John 6:30
They said therefore to him, What sign show you then, that we may see, and believe you? what do you work?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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?

John 6:30-31. They said, What sign showest thou — What miracle dost thou work; that we may see and believe thee? — Since thou requirest us to give thee credit, and to regard thee as invested with a higher character than has been claimed by any one before, produce thy credentials; give some evidence of a superior kind to what has been done by others. Thus these unreasonable men speak, though they had just before seen the astonishing miracle of the loaves and fishes, one of the most extraordinary displays of creating power that could well be conceived, and though several of them lived in the neighbourhood of Capernaum, where he had long multiplied his wonders! But the greatest miracles are lost on persons who are blinded by prejudice, and whose minds are earthly, sensual, and devilish! The views and opinions, however, of those that speak to Christ in this discourse, are so various, (compare John 6:34; John 6:41-42,) and the evangelist so expressly declares that there was a debate between some and others of them, (John 6:52,) that it would be wrong to imagine these to have been the perverse and ungrateful sentiments of the whole multitude, who had followed him with so much eagerness from place to place, for several days. Our fathers did eat manna — By extolling the miracle of the manna, and by calling it bread from heaven, and by insinuating that it was Moses’s miracle, the Jews endeavoured to disparage both Christ’s mission and his miracle of the loaves, which they affected to despise, as no miracle in comparison. It was only a single meal of terrestrial food, at which nine or ten thousand had been fed: whereas Moses with celestial food, fed the whole Jewish nation, in number upward of two millions, and that not for a day, but during the space of forty years in the wilderness.6:28-35 Constant exercise of faith in Christ, is the most important and difficult part of the obedience required from us, as sinners seeking salvation. When by his grace we are enabled to live a life of faith in the Son of God, holy tempers follow, and acceptable services may be done. God, even his Father, who gave their fathers that food from heaven to support their natural lives, now gave them the true Bread for the salvation of their souls. Coming to Jesus, and believing on him, signify the same. Christ shows that he is the true Bread; he is to the soul what bread is to the body, nourishes and supports the spiritual life. He is the Bread of God. Bread which the Father gives, which he has made to be the food of our souls. Bread nourishes only by the powers of a living body; but Christ is himself living Bread, and nourishes by his own power. The doctrine of Christ crucified is now as strengthening and comforting to a believer as ever it was. He is the Bread which came down from heaven. It denotes the Divinity of Christ's person and his authority; also, the Divine origin of all the good which flows to us through him. May we with understanding and earnestness say, Lord, evermore give us this Bread.What sign showest thou? - On the word sign, compare the notes at Isaiah 7:14. What miracle dost thou work to prove that thou art the Messiah? They had just seen the miracle of the loaves in the desert, which was sufficient to show that he was the Messiah, and it would seem from the preceding narrative that those who crossed the lake to see him supposed that he was the Christ. It seems wonderful that they should so soon ask for further evidence that he was sent from God; but it is not improbable that this question was put by other Jews, rulers of the synagogue, who happened to be present, and who had not witnessed his miracles. Those men were continually asking for signs and proofs that he was the Messiah. See Matthew 12:38-39; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:29. As Jesus claimed the right of teaching them, and as it was manifest that he would teach them differently from what they supposed Moses to teach, it was natural to ask him by what authority he claimed the right to be heard. 30. What sign showest thou, &c.—But how could they ask "a sign," when many of them scarce a day before had witnessed such a "sign" as had never till then been vouchsafed to men; when after witnessing it, they could hardly be restrained from making Him a king; when they followed Him from the one side of the lake to the other; and when, in the opening words of this very discourse, He had chided them for seeking Him, "not because they saw the signs," but for the loaves? The truth seems to be that they were confounded by the novel claims which our Lord had just advanced. In proposing to make Him a king, it was for far other purposes than dispensing to the world the bread of an everlasting life; and when He seemed to raise His claims even higher still, by representing it as the grand "work of God," that they should believe on Himself as His Sent One, they saw very clearly that He was making a demand upon them beyond anything they were prepared to accord to Him, and beyond all that man had ever before made. Hence their question, "What dost Thou work?" They thought it reasonable, that he who brought forth a new doctrine into the world (such as faith in him was, they having never heard any such thing from their doctors the Pharisees) should confirm his mission by some miraculous operation. But this was a strange stupidity, considering the sign he had so lately showed them, of feeding five thousand with five loaves and two fishes. So it was manifest they sought for a sign, not to promote or confirm their faith, but merely to feed their curiosity; and what our Saviour said, Matthew 12:39, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, was truly applicable to them; and those words,

