Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Jesus passes the sea of Tiberias, and a great multitude follow him, Joh 6:1-4. He feeds five thousand with five loaves, and two fishes, Joh 6:5-13. They acknowledge him to be the prophet that should come into the world, Joh 6:14. They purpose to force him to become their king; and he withdraws from the multitude, Joh 6:15. The disciples take ship, and go towards Capernaum, and are overtaken with a storm, Joh 6:16-18. Christ comes to them, walking upon the water, Joh 6:19-21. The people take boats and follow him, Joh 6:22-24. He reproves their fleshly motives, Joh 6:25-27. They profess a desire to be instructed, Joh 6:28. Christ preaches to them, and shows them that he is the bread of life, and that they who reject him are without excuse, Joh 6:29-40. They are offended, and cavil, Joh 6:41, Joh 6:42. He asserts and illustrates his foregoing discourse, Joh 6:43-51. They again cavil, and Christ gives farther explanations, Joh 6:52-59. Several of the disciples are stumbled at his assertion, that unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood they could not have life, Joh 6:60. He shows them that his words are to be spiritually understood, Joh 6:61-65. Several of them withdraw from him, Joh 6:66. He questions the twelve, whether they also were disposed to forsake him, and Peter answers for the whole, Joh 6:67-69. Christ exposes the perfidy of Judas, Joh 6:70, Joh 6:71.
After these things - This is a sort of indefinite expression, from which me can gather nothing relative to the time in which these things happened. It refers no doubt to transactions in the preceding year.
Jesus went over the sea of Galilee - Or, as some translate the words, by the side of the sea of Galilee. From Luke, Luk 9:10, we learn that this was a desert place in the vicinity of Bethsaida. The sea of Galilee, Genesaret, and Tiberias, are the same in the New Testament with the sea of Cinnereth in the Old. Tiberias was a city in Galilee, situated on the western side of the lake. See on Joh 6:22 (note).
They saw his miracles which he did - John does not mention these miracles; but Matthew details them, Matthew 12:2-14:13. John seems more intent on supplying the deficiencies of the other evangelists than in writing a connected history himself.
Went up into a mountain - This mountain must have been in the desert of Bethsaida, in the territories of Philip, tetrarch of Galilee. Our Lord withdrew to this place for a little rest; for he and his disciples had been so thronged with the multitudes, continually coming and going, that they had not time to take necessary food. See Mar 6:31.
And the passover - was nigh - This happened about ten or twelve days before the third passover which Christ celebrated after his baptism. Calmet. For a particular account of our Lord's four passovers see the note on Joh 2:13.
For thirty days before the Passover there were great preparations made by the Jews, but especially in the last nineteen days, in order to celebrate the feast with due solemnity. Lightfoot supposes that what is here related happened within the last fifteen days. See Calmet's opinion above.
Saw a great company - See this miracle explained at large on Mat 14:13 (note), etc.; Mar 6:31 (note), etc.; Luk 9:10 (note), etc. In speaking of the passovers, and various other matters, it does not appear that John follows any strict chronological order. From Joh 6:15, it appears that our Lord had come down from the mountain, and fed the multitudes in a plain at the foot of it.
Saith unto Philip - This, with what follows, to the end of the seventh verse, is not mentioned by any of the other evangelists.
Philip was probably the provider for the disciples, as Judas was the treasurer.
Whence shall we buy bread - Instead of αγορασομεν, shall we buy, I should read αγορασωμεν, may we buy, which is the reading of ABDEHLS, Mt. VB, and many others. As Philip was of Bethsaida, Joh 1:44; Joh 12:21, he must have been much better acquainted with the country in which they then were than any other of the disciples.
This he said to prove him - To try his faith, and to see whether he and the other apostles had paid proper attention to the miracles which they had already seen him work; and to draw their attention more particularly to that which he was now about to perform. This is an observation of the evangelist himself, who often interweaves his own judgment with the facts he relates, which St. Matthew rarely ever does. The other evangelists say that, previously to this miracle, he continued to instruct and heal the multitudes till it was near the close of the day. Mat 14:14, Mat 14:15; Mar 6:34, Mar 6:35; Luk 9:11, Luk 9:12.
Two hundred pennyworth - This sum, rating the denarius at 7 3/4d., would amount to 6. 9s. 2d. of our money, and appears to have been more than our Lord and all his disciples were worth of this world's goods. See the notes on Mat 18:28.
Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith - The other evangelists attribute this answer to the apostles in general. See the passages referred to above.
There is a lad here - Παιδαριον, a little boy, or servant, probably one who carried the apostles' provisions, or who came on purpose to sell his bread and fish.
