Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Jesus went over - Went to the east side of the sea. The place to which he went was Bethsaida, Luk 9:10. The account of this miracle of feeding the five thousand is recorded also in Mat 14:13-21; Mar 6:32-44; Luk 9:10-17. John has added a few circumstances omitted by the other evangelists.
Because they saw his miracles ... - They saw that he had the power to supply their wants, and they therefore followed him. See Joh 6:26. Compare also Mat 14:14.
The passover - See the notes at Mat 26:2, Mat 26:17.
A feast of the Jews - This is one of the circumstances of explanation thrown in by John which show that he wrote for those who were unacquainted with Jewish customs.
To prove him - To try him; to see if he had faith, or if he would show that he believed that Jesus had power to supply them.
Gather up the fragments - This command is omitted by the other evangelists. It shows the care of Jesus that there should be no waste. Though he had power to provide any quantity of food, yet he has here taught us that the bounties of Providence are not to be squandered. In all things the Saviour set us an example of frugality, though he had an infinite supply at his disposal; he was himself economical, though he was Lord of all. If he was thus saving, it becomes us dependent creatures not to waste the bounties of a beneficent Providence. And it especially becomes the rich not to squander the bounties of Providence. They often feel that they are rich. They have enough. They have no fear of want, and they do not feel the necessity of studying economy. Yet let them remember that what they have is the gift of God - just as certainly as the loaves and fishes created by the Saviour were his gift. It is not given them to waste, nor to spend in riot, nor to be the means of injuring their health or of shortening life. It is given to sustain life, to excite gratitude, to fit for the active service of God. Everything should be applied to its appropriate end, and nothing should be squandered or lost.
That Prophet ... - The Messiah. The power to work the miracle, and the benevolence manifested in it, showed that he was the long-expected Messiah.
When Jesus perceived ... - They were satisfied by the miracle that he was the Messiah. They supposed that the Messiah was to be a temporal prince. They saw that Jesus was retiring, unambitious, and indisposed to assume the ensigns of office. They thought, therefore, that they would proclaim him as the long-expected king, and constrain him to assume the character and titles of an earthly prince. Men often attempt to dictate to God, and suppose that they understand what is right better than he does. They are fond of pomp and power, but Jesus sought retirement, and evinced profound humility. Though he had claims to the honor and gratitude of the nation, yet he sought it not in this way; nor did it evince a proper spirit in his followers when they sought to advance him to a place of external splendor and regal authority.
See this miracle of walking on the sea explained in the notes at Mat 14:22-33. Compare Mar 6:45-52.
Immediately - Quickly. Before a long time. How far they were from the land we know not, but there is no evidence that there was a miracle in the case. The word translated "immediately" does not of necessity imply that there was no interval of time, but that there was not a long interval. Thus, in Mat 13:5, in the parable of the sower, "and immediately (the same word in Greek) they sprung up," etc., Mar 4:17; Mat 24:29; Jo3 1:14.
The people which stood on the other side of the sea - That is, on the east side, or on the same side with Jesus. The country was called the region beyond or on, the other side of the sea, because the writer and the people lived on the west side.
Jesus went not with his disciples - He had gone into a mountain to pray alone, Joh 6:15. Compare Mar 6:46.
There came other boats - After the disciples had departed. This is added because, from what follows, it appears that they supposed that he had entered one of those boats and gone to Capernaum after his disciples had departed.
From Tiberias - This town stood on the western borders of the lake, not far from where the miracle had been performed. It was so called in honor of the Emperor Tiberius. It was built by Herod Antipas, and was made by him the capital of Galilee. The city afterward became a celebrated seat of Jewish learning. It is now called Tabaria, and is a considerable place. It is occupied chiefly by Turks, and is very hot and unhealthy. Mr. Fisk, an American missionary, was at Tiberius (Tabaria) in 1823. The old town is surrounded by a wall, but within it is very ruinous, and the plain for a mile or two south is strewed with ruins. The Jordan, where it issues from the lake, was so shallow that cattle and asses forded it easily. Mr. Fisk was shown a house called the house of Peter, which is used as the Greek Catholic church, and is the only church in the place. The number of Christian families is 30 or 40, all Greek Catholics. There were two sects of Jews, each of whom had a synagogue.
The Jewish population was estimated at about 1,000. On the 1st of January, 1837, Tiberius was destroyed by an earthquake. Dr. Thomson (The Land and the Book, vol. ii. pp. 76, 77) says of this city: "Ever since the destruction of Jerusalem, it has been chiefly celebrated in connection with the Jews, and was for a long time the chief seat of rabbinical learning. It is still one of their four holy cities. Among the Christians it also early rose to distinction, and the old church, built upon the spot where our Lord gave his last charge to Peter, is a choice bit of ecclesiastical antiquity. The present city is situated on the shore, at the northeast corner of this small plain. The walls inclose an irregular parallelogram, about 100 rods from north to south, and in width not more than 40. They were strengthened by ten round towers on the west, five on the north, and eight on the south. There were also two or three towers along the shore to protect the city from attack by sea. Not much more than one-half of this small area is occupied by buildings of any kind, and the north end, which is a rocky hill, has nothing but the ruins of the old palace.
The earthquake of 1837 prostrated a large part of the walls, and they have not yet been repaired, and perhaps never will be. There is no town in Syria so utterly filthy as Tiberius, or so little to be desired as a residence. Being 600 feet below the level of the ocean, and overhung on the west by a high mountain, which effectually shuts off the Mediterranean breezes, it is fearfully hot in summer. The last time I was encamped at the Baths the thermometer stood at 100 at midnight, and a steam went up from the surface of the lake as from some huge, smouldering volcano. Of course it swarms with all sorts of vermin. What can induce human beings to settle down in such a place? And yet some 2,000 of our race make it their chosen abode. They are chiefly Jews, attracted hither either to cleanse their leprous bodies in her baths, or to purify their unclean spirits by contact with her traditionary and ceremonial holiness."
Took shipping - Went into the boats.
Came to Capernaum - This was the ordinary place of the residence of Jesus, and they therefore expected to find him there.
Ye seek me, not because ... - The miracles which Jesus performed were proofs that he came from God. To seek him because they had seen them, and were convinced by them that he was the Messiah, would have been proper; but to follow him simply because their wants were supplied was mere selfishness of a gross kind. Yet, alas! many seek religion from no better motive than this. They suppose that it will add to their earthly happiness, or they seek only to escape from suffering or from the convictions of conscience, or they seek for heaven only as a place of enjoyment, and regard religion as valuable only for this. All this is mere selfishness. Religion does not forbid our regarding our own happiness, or seeking it in any proper way; but when this is the only or the prevailing motive, it is evident that we have never yet sought God aright. We are aiming at the loaves and fishes, and not at the honor of God and the good of his kingdom; and if this is the only or the main motive of our entering the church, we cannot be Christians.
Labour not - This does not mean that we are to make no effort for the supply of our wants (compare Ti1 5:1; Th2 3:10), but that we are not to manifest anxiety, we are not to make this the main or supreme object of our desire. See the notes at Mat 6:25.
The meat that perisheth - The food for the supply of your natural needs. It perishes. The strength you derive from it is soon exhausted, and your wasted powers need to be reinvigorated.
That meat which endureth - The supply of your spiritual wants; that which supports, and nourishes, and strengthens the soul; the doctrines of the gospel, that are to a weak and guilty soul what needful food is to the weary and decaying body.
To everlasting life - The strength derived from the doctrines of the gospel is not exhausted. It endures without wasting away. It nourishes the soul to everlasting life. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint," Isa 40:31.
Him hath God the Father sealed - To seal is to confirm or approve as ours. This is done when we set our seal to a compact, or deed, or testament, by which we ratify it as our act. So God the Father, by the miracles which had been performed by Jesus, had shown that he had sent him, that he approved his doctrines, and ratified his works. The miracles were to his doctrine what a seal is to a written instrument. See the notes at Joh 3:33.
What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? - That is, such things as God will approve. This was the earnest inquiry of men who were seeking to be saved. They had crossed the Sea of Tiberias to seek him; they supposed him to be the Messiah, and they sincerely desired to be taught the way of life; yet it is observable that they expected to find that way as other sinners commonly do - by their works. The idea of doing something to merit salvation is one of the last that the sinner ever surrenders.
This is the work of God - This is the thing that will be acceptable to God, or which you are to do in order to be saved. Jesus did not tell them they had nothing to do, or that they were to sit down and wait, but that there was a work to perform, and that was a duty that was imperative. It was to believe on the Messiah. This is the work which sinners are to do; and doing this they will be saved, for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth, Rom 10:4.
