate controversy (John 6:52) introduced by the religious leaders visiting from Jerusalem (Matthew 15:1).
i. From that time: “‘From this time’ is a possible translation of ek toutou. It could also mean ‘Because of this [utterance].’ The latter makes good sense because it was not simply the chronology that changed the disciples’ attitude.” (Tenney)
ii. When so many left, it looked like the enemies of Jesus won. “It is the crisis of the first great apostasy in His Ministry. His enemies, ‘the Jews,’ have to all appearances carried the day.” (Trench) Jesus was left with only the 12, and perhaps they would also leave. Yet the battle was not yet over. Many who left would come back, but the loss of those who followed Jesus for material or impure motives was painful – one wished they remained to hear and receive the work of the Spirit. Their leaving didn’t prove Jesus and those who kept with Him to be false.
iii. “Churches have summers, like our gardens, and then all things are full; but then come their winters, and, alas, what emptyings are seen!” (Spurgeon)
iv. It’s important to do as Jesus did, and to not encourage others to follow Jesus for material and temporal motives, promoting Jesus simply as something to add to make a better life. Of those who come in such ways, it may be revealed that it was never been granted to him by My Father to follow after Jesus.
3. (67-69) The disciples stand as examples of willingness to follow even if they don’t understand it all.
Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
a. Do you also want to go away? What a scene! Scores of would-be followers of Jesus left Him, and He asked the twelve if they would also go. Jesus searched the motives of all that follow Him, including the twelve. As the synagogue emptied, Jesus asked this question that assumed a “No” answer.
i. “As John phrases our Lord’s question in Greek, he implies that it was not asked in a mood of despair; the use of the Greek negative me in a question indicates that the answer ‘No’ is expected. ‘You don’t want to go away too, do you?’” (Bruce)
b. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life: Speaking for the twelve, Simon Peter gave a wonderful statement of faith.
· He recognized Jesus as Lord.
· He recognized Jesus as the preferred alternative, despite the difficulties.
· He recognized the value of spiritual things, more than the material and earthly desires of those who walked away (the words of eternal life).
· He recognized Jesus as Messiah (the Christ) and God (Son of the living God).
4. (70-71) Jesus’ knowledge of His own disciples.
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.
a. Did I not choose you: Jesus did in fact, choose the twelve disciples. Yet one among whom He chose was like a devil – and would betray Him.
i. “One of them was a diabolos – the Greek word means a ‘slanderer’ or ‘calumniator’ or ‘false accuser’, but it is probably used here as the counterpart to the Hebrew satan, ‘adversary’.” (Bruce)
ii. “In the dark act here prophesied, Judas was under the immediate instigation of and yielded himself up to Satan.” (Alford)
iii. “There are Judases among the apparent followers of the Lord in our day. They are in our pews, even in our pulpits, and they are sometimes undetected. They betray the Lord and the gospel by both their words and their actions.” (Boice)
b. He spoke of Judas: The simple, spiritual devotion of the disciples to Jesus made the contrast of Judas’ apostasy that much more horrible. Though many walk away and some may even betray Jesus, it should not change the faith or the walk of the true follower of Jesus Christ.
i. Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: “Not only was Judas’s father from Karioth, but Judas himself was from Karioth, as we learn from all four gospel. For all call him Iscariot, which means ‘a man of Karioth.’” (Trench)
ii. “Kerioth was a city in the southern part of Judah (Joshua 15:25), south of Hebron in the dry Negeb.” (Tenney)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission