Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
[(1) JESUS IS LIFE (continued).
(b)His Incarnation is life for mankind (John 6).
(α)Food given to sustain the hungry (John 6:1-15).
(β)His body not subject to natural laws (John 6:16-21).
(γ)The multitude follow Him (John 6:22-25).
(δ)Teaching of Jesus (John 6:26-58):
The work of God (John 6:26-29);
The Bread of Life (John 6:30-50);
The true food (flesh) and the true drink (blood) (John 6:51-58).
(ε)The effect of the teaching—on the one hand defection, on the other a fuller confession of faith (John 6:59-71).]
The feeding of the Five Thousand is the one miracle related in every Gospel. See Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17, and Notes at these places, for the position in the narrative and the common incidents. Here it will be enough to mark the details peculiar to St. John.
The fact that this miracle of the Galilean ministry finds a place also in the record of the Judæan ministry, is to be explained by the discourse which follows. Here, as elsewhere, the principle which has guided the writer’s choice is that the sign is a teaching by work (comp. Note on John 2:11), and that those signs produce the fullest faith and life (John 20:31) which led up to the fullest teaching by word. We shall find, too (John 6:41), that the discourse is addressed to Jews of Jerusalem among others, so that the chapter, though belonging locally to Galilee, is really within the sphere of St. John’s narrative.
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.(1) After these things . . .—Allowing an undefined interval, which is filled up by the earlier Gospels. We need not adopt the purely arbitrary supposition that a portion of the Gospel between John 5, 6 has been lost, nor yet connect them in immediate order of time. For St. John the discourse is that for which the whole is recorded. The exact sequence of events is by him left undetermined.
Went over the sea of Galilee—i.e., crossed over from Galilee to the eastern side of the lake.
Sea of Tiberias.—Comp. John 21:1; but the phrases are not precisely the same. There it is simply “sea of Tiberias.” Here it is “sea of Galilee, of Tiberias,” the latter term being either an alternative rendering for Greek readers (comp. Note on John 1:28), or a limitation to that part of the lake which was opposite to Tiberias. We shall find reason to believe that the last chapter of the Gospel should be regarded as an appendix, and the present passage may mark the transition between the older names for the lake which meet us in the other Gospels, and the later name, which meets us for the first time in St. John, but was afterwards common in Greek writers. The town itself is named in the New Testament only in this John John 6:23. It was on the west of the lake, and is the present well-known Tabarîyeh. Built by Herod the Tetrarch, it was, in accordance with the Herodian policy of courting Rome, named after the Emperor Tiberius. Eusebius tells us that it was commenced in the fourteenth year of Tiberius, which is itself an uncertain date (comp. Note on John 2:20); but we may accept it as placing the building in the time of our Lord, and as explaining that the name of the town does not meet us in the earlier Gospels, while it has at a late date, and at all events for Greek readers, extended to the lake.
And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.(2) A great multitude . . .—This is explained by the facts (1) that the Baptist had been put to death, and that those who had followed him would now follow Christ; (2) that the Twelve had now returned from their ministry in the towns and villages of Galilee; (3) that the Passover was at hand, and that numbers would be flocking from Northern Palestine to Jerusalem.
Followed . . . saw . . . did.—Better, were following . . . were beholding . . . was doing. The verbs express a continuance of the actions. It does not mean simply that they saw these miracles on the west of the lake, and followed Him across it; but that He kept on healing the sick, and that the crowds kept on following Him. The usual caravan-road for the northern pilgrims was on the east side of the lake, and the throng would increase as He went.
And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.(3) A mountain.—Better, the mountain, or, perhaps, the hill-country on the east shore of the sea. See the parallel passages.
And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.(4) A feast.—Better, the feast. Comp. John 5:1. This is added by St. John only, and is not simply a note of time, but gives a key of interpretation to the sign itself, and to the discourse which followed.
When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?(5) The converse with Philip is also peculiar to this Gospel. (Comp. John 14:8 et seq.) The impression of the immediate antecedents of the miracle is different from, but not opposed to, that of the other narratives. They all represent the request coming from the disciples as the first step. St. John does not say it was not so They represent what took place as seen from the outer circle; he, from the point of view of those near to his Master. We may think of the group of disciples seated round Him, and of the first-called Andrew and Peter, James and John, and Philip (comp. John 1:40 et seq.) as closer to Him than the others, who come and speak to Him about the multitudes. While the wants of all are present, the wants of the individuals are not absent. There is something in the character of Philip which this occasion may test. To him is the question spoken which may yet have been an answer to their remark. For “saw a great company come,” read saw that a great multitude cometh. It is the vivid present of the crowd coming. “Whence shall we buy bread . . .?” or rather, Whence are we to buy bread? with the best MSS.
And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.(6) And this he said to prove him.—This gives us a glimpse into the educational method of the great Teacher. There is for Him no difficulty. He of Himself knows what He is about to do. But Philip had, we may think, been present at Cana of Galilee, and had seen the wine multiplied to supply the needs of all. Other signs had spoken to the eye, and a fuller teaching had spoken to the ear. How far had either spoken to the spirit? He had felt the Divine Presence in separate instances. Had he realised it as a law of life, holding for every need that could arise? The student has learnt individual facts, but has he laid hold of the principle which underlies them? The one is from without, and depends upon the teacher; the other is from within, and is the true education of the man himself. He has been taught; he is now to be examined.
Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.(7) Philip answered him.—The answer proves that Philip has not really learnt the lessons of the earlier teaching. The question does not suggest to him the true answer of divine sufficiency, but leads him to think of the human difficulty. He looks on the vast throng of people. At the lowest estimate, it would take the value of 200 denarii to feed them—in present money-value nearly £7; in actual labour-value nearly a workman’s yearly wage. The denarius is the value of a day’s work in the parable (Matthew 20:2 et seq.). In A.D. 14, on the accession of Tiberius, one of the causes of revolt in the Pannonian legions is the smallness of their pay, and one of their demands (Tacit. Ann. i. 26) is a penny a day. For Philip this large sum seems an impossibility. He states the difficulty, and leaves it.
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him,(8) One of his disciples.—Within the inner circle around Him—and this, too, is told us only by St. John—is another of the early disciples. He was one of the two disciples of the Baptist who first followed Jesus, and John’s own companion (John 1:40). He is always named as one of the first group of the Twelve (comp. Note on Matthew 10:2), and in some way was specially connected with Philip (John 1:44). Here, and in John 12:22 (see Note), they are named together, and also in the lists in Mark 3:18 and Acts 1:13.
