John 6:62
What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
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(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.

6:60-65 The human nature of Christ had not before been in heaven, but being God and man, that wondrous Person was truly said to have come down from heaven. The Messiah's kingdom was not of this world; and they were to understand by faith, what he had said of a spiritual living upon him, and his fulness. As without the soul of man the flesh is of no value, so without the quickening Spirit of God all forms of religion are dead and worthless. He who made this provision for our souls, alone can teach us these things, and draw us unto Christ, that we may live by faith in him. Let us apply to Christ, thankful that it is declared that every one who is willing to come unto him shall be made welcome.What and if ... - Jesus does not say that those who were then present would see him ascend, but he implies that he would ascend. They had taken offence because he said he came down from heaven. Instead of explaining that away, he proceeds to state another doctrine quite as offensive to them - that he would reascend to heaven. The apostles only were present at his ascension, Acts 1:9. As Jesus was to ascend to heaven, it was clear that he could not have intended literally that they should eat his flesh. 61, 62. Doth this offend … What and if, &c.—that is, "If ye are stumbled at what I have said, how will ye bear what I now say?" Not that His ascension itself would stumble them more than His death, but that after recoiling from the mention of the one, they would not be in a state of mind to take in the other. Our Saviour by these words may seem rather to increase than to abate their offence. That which stumbled them was, his calling himself the bread of life; his affirming that he came down from heaven; that he gave life to the world; that the way to obtain this life was eating his flesh and drinking his blood. How doth what he now tells them any way tend to satisfy them? He now speaks of ascending up to heaven, and asserts that he was there before.

Answer. The former assertions were no way to be justified but upon this foundation, that though he appeared now in the form and shape of a man, and was indeed the Son of man, yet he was also God, the eternal Son of God: he therefore here plainly asserts, that he was in heaven before he appeared as the Son of man upon the earth; and descending from thence, did assume the form of a servant; and for a further proof of this, he refers them to what they were to see or hear (to know) within some few months after this discourse, (for this was after his third passover, which was to be the last year of his life), viz. that he should ascend up to heaven; which it is very probable that some of them did see with their bodily eyes; for he was in Galilee when he ascended, and Capernaum was a city of that province; and when he ascended, the men of Galilee stood gazing up to heaven after him, as appears from Acts 1:11, and had a revelation, that they should see him so come again, and descend from heaven, as they had seen him go up.

What and if ye shall see the son of man,.... Meaning himself then in a state of humiliation, and was taken for a mere man, though the true Messiah, and Son of God:

ascend up where he was before? for Christ was, he existed before his incarnation, and he was in heaven before; not in his human nature, but as the word and Son of God: and he intimates, that when he had done his work, and the will of his Father, for which he came down from heaven, by the assumption of the human nature, he should ascend up thither again; and which would be seen, as it was, by his apostles; and which would prove that he came down from heaven, as he had asserted; see Ephesians 4:9; and that his flesh and blood were not to be eaten in a corporeal sense; in which sense they understood him: and he hereby suggests, that if it was difficult to receive, and hard to be understood, and was surprising and incredible, that he should come down from heaven, as bread, to be eat and fed upon; it would be much more so to them to be told, that he who was in so mean and lowly a form, should ascend up into heaven.

What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
62. What and if, &c.] Literally, If therefore ye should behold the Son of man ascending where He was before? The sentence breaks off (aposiopesis) leaving something to be understood: but what is to be understood? The answer to this depends on the meaning assigned to ‘behold the Son of man ascending.’ The most literal and obvious interpretation is of an actual beholding of the Ascension: and in that case we supply; ‘Would ye still take offence then?’ Against this interpretation it is urged (1) That S. John does not record the Ascension. But it is assumed, if not here and John 3:13, yet certainly John 20:17 as a fact; and in all three cases it is in the words of our Lord that the reference occurs. S. John throughout assumes that the main events of Christ’s life and the fundamental elements of Christianity are well known to his readers. (2) That none but the Twelve witnessed the Ascension, while this is addressed to a multitude of doubting disciples. But some of the Twelve were present: and Christ speaks hypothetically; ‘if ye should behold,’ not ‘when ye shall behold.’ (3) That in this case we should expect ‘but’ instead of ‘therefore.’ Possibly, but not necessarily. The alternative interpretation is to make the ‘ascending’ refer to the whole drama which led to Christ’s return to glory, especially the Passion (comp. John 7:33, John 13:3, John 14:12; John 14:28, John 16:5; John 16:28, John 17:11; John 17:13): and in that case we supply; ‘Will not the sight of a suffering Messiah offend you still more?’

John 6:62. Ἐὰν οὖν, if then) ἐάν, if, has as the Apodosis to be understood, what shall be? [Engl. Vers. what and if, etc.] That is, there are far greater things, which will follow: if ye do not believe this, how would you believe those things, if I were to tell you them? (A similar passage occurs, ch. John 3:12, “If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?”) And yet, when ye shall see that, ye will acknowledge that the things which I have spoken are true; and ye will wonder, not at My doctrine, but at your own slowness of comprehension: ch. John 8:28, “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things;” Matthew 26:64, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”—ἀναβαίνοντα, ascending) See on ch. John 3:13, note, “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man, which is in heaven.”—τὸ πρότερον, previously) before that He descended.