believe thee, eminently confirm it; for the aforesaid miracle speaking in him a creative power, and being such as was never wrought by any creature, they were obliged to believe him, without any further sign. God ought to be believed upon his bare word. They said therefore unto him,.... Seeing he proposed believing in him as the grand work of God to be done, and what is most acceptable in his sight:

what sign showest thou then, that we may see and believe thee? The people of the Jews were always requiring signs and wonders, and when they had one and another shown them, they still sought for more, and were never satisfied; see Matthew 12:39. These men had lately seen various signs and miracles of Christ, as healing the sick, and feeding live thousand of them, and more, with five loaves, and two fishes; and though, for the time present, these had some influence upon them, and they were ready to believe he was that prophet; yet now, at least some of them, begin to retract, and signify, that unless some other, and greater signs were shown, they should not believe in him as the Messiah:

what dost thou work? more than others, or Moses. They seem to make light of the miracle of the loaves, or at least require some greater sign and miracle, to engage their belief in him as the Messiah; and as they were lovers of their bellies, and expected dainties in the times of the Messiah, they seem to move for, and desire miracles of that kind to be wrought; and which sense the following words confirm.

{6} They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?

(6) The spiritual virtue of Christ is condemned by those that desire earthly miracles.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
John 6:30-31. Οὖν] What doest thou, therefore, as a sign? for they knew well enough that by ὃν ἀπέστ. ἐκεῖνος He meant Himself, and that, too, as Messiah. Hence also the emphatic σύ, thou, on thy part. The question itself does not imply that it is asked by those who had not seen the miraculous feeding the day before (Grotius), or by prominent Jews in the synagogue (Kuinoel, Klee). Moreover, this demand for a sign after the miracle of the feeding must not be regarded as contradictory and unhistorical (Kern, B. Bauer, Weisse), nor as a proof of the non-Johannine origin (Schweizer), or non-miraculous procedure (Schenkel), in the account of the feeding. For the questioners, in their ἀναίσθησις (Chrysostom), indicate at once (John 6:31), that having been miraculously fed with earthly food, they, in their desire for miracles, require something higher to warrant their putting the required faith in Him, and expect a sign from heaven, heavenly bread, such as God had given by Moses. Thus they explain their own question, which would be strange only if John 6:31 did not immediately follow. Their eagerness for Messianic miraculous attestation (John 6:14-15) had grown during the night. This also against De Wette, who, with Weisse, concludes that this discourse was not originally connected with the miraculous feeding; see, on the contrary, Brückner.

τί ἐργάζῃ] a sarcastic retorting of the form of the requirement given, John 6:27; John 6:29. Not to be explained as if it were τί σὺ ἐργ. (De Wette), but what dost thou perform (as σημεῖον)?

γεγραμμ.] a free quotation of Psalm 78:24; comp. Psalm 105:40, Exodus 16:4, where the subject of ἔδωκεν is God, but by the medium of Moses, this being taken for granted as known (John 6:32). The Jews regarded the dispensing of the manna as the greatest miracle (see Lampe). As they now regarded Moses as in general a type of Christ (Schoettgen, Hor. II. p. 475), they also hoped in particular, “Redemtor prior descendere fecit pro iis manna; sic et redemtor posterior descendere faciet manna.” Midrash Coheleth, f. 86. 4.30. What sign shewest thou then] ‘Thou’ is emphatic: ‘what dost Thou on Thy part?’ They quite understand that in the words ‘Him whom He hath sent’ Jesus is claiming to be the Messiah; but they want a proof. Their enthusiasm had cooled, their curiosity had increased, during the night. After all, the feeding of the 5000 was less marvellous than the manna, and Moses was not the Messiah. Note that whereas He uses the strong form, ‘believe on Him,’ they use the weak one, ‘believe Thee.’ See last note on John 1:12.