There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?(9) Again the account of the eye-witness is the more full and life-like. All tell of the five loaves and two fishes. John knows that they are barley loaves—the ordinary black bread of the Galilean peasant; and that the loaves and fishes are not the property of the disciples, but of a lad or slave who has followed the crowd, in the hope, it may be, of finding a purchaser for them.
The word for “lad” is a diminutive occurring only here (not in the best text of Matthew 11:16), and in many MSS. is accompanied by “one.” The word may mean a servant, but it more probably means a child. One lad! What could he bear for so many?
Two small fishes.—Better, two fishes. This word, too, is rightly regarded as a diminutive, but it is not a diminutive of “fish.” The original root means to boil; thus the substantive is used, as in Homer, of boiled meat, and then of anything eaten as a relish with bread, and specially of fish. This diminutive is used in the New Testament only here and in John 6:11, and in John 21:9-10; John 21:13. A comparison of the passages will make it clear that St. John means by the word the ordinary relish of fish, which formed, with bread, the staple food of the people.
The whole force of Andrew’s remark, with its diminutive words, rests upon the smallness of their power to help, while Philip had dwelt on the greatness of the need.
And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.(10) Much grass.—This is an addition in this account. St. Mark, who also represents the impression of an eye-witness, tells us that the grass was green (John 6:39). We know from John 6:4 that it was at the time of the Passover—i.e., about our April, when the hill-country on the west of the lake would naturally be clothed with verdure.
So the men sat down.—The word (ἄνδρες) means men as such, as distinct from women. (Comp. Note on John 1:51.) St. Matthew tells us there were five thousand men besides the women and children (John 14:21; see Note there).
And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.(11) The better MSS. omit “to the disciples, and the disciples to.” It is included in the sense, but is not here expressed in word.
When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.(12) Gather up the fragments.—Again St. John connects immediately with our Lord what the other Evangelists relate of the disciples. It is from this passage only that we know that the gathering of the fragments followed His express command.
Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.(13) Comp. Note on Matthew 14:20.
Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.(14) Miracle.—Better, sign. (Comp. John 2:11.)
That Jesus did.—Better, that He did. The example is instructive, as showing how words were added at the beginning of a portion read in church. See, among other examples in the Book of Common Prayer, the Gospels for St. John the Evangelist’s Day (John 21:19), Quinquagesima (Luke 18:31), the Third Sunday in Lent (Luke 11:14), the Fifth Sunday in Lent (John 8:46), the Second Sunday after Easter (John 10:11).
This is of a truth that prophet.—This verse is peculiar to St. John. The reception or rejection of Christ is always present to his thoughts. He remembers that the effect of the miracle on the minds of those men, was that they were convinced that this was the Prophet whom they expected, and for whom they had before taken John the Baptist (John 1:21).
When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.(15) When Jesus therefore perceived. . . .—St. John has told us of the effect of the sign on the multitude. He knows also the reason of Christ’s retirement, while St. Matthew and St. Mark only state the fact that He retired to pray. They knew not that He wished to avoid that throng of people who thought of the Messiah as a temporal king, and would have borne Him with them to the great feast at the royal city. St. Luke does not contain this section, but comp. the question recorded by him in John 9:18 et seq., which grows immediately out of it.
A mountain.—Better, the mountain, or the hill-country (John 6:3). He withdrew again to the place where He was before.
And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,(16) And when even was now come.—Comp. Note on Matthew 14:15.
And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.(17) For “a ship,” the received text has, with some of the best MSS., the ship—i.e., the ship in which they first crossed. For “went over the sea,” read were going over the sea. The voyage is described as still continuing.
Toward Capernaum.—St. Matthew speaks more generally of the other (i.e., the western) side. St. Mark of Bethsaida, which was distinct from Bethsaida Julias, which was on the east of the lake. (Comp. Note on Luke 9:10.) For an account of Capernaum, see Matthew 4:13, and in this John John 6:59.
And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.(18) And the sea arose.—Better, was rising. The tense is still imperfect, describing the scene as it took place. The sea was then being agitated by the wind.
So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.(19) Five and twenty or thirty furlongs—i.e., about half their voyage. Josephus describes the lake as forty furlongs wide (Wars, iii. 10, § 7). Comp. Matthew 14:25.
But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.(20) See the same words in Mark 6:50. St. Matthew’s account is more full here, adding the trial of St. Peter’s faith.
Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.(21) Then they willingly received him.—This is doubtless correct as an interpretation, but it is too full for a translation. The Greek cannot mean more than, “Then they were willing to receive Him.” They are re-assured by His voice, and their fears cease. That they did receive Him into the ship is stated by St. Matthew and St. Mark, and is implied here. That the words may mean more than a “wish” to receive Him is shown by St. John’s usage in John 1:44; John 5:35; John 8:34.
And immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.—Better, . . . whither they were going. It follows from John 6:19 that they were at this time about half-way across the lake—i.e., from two to three miles from the shore. No such explanation as that they were near the shore, but in the darkness and confusion of the storm did not know it, is consistent with the plain meaning of these definite words. On the other hand, it is not necessary to suppose that St. John here adds the narrative of another miracle. Where all was miraculous this may well, indeed, have been thought so too; but the analogy of the miracles of our Lord does not lead us to expect the use of divine power to accomplish what was within the reach of human effort. It would on this supposition be difficult to understand why the earlier Gospels omit what would surely have seemed to be among the greatest miracles, and why St. John mentions it only in a passing sentence. The words appear rather to contrast the ease and rapidity with which the second half of the voyage was accomplished in His presence, before which the winds and waves were hushed into a calm, and their fears and doubts passed into courage and hope; with the first half, when the sea kept rising, and a strong wind kept blowing, and they rowed against it for five-and-twenty or thirty furlongs. The word rendered “immediately”—which is more exactly our straight-way—may find its full meaning in the straight line of the boat’s after-course, as contrasted with its being tossed hither and thither during the storm. The whole context seems to find its full meaning in the sense of difficulty and danger before our Lord was received into the boat, and in the sense of safety and peace afterwards. The Psalmist of the English Christian Year has expressed this in familiar words—
“Thou Framer of the light and dark,
Steer through the tempest Thine own ark;
Amid the howling wintry sea
We are in port if we have Thee.”
It is scarcely too much to think that the familiar words of him who is Psalmist of Jewish and Christian year alike were present to the mind of St. John—
“For He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind,
Which lifteth up the waves of (the deep).
They mount up to the heaven,
They go down again to the depths:
Their soul is melted because of trouble.
He maketh the storm a calm,
So that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they be quiet;
So he bringeth them unto their desired haven.”
(See the whole passage, Psalm 107:23-33.)
The miracle is followed in the other accounts by the healings in the land of Genesareth. (See Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56.) For St. John the whole leads up to the discourse at Capernaum. He has told how our Lord and the disciples have crossed again to the west of the lake, but the narrative at once returns to the multitude who have seen the sign, and for whom there remains the interpretation.
The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;(22) The people.—Better, the multitude. It is the same word which in John 6:5 is rendered “company.”
On the other side of the sea—i.e., on the eastern side. The writer’s starting-point is now Capernaum. In John 6:25 the same words mean the western side, the starting-point of the multitude being the scene of the miracle.
Save that one whereinto his disciples were entered.—Better, save one, with the best MSS. The addition has arisen from an explanatory gloss.
(Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)(23) Howbeit there came other boats.—This is a parenthesis to explain the fact that while on the previous evening they saw only one boat, there were now several. The multitude came in part from the west of the lake, and the boats crossed over in the morning for them. It is possible that a harbour or centre of merchandise is pointed out by “nigh unto the place.”
The Lord had given thanks.—This act had impressed itself upon the writer. Because the Lord had blessed the bread it was that the multitude had whereof to eat.
When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.(24) When the people.—Better, the multitude, as before. It is not necessary to suppose that the whole 5,000 crossed over. The crowd came probably in part from the eastern side, and many would continue their journey to Jerusalem (comp. John 6:2). If indeed we press the words of John 6:22, “the multitude which (still) stood on the other side of the sea,” they would include the remnant only.
Therefore saw.—Resuming John 6:22. The sentence is long and involved, and this has been, as we may expect, followed by some variations in the text. “Saw,” in John 6:22, should be interpreted of the previous evening, and the same word here of the day of their own embarking. They knew there was only one boat, and that the disciples had gone away in it, but Jesus had not. They expected therefore to find Him among themselves, but did not. Meanwhile, other boats had come across from Tiberias. From these they may have learnt that He was not there.
They also took shipping.—Better, they themselves entered into the boats.
And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?(25) Rabbi, when camest thou hither?—This discourse took place in the synagogue at Capernaum (John 6:59). They are amazed to find Him here. When and how could He have come? He had not gone in the boat with the disciples, and no other boats had crossed but those in which they themselves came. On the title Rabbi, see Note on John 1:38.
Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.(26) Jesus does not answer their question. There is an earlier sign than that about which they now ask, the spiritual significance of which neither they nor the disciples have realised (Mark 6:52). He does not satisfy their curiosity, but with the solemn “Verily, verily,” begins to reveal this hidden truth.
Not because ye saw the miracles.—Better, not because ye saw signs. There is no article in the original, and the common rendering “miracles” quite misses the sense. They had seen miracles and had felt their force as wonders; what they had not done was to enter into the spiritual significance, and see in them signs of the eternal truth. They regarded the whole matter from without. It was to them nothing more than an eating yesterday, which may be repeated to-day; or it may be He will allow them to take Him and make Him King now, though He did not then.
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.(27) Labour not for the meat which perisheth.—This is one of the instances in which the reader of the English Bible has in the margin a much better rendering than in the text. Work not shows the verbal connection with John 6:28-30, which is wholly lost in “labour not.” It will be instructive to compare the other passages in this Gospel where the word occurs: John 3:21 (wrought in God); John 5:17; John 9:4. Work not is better than “work not for,” by which the words have been sometimes rendered The sense is, “Work not out—let it not be the result of your constant working—to have food (comp. John 4:32) which perisheth; but let your work be one worthy of your endeavour, food which endureth unto eternal life, which food the Son of Man will give to you.”
For him hath God the Father sealed.—The emphasis of the original is seen better by preserving the order of the words, for Him hath the Father sealed, even God. (Comp. Note on John 3:33.)
Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?(28) This verse confirms the meaning given to the preceding words. They understand them in that sense. There are works for them to do which are appointed of God. What shall they do that they may work these works? They had seen Him doing mighty works, which clearly showed the power of God. Are there for them works of a like kind? What steps must they take that they too may work them?
Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.(29) This is the work of God.—They speak of “works,” regarding life as an aggregate of individual deeds. He speaks of “work,” regarding separate acts as the outcome of principle. His own works (John 5:36) made one complete work (John 17:4). They had one great work to do, which indeed seemed not a work, but which when realised would be the living principle of every work, and would be as food abiding unto eternal life.
That ye believe on him whom he hath sent.—Comp. John 5:24. To believe on Him whom God hath sent is already to have the spiritual life which is eternal. The contrast of the words comes to us across the discussions of many centuries, speaking to the angry waves which arise in men’s souls and bidding them be still. Faith and work, then, are one. As soul and body, they together make one life. The energy of every work is in the faith which links the soul with God; the outcome of all faith is in the act which links the soul with man. The work of life is faith; and “faith worketh by love” (Galatians 5:6).
They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?(30) What dost thou work?—They feel that His words are an assertion that He is the Messiah, and they demand of Him Messianic signs and works. Do they demand a sign who had seen the thousands fed, and would then have made Him a king? It was but yesterday that He was obliged to withdraw from the enthusiasm of the multitude. Do they today need a further proof? The answer is to be found partly in the fact that a feeling soon quickened is soon cooled, and that even the disciples had not learnt the true meaning of the earlier sign (John 6:19); and partly in the fact that He Himself had taught them since, that the work of life was spiritual and eternal, and that He too could give them that food. This seems to them a claim to a power in the world of spirit analogous to that which He had exercised in the world of matter. They demand proof of this power. Where is the sign of it? What is the work that He Himself does answering to the work of faith which He demands from them?