What sign showest thou? - On the word sign, compare the notes at Isa 7:14. What miracle dost thou work to prove that thou art the Messiah? They had just seen the miracle of the loaves in the desert, which was sufficient to show that he was the Messiah, and it would seem from the preceding narrative that those who crossed the lake to see him supposed that he was the Christ. It seems wonderful that they should so soon ask for further evidence that he was sent from God; but it is not improbable that this question was put by other Jews, rulers of the synagogue, who happened to be present, and who had not witnessed his miracles. Those men were continually asking for signs and proofs that he was the Messiah. See Mat 12:38-39; Mar 8:11; Luk 11:29. As Jesus claimed the right of teaching them, and as it was manifest that he would teach them differently from what they supposed Moses to teach, it was natural to ask him by what authority he claimed the right to be heard.
Our fathers - The Jews who were led by Moses through the wilderness.
Did eat manna - This was the name given by the Jews to the food which was furnished to them by God in their journey. It means literally, "What is this?" and was the question which they asked when they first saw it, Exo 16:14-15. It was small like frost, and of the size of coriander-seed, and had a sweetish taste like honey. It fell in great quantities, and was regarded by the Jews as proof of a continued miracle during forty years, and was incontestable evidence of the interposition of God in favor of their fathers. The manna which is sold in the shops of druggists is a different substance from this. It is obtained from the bark of certain trees in Armenia, Georgia, Persia, and Arabia. It is procured, as resin is, by making an incision in the bark, and it flows out or distils from the tree.
As it is written - The substance of this is written in Psa 78:24-25.
He gave them - This was regarded as a miraculous interference in their behalf, and an attestation of the divine mission of Moses, and hence they said familiarly that Moses gave it to them.
Bread from heaven - The word "heaven," in the Scriptures, denotes often the region of the air, the atmosphere, or that region in which the clouds are. See Mat 16:3; "The sky (heaven) is red and lowering." Also Mat 3:16; Luk 4:15; Luk 5:18. The Jews, as appears from their writings (see Lightfoot), expected that the Messiah would provide his followers with plenty of delicious food; and as Moses had provided for the Jews in the wilderness, so they supposed that Christ would make provision for the temporal wants of his friends. This was the sign, probably, which they were now desirous of seeing.
Moses gave you not that bread from heaven - This might be translated, "Moses gave you not the bread of heaven." The word "that," which makes some difference in the sense, is not necessary to express the meaning of the original. It does not appear that Jesus intended to call in question the fact that their fathers were fed by the instrumentality of Moses, but to state that he did not give them the true bread that was adapted to the wants of the soul. He fed the Body, although his food did not keep the body alive Joh 6:49 but he did not give that which would preserve the soul from death. God gave, in his Son Jesus, the true bread from heaven which was fitted to man, and of far more value than any supply of their temporal wants. He tells them, therefore, that they are not to seek from him any such supply of their temporal wants as they had supposed. A better gift had been furnished in his being given for the life of the world.
My father giveth you - In the gospel; in the gift of his Son.
The true bread - The trite or real support which is needed to keep the soul from death. It is not false, deceitful, or perishing. Christ is called bread, because, as bread supports life, so his doctrine supports, preserves, and saves the soul from death. He is the true support, not only in opposition to the mere supply of temporal wants such as Moses furnished, but also in opposition to all false religion which deceives and destroys the soul.
The bread of God - The means of support which God furnishes. That which, in his view, is needful for man.
Is he ... - Is the Messiah who has come from heaven.
And giveth life ... - See the notes at Joh 1:4.
I am the bread of life - I am the support of spiritual life; or my doctrines will give life and peace to the soul.
Shall never hunger - See the notes at Joh 4:14.
But I said unto you - This he said, not in so many words, but in substance, in Joh 6:26. Though they saw him, and had full proof of his divine mission, yet they did not believe. Jesus then proceeds to state that, although they did not believe on him, yet his work would not be in vain, for others would come to him and be saved.
All - The original word is in the neuter gender, but it is used, doubtless, for the masculine, or perhaps refers to his people considered as a mass or body, and means that every individual that the Father had given him should come to him.
The Father giveth me - We here learn that those who come to Christ, and who will be saved, are given to him by God.
1. God promised him that he should see of the travail of his soul - that is, "the fruit of his wearisome toil" (Lowth), and should be satisfied, Isa 53:11.