what dost thou work] They purposely choose the very word that He had used in John 6:29. The emphasis is on ‘what.’John 6:30. Σύ, Thou) So they speak in antithesis to Moses, who gave them the manna, and had this sign [to show in proof of his mission]; and they demand from Jesus something greater and more immediately from heaven; which they do not think can be given by Him, nor do they recognise Jesus as one greater than Moses.—σημεῖον, sign) The seal, which is mentioned at verse 27, “Him hath God the Father sealed,” they do not recognise.—ἴδωμεν, we may see) that Thou hast been sent by God. And yet they had seen, John 6:14, “They had seen the miracle that Jesus did” [the feeding of the 5000]; 26, 36, “Ye also have seen Me, and believe not.”—σοί, Thee) Jesus had said, John 6:29, “That ye believe on Him whom God hath sent,” [i.e.] on Me. It is often all the same to say, I believe in Thee, and I believe Thee: but here the Jews lower the sentiment of the Lord.[127]—τὶ ἐργάζῃ, what dost Thou work) They reply to the Lord, retorting His own word, to work [ἐργάζεσθε, John 6:27]. Thou desirest us, say they, to work [labour, John 6:27]: what then dost Thou work Thyself?

[127]
Impair it by using the less forcible σοί, instead of εἰς σέ.—E. and T.Verse 30. - They said therefore to him, What then doest thou as a sign that we may see and believe thee? There is a kind of irony in the inquiry, "What doest thou?" There is at least some ironical mystification of the words of Jesus, "If we have not seen, as thou sayest, the sign, which we thought sufficient to induce us to hail thee as our Prophet-King, what sign wilt thou give us now? If we are to believe on thee, what sign art thou ready to show now that we may see it, and believe thee, i.e. take thy word as trustworthy, and so begin to consider whether it will be safe to believe in, to entrust ourselves to, thee?" It has been the peculiarity of the Jewish mind in all ages to seek after a sign, to desire some irresistible reason for invincible faith. In certain stages of immaturity and states of unrest we passionately ask for signs even now - for something more than silent words, for more than past memories, for some voice out of heaven, some gleams of glory, that "we may see and believe." These frames of mind are no whit more reprehensible than the Greek demand for unanswerable argument, for logical harmony, or for sure demonstration. They said to him, What dost thou work? How wilt thou vindicate thy demand for such implicit trust? This very question has been made into a reason for breaking all historic connection between the miracle of the feeding and the dialogue and discourse before us (Grotius, Kuinoel, B. Bauer, Weisse, and Schenkel). It is, however, clear that they were still revolving the work of the past day, which Jesus had depreciated per se, and which, apart from the higher lesson it might have conveyed to them, and apart from the wrong conclusion they had been drawing from it, grievously perplexed them, and seemed insufficient to establish the new claim of Jesus. They, too, begin to depreciate it in comparison with a corresponding sign which Moses had wrought for their fathers. Verily if Moses had been the mediator of the portentous sign of the manna, if Moses had been its real anther, it was a much greater sign than what they witnessed at Bethsaida. For forty years the miraculous bread had been lavished upon them. Daily and weekly it proved its supernatural character. In quantity, quality, prolongation, and renewal day by day, and in its cessation when they ate the fresh corn of Canaan, they not unnaturally saw something immeasurably more vast and imposing than the offer of a single meal to a little company of five thousand men. Christ had wrought a τέρας, an ἔργον, but they had not seen the real σημεῖον involved in it. He himself suggested that something entirely different from that meal, and different from their conclusions concerning it was the true "sign." Let him work the same adequate sign. They are not repudiating all knowledge of the feeding of the five thousand, nor revealing their ignorance of it. They are thrown back on their ingrained passion for supernatural proof, not as yet satisfied by what Christ had done. Therefore

Since He had claimed to be the One sent of God.

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