Five barley loaves - Barley scarcely bore one-third of the value of wheat in the east: see Rev 6:6. That it was a very mean fare appears from Eze 13:19, where the false prophetesses are said to pollute the name of God for handfuls of barley, i.e. for the meanest reward. And Plutarch, in Apoph. p. 174, speaking concerning the flight of Artaxerxes Mnemon, says he was reduced to such distress as to be obliged to eat barley bread. See Kypke. From this and other circumstances we may plainly perceive that the self-denying doctrine preached by Christ and his apostles was fully exemplified in their own manner of living.
Two small fishes - Δυο οψαρια. The word of οψαριον signifies whatever is eaten with bread, to perfect the meal, or to make it easy of deglutition, or to help the digestion. There is no word in the English language for it, which is a great defect. The inhabitants of Scotland, and of the north and north-west of Ireland, use the word kytshen, by which they express what ever is eaten with bread or potatoes, as flesh, fish, butter, milk, eggs, etc., no satisfactory etymology of which word I am able to offer. In the parallel places in the other three evangelists, instead of οψαρια, ιχθυας is used; so that the word evidently means fish in the text of St. John: see on Joh 21:5 (note).
There was much grass in the place - Perhaps newly mown grass, or hay, is meant, (so the Vulgate faenum), and this circumstance marks out more particularly that the passover was at hand. In Palestine the grass is ready for mowing in March; and this miracle seems to have been wrought only a few days before the commencement of that festival: see Joh 6:4.
Jesus took the loaves - See the notes on Mat 14:19-21 (note). As there were five loaves and five thousand people, so there was one loaf to every thousand men, independently of the women and children.
Gather up the fragments - "Great will be the punishment of those who waste the crumbs of food, scatter seed, and neglect the law." Synops Sohar. Among the Jews the פאה peah, or residue after a meal, was the property of the servitors.
This is of a truth that prophet - Spoken of, Deu 18:15, viz. the Messiah. How near were these people at this time to the kingdom of heaven!
Take him by force, to make him a king - The Jews had often suffered by famine in those times in which their enemies were permitted to prevail over them; but, finding that Jesus had such power as to multiply a few loaves to feed thousands, they took it for granted that while he was at their head no evil could possibly happen to them, and therefore were determined immediately to proclaim him king, and rid themselves at once of Herod and the Romans. Our Lord perceiving this, either by some words which they had dropped, or by his penetration of their hearts, retired before the project had been fully formed, or could be put into execution. It was not till a considerable time afterwards that even the disciples fully understood that his kingdom was not of this world.
Into a mountain - That on which he was with his disciples previously to his working this miracle: see Joh 6:3.
St. Matthew, Mat 14:22, Mat 14:23, and Mark, Mar 6:45, Mar 6:46, say that, before this, Jesus constrained his disciples to embark in the vessel, and go along the sea coast towards Capernaum, or Bethsaida - see here Joh 6:17, and the note on Mar 6:45 (note); and that, after they were gone, he dismissed the multitudes, having, no doubt, given them such advices as the nature of the case required; after which he went into the mountain to pray.
Worldly wisdom would have said, "Declare thyself king: yield to the desires of the people: this will be the readiest way of converting the Jews." No. Jesus must die for the sin of the world. - No man's heart can be turned to God by outward pomp or splendor - no saving change can be brought about by any might or any power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts. Zac 4:6.
Toward Capernaum - St. Mark says, Mar 6:45, that our Lord commanded them to go along to Bethsaida; and in the course of the history we find they got neither to Bethsaida nor Capernaum, but landed in the country of Genesaret: Mat 14:34. Our Lord seems to have desired them to go either to Bethsaida or Capernaum, which were only a very few miles distant, and on the same side of the sea. The reason why they could reach neither was the storm which the evangelists say rose at the time, and the wind being contrary: the storm being probably excited by the prince of the power of the air. Capernaum lay at the northern part of this sea, and they went along the Galilean or western coast, probably expecting Christ to come to them, on which account they might keep in close by the land. But there are great difficulties in fixing the places mentioned by the evangelists. By some writers Bethsaida and Capernaum are placed on opposite sides of this lake: by others on the same side. Sometimes when our translation speaks of passing over the sea, etc., a coasting voyage only is meant, as we find the disciples landing on the same side from which they had departed: see the note on Joh 6:22.
Had rowed - Their vessel was a small one only, something of the boat kind: as to sails, if they had any, they could not now venture to carry them, because of the storm.
Five and twenty or thirty furlongs - Between three and four miles. The sea of Tiberias, on which they now were, was, according to Josephus, War, book iii. chap. 25, forty furlongs, or five miles in breadth; and one hundred and forty furlongs, or eighteen miles, in length. Pliny, lib. v. chap. 15, makes it about six miles broad, and sixteen long.
They see Jesus - See the notes on Mat 14:25, etc.
Immediately the ship was at the land - 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.
The people which stood on the other side - ἙϚηκως περαν της θαλασσης, Standing by the sea side. The people were not on the other side, i.e. in Perea, as our version states, but on that side where Bethsaida lay: see the notes on Mat 14:25, Mat 14:34, and on Mar 6:45. The Greek word, περαν, says Bishop Pearce, seems to signify in Scripture sometimes on the side of, and sometimes on this side of: see Jos 5:1 and 1 Maccabees 9:34. The Hebrew word אבר abar, signifies by the side: Exo 28:26, and is translated on this side in Deu 4:29. It has the same meaning in the Septuagint, Deu 1:5; Deu 3:8; Deu 4:46. περαν, says Vorstius, is the same with παρα, near to. This is evidently the meaning of the word in Mat 4:15; as it appears, from what is said of the land of Zabulon and Nepthali, that by περαν is not meant beyond, but by the side of; because those two tribes inhabited the western side of Jordan, which was the side lying nearest to Judea and Galilee: see on Mat 19:1 (note).
There came other boats - After Jesus and his disciples had departed.
From Tiberias - Herod Antipas built this city near the lake of Genesaret, in the best parts of Galilee, and called it Tiberias, in honor of Tiberius, the Roman emperor: see Jos. Ant. book xviii. chap. 2. sect. 3.
They also took shipping - 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.
On the other side of the sea - That is, on the sea coast, to the northward of it, where Capernaum lies in the land of Genesaret: but see the note, on Joh 6:17, Joh 6:22. It was in one of the synagogues of Capernaum that he delivered the following discourse: see Joh 6:59.
Ye seek me, not because ye saw, etc. - Though the miracle of the loaves was one of the most astonishing that ever was wrought upon earth; and though this people had, by the testimony of all their senses, the most convincing proof of its reality; yet we find many of them paid little attention to it, and regarded the omnipotent hand of God in it no farther than it went to satisfy the demands of their appetite! Most men are willing to receive temporal good from the hands of God; but there are few, very few, who are willing to receive spiritual blessings.
Labor not for the meat - That is, for that only, but also for the bread, etc. Our Lord wills every man to be active and diligent in that employment in which providence has placed him; but it is his will also that that employment, and all the concerns of life, should be subservient to the interest of his soul.
But for that meat, etc. - He who labors not, in the work of his salvation, is never likely to enter into the kingdom of God. Though our labor cannot purchase it, either in whole or in part, yet it is the way in which God chooses to give salvation; and he that will have heaven must strive for it. Every thing that can be possessed, except the salvation of God, is a perishing thing: this is its essential character: it can last to us no longer than the body lasts. But, when the earth and its produce are burnt up, this bread of Christ, his grace and salvation, will be found remaining unto eternal life. This is the portion after which an immortal spirit should seek.
Him hath God the Father sealed - By this expression, our Lord points out the commission which, as the Messiah, he received from the Father, to be prophet and priest to an ignorant, sinful world. 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. But he came also as a priest, to make an atonement for sin; and the bread which nourishes unto eternal life, he tells us, Joh 6:51, is his body, which he gives for the life of the world; and to this sacrifice of himself, the words, him hath God the Father sealed, seem especially to relate. It certainly was a custom, among nations contiguous to Judea, to set a seal upon the victim which was deemed proper for sacrifice. The following account of the method of providing white bulls among the Egyptians, for sacrifices to their god Apis, taken from Herodotus, Euterpe, b. ii. p. 117, casts much light upon this place. "They sacrifice white bulls to Apis; and for that reason make the following trial. If they find one black hair upon him, they consider him as unclean: that they may know this with certainty, the priest appointed for this purpose views every part of the animal, both standing and lying on the ground. After this, he draws out his tongue, to see if he be clean by certain signs: in the last place, he looks upon the hairs of his tail, that he may be sure they are as by nature they should be. If, after this search, the bull is found unblemished, he signifies it by tying a label to his horns; then, having applied wax, he seals it with his ring, and they lead him away: for it is death to sacrifice one of these animals, unless he have been marked with such a seal.
The Jews could not be unacquainted with the rites and ceremonies of the Egyptian worship; and it is possible that such precautions as these were in use among themselves, especially as they were so strictly enjoined to have their sacrifices without Spot, and without blemish. Infinite justice found Jesus Christ to be without spot or blemish, and therefore sealed, pointed out and accepted him, as a proper sacrifice and atonement for the sin of the whole world. Collate with this passage, Heb 7:26-28; Eph 5:27; Pe2 3:14; and especially Heb 9:13, Heb 9:14 : For if the blood of Bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth - how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself Without Spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works! The rabbins talk much of the seal of God, which they suppose to be אמת emeth, or truth; and that this is a representation of the unoriginated and endless perfections of God. This doctrine is just; but their method of proving it is not so satisfactory. Aleph א, say they, is the first letter of the alphabet; mem מ the middle; and tau ת the last: these three letters make אמת emeth, Truth, because God is the first - there was none before him; he is the middle - none mingles with him; and he is the last - there can be none after him. Hieros. Sanhed. fol. 18. See also Pe1 1:18, Pe1 1:19.
That we might work the works of God? - That is, Divine works, or such as God can approve.
This is the work of God, that ye believe - There is nothing you can be employed in more acceptable to God than in yielding to the evidence set before you, and acknowledging me as your Messiah and the Savior of a lost world.
What sign - Τι σημειον, What miracle; so the word is evidently used, Joh 2:11, Joh 2:23, and in many other places.
That we may see, and believe thee - That, having seen the miracle, we may believe thee to be the promised Messiah. They had already seen the miracle of the five loaves, and did not believe; and it was impossible for them to see any thing more descriptive of unlimited power and goodness. Even miracles themselves are lost on persons whose hearts are fixed on the perishing things of the world, and whose minds are filled with prejudice against the truth.
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert - Their argument seems to run thus: Thou hast, we grant, fed five thousand men with five loaves and two small fishes; but what is this in comparison of what Moses did in the desert, who for forty years fed more than a million of persons with bread from heaven: do something like this, and then we will believe in thee, as we have believed in Moses.
Moses gave you not that bread from heaven - Our Lord refutes the argument of the Jews, by proving:
1. That it was not Moses, but God, who gave the manna.
2. That this bread was not the true bread, but was merely a type of it.
3. That God had given them now a bread infinitely more excellent.
4. That himself is that heavenly nourishment of which he spake, and who was typified by the manna in the desert.
To show that himself was the true bread from heaven, he proves two things:
1. That his doctrine was the true nourishment of the soul, and that those who were to be put in possession of the blessings promised in it must come to God by faith.
2. That he would give his body for the life of the world: that as bread is the staff that supports the natural life of man, so the salvation procured by his death should be that by which the bodies and souls of believers should be preserved unto life eternal.
Lord, evermore give us this bread - Either meaning, "Let the miracle of the manna be renewed, and continue among us for ever:" or, "Let that bread of which thou hast spoken, become our constant nourishment." The Jews expected that, when the Messiah should come, he would give them all manner of delicacies, and, among the rest, manna, wine, and spicy oil. From the following extract, we may see where Mohammed got his Paradise. "Many affirm, says Rab. Mayemon, that the hope of Israel is this: That the Messiah shall come and raise the dead; and they shall be gathered together in the garden of Eden, and shall eat and drink and satiate themselves all the days of the world. There the houses shall be all builded with precious stones; the beds shall be made of silk; and the rivers shall flow with wine and spicy oil. He made manna to descend for them, in which was all manner of tastes; and every Israelite found in it what his palate was chiefly pleased with. If he desired fat in it, he had it. In it, the young man tasted bread, the old man honey, and the children oil. So shall it be in the world to come, (i.e. the days of the Messiah.) He shall give Israel peace, and they shall sit down in the garden of Eden, and all nations shall behold their condition; as it is said, My servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry, etc., Isa 65:13." See Lightfoot.
I am the bread of life - That is, the bread which gives life, and preserves from death.
He that cometh to me - The person who receives my doctrine, and believes in me as the great atoning sacrifice, shall be perfectly satisfied, and never more feel misery of mind. All the guilt of his sins shall be blotted out, and his soul shall be purified unto God; and, being enabled to love him with all his heart, he shall rest, fully, supremely, and finally happy, in his God.
All that the Father giveth me - The neuter gender, παν, is probably used here for the masculine, πας.
Shall come to me - All that are drawn by the Father, Joh 6:44, i.e. all those who are influenced by his Spirit, and yield to those influences: for as many as are Led (not driven or dragged) by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God, Rom 8:14. God sent his prophets to proclaim his salvation to this people; and he accompanied their preaching with the influence of his Spirit. Those who yielded were saved: those who did not yield to these drawings were lost. This Spirit still continued to work and to allure; but the people being uncircumcised both in heart and ears, they always resisted the Holy Ghost; as their fathers did, so did they; Act 7:51. And though Christ would have gathered them together, as a hen would her chickens under her wings, yet they would not. See the note on Mat 23:37. Those who come at the call of God, he is represented here as giving to Christ, because it is through his blood alone that they can be saved. God, by his Spirit, convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment; those who acknowledge their iniquity, and their need of salvation, he gives to Christ, i.e. points out unto them the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Our Lord may here also refer to the calling of the Gentiles; for these, according to the ancient promise, Psa 2:8, were given to Christ: and they, on the preaching of the Gospel, gladly came unto him. See ample proofs of this in the Acts of the Apostles.
I will in no wise cast out - The words are exceedingly emphatical - ου μη εκβαλω εξω, I will by no means thrust out of doors; excellently rendered by Matthew of Erberg in his Italian Bible - Io non cacciaro fuori, I will not chase him out of the house. 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. Newer did he reject the suit of a penitent, however grievous his crimes might have been. He is come to the house of mercy; he is lying at the threshold: the servants bid him come in - he obeys, and stands trembling, waiting for the appearing of the Master, doubtful whether he is to be received or rejected: the Master appears, and not only grants his suit, but receives him into the number of his family: he alleges his unfitness, his unworthiness, his guilt, his crimes, his ingratitude: no matter, all shall be blotted out through the blood of the Lamb, and he be put among the children, and on none of these accounts shall he be put out of the house. The Gentiles shall be as welcome as the Jews; and the invitation to them be as free, as full, and as hearty: they shall become his adopted children, and never be cast out, as the Jews have been. O thou God of love! how able and Willing art thou to save the vilest of the vile, who come unto thee! Thou art not the God of the Jews only, thou art also the God of the Gentiles. Rejoice, therefore, ye Gentiles, with his people.
Not to do mine own will - I am come, not to act according to human motives, passions, or prejudices; but according to infinite wisdom, goodness, and mercy. Jewish passions and prejudices would reject publicans and sinners as those alluded to, and shut the gate of heaven against the Gentiles; but God's mercy receives them, and I am come to manifest that mercy to men.
I should lose nothing - It is the will of God that every soul who believes should continue in the faith, and have a resurrection unto life eternal. But he wills this continuance in salvation, without purposing to force the persons so to continue. God may will a thing to be, without willing that it shall be. Judas was given to Christ by the Father, Joh 17:12. The Father willed that this Judas should continue in the faith, and have a resurrection unto life eternal: but Judas sinned and perished. Now it is evident that God willed that Judas might be saved, without willing that he must be saved infallibly and unconditionally. When a man is a worker together with the grace of God, he is saved; when he receives that grace of God in vain, he is lost - not through a lack of will or mercy in God, but through lack of his co-operation with Divine grace. God saves no man as a stock or a stone, but as a reasonable being and free agent. "That which thou hast heard, thou mayest hold fast, and persevere in, if thou wilt," Says St. Augustin. In eo quod audieras, et tenueras, perseverares, si velles. De Correct. & Grat. c. 7. See Calmet.
Raise it up again at the last day - The Jews believed that the wicked should have no resurrection; and that the principle that led to the resurrection of the body, in the righteous, was the indwelling Spirit of God. This is positively asserted in the Shir Hashirim Rabba. See Schoettgen.
This is the will of him that sent me - Lest they should take a wrong meaning out of his words, as many have done since, he tells them that, far from any person being excluded from his mercy, it was the will of God that every one who saw him might believe and be saved. The power, without which they could not believe, he freely gave them; but the use of that power was their own. God gives the grace of repentance and faith to every man; but he neither repents nor believes for any man. Each must repent for his own sins, and believe in the Lord Jesus, through the grace given, or perish.
The Jews then murmured - Because the whole of his discourse event to prove that he was infinitely greater than Moses; and that he alone could give present peace and eternal glory to men.
Except the Father - draw him - But how is a man drawn? St. Augustin answers from the poet, Trahit sua quemque voluptas; a man is attracted by that which he delights in. Show green herbage to a sheep, he is drawn by it: show nuts to a child, and he is drawn by them. They run wherever the person runs who shows these things: they run after him, but they are not forced to follow; they run, through the desire they feel to get the things they delight in. So God draws man: he shows him his wants - he shows the Savior whom he has provided for him: the man feels himself a lost sinner; and, through the desire which he finds to escape hell, and get to heaven, he comes unto Christ, that he may be justified by his blood. Unless God thus draw, no man will ever come to Christ; because none could, without this drawing, ever feel the need of a Savior. See August. Tract. 26, in Joan. and Calmet.
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, etc.
It is written in the prophets - Isa 54:13; Jer 31:34.
They shall be all taught of God - This explains the preceding verse. God teaches a man to know himself, that, finding his need of salvation, he may flee to lay hold on the hope which his heavenly Father has set before him in the Gospel. God draws men by his love, and by showing them what his love has done for them. Fear repels, but love attracts. He who is ever preaching the terrors of the law, and representing God as a vindictive judge, will never bring sinners to him. They are afraid of this terrible God: but they love him, who so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.
Not that any man hath seen the Father - He does not teach men by appearing personally before them, or by any other outward voice than that of his word and messengers; but he teaches by his Spirit. This teaching from God implies:
1. That they shall have proper instruction.
2. That they shall comprehend it; for, when God teaches, there is no delay in learning. And,
3. That this teaching should be by the influence of the Holy Ghost upon their minds.
He which is of God - That is, Christ alone: neither Moses nor any of the prophets had ever seen God: Jesus, who lay in the bosom of the Father, He saw and revealed him, Joh 1:18.