2. All men are sinners, and none have any claim to mercy, and he may therefore bestow salvation on whom he pleases.
3. All people of themselves are disposed to reject the gospel, Joh 5:40.
4. God enables those who do believe to do it. He draws them to Him by His Word and Spirit; "He opens their hearts to understand the Scriptures Act 16:14; and He grants to them repentance, Act 11:18; Ti2 2:25.
5. All those who become Christians may therefore be said to be given to Jesus as the reward of his sufferings, for his death was the price by which they were redeemed. Paul says Eph 1:4-5 that, "he hath chosen us in him (that is, in Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestinated us unto the adoption of children to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."
Shall come to me - This is an expression denoting that they would believe on him. To come to one implies our need of help, our confidence that he can aid us, and our readiness to trust to him. The sinner comes to Jesus feeling that he is poor, and needy, and wretched, and casts himself on his mercy, believing that he alone can save him. This expression also proves that men are not compelled to believe on Christ. Though they who believe are given to him, and though his Spirit works in them faith and repentance, yet they are made willing in the day of his power, Psa 110:3. No man is compelled to go to heaven against his will, and no man is compelled to go to hell against his will. The Spirit of God inclines the will of one, and he comes freely as a moral agent. The other chooses the way to death; and, though God is constantly using means to save him, yet he prefers the path that leads down to woe.
Him that cometh - Everyone that comes - that is, everyone that comes in a proper mariner, feeling that he is a lost and ruined sinner. This invitation is wide, and full, and free. It shows the unbounded mercy of God; and it shows, also, that the reason, and the only reason, why men are not saved, is that they will not come to Christ. Of any sinner it may be said that if he had been willing to come to Christ he might have come and been saved. As he chooses not to come, he cannot blame God because he saves others who are willing, no matter from what cause, and who thus are made partakers of everlasting life.
In no wise - In no manner, or at no time. The original is simply, "I will not cast out."
Cast out - Reject, or refuse to save. This expression does not refer to the doctrine of perseverance of the saints, but to the fact that Jesus will not reject or refuse any sinner who comes to him.
For I came down ... - This verse shows that he came for a specific purpose, which he states in the next verse, and means that, as he came to do his Father's will, he would be faithful to the trust. Though his hearers should reject him, yet the will of God would be accomplished in the salvation of some who should come to Him.
Mine own will - See notes at Joh 5:30.
Father's will - His purpose; desire; intention. As this is the Father's will, and Jesus came to execute his will, we have the highest security that it will be done. God's will is always right, and he has power to execute it. Jesus was always faithful, and all power was given to him in heaven and on earth, and he will therefore most certainly accomplish the will of God.
Of all which - That is, of every one who believes on him, or of all who become Christians. See Joh 6:37.
I should lose nothing - Literally, "I should not destroy." He affirms here that he will keep it to life eternal; that, thought the Christian will die, and his body return to corruption, yet he will not be destroyed. The Redeemer will watch over him, though in his grave, and keep him to the resurrection of the just. This is affirmed of all who are given to him by the Father; or, as in the next verse, "Everyone that believeth on him shall have everlasting life."
At the last day - At the day of judgment. The Jews supposed that the righteous would be raised up at the appearing of the Messiah. See Lightfoot. Jesus directs them to a future resurrection, and declares to them that they will be raised at the last day - the day of judgment. It is also supposed and affirmed by some Jewish writers that they did not believe that the wicked would be raised. Hence, to speak of being raised up in the last day was the same as to say that one was righteous, or it was spoken of as the special privilege of the righteous. In accordance with this, Paul says, "If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead," Phi 3:11.
Every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him - It was not sufficient to see him and hear him, but it was necessary, also, to believe on him. Many of the Jews had seen him, but few believed on him. Jesus had said in the previous verse that all that the Father had given him should be saved. But he never left a doctrine so that men must misunderstand it. Lest it should be supposed that if a man was given to him this was all that was needful, and lest anyone should say, "If I am to be saved I shall be, and my efforts will be useless," he states here that it is necessary that a man should believe on him. This would be the evidence that he was given to God, and this would be evidence conclusive that he would be saved. If this explanation of the Saviour had always been attended to, the doctrine of election would not have been abused as it has been. Sinners would not sit down in unconcern, saying that if they are given to Christ all will be well. They would have arisen like the prodigal, and would have gone to God; and, having believed on the Saviour, they would then have had evidence that they were given to him - the evidence resulting from an humble, penitent, believing heart - and then they might rejoice in the assurance that Jesus would lose none that were given to him, but would raise it up at the last day. All the doctrines of Jesus, as he preached them, are safe, and pure, and consistent; as men preach them, they are, unhappily, often inconsistent and open to objection, and are either fitted to produce despair on the one hand, or presumptuous self-confidence on the ether. Jesus teaches men to strive to enter heaven, as if they could do the work themselves; and yet to depend on the help of God, and give the glory to him, as if he had done it all.
