John 6:26
Jesus answered them and said, Truly, truly, I say to you, You seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
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(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.

6:22-27 Instead of answering the inquiry how he came there, Jesus blamed their asking. The utmost earnestness should be employed in seeking salvation, in the use of appointed means; yet it is to be sought only as the gift of the Son of man. Him the Father has sealed, proved to be God. He declared the Son of man to be the Son of God with power.Ye seek me, not because ... - The miracles which Jesus performed were proofs that he came from God. To seek him because they had seen them, and were convinced by them that he was the Messiah, would have been proper; but to follow him simply because their wants were supplied was mere selfishness of a gross kind. Yet, alas! many seek religion from no better motive than this. They suppose that it will add to their earthly happiness, or they seek only to escape from suffering or from the convictions of conscience, or they seek for heaven only as a place of enjoyment, and regard religion as valuable only for this. All this is mere selfishness. Religion does not forbid our regarding our own happiness, or seeking it in any proper way; but when this is the only or the prevailing motive, it is evident that we have never yet sought God aright. We are aiming at the loaves and fishes, and not at the honor of God and the good of his kingdom; and if this is the only or the main motive of our entering the church, we cannot be Christians. 26. Ye seek me, &c.—Jesus does not put them through their difficulty, says nothing of His treading on the waves of the sea, nor even notices their question, but takes advantage of the favorable moment for pointing out to them how forward, flippant, and superficial were their views, and how low their desires. "Ye seek Me not because ye saw the miracles"—literally, "the signs," that is, supernatural tokens of a higher presence, and a divine commission, "but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled." From this He proceeds at once to that other Bread, just as, with the woman of Samaria, to that other Water (Joh 4:9-15). We should have supposed all that follows to have been delivered by the wayside, or wherever they happened first to meet. But from Joh 6:59 we gather that they had probably met about the door of the synagogue—"for that was the day in which they assembled in their synagogues" [Lightfoot]—and that on being asked, at the close of the service, if He had any word of exhortation to the people, He had taken the two breads, the perishing and the living bread, for the subject of His profound and extraordinary discourse. See Poole on "John 6:25" Jesus answered them and said,.... Not by replying to their question, or giving a direct answer to that, which he could have done, by telling them that he walked upon the water, and found his disciples in great distress, and delivered them, and came early that morning with them to the land of Gennesaret, and so to Capernaum: but not willing to gratify their curiosity; and knowing from what principles, and with what views they sought after him, and followed him; and willing to let them know that he knew them, being the searcher of hearts, and to reprove them for them, thus addressed them:

verily, verily, I say unto you; this is a certain truth, and was full well known to Christ, and what their own consciences must attest:

ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles; of feeding so large a number with so small a quantity of food, and of healing them that needed it, Luke 9:11. Not but that they did regard the miracles of Christ, and concluded from thence he must be that prophet that was to come, and were for taking him by force, and proclaiming him king; but then they had a greater respect to their own worldly interest, and their carnal appetites, than to these, as follows:

but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled; they regarded their own bellies more than the honour and glory of Christ, and even than the good of their immortal souls, and the spiritual and eternal salvation of them: and it is to be feared that this is the case of too many who make a profession of religion; their view being their own worldly advantages, and not the spiritual and everlasting good of their souls, and the real interest of a Redeemer: hence the following advice.

{4} 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.

(4) They that seek the kingdom of heaven lack nothing: nevertheless, the gospel is not the food of the stomach but rather of the mind.

John 6:26. Ἀμὴνἐχορτάσθητε. In this pursuing crowd Jesus sees no evidence of faith or spiritual hunger, but only of carnality and misunderstanding. Ye follow me οὐχ ὅτι εἴδετε σημεῖα, “not because you saw signs,” not because in the feeding of the 5000 and other miracles you saw the Kingdom of God and glimpses of a spiritual world, ἀλλʼ ὅτι ἐφάγετε ἐκ τῶν ἄρτων καὶ ἐχορτάσθητε, but because you received a physical satisfaction. This gave the measure of their Messianic expectation. He was the true Messiah who could maintain them in life without toil. Sense clamours and spirit has no hunger.—χορτάζειν, from χόρτος, means “to give fodder to animals,” and was used of men only “as a depreciatory term”. In later Greek it is used freely of satisfying men; see Kennedy’s Sources of N.T. Greek, p. 80; Lightfoot on Php 4:12.26–34. Distinction between the material bread and the Spiritual Bread

26. not because ye saw the miracles] Better, not because ye saw signs. There is no article in the Greek; and the strict meaning of ‘signs’ should be retained. They had seen the miracle, but it had not been a sign to them; it had excited in them nothing better than wonder and greediness. The plural does not necessarily refer to more than the one sign of the Feeding; the generic plural.