Hath everlasting life - He is entitled to this, on his believing me to be the Messiah, and trusting in me alone for salvation. Our blessed Lord recapitulates here what he had said in the preceding discourse. The person who is saved is,
1. drawn by the Father;
2. hears his instructions;
3. accepts the salvation offered;
4. is given to Christ Jesus, that he may be justified by faith;
5. is nourished by the bread of life;
6. perseveres in the faith;
7. is not lost, but is raised up at the last day; and
8. is made a partaker of eternal life.
I am that bread of life - I alone afford, by my doctrine and Spirit, that nourishment by which the soul is saved unto life eternal.
Your fathers did eat manna - and are dead - That bread neither preserved their bodies alive, nor entitled them to life eternal; but those who receive my salvation, shall not only be raised again in the last day, but shall inherit eternal life. It was an opinion of the Jews themselves that their fathers, who perished in the wilderness, should never have a resurrection. Our Lord takes them on their own ground: Ye acknowledge that your fathers who fell in the wilderness shall never have a resurrection; and yet they ate of the manna: therefore that manna is not the bread that preserves to everlasting life, according even to your own concession.
This is the bread, etc. - I am come for this very purpose, that men may believe in me, and have eternal life.
Is my flesh, which I will give, etc. - Our Lord explains his meaning more fully, in these words, than he had done before. Having spoken so much of the bread which feeds and nourishes the soul, and preserves from death, the attention of his hearers was fixed upon his words, which to them appeared inexplicable; and they desired to know what their meaning was. He then told them that the bread meant his flesh, (his life), which he was about to give up; to save the life of the world. 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. Reader, remember this: it is one of the weightiest, and one of the truest and most important sayings in the book of God.
How can this man give us his flesh to eat? - Our Lord removes this difficulty, and answers the question, in Joh 6:63.
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man - Unless ye be made partakers of the blessings about to be purchased by my blood, passion, and violent death, ye cannot be saved. As a man must eat bread and flesh, in order to be nourished by them, so a man must receive the grace and Spirit of Christ, in order to his salvation. As food in a rich man's store does not nourish the poor man that needs it, unless it be given him, and he receive it into his stomach, so the whole fountain of mercy existing in the bosom of God, and uncommunicated, does not save a soul: he who is saved by it must be made a partaker of it. Our Lord's meaning appears to be, that, unless they were made partakers of the grace of that atonement which he was about to make by his death, they could not possibly be saved. Bishop Pearce justly observes that the ideas of eating and drinking are here borrowed to express partaking of, and sharing in. Thus spiritual happiness on earth, and even in heaven, is expressed by eating and drinking; instances of which may be seen, Mat 8:11; Mat 26:29; Luk 14:15; Luk 22:30; and Rev 2:17. Those who were made partakers of the Holy Spirit are said by St. Paul, Co1 12:13, to be made to drink into (or of) one Spirit. This, indeed, was a very common mode of expression among the Jews.
Hath eternal life - This can never be understood of the sacrament of the Lord's supper.
1. Because this was not instituted till a year after; at the last Passover.
2. It cannot be said that those who do not receive that sacrament must perish everlastingly.
3. Nor can it be supposed that all those who do receive it are necessarily and eternally saved.
On the contrary, St. Paul intimates that many who received it at Corinth perished, because they received it unworthily, not discerning the Lord's body: not distinguishing between it and a common meal; and not properly considering that sacrifice for sin, of which the sacrament of the Lord's super was a type: see Co1 11:30.
My flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed - Or, rather, My flesh is the true meat, etc. In both clauses of this verse, instead of αληθως, the adverb, I read αληθης, the adjective, agreeing with βρωσις. This reading is supported by BCKLT, and twenty-one others; both the Arabic, Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, two copies of the Itala, Clement, Origen, Cyril, Chrysostom, and Damascenus. Our Lord terms his flesh, the true meat, and his blood the true drink, because those who received the grace merited by his death would be really nourished and supported thereby unto eternal life. He calls himself the true vine, Joh 15:1, in exactly the same sense in which he calls himself the true bread, Joh 6:32, and the true meat and drink in this verse.
Dwelleth in me, and I in him - Of all connections and unions, none is so intimate and complete as that which is effected by the digestion of aliments, because they are changed into the very substance of him who eats them; and this our Lord makes the model of that union which subsists between himself and genuine believers. He lives in them, and they in him; for they are made partakers of the Divine nature: Pe2 1:4. To this verse the following addition is made in the Codex Bezae, three copies of the Itala, and Victorinus. After these words - dwelleth in me, and I in him, they add, as the Father in me, and I in the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that unless ye receive the body of the Son of man as the bread of life, ye have not life in him. This is a very remarkable addition, and is between thirteen and fourteen hundred years old.