No man can come to me - This was spoken by Jesus to reprove their complaints - "Murmur not among yourselves." They objected to his doctrine, or complained against it, because he claimed to be greater than Moses, and because they supposed him to be a mere man, and that what he said was impossible. Jesus does not deny that these things appeared difficult, and hence he said that if any man believed, it was proof that God had inclined him. It was not to be expected that of themselves they would embrace the doctrine. If any man believed, it would be because he had been influenced by God. When we inquire what the reasons were why they did not believe, they appear to have been:
1. Their improper regard for Moses, as if no one could be superior to him.
2. Their unwillingness to believe that Jesus, whom they knew to be the reputed son of a carpenter, should be superior to Moses.
3. The difficulty was explained by Jesus Joh 5:40 as consisting in the opposition of their will; and Joh 5:44 when he said that their love of honor prevented their believing on him. The difficulty in the case was not, therefore, a want of natural faculties, or of power to do their duty, but erroneous opinions, pride, obstinacy, self-conceit, and a deep-felt contempt for Jesus. The word cannot is often used to denote a strong and violent opposition of the will. Thus we say a man is so great a liar that he cannot speak the truth, or he is so profane that he cannot but swear. We mean by it that he is so wicked that while he has that disposition the other effects will follow, but we do not mean to say that he could not break off from the habit. Thus it is said Gen 37:4 of the brethren of Joseph that they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him. Thus Mat 12:34, "How can ye, being evil, speak good things?" See Luk 14:33; Sa1 16:2.
Come to me - The same as believe on me.
Draw him - This word is used here, evidently, to denote such an influence from God as to secure the result, or as to incline the mind to believe; yet the manner in which this is done is not determined by the use of the word. It is used in the New Testament six times. Once it is applied to a compulsory drawing of Paul and Silas to the market-place, Act 16:19. Twice it is used to denote the drawing of a net, Joh 21:6, Joh 21:11. Once to the drawing of a sword Joh 18:10; and once in a sense similar to its use here Joh 12:32; "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." What is its meaning here must be determined by the facts about the sinner's conversion. See the notes at Joh 6:40. In the conversion of the sinner God enlightens the mind Joh 6:45, he inclines the will Psa 110:3, and he influences the soul by motives, by just views of his law, by his love, his commands, and his threatenings; by a desire of happiness, and a consciousness of danger; by the Holy Spirit applying truth to the mind, and urging him to yield himself to the Saviour. So that, while God inclines him, and will have all the glory, man yields without compulsion; the obstacles are removed, and he becomes a willing servant of God.
In the prophets - Isa 54:13. A similar sentiment is found in Mic 4:1-4, and Jer 31:34; but by the prophets, here, is meant the book of the prophets, and it is probable that Jesus had reference only to the place in Isaiah, as this was the usual way of quoting the prophets.
Shall be all taught of God - This explains the preceding verse. It is by the teaching of his Word and Spirit that men are drawn to God. This shows that it is not compulsory, and that there is no obstacle in the way but a strong voluntary ignorance and unwillingness.
Not that any man hath seen the Father - Jesus added this, evidently, to guard against mistake. He had said that all who came to him were taught of God. The teacher was commonly seen and heard by the pupil; but, lest it should be supposed that he meant to say that a man to come to him must see and hear God, visibly and audibly, he adds that he did not intend to affirm this. It was still true that no man had seen God at any time. They were not, therefore, to expect to see God, and his words were not to be perverted as if he meant to teach that.
Save he which is of God - Jesus here evidently refers to himself as the Son of God. He had just said that no man had seen the Father. When he affirms that he has seen the Father, it implies that he is more than man. He is the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, Joh 1:18; the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, Heb 1:3; God over all, blessed forever, Rom 9:5. By his being of God is meant that he is the only-begotten Son of God, and sent as the Messiah into the world.