Verse 62. - If it does put difficulties in your way, then how will it be if you behold the Son of man ascending up to where he was before? This unfinished and ambiguous sentence and query have been variously interpreted. Some have argued that our Lord here simply refers to the "resurrection;" that he told his hearers they would have an opportunity of observing that, after death, he would return to where he was before, that is, to the conditions of earthly life. The striking antithesis between "descending from" and "ascending" almost compels the repudiation of this view. Did Christ, however, mean to ask them whether, under the new condition of things, all ground of offence would not be taken away? or to imply that their faith would have to be put to a still greater strain, and that they would stumble at length irretrievably? Lucke, De Wette, Kuinoel, Meyer, chiefly urge the latter, and on the ground:

(1) That in John's Gospel the death of Christ is always looked at as his real glorification, and that therefore by ἀναβαίνειν, he was referring in his euphemistic fashion to his death in the true Johannine phrase as a going to God (cf. John 13:3, a return to the Father; 14; 16:5, 28).

(2) That John does not describe the Ascension as a physical fact. Meyer does not allow that John 3:13 and John 20:17 are sufficient with this phrase to justify such a reference to the great event referred to by Mark, Luke, and Paul, and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Against Meyer and those who agree with him it should be noticed that ἀναβαίνειν is never used for "death" of Christ. The phrases, ὑπάγειν τῷ Πάτρι, and ἔλθειν, etc., are used for this purpose. Moreover, when a phrase was wanted to denote the twofold idea of uplifting on the cross and ascension to the skies, ὑψωθήναι, is the word twice used in the Fourth Gospel (John 3:14; John 12:32-34). Moreover, if death could be realized as such a θεωρεῖν of glory and fulness of life, the offence of the cross, and scandal of participation in and dependence upon the flesh and blood of Christ, would be reduced and not augmented. To Meyer's objection that these Galilaean disciples would not see the ascending Christ, and therefore the supposition would be tantalizing, it is sufficient to reply

(1) that, in a similar sense, there was no reason to suppose they would see the Lord suffer and die upon the cross;

(2) that, as Christ Jesus was evidently "set forth as crucified" among the Galatians (Galatians 3:1), so these Galilaean disciples, through the vision of the apostles, would verily see the Son of man suffer, die, and ascend. Apart also from the inappropriateness of the word ἀναβαίνειν convey the subtle thought of the transfiguration of death as such, there was not, apart from resurrection and ascension to glory - which is the additional matter to which our Lord referred - any justification of the phrase, whereas it coincides decidedly with the expressions used of the pre-existing glory of the great Personality who, though calling himself "Son of man," yet consciously refers to his existence before the world was (cf. John 8:58; John 17:5, 24; Colossians 1:17). Again, the ἀναβαίνειν of these words stands in imposing antithesis to the repeated use of καταβαίνειν of the previous discourse. He had been sent "from heaven," "sent by the living Father," he had "come down from heaven," "to give himself and his flesh for the life of the world" and he now leads his disciples to suspend their murmuring at the form of his discourse. They may behold and see a greater marvel yet, such a losing of his humanity in God and glory, that they will be able to apprehend more fully what he means by eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Of course, there might be some who are so entirely obtuse to the conception of this close identification with him during the time of his manifestation in the flesh, that they will be still more powerless to receive the spiritual interpretation when, for believing minds, the idea would become clear. John recorded this discourse a generation after the mighty effects of the Resurrection and Ascension had been produced. We know that long before he presented these outlines the ideas presented in it had been widely diffused. St. Paul had spoken of Christ as "the second Man from heaven," as invested and clothed in a "spiritual body," as "the last Adam," as "a life-giving Spirit," and the Epistle to the Hebrews had represented him as "having passed through the heavens that he might fill all things. Whence came such august ideas about the Man Jesus, if not from himself? The offence of the cross has never ceased, and Athenians and many since have mocked at the story of the Resurrection and Ascension; but notwithstanding this, there is an ever-increasing multitude who from the day of his ascension till now have been finally convinced. They have understood, as they would never have done without such help, that it was possible, since he had passed through these heavens that he might fill all things, to hold the most entire and intimate communion with him, both as the God-Man and as the Paschal Lamb. Moreover, the prince of this world has been cast out and judged because Christ has gone to the Father. He has been lifted up, and is drawing all men to himself. When the Son of man in the continuity of his Person shall be beheld as ascending into the glory from which he in his Divine nature descended, then those who stumbled at the idea of intimate life-giving participation in himself will "come to see that the words can only be understood spiritually" (Moulton). The ascension of the humanity to the life and glory of the pre-existent Deity of the Son of God was a conception firmly grasped by St. Paul (Ephesians 4:10; Philippians 2:6-9), and must have been based on the Lord's own words. It is only by the exaltation of the man into God that we are able to participate in the Divine humanity. Weiss, unfortunately, cannot believe that there was any reference to the visible ascent to heaven, but simply to the termination of his earthly labours. The question, then, of ver. 62 is left to find its own answer and to give its own suggestion. But the interpretation here offered is strongly confirmed by - John 6:62What and if ye shall see (ἐὰν οὐν θεωρῆτε)

The question is marked by an aposiopesis, i.e., a breaking off of the sentence and leaving the hearer to complete it for himself. Literally, if then ye should behold, etc. - the completion would be, would not this still more cause you to stumble?

Ascend (ἀναβαίνοντα)

Rev., properly, renders the participle, ascending.

I speak (λαλῶ)

But the correct reading is λελάληκα, the perfect tense, I have spoken, or I have just spoken, referring to the preceding discourse.

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