So he that eateth me, even he shall live by me - From which we learn that the union between Christ and his followers shall be similar to that which subsists between God and Christ.
In the synagogue - in Capernaum - From Joh 6:26, to this verse, the evangelist gives us the discourse which our Lord preached in the synagogue, in which he was repeatedly interrupted by the Jews; but this gave him the fuller opportunity to proclaim the whole truth relative to his passion and death, to edify the disciples, and confute these gainsayers.
Many therefore of his disciples - So it appears that he had many more than the twelve, who constantly accompanied him.
This is a hard saying; who can hear it? - Who can digest such doctrine as this? It is intolerable: it is impracticable. There is a similar saving in Euripides, to the σκληρος λογος of the evangelist. Ποτερα θελεις σοι μαλθακα ψευδη λεγω, η σκληρ' αληθη, φραζε; Tell me whether thou wouldst that I should speak unto thee, a Soft Lie, or the Harsh Truth? The wicked word of a lying world is in general better received than the holy word of the God of truth!
Jesus knew in himself - By giving them this proof that he knew their hearts he also proved that he was God; that he could not be deceived himself, and that it was impossible for him to deceive any; consequently, that the doctrine he taught them must be the truth of God.
If ye shall see the Son of man ascend - Ye need not be stumbled at what I say concerning eating my flesh and drinking my blood, for ye shall soon have the fullest proof that this is figuratively spoken, for I shall ascend with the same body with which I shall arise from the dead; therefore my flesh and blood, far from being eaten by men, shall not even be found among them.
It is the spirit that quickeneth - It is the spiritual sense only of my words that is to be attended to, and through which life is to be attained, Co2 3:6. Such only as eat and drink what I have mentioned, in a spiritual sense, are to expect eternal life.
The flesh profiteth nothing - If ye could even eat my flesh and drink my blood, this would not avail for your salvation. These words contain a caution that the hearers should not understand his words in the strict literal sense, as if his body were really Bread, and as if his flesh and blood were really to be eaten and drank.
The words that I speak - Or, I have spoken. Instead of λαλω, I speak, I read λελαληκα, I have spoken, on the authority of BCDKLT, thirteen others; the Syriac, all the Arabic, all the Persic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Gothic, Slavonic, Vulgate, all the Itala; Origen, Eusebius, Athanasius, Basil, Cyril, Chrysostom, Tertullian, Ambrosias, Augustin, Gaudentius, and Vigilius Taps. This is an important reading, and plainly shows that our Lord's words here do not refer to any new point of doctrine which he was then inculcating, but to what he had spoken concerning his being the living bread, and concerning the eating of his flesh, and drinking of his blood, in the preceding verses.
Are spirit, and they are life - As my words are to be spiritually understood, so the life they promise is of a spiritual nature: see Bishop Pearce.
But there are some of you that believe not - This is addressed to Judas, and to those disciples who left him: Joh 6:66.
And who should betray him - Or, who would deliver him up. Because he knew all things; he knew from the first, from Judas's call to the apostleship, and from eternity, (if the reader pleases), who it was who would (not should) deliver him up into the hands of the Jews. Should, in the apprehension of most, implies necessity and compulsion; would implies that he was under the influence of his own free will, without necessity or constraint. The former takes away his guilt: for what a man is irresistibly compelled to do, by the supreme authority of God, he cannot avoid; and therefore to him no blame can attach: but Judas having acted through his own free will, abusing his power, and the grace he had received, he was guilty of the murder of an innocent man, and deserved the perdition to which he went.
Therefore said I unto you - Joh 6:44. See the note there.
Except it were given unto him - None can come at first, unless he be drawn by the Father; and none can continue, unless he continue under those sacred influences which God gives only to those who do not receive his first graces in vain. St. Augustin himself grants that it was the sole fault of these disciples that they did not believe, and were saved. Quare non Poterant credere, si a me quaeratur, cito respondeo, quia Nolebant. If I be asked why these could not believe, I immediately answer, because they Would Not. Aug. Tract. 53, in Joan.
Many of his disciples went back - They no longer associated with him, nor professed to acknowledge him as the Messiah. None of these were of the twelve. Christ had many others who generally attended his ministry, and acknowledged him for the Messiah.