Hath seen - Hath intimately known or perceived him. He knows his nature, character, plans. This is a claim to knowledge superior to what man possesses, and it cannot be understood except by supposing that Jesus is equal with God.
I am that bread of life - My doctrines and the benefits of my mediation are that real support of spiritual life of which the manna in the wilderness was the faint emblem. See Joh 6:32-33.
Your fathers did eat manna - There was a real miracle performed in their behalf; there was a perpetual interposition of God which showed that they were his chosen people.
And are dead - The bread which they ate could not save them from death. Though God interfered in their behalf, yet they died. We may learn,
1. That that is not the most valuable of God's gifts which merely satisfies the temporal wants.
2. That the most distinguished temporal blessings will not save from death. Wealth, friends, food, raiment, will not preserve life.
3. There is need of something better than mere earthly blessings; there is need of that bread which cometh down from heaven, and which giveth life to the world.
The bread that I will give is by flesh - That is, his body would be offered as a sacrifice for sin, agreeably to his declaration when he instituted the Supper: "This is my body which is broken for you," Co1 11:24.
Life of the world - That sinners might, by his atoning sacrifice, be recovered from spiritual death, and be brought to eternal life. The use of the word world hero shows that the sacrifice of Christ was full free ample, and designed for all men, as it is said in Jo1 2:2, "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." In this verse Jesus introduces the subject of his death and atonement. It may be remarked that in the language which he used the transition from bread to his flesh would appear more easy than it does in our language. The same word which in Hebrew means "bread," in the Syriac and Arabic means also "flesh."
In these verses Jesus repeats what he had in substance said before.
Except ye eat the flesh ... - He did not mean that this should be understood literally, for it was never done, and it is absurd to suppose that it was intended to be so understood. Nothing can possibly be more absurd than to suppose that when he instituted the Supper, and gave the bread and wine to his disciples, they literally ate his flesh and drank his blood. Who can believe this? There he stood, a living man - his body yet alive, his blood flowing in his veins; and how can it be believed that this body was eaten and this blood drunk? Yet this absurdity must be held by those who hold that the bread and wine at the communion are "changed into the body, blood, and divinity of our Lord." So it is taught in the decrees of the Council of Trent; and to such absurdities are men driven when they depart from the simple meaning of the Scriptures and from common sense. It may be added that if the bread and wine used in the Lord's Supper were not changed into his literal body and blood when it was first instituted, they have never been since.
The Lord Jesus would institute it just as he meant it should be observed, and there is nothing now in that ordinance which there was not when the Saviour first appointed it. His body was offered on the cross, and was raised up from the dead and received into heaven. Besides, there is no evidence that he had any reference in this passage to the Lord's Supper. That was not yet instituted, and in that there was no literal eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood. The plain meaning of the passage is, that by his bloody death - his body and his blood offered in sacrifice for sin - he would procure pardon and life for man; that they who partook of that, or had an interest in that, should obtain eternal life. He uses the figure of eating and drinking because that was the subject of discourse; because the Jews prided themselves much on the fact that their fathers had eaten manna; and because, as he had said that he was the bread of life, it was natural and easy, especially in the language which he used, to carry out the figure, and say that bread must be eaten in order to be of any avail in supporting and saving men. To eat and to drink, among the Jews, was also expressive of sharing in or partaking of the privileges of friendship. The happiness of heaven and all spiritual blessings are often represented under this image, Mat 8:11; Mat 26:29; Luk 14:15, etc.
Is meat indeed - Is truly food. My doctrine is truly that which will give life to the soul.
Dwelleth in me - Is truly and intimately connected with me. To dwell or abide in him is to remain in the belief of his doctrine, and in the participation of the benefits of his death. Compare Joh 15:1-6; Joh 17:21-23.
I in him - Jesus dwells in believers by his Spirit and doctrine. When his Spirit is given them to sanctify them; when his temper, his meekness, his humility, and his love pervade their hearts; when his doctrine is received by them and influences their life, and when they are supported by the consolations of the gospel, it may be said that he abides or dwells in them.
I live by the Father - See the notes at Joh 5:26.
This is that bread ... - This is the true bread that came down. The word "that" should not be in the translation.
Shall live for ever - Not on the earth, but in the enjoyments of a better world.