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.(31) Our fathers did eat manna.—He claims to be the Messiah; but the Messiah was to be greater than Moses, and the sign He has shown is less. The Messiah was to cause manna again to fall from heaven, as their Rabbis taught. They had eaten food which, if miraculously multiplied, was still the food of earth—the common bread and common relish—and this on the grassy sward not far removed from the habitations of men. Their fathers had eaten the manna which came direct from God, and was gathered from the granite rocks of the desert; and the Psalmist had told, and Hebrew children loved to chant, that “bread from heaven was that which He gave them to eat.”
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.(32) Moses gave you not that bread.—Again His solemn words bring to their thoughts the deeper reality which they are passing over. They had implied a contrast between their fathers and themselves, between Moses and Jesus. They expressed the glory of the Mosaic sign in the language of the Psalm; but there the gift is ascribed to God, and it is named to mark the darkness of their unbelief. The gift of God was ever the same. He it was who gave then; He it is who ever giveth. “You think of Moses; but Moses was the messenger of My Father. You speak of bread from heaven; but heaven is My home, from which I am come to give the true bread to the world, which in very truth is its sustenance.” (Comp., for the full sense of “true,” the Note on John 1:9.)
For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.(33) He which.—Better, that which. The identification with Himself does not occur before John 6:35. This verse is a fuller expression of the last clause of John 6:32, to which each term answers.
“My Father giveth” . . . . . “the bread of God.”
“The (ideally) true bread” . . . . . “giveth life unto the world.”
“From heaven” . . . . . “which cometh down from heaven.”
The tenses are present. (Comp. Notes on John 6:50-51.) The manna in the wilderness was but one instance of that which is constant. The Jewish nation was but an unit in the Father’s family. The bread of God ever cometh and ever giveth life, and the life which it giveth is for the world. Every word proceeding from the mouth of God, spoken in many portions and in many ways, was part of the true food for the true life of man.
Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.(34) Lord, evermore give us. . . .—Comp. Note on John 4:15. It would be better to read Sir for “Lord” here, as there. They, as the Samaritan woman, think of the satisfaction of physical need. They do not realise that man does not live by bread alone. The manna fell from heaven and gave life to their fathers; He has spoken of bread of God coming in the same way, and giving life. He has given them bread on earth, which they ate yesterday, but they hunger again to-day. Could He give them “evermore this bread?”
And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.(35) I am the bread of life.—Comp. again the conversation with the woman of Samaria. Here they have asked for “this bread,” the bread which giveth life, as distinct from that which perisheth. It is now present with them. He is that bread, whose characteristic is life. He is the Word of God, revealing God to man, teaching the eternal truths which are the life of the spirit just as bread is of the body.
He that cometh to me . . . he that believeth on me.—The natural bread satisfied no need unless it was appropriated and eaten. Prompted by hunger, they had taken into hand and mouth the loaves He had given them, and were filled. The same law holds for the spiritual bread. It is taken by him who comes to Christ; it is eaten by him who believes on Him, and it satisfies every need. It sustains the spiritual life in strength, and refreshes it in weariness. The bread of life giveth a principle of life, and he who hungereth and thirsteth for it shall also be filled, but with that which abideth, so that he shall never hunger and shall never thirst. (Comp. Matthew 5:6.)
But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.(36) But I said unto you . . .—There is no record of this saying. It was included in the thoughts of John 5:37-44, and was perhaps uttered then, or, more probably, to those whom He is now addressing. That there are many words of Christ which have not been preserved to us is certain. (Comp. Notes on John 20:30-31.) It is possible, but scarcely more than this, that the words refer to what He was about to say.
Ye also have seen me.—The “also” is misplaced. It is not “ye in addition to others,” but Ye have even seen Me. Ye have not simply been told, but have had the fullest evidence, amounting to actual seeing. (Comp. John 20:29.) You asked for a sign, that you may see it and believe (John 6:30); you have had much more, and do not believe. (Comp. Note on Luke 16:29.)
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.(37) All that the Father giveth me.—There is something startling in this power of the human will to reject the fullest evidence, and to remain unbelieving, after the proof which it has itself demanded as a foundation for its belief. In that assembly there are representatives of the differing stages of faith and non-faith in Him, which every age of Christianity has seen. Here are men in the pride of human wisdom rejecting Him because He does not fulfil their own idea of what the Messiah should be. Here are men of humble heart finding in Him the satisfaction of the soul’s deepest wants, and believing and knowing that He is the Holy One of God (John 6:69). Here are men of the Nicodemus type, passing from one stage to the other, almost believing, but held back by their will, which willeth not to believe. Here are men, too, of the Judas type (John 6:64; John 6:71), traitors even in the faithful few. For these varying effects there must be a cause, and in the next few verses Jesus dwells upon this. He finds the reason (1) in the eternal will of God, of whose gift it is that man willeth; and (2) in the determination of the will of man, of whose acceptance it is that God giveth. Men have seized now one and now the other of these truths, and have built upon them in separation logical systems of doctrine which are but half-truths. He states them in union. Their reconciliation transcends human reason, but is within the experience of human life. It is, as St. Bernard said, following the words of Jesus, “If there is no free will, there is nothing to save; if there is no free grace, there is nothing wherewith to save; “or, in words more familiar to English ears, “. . . . the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will” (the Tenth Article of Religion).
And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.—It is not easy to improve the English rendering of this verse, and there is a sacredness in the sound of the old, old words; but still, they convey to few readers the full meaning of the original. The word “come” is made to serve, within two or three lines, for three different Greek words. Literally, we should read, All that the Father giveth Me shall arrive at Me, and him that is on the way I will in no wise cast out: for I am come down. . . . The present tense of “giveth” should be noted. The giving is not of an act in the past, but of a ceaseless love ever in the present. The word “all” is the neuter of the collective whole, thought of without reference to individual action. It is repeated, and still with reference to the gift in John 6:39; while in John 6:40, with the thought of each man’s coming, it passes to the masculine, which marks out the separate life and faith of every unit in the mass.
It may be that the words “come” (arrive at) and “cometh” (is on the way), contrasted as they are in this verse, refer to the different positions of those who seek Him—to the ninety and nine in the fold, and the one who in the far distance hears His voice and comes in doubt and fear; but the context seems rather to point out the fulfilment of the Messianic kingdom as the Father’s gift, and the individual difficulties of, and individual help given to, those who strive to enter it, and shall in no wise be cast out. There were men among those who heard Him who in darkness and difficulty were feeling their way: these men were guided and strengthened by an unseen hand until they found it; there were men there who were being cast out but not by Him.