Will ye also go alway? - Or, Do Ye also desire, etc. These words are very emphatical. Will You abandon me? - you, whom I have distinguished with innumerable marks of my affection - you, whom I have chosen out of the world to be my companions, - you, to whom I have revealed the secrets of the eternal world - you, who have been witnesses of all my miracles - you, whom I intend to seat with me on my throne in glory; will You go away? Reader, in what state art thou? Hast thou gone back from Christ, or art thou going back? Wilt thou go? Thou, whom he has redeemed by his blood - thou, whom he has upheld by his power, and fed by his providence - thou, into whose wounded soul he has poured the balm of pardoning mercy - thou, whom he has adopted into the heavenly family - thou, whom he has comforted in so many tribulations and adversities - thou, whose multiplied offenses he has freely and fully pardoned; wilt thou go away?
Simon Peter answered - With his usual zeal and readiness, speaking in behalf of the whole, To whom shall we go? Where shall we find a more gracious master - a more powerful Redeemer - a more suitable Savior? Thou alone hast the words of eternal life. None can teach the doctrine of salvation but thyself; and none can confer the gift of eternal life but thou alone. Reader, let me ask, whither art thou going? Has the world - the devil - the flesh - the words of eternal life? Art thou turning thy back upon God and Christ? For thy zealous services, what has Satan to give thee? Death! hell! and eternal misery! O stop! Cleave to Jesus; he will give thee that happiness which, in vain, thou seekest in the pleasures of sin.
We believe - On the authority of thy word; and are sure - have known, εγνωκαμεν, by the evidence of thy miracles, that thou art the Christ, the promised Messiah. And we belyfath and witen that thu eart Crist Godes Son. Anglo-Saxon. How near is the mother to the daughter tongue!
Instead of Christ the Son of the living God, some excellent MSS., BCDL, and others, read ὁ αγιος του Θεου, the holy one of God; and this reading Griesbach has received into the text, leaving out του ζωντος, the living. Χριστος, and ἁγιος convey nearly the same meaning; but the Ethiopic, as usual, retains both. Του ζωντες is omitted by BCDL, H, the Coptic, Sahidic, Armenian, later Persic, Vulgate, all the Itala but one, and by the Anglo-Saxon; which last Griesbach has not noticed.
Have not I chosen you twelve - Have I not, in an especial manner, called you to believe in my name, and chosen you to be my disciples and the propagators of my doctrine! Nevertheless, one of you is a devil, or accuser, enlisted on the side of Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning.
He spake of Judas - for he it was that should betray him - Οὑτος γαρ ημελλεν αυτον παραδιδοναι, He who was about to deliver him up. By referring to this matter so often, did not our blessed Lord intend to warn Judas? Was not the evil fully exposed to his view? And who dare say that it was impossible for him to avoid what he had so often been warned against? When the temptation did take place, and his heart, in purpose, had brought forth the sin, might he not have relented, fallen at his injured master's feet, acknowledge his black offense, and implored forgiveness? And surely his most merciful Lord would have freely pardoned him.
1. On the subject of the disciples sailing off without Christ, and the storm that overtook them, it may be necessary to make a few observations, chiefly for the encouragement of the laborers in God's vineyard. It was the duty of the disciples to depart at the commandment of the Lord, though the storm was great, and the wind contrary. It was their duty to tug at the oar, expecting the appearing of their Lord and master. So it is the duty of the ministers of Christ to embark, and sail even into the sea of persecution and dangerous trial, in order to save souls. There may be darkness for a time - they must row. The waves may rise high - they must row on. The wind may be contrary - still they must tug at the oar. Jesus will appear, lay the storm, and calm the sea, and they shall have souls for their hire. The vessel will get to land, and speedily too. There are particular times in which the Lord pours out his Spirit, and multitudes are quickly convinced and converted. "Alas!" says one, "I see no fruit of my labor; no return of my prayers and tears." Take courage, man; tug on; thou shalt not labor in vain, nor spend thy strength for nought. What he does thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter. Great grace, and great peace await thee; take courage, and tug on!
2. When a man forsakes the living God, and gives way to avarice, which appears to have been the case with Judas, he is fit for any thing in which Satan may choose to employ him. Beware of the love of money! The cursed lust of gold induced a disciple of Christ to betray his God: and has it not been the ruin of millions since? Few people love money merely for its own sake: they love it because it can provide them with the necessaries, conveniences, and comforts of life; those who have not God for their portion incessantly long after these things, and therefore are covetous. While a man watches unto prayer, and abides in the love of Christ Jesus the Lord, so long he is safe, for he is contented with the lot which God has given him in life. Reader, art thou like Judas (in his best state) put in trust for the poor, or for the Church of Christ. Do not covet; and take heed that thou grudge not; nor permit thy heart to be hardened by repeated sights and tales of wo. Thou art but a steward; act faithfully, and act affectionately. Because the ointment that prefigured the death of our Lord was not applied just as Judas would have it, he took offense; betrayed and sold his master; saw and wished to remedy his transgression; despaired and hanged himself. Behold the fruit of covetousness! To what excesses and miseries the love of money may lead, God alone can comprehend. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.