Many of his disciples - The word "disciple" means "learner." It was applied to the followers of Christ because they were taught by him. It does not imply, of necessity, that those to whom it was given were real Christians, but simply that they were under his teaching, and were professed learners in his school. See Mat 17:16; Mar 2:18; Joh 9:28; Mat 10:24. It is doubtless used in this sense here. It is, however, often applied to those who are real Christians.
This is an hard saying - The word "hard" here means "offensive, disagreeable" - that which they could not bear. Some have understood it to mean "difficult to be understood," but this meaning does not suit the connection. The doctrine which he delivered was opposed to their prejudices; it seemed to be absurd, and they therefore rejected it.
Saying - Rather doctrine or speech - Greek, λόγος logos. It does not refer to any particular part of the discourse, but includes the whole.
Who can hear it? - That is, who can hear it patiently - who can stay and listen to such doctrine or believe it. The effect of this is stated in Joh 6:66. The doctrines which Jesus taught that were so offensive appear to have been:
1. that he was superior to Moses.
2. that God would save all that he had chosen and those only.
3. that he said he was the bread that came from heaven.
4. that it was necessary to partake of that; that it was necessary that an atonement should be made, and that they should be saved by that.
These doctrines have always been among the most offensive that men have been called on to believe, and many, rather than trust in them, have chosen to draw back to perdition.
What and if ... - Jesus does not say that those who were then present would see him ascend, but he implies that he would ascend. They had taken offence because he said he came down from heaven. Instead of explaining that away, he proceeds to state another doctrine quite as offensive to them - that he would reascend to heaven. The apostles only were present at his ascension, Act 1:9. As Jesus was to ascend to heaven, it was clear that he could not have intended literally that they should eat his flesh.
It is the Spirit that quickeneth - These words have been understood in different ways. The word "Spirit," here, evidently does not refer to the Holy Spirit, for he adds, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit." He refers here, probably, to the doctrine which he had been teaching in opposition to their notions and desires. "My doctrine is spiritual; it is fitted to quicken and nourish the soul. It is from heaven. Your doctrine or your views are earthly, and may be called flesh, or fleshly, as pertaining only to the support of the body. You place a great value on the doctrine that Moses fed the body; yet that did not permanently profit, for your fathers are dead. You seek also food from me, but your views and desires are gross and earthly."
Quickeneth - Gives life. See the notes at Joh 5:21.
The flesh - Your carnal views and desires, and the literal understanding of my doctrine. By this Jesus shows them that he did not intend that his words should be taken literally.
Profiteth nothing - Would not avail to the real needs of man. The bread that Moses gave, the food which you seek, would not be of real value to man's highest wants.
They are spirit - They are spiritual. They are not to be understood literally, as if you were really to eat my flesh, but they are to be understood as denoting the need of that provision for the soul which God has made by my coming into the world.
Are life - Are fitted to produce or give life to the soul dead in sins.
Jesus knew from the beginning ... - As this implied a knowledge of the heart, and of the secret principles and motives of men, it shows that he must have been omniscient.
Many of his disciples - Many who had followed him professedly as his disciples and as desirous of learning of him. See the notes at Joh 6:60.
Went back - Turned away from him and left him. From this we may learn,
1. Not to wonder at the apostasy of many who profess to be followers of Christ. Many are induced to become his professed followers by the prospect of some temporal benefit, or under some public excitement, as these were; and when that temporal benefit is not obtained, or that excitement is over, they fall away.
2. Many may be expected to be offended by the doctrines of the gospel. Having no spirituality of mind, and really understanding nothing of the gospel, they may be expected to take offence and turn back. The best way to understand the doctrines of the Bible is to be a sincere Christian, and aim to do the will of God, Joh 7:17.
3. We should examine ourselves. We should honestly inquire whether we have been led to make a profession of religion by the hope of any temporal advantage, by any selfish principle, or by mere excited animal feeling. If we have it will profit us nothing, and we shall either fall away of ourselves, or be cast away in the great day of judgment.
The twelve - The twelve apostles.
Will ye also go away? - Many apostatized, and it was natural now for Jesus to submit the question to the twelve. "Will you, whom I have chosen, on whom I have bestowed the apostleship, and who have seen the evidence of my Messiahship, will you now also leave me?" This was the time to try them; and it is always a time to try real Christians when many professed disciples become cold and turn back; and then we may suppose Jesus addressing us, and saying, Will ye also go away! Observe here, it was submitted to their choice. God compels none to remain with him against their will, and the question in such trying times is submitted to every man whether he will or will not go away.