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.(38) Not to do mine own will.—Comp. John 5:30. He has spoken of the Father’s gift and of human action. He now once more identifies His own will with that of the Father, and yet states the fact of His possessing an independent will. It cannot be that He should cast out any one who comes. He knows, indeed, with the knowledge of human nature, how hard it is for men to read the spiritual through the sensuous, and what are the hindrances in the way of every seeker of truth. Added to this, He knows, with a divine knowledge, what is the infinite love of the Father, and He has Himself come down from heaven to fulfil heaven’s will in love to man.
And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.(39) And this is the Father’s will.—Read, with best MSS., And this is the will of Him that sent Me. Comp. Note on John 6:40. These two verses further set forth the divine will in the mission of Christ, first in relation to the Father’s gift, and then in relation to man’s acceptance. Both verses make emphatic the expression of that will in the mission, Him that sent Me; both refer its fulfilment to the final victory over sin and death, at the last day. Both state the will of God in a single clause, prefaced by the most signal proof of divine love in God revealed on earth, and followed by its end, in man raised to heaven.
The “all” is here neuter, referring to the whole extent of the Messianic work. (Comp. John 6:37.) Vast as this is, beyond our power of thought, including all times, and all places, and all nations, and it may be other worlds, it is the divine will that nothing should be lost. In the moral, as well as in the physical world, no force can perish.
Hath given me . . .—The past tense here, because the gift is thought of in its completion at the last day. (See John 6:37.)
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.(40) And this is the will of him that sent me.—Read, For this is the will of My Father. (See John 6:39.) The common text has inserted the opening words of these verses. There can be no doubt that the change indicated gives the original reading, and it will be seen that the relation of “Father” and “Son” is thus preserved.
Every one which seeth the Son.—We pass here to the individuals who compose the great mass of humanity. It is the divine will that no one should be excluded, but that he may have eternal life (comp. John 3:15; John 5:24): this is the Father’s gift in the person of the Son. The exercise of the mental power to see Him, the reception of Him and trust upon Him: this is man’s acceptance of God’s gift. The word rendered “seeth” means to look upon, to contemplate, and is the first step towards a true faith.
The analogy of the previous verse makes it probable that we should render the last clause of this verse, and that I should raise him up at the last day. The difference of tenses is important. The believer has now the principle of eternal life, but this is to be his in its fulness when he shall be raised up at the last day. This thought of the final victory is the joyous refrain of these verses (John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54). The spirit brought into communion with the original source of life becomes life in itself. This life is greater than death, and cannot be holden by it (comp. John 6:53).
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.(41) The Jews murmured at him.—Better, concerning Him, as in John 7:12; John 7:32. Here, too, it was “among themselves” (John 6:43). With the true spirit of objectors, they do not regard what He has since said in explanation, but fasten upon what they do not understand in its most striking form. Perhaps they have not listened to what has followed; indeed, the words imply that they were for some time talking to one another, and interrupting His discourse, and that this led to His answering them. They are the Jewish authorities, representing, and probably in part consisting of, members of the Sanhedrin. (Comp. Note on John 1:19.)
And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?(42) Is not this Jesus?—Here is something definite. He has spoken of being the Bread of Life, and of the Bread from Heaven. Putting together John 6:33; John 6:35; John 6:38, they in effect quote His words. But His natural descent and birth was in its outer facts well known, though all its mysteries were still stored in the mother’s heart, and waiting for the human life’s completion before they should be revealed. “Jesus Bar-Joseph” would be the name by which He was commonly called; Joseph and Mary had been known, probably, to many in the crowd; attention had now for more than a year been fixed on Him; and the genealogies would have been searched and local inquiries made. All these indications point to an ordinary life in a Galilean village. It is human, and therefore they think it cannot be divine. They can conceive a coming in the clouds of heaven: that would be a miracle and tell of God; but the birth of a child is no miracle! the existence of life itself—and such an existence, and such a life—is no sign! All this they cannot read. “How does He then say, I am come down from heaven?” (Comp. John 6:38 and Note on John 7:27.)
Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.(43) He does not meet their difficulty. It does not appear, indeed, that it was expressed to Him. He seeks to silence the interruption which their murmuring among themselves has caused, and resumes the discourse broken at John 6:40.
No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.(44) No man can come to me.—The subject is still the mystery of the varying effects of His revelation on the minds of men. These depend upon their present mental state, which is itself the result of acceptance of, or rejection of, divine influence. The Father which sent Him had, by law, and prophets, and worship, been preparing them. The history of each individual life had been a succession, in every conscious hour, of influences for good or for evil. The mind stood between these, and willed for one or other. He who day by day, with all his light and strength, however little that all might have been, had sought the pure, and true, and good—had sought really to know God—was drawn of God, and he only it was who could now come to Him whom God sent. Others were drawn of evil, because they had submitted themselves to its power. They had chosen darkness, and could not now see the light; they had bound themselves in the silken cords of sin, which had hardened into fetters of iron; they had lost themselves in the labyrinths of what they thought wisdom, and did not recognise the true and living way which was opened for them.
The word “draw” need not perplex us; and all the theories opposed to the width of divine love and influence, and to the freedom of human will and action, which have been built upon it, are at once seen to be without support, when we remember that the only other passage in the New Testament where it occurs in a moral sense is in the declaration: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” (John 12:32).
It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.(45) It is written in the prophets . .—i.e., in the Book of the Prophets. (Comp. Matthew 2:23; Mark 1:2; Acts 7:42; Acts 13:40.) The immediate reference is to the LXX. translation of Isaiah 54:13, but the same thought runs through other passages of the prophets, as Jeremiah 31:34, and Joel 3:1 et seq.
The words bring out the meaning of the Father’s drawing referred to in John 6:44, and point out the extent of the divine teaching by which “all” are taught, and the personal receptivity and effort by which “every man” hears and learns. The teaching is universal, but it may not be heard, and when heard may not be learnt.
Every man therefore that hath heard.—Better, Every man that hath heard, omitting “therefore,” with the best MSS.
Cometh unto me.—This is co-extensive with the previous hearing and learning. They who had listened for God’s voice would recognise His. They who had been God’s disciples would be His too. (Comp. John 5:46.)
Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.(46) But this hearing and learning of the Father was the preparation for, not the substitute for, the fuller revelation in the person of the Son. Once again He declares that “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath been the interpreter.” (See Note on John 1:18; and comp. John 3:13; John 8:38.) Every man, in proportion as he had been taught of God, would feel how little he knew of God, and there would be in him the yearning desire and the trained faculty to see Him who is of God.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.(47) He that believeth.—This thought gives a new force to what He has said in John 6:40. He there declared the Father’s will, that every one seeing the Son and believing on Him may have eternal life. No man had ever seen the Father, but the Son was then standing in human form before them, and this will was being accomplished, and for the believer eternal life was not only of the future but of the actual present, “He hath eternal life.” (Comp. John 3:15; John 5:24.)
I am that bread of life.(48) I am that bread of life.—Better, I am the bread of life. The words, which seem to them so hard to fathom (John 6:41), are only an expression of this truth in the form of their own demand (John 6:31). The essence of life is unseen; bread is the visible form which contains and imparts it. The invisible God is the source of eternal life; the human nature of the Son of God is the visible form which contains and imparts this to the souls of men.
Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.(49) Your fathers . . . and are dead.—Better, . . . and died.—The manna which their fathers ate (John 6:31) seemed to them a greater work than this which He has done. Its true relation to Him is shown in the fact that those who ate it afterwards died; whereas He is the true spiritual food for the world, and those who feed upon Him shall not afterwards die. That was manna, special in time and circumstance; this is bread, the true sustenance for all times and all circumstances. That seemed to them to come from heaven, and this from earth; but this outer earth-born form of flesh contains the true life, in the only way in which humanity could receive it. The life itself cometh down from heaven.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.(51) I am the living bread.—The words are again repeated (comp. John 6:35; John 6:48), but with a new fulness of meaning. He spoke before of bread which was “of life,” characterised by life, producing life. He now speaks of this bread as “living,” containing the principle of life in itself. (Comp. John 4:13-14; John 5:26). Once again, too, He answers their demand for bread “from heaven” (John 6:31). The lifeless manna fell and lay upon the ground until they gathered it, and passed to corruption if they did not. Each day’s supply met the need of each day, but met that only. He is the bread containing life in Himself, coming by His own will and act from heaven, living among men, imparting life to those who eat by coming to and believing on Him, so that it becomes in them a principle of life, too, which cannot die, but shall live for ever.
And the bread that I will give is my flesh.—The following words, “which I will give,” should be, probably, omitted, and the whole clause should be read—And the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world. The words are in every way full of meaning, and the history of their interpretation is a long chapter in the history of Christian doctrine. Their connection with the words used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper will be dealt with in Excursus C: The Sacramental Teaching of St. John’s Gospel. Their meaning for the immediate hearers is to be found in the thoughts which led up to them, and which they would suggest to a spiritually-minded Jew. They are, indeed, to be spiritually interpreted (John 6:63), and many, even among the disciples, feel it is a hard saying which they cannot hear (John 6:60); but the elements of the interpretation are to be sought in the Jewish mind. They have followed Him after a miracle which multiplied a few common barley loaves and fishes, and made them more than enough for thousands (John 6:22-24); He has rebuked the mere bread-seeking spirit, and declared to them the true food (John 6:26; John 6:29); they have demanded a sign from heaven like the manna (John 6:30-31); He has answered that the manna was the Father’s gift, and that He is the true bread from heaven (John 6:32-35); He has shown parenthetically the real ground of their unbelief (John 6:36-46), and again returned to the thought of the bread of life which they have murmured at (John 6:41-42), and which He has more fully explained (John 6:47-51). He now identifies the bread of which He has spoken with His flesh, and says that He will give that for the life of the world. This form of human flesh is, as bread, the means by which life is conveyed; it is the word by which the Eternal Spirit speaks to the spirit of man. (Comp. John 1:14, which is the only other passage in this Gospel, and Luke 24:39, of the resurrection body, which is the only other passage in the New Testament, where the word “flesh” is used of the person of Christ.)
These are the thoughts which have immediately led to these words; but many a chord in the Jewish mind ought to have vibrated to them. The emphatic “I will give,” whether it is repeated or not, refers perhaps to the contrast with Moses (John 6:32), but certainly to a gift in the future, and, therefore, not to the Incarnation, but to the Crucifixion. The great Teacher, whom many of them had heard, realised that the human form they now looked upon was the “Lamb of God” of Isaiah’s prophecy (John 1:36, Note). It was now the time of their Paschal Feast (John 6:4), when Jewish families were assembling to eat the flesh which told of the deliverance from Egyptian bondage and the birth of the nation’s life. Every day of Temple service told of flesh given in sacrifice for sin, and eaten in maintenance of the individual life. His words, uttered at this Passover, and fulfilled at the next, announce a gift of His own flesh as the true Paschal Lamb, as the sacrifice for the sins of the world, and as the sustenance of the true life of mankind.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?(52) The Jews therefore strove among themselves.—They have passed beyond the murmuring of John 6:41. They understand that He means, though His own words have not yet expressed it, that His flesh is to be eaten, and is thus to supply the principle of life. They contend one with another as to how this can really be.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.(53) Then Jesus said unto them.—This is hardly strong enough for the original. It is rather, Jesus therefore said unto them. The words follow upon those he has heard from them.
Some of them have spoken of eating His flesh. Others may even have pressed this to the reductio ad horribile. Eat His flesh! Shall we, then, drink His blood too? In no less than seven passages of the Pentateuch had the eating of blood been forbidden (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26-27; Leviticus 17:10-14; Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16; Deuteronomy 12:23-24; Deuteronomy 15:23); and we find in later times the strength of the feeling of abhorrence, as in 1Samuel 14:32, and Ezekiel 33:25, and in the decree of the first Judæo-Christian Council (Acts 15:29). In the fullest of these passages (Leviticus 17:10-14), the prohibition is grounded upon the facts that the blood is the physical seat of animal life, and that the blood maketh atonement for the soul. It was the life-element poured out before God instead of the life of the soul that sinned. Such would be the thoughts of those who strove among themselves as to what His words could mean; and to these thoughts He speaks with the “Verily, verily,” which ever expresses a spiritual truth that He alone could reveal.
Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man.—The words point more definitely than those which have gone before to His death. The blood is spoken of as distinct from the flesh, and in this is involved physical death. The eating the flesh would itself involve, as we have seen above, the thoughts of sacrifice and of sustenance, the removal of the death-penalty attached to sin, and the strength of life sustained by food. But the spiritual truth is fuller and deeper than this; and the true element of life in the soul depends upon such communion with Christ as is expressed by drinking the blood itself: that is, by receiving into the human spirit the atonement represented by it. and with this the very principle of life. They may not receive into the human frame the principle of animal life, but no man really has spiritual life who does not receive into the inmost source of his being the life-principle revealed in the person of Christ. This is to pass through and through his moral frame, like the blood which traverses the body, hidden from sight, but passing from the central heart through artery and vein, bearing life in its course to muscle, and nerve, and tissue. It is to traverse the soul, passing from the Eternal Life and Love, which is the heart of the universe, through the humanity of Christ, and carrying in its course life and energy for every child of man.
Life in you.—More exactly, life in yourselves. This is more fully expressed in John 6:56-57.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.(54) Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood.—The thought advances from the negative to the positive. The previous verse stated the condition without which they could not have life. This verse declares that they who thus eat and drink possess that life now, and that it is eternal. (Comp. Note on John 6:47.) The thought advances, too, from the “ye” of those immediately addressed to the “whoso,” which has no limit but the fulfilment of the condition. The word for “eateth” is a stronger word than that before used, meaning literally the act of dividing the food by the teeth; but this meaning is not to be pressed. It is simply the present tense, which describes the process of eating, and is the same word which is used in John 6:56-58, and in John 13:18. The sense of the word in the only other place in the New Testament where it occurs (Matthew 24:38) confirms this.
And I will raise him up at the last day.—The thought of the eternal life, which is the present possession of the spirit in communion with God, leads on once again to the fuller expansion of that life in the final victory over death. (Comp. John 6:40; John 6:44.)
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.(55) For my flesh is meat indeed.—Better, for My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. This verse further explains that he who eateth the flesh and drinketh the blood hath eternal life, for he has the true elements of life. It is an answer, too, to the question. How can this Man give us His flesh to eat? (John 6:52.)
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.(56) Dwelleth in me, and I in him.—Abideth gives the sense more fully. (Comp. John 14:2-23; John 15:4 et seq.; John 17:23; 1John 3:24; 1John 4:16.) It is one of those deeper thoughts which meet us only in the words of the beloved disciple. The union which results from the communication of life is not temporary, but is one that remaineth. By virtue of it we abide in Christ, and He in us. It is our home life, that of every day, and will be the life of the eternal home (John 14:2). (Comp. Note on John 5:38, and the contrast in John 3:36.)
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.(57) I live by the Father . . . he shall live by me.—The preposition “by” here is ambiguous, and it is better, therefore, to render the words, I live by reason of the Father . . . he shall live by reason of Me. For the thought of the Father as the original source of life, and as giving this principle of life to the Son, comp. Note on John 5:26. He that taketh the Son into his own being, in like manner receives this principle of life from Him.
This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.(58) This is that (better, the) bread which came down . . . i.e., of this nature, which He has expounded from John 6:32 onwards. The tense is now in the past, pointing to His historic coming, because He has asserted that He is the bread. (Comp. John 6:33; John 6:38.)
Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead.—Read, with the best MSS., not as your fathers did eat, and are dead.
The discourse ends with that which has been the text of it.
These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.(59) As he taught in Capernaum.—If we accept the identification of Capernaum with Tell-Hûm, which is in every way probable (comp. Note on Matthew 4:13), we have good reason for believing that modern discovery has traced out the foundations of the synagogue in which this discourse was spoken. It was a gift to the Jews by a devout Gentile (Luke 7:5), and as such, of greater architectural beauty than was common among Galilean synagogues. Corinthian capitals and a heavy cornice and frieze are among the ruins, and the traveller’s eye may rest to-day on the very ornaments which our Lord’s eyes saw there eighteen centuries ago. On one of the lintels of the door he may trace a sculptured pot of manna, and connect with it the thoughts of the manna which the fathers did eat, and died: just as in a Christian church he may trace the emblems of the bread of life, which a man may eat of and not die. A plan and details of the synagogue, with an account by Captain Wilson, R.E., will be found in the Second Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund (June, 1869). The same society has published a photograph of the ruins.
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?(60) Many therefore of his disciples—i.e., of the disciples in the wider sense; those who more or less fully were accepting His teaching, and were regarded as His followers. From John 6:64, the Apostles would seem to be included in the more general designation. In John 6:67 they are separately addressed.
This is an hard saying; who can hear it?—i.e., not hard to be understood, but hard to hear, a stumbling-block in the way of their faith. For the word itself, comp. Matthew 25:24. His meaning was, indeed, not read by them, but the literal meaning was painfully clear, and one to which they will not listen. (Comp. John 10:20.) They do not raise any formal objection to Him, but friends and companions who had talked together of the Teacher and His teaching before, talk again now, and many of them who have followed Him up to this point can follow Him no more.
When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?(61) When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured.—The tenses in the original describe the scene in the present: Jesus as knowing, the disciples as murmuring. The knowledge is in Himself, uninformed by them, and His teaching is addressed to the thoughts of their hearts. They were placing themselves in the position of the Jews (John 6:41), and were making the stepping-stone of spiritual knowledge, up which faith would have walked, into a rock of offence over which blindness fell.
What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?(62) What and if ye shall see . . .?—Our version adds the word “what,” as will be seen from the italics, but it rightly expresses the sense. Literally, we should read, If then ye should behold the Son of Man ascending up where He was before? The Ascension would be the proof of the coming down from heaven (John 6:58), which is part of the teaching they cannot now accept. The margin refers to the more formal statement of this in John 3:13. The reader should also compare John 20:17, where the Ascension is again assumed, and Ephesians 4:9-10. Comments on these incidental references by St. John to an event he does not record have been made too frequently without noting that, in each case, the speaker is Jesus, to whose thoughts this end of subjection to earthly laws, in subjecting them to Himself, was ever present. St. John, in his own narrative, nowhere mentions the fact of the Ascension, nor does he in any way refer to it. That he could write these words without doing so is an assurance of his own knowledge of the glorious sequel of the Resurrection, and of its unquestioned acceptance in the Church.