26–59. The Discourse on the Son as the Support of Life

God’s revealed word and created world are unhappily alike in this; that the most beautiful places in each are often the scene and subject of strife. This marvellous discourse is a well-known field of controversy, as to whether it does or does not refer to the Eucharist. That it has no reference whatever to the Eucharist seems incredible, when we remember (1) the startling words here used about eating the Flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His Blood; (2) that just a year from this time Christ instituted the Eucharist; (3) that the primitive Church is something like unanimous in interpreting this discourse as referring to the Eucharist. A few words are necessary on each of these points. (1) Probably nowhere in any literature, not even among the luxuriant imagery of the East, can we find an instance of a teacher speaking of the reception of his doctrine under so astounding a metaphor as eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Something more than this must at any rate be meant here. The metaphor ‘eating a man’s flesh’ elsewhere means to injure or destroy him. Psalm 27:2 (John 14:4); James 5:3. (2) The founding of new religions, especially of those which have had any great hold on the minds of men, has ever been the result of much thought and deliberation. Let us leave out of the account the Divinity of Jesus Christ, and place Him for the moment on a level with other great teachers. Are we to suppose that just a year before the Eucharist was instituted, the Founder of this, the most distinctive element of Christian worship, had no thought of it in His mind? Surely for long beforehand that institution was in His thoughts; and if so, ‘Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you’ cannot but have some reference to ‘Take eat, this is My Body,’ ‘Drink ye all of it, for this is My Blood.’ The coincidence is too exact to be fortuitous, even if it were probable that a year before it was instituted the Eucharist was still unknown to the Founder of it. That the audience at Capernaum could not thus understand Christ’s words is nothing to the point: He was speaking less to them than to Christians throughout all ages. How often did He utter words which even Apostles could not understand at the time. (3) The interpretations of the primitive Church are not infallible, even when they are almost unanimous: but they carry great weight. And in a case of this kind, where spiritual insight and Apostolic tradition are needed, rather than scholarship and critical power, patristic authority may be allowed the very greatest weight.

But while it is incredible that there is no reference to the Eucharist in this discourse, it is equally incredible that the reference is solely or primarily to the Eucharist. The wording of the larger portion of the discourse is against any such exclusive interpretation; not until John 6:51 does the reference to the Eucharist become clear and direct. Rather the discourse refers to all the various channels of grace by means of which Christ imparts Himself to the believing soul: and who will dare to limit these in number or efficacy?

To quote the words of Dr Westcott, the discourse “cannot refer primarily to the Holy Communion; nor again can it be simply prophetic of that Sacrament. The teaching has a full and consistent meaning in connexion with the actual circumstances, and it treats essentially of spiritual realities with which no external act, as such, can be extensive. The well-known words of Augustine, crede et manducasti, ‘believe and thou hast eaten,’ give the sum of the thoughts in a luminous and pregnant sentence.

“But, on the other hand, there can be no doubt that the truth which is presented in its absolute form in these discourses is presented in a specific act and in a concrete form in the Holy Communion; and yet further that the Holy Communion is the divinely appointed means whereby men may realise the truth. Nor can there be any difficulty to any one who acknowledges a divine fitness in the ordinances of the Church, an eternal correspondence in the parts of the one counsel of God, in believing that the Lord, while speaking intelligibly to those who heard Him at the time, gave by anticipation a commentary, so to speak, on the Sacrament which He afterwards instituted.” Speaker’s Commentary, ii. p. 113.

The discourse may be thus divided; i. 26–34, Distinction between the material bread and the Spiritual Bread; ii. 35–50 (with two digressions, 37–40; 43–46), Identification of the Spiritual Bread with Christ; iii. 51–58, Further definition of the identification as consisting in the giving of His Body and outpouring of His Blood. S. p. 128. On the language and style see introductory note to chap. 3.John 6:26. Λέγω, I say) The people themselves did not know their own true character so well as Jesus now exhibits it to them. Up to this time Jesus had collected mere hearers; now, in the midst of the time of His ministry, He begins to make a selection, by means of His figurative discourse concerning His passion, and the benefit to be derived from it through faith.—οὐκ ὅτι εἴδετε σημεῖα, not because ye saw the miracles) They had not as yet been led by the miracles to faith: John 6:29, etc.: otherwise faith, and not the desire of food, would have prompted them to seek Jesus.—σημεῖα, miracles) in the case of the sick, as also in the case of the loaves: John 6:2; John 6:14, “A great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles on them that were diseased;—Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did—(in feeding the 5000)—they said, This is of a truth that prophet.”—ἐφάγετε, ye did eat) The people, anxious about food, were wishing that they might daily receive it in the same way; and they were now no longer, as before, John 6:2, attracted to Him by the mere sight of His miracles, but rather by the desire of being fed. Comp. Matthew 14:20, note [the fragments were on that occasion gathered up for future use as food, not, as the manna, merely for a memorial: the people were not to carry any away as a curiosity]. The barley harvest was immediately after the Passover; and immediately before the harvest, the price of provisions is usually dearer. Therefore, at that season of the year, His benefit conferred on the five thousand had been especially appropriate.Verses 26-36. -

(a) An offer of himself as veritable bread. Verse 26. - Jesus answered them; i.e. he met by response their question, but not after the fashion their curiosity might dictate, omitting any reply to their unnecessary inquiry, and even refusing to answer it. The method and time were of no real moment to his questioners. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs - in the sense I am desirous you should see those miracles of healing (ver. 2) or other wonders of yesterday, viz. as "signs," "symbols," of my higher nature or of my Divine commission. The first group of healings drew some of you to my side, not for my word, but for more healing; and though some others of you who ate off the bread said (ver. 14), "This is the promised Prophet that is coming into the world," you did not get beyond the outward seeming, the superficial phenomenon, you revealed by thus rushing to the couclusion that I was your Prophet and King, that you did not really discern the sign I gave, and ye are seeking me now, not because you have really seen "signs" - but because ye ate of the (those) loaves, and were filled up by this temporary supply of your daily want, expecting today some new, some more impressive, characteristic of the Messianic kingdom than yesterday. You are fastening on the outward, acting on the mere physical resources which you suppose me to possess. These are not the claims I make on your loyalty or obedience. The miracles (σημεῖα)

Both the insertion of the definite article and the translation miracles in the A.V. tend to obscure the true sense of the passage. Jesus says: You do not seek me because you saw signs. What you saw in my works was only marvels. You did not see in them tokens of my divine power and mission.

Were filled (ἐχορτάσθητε)

See on Matthew 5:6; see on Luke 15:16.

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