Simon Peter answered him - With characteristic ardor and promptness. Peter was probably one of the oldest of the apostles, and it was his character to be first and most ardent in his professions.
To whom shall we go - This implied their firm conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, and that he alone was able to save them. It is one of Peter's noble confessions - the instinctive promptings of a pious heart and of ardent love. There was no one else who could teach them. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the scribes were corrupt, and unable to guide them aright; and, though the doctrines of Jesus were mysterious, yet they were the only doctrines that could instruct and save them.
Thou hast ... - The meaning of this is, thou teachest the doctrines which lead to eternal life. And from this we may learn:
1. that we are to expect that some of the doctrines of the Bible will be mysterious.
2. that, though they are difficult to be understood, yet we should not therefore reject them.
3. that nothing would be gained by rejecting them. The atheist, the infidel - nay, the philosopher, believes, or professes to believe, propositions quite as mysterious as any in the Bible.
4. that poor, lost, sinful man has nowhere else to go but to Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and if the sinner betakes himself to any other way he will wander and die.
5. We should, therefore, on no account forsake the teachings of the Son of God. The words that he speaks are spirit and are life.
We are sure ... - See a similar confession of Peter in Mat 16:16, and the notes at that place. Peter says we are sure, in the name of the whole of the apostles. Jesus immediately cautions him, as he did on other occasions, not to be too confident, for one of them actually had no such feelings, but was a traitor.
Have not I chosen you twelve? - There is much emphasis in these words. Have not I - I, the Saviour, the Messiah, chosen you in mercy and in love, and therefore it will be a greater sin to betray me? Chosen. Chosen to the apostolic office; conferred on you marks of special favor, and treason is therefore the greater sin. You twelve. So small a number. Out of such a multitude as follow for the loaves and fishes, it is to be expected there should be apostates; but when the number is so small, chosen in such a manner, then it becomes every one, however confident he may be, to be on his guard and examine his heart.
Is a devil - Has the spirit, the envy, the malice, and the treasonable designs of a devil. The word "devil" here is used in the sense of an enemy, or one hostile to him.
He spake of Judas ... - There is no evidence that Jesus designated Judas so that the disciples then understood that it was he. It does not appear that the apostles even suspected Judas, as they continued to treat him afterward with the same confidence, for he carried the bag, or the purse containing their little property Joh 12:6; Joh 13:29; and at the table, when Jesus said that one of them would betray him, the rest did not suspect Judas until Jesus pointed him out particularly, Joh 13:26. Jesus spoke of one, to put them on their guard, to check their confidence, and to lead them to self-examination. So in every church, or company of professing Christians, we may know that it is probable that there may be some one or more deceived; but we may not know who it may be, and should therefore inquire prayerfully and honestly, "Lord, is it I?"
Should betray - Would betray. If it be asked why Jesus called a man to be an apostle who he knew had no love for him, who would betray him, and who had from the beginning the spirit of a "devil," we may reply:
1. It was that Judas might be an important witness for the innocence of Jesus, and for the fact that he was not an impostor. Judas was with him more than three years. He was treated with the same confidence as the others, and in some respects even with superior confidence, as he had "the bag" Joh 12:6, or was the treasurer. He saw the Saviour in public and in private, heard his public discourses and his private conversation, and he would have been just the witness which the high priests and Pharisees would have desired, if he had known any reason why he should be condemned. Yet he alleged nothing against him. Though he betrayed him, yet he afterward said that he was innocent, and, under the convictions of conscience, committed suicide. If Judas had known anything against the Saviour he would have alleged it. If he had known that he was an impostor, and had alleged it, he would have saved his own life and been rewarded. If Jesus was an impostor, he ought to have made it known, and to have bean rewarded for it.
2. It may have been, also, with a foresight of the necessity of having such a man among his disciples, in order that his own death might be brought about in the manner in which it was predicted. There were several prophecies which would have been unfulfilled had there been no such man among the apostles.
3. It showed the knowledge which the Saviour had of the human heart, that he could thus discern character before it was developed, and was able so distinctly to predict that he would betray him.
4. We may add, what benevolence did the Saviour evince - what patience and forbearance - that he had with him for more than three years a man who he knew hated him at heart, and who would yet betray him to be put to death on a cross, and that during all that time he treated him with the utmost kindness!