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.(63) It is the spirit that quickeneth.—The word “quickeneth,” though it has almost passed from everyday use, will probably hold its place in theological use, and convey for the most part the true meaning. If it is retained here, it must, however, be noted that it is a compound of the word rendered “life” at the close of the verse. “It is the spirit that giveth life . . . the words . . . are spirit and are life.” These words are immediately connected with the thought of the Ascension, which was to precede the gift of the Spirit. (Comp. John 7:39; John 16:7 et seq.). We are to find in them, therefore, a deeper meaning than the ordinary one that His teaching is to be, not carnally, but spiritually under-stood. They think of a physical eating of His flesh, and this offends them; but what if they, who have thought of bread descending from heaven, see His body ascending into heaven? They will know then that He cannot have meant this. And the Descent of the Spirit will follow the Ascension of the Son, and men full of the Holy Spirit will have brought to their remembrance all these words (John 14:26), and they will then know what the true feeding on Him is, and these very words which He has spoken will carry their lessons to the inmost being, and be realised, not simply in a spiritual sense, but as spirit and as life.
But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.(64) There are some of you that believe not.—Later, the word “disciple” became synonymous with the word “believer,” but there are those now following Him just as they would follow any Rabbi, and, regarding Him as a merely human teacher, they fall short of the faith which was the first qualification for true discipleship. They had heard, it may be, the Sermon on the Mount, and such teaching as that of Matthew 13. In part they could understand this, and therefore in part believed; but when faith was really needed, it was found not really to exist: for faith is accepting what is not demonstrable to the mere reason, and seeing what is invisible.
From the beginning.—This is a relative term, and is to be interpreted from the context. It means here the beginning of their discipleship. He saw in their hearts the varying kinds of ground on which the good seed fell, and in their acts and words the varying effects. There were hearts like the hardened wayside, but it may have been ploughed; like the stony places, but that shelving rock may have been broken through; like the thorns, but they may have been rooted up; and all may have become, as some were, like the good and fruit-bearing ground.
And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.(65) No man can come unto me.—Unless the fields had been prepared it was in vain to sow the seed. No effort on the sower’s part could make them receptive. The fact that they believed not, declared that their hearts were not prepared, but did not affect the goodness of the seed. This defection did not surprise Him. He had already used words which anticipated it. (Comp. Note on John 6:37; John 6:44.)
It will be observed that this verse follows in the teaching of Christ immediately on the first clause of John 6:64, the second clause being a statement of the writer.
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.(66) From that time.—The addition of the word “time” has given a definite and questionable meaning to the Greek, which is indefinite. “From that” probably means on that account, because of the words He had spoken. The actual departure was the result of the teaching, which tested their faith and found it wanting, and was at that time, not gradually from that time onwards. (Comp. Note on John 19:12.)
Many of his disciples.—Co-extensive with the same term in John 6:60.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?(67) Will ye also go away?—We have to think of the disciples grouped round Him, the Twelve—now a distinct body, and so well known that St. John names them for the first time without a note—being nearer to Him than the rest, and of these the first four (see Note on Matthew 10:2) the nearest. Many go away from Him. Men He had taught, borne with in all their weakness and darkness, watched as some light seemed to dawn upon them, hoped for, prayed for, lived for, and would die for, turn back. Yes; that heart, too, can feel the bitterness of disappointment. He looks at the Twelve close to Him, and says to them, Ye also do not wish to go away? The question expects the answer it receives. There He has hope still.
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.(68) Then Simon Peter answered.—The look may have been directed to Peter, or here, as elsewhere, his natural character makes him spokesman for the Twelve. And striking is his speech. “Go away? To whom? They had left all to follow Him, and find all in Him. The Baptist is not living, and they know no other teacher. Go away? How could it be, when His words are spirit and eternal life?” (John 6:63.)
And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.(69) And we believe and are sure.—Better, We have believed and are sure. (Comp. John 1:41-42.) Go away? The faith which first burned in their hearts has passed into the calm certainty of settled knowledge.
Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God, has found its way into this place from the confession of Matthew 16:16. The almost certain reading here is, Thou art the Holy One of God. They had heard this title ascribed to Him by beings from the spirit world (comp. Note on Mark 1:24), and it has been, perhaps, suggested by the present discourse (John 6:32; John 6:46). Like the title Messiah, or Christ, it marks out the consecration to His work. (Comp. John 10:30; 1John 2:20; Revelation 3:7.) The true reading brings out the successive confessions, which are certainly twice, and probably three times, spoken by Peter. This is the second, coming between that of Matthew 14:33 and that of Matthew 16:16. (See Notes at these places.)
Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?(70) One of you is a devil.—But even the brightness of His hope in them is not uncrossed by a shadow; and this shadow is seen in its fearful darkness by the light of the truth, which, like a flash of inspiration, has come to Peter’s heart, and has been spoken in the names of all. No human joy is for the Man of Sorrows unmarred. The very height to which these eleven have risen, through doubt and difficulty, in honest hearts and earnest lives, shows the depth to which one, with like power and capacity, like call and opportunity, had fallen. The order of the words is emphatic in the sadness which asks the question, Did I not choose you twelve, and of you one is devil? There was the same choice for all, and the choice made, as it is always made, from their fitness and promise for the work for which all were chosen. And of even twelve, one who was subject for hope then is beyond hope now. There may be mystery connected with this life of Judas which none of us can understand; there are certainly warnings connected with it which none of us can refuse to heed.
A devil.—The meaning would be more exactly given, perhaps, if the word were simply rendered devil, but this can hardly be expressed in English. See Note on Matthew 16:23, and, further on Judas, see Notes on Acts 1:16-25.
He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.(71) Judas Iscariot the son of Simon.—The best MSS. read, Judas, the son of Simon Iscariotes. On the name see the list of the Apostles in Matthew 10:4. If we accept the most probable interpretation of Iscariot as Ish K’rīoth, a man of K’rīoth,—and this is supported by the variation of MSS. in this place, some of which read “from Kariotes,” and the best of which, as we see, apply the title Iscariot to Simon—then Judas belonged to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:25), and is the only one of the Apostles who was not a Galilean (Acts 2:7). This connects itself with the antagonistic position of the Jews from Jerusalem.
That should betray him.—Not indicating that Judas was then planning the betrayal. (Comp. John 13:2.) This remark is made by the writer to explain the strong words of the previous verse.
Being one of the twelve.—Or, although he was one of the Twelve, the exact shade of meaning of the participle being defined by the context. It marks, again, the tragic contrast between what might have been expected and what was actually realised. One of the Twelve, devil! one of the Twelve, the betrayer!