After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
The Gospel Feast
I. From the beginning the greatest rite of religion has been a feast; the partaking of God's bounties, in the way of nature, has been consecrated to a more immediate communion with God Himself.
II. In order to make this feasting still more solemn, it had been usual at all times to precede it by a direct act of religion—by a prayer, or blessing, or sacrifice, or by the presence of a priest, which implied it. Such seems to have been the common notion of communion with God all the world over, however gained, viz., that we arrive at the possession of His invisible gifts by participation in His visible; that there was some mysterious connection between the seen and the unseen; and that, by setting aside the choicest of His earthly bounties, as a specimen and representative of the whole, presenting it to Him for His blessing, and then taking, eating, and appropriating it, we had the best hope of getting those unknown and indefinite gifts which human nature needs.
III. The descriptions in the Old Testament of the perfect state of religious privilege, viz., that of the Gospel state which was to come, are continually made under the image of a feast—a feast of some special and choice goods of this world, corn, wine, and the like—goods of this world chosen from the mass as a specimen of all, as types and means of seeking, and means of obtaining, the unknown spiritual blessings which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard." May we not regard this feast in a cold, heartless way; keep at a distance from fear, when we should rejoice. May the spirit of the unprofitable servant never be ours, who looked on his lord as a hard master rather than as a gracious benefactor. May we not be of those who went, one to his farm, another to his merchandise, when they were called to the wedding. Nor let us be of those who come in a formal, mechanical way, as a mere matter of obligation—without reverence, without awe, without wonder, without love. Nor let us fall into the sin of those who complained that they have nothing to gather but the manna, wearying of God's gifts. But let us come in faith and hope, and let us say to ourselves, "May this be the beginning to us of everlasting bliss."
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. v., p. 103.
References: John 6:5.—F. W. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 40; W. Bullock, Church of England Pulpit, vol. i., p. 265. John 6:5-14.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 471; W. Hub-bard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 107; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 227. John 6:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1605; H. Goodwin, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 133.
John 6:8-9The services of the despised
I. The lesson I would draw from the scene is, on the one hand, the lesson of Christ's own gospel to poor, humble, ill-endowed, ungifted persons, and at the same time the encouragement, the blessing, the multiplication which He gives to little things. These ought not, I think, to be fantastic or meaningless lessons for us. For the immense majority of us are neither rich, nor great, nor noble, but just such humble, unknown persons; and very few among us have more than little gifts to offer. By far the most of us have not ten talents to offer for Christ's use, nor even five talents; we have at the best but one talent, and perhaps not even that. Well, the world thinks everything of this, but God thinks nothing of it. When the Master comes He will not ask how great or how small were our endowments and capabilities, but only how we have used them. If we have not neglected our poor talent, or even fraction of a talent, we, no less than the most richly gifted, shall be thrilled with the words, "Well done, good—faithful servant!" which will atone for ever for all afflictions.
II. Do not let us imagine, then, that we are too poor, too stupid, too ignorant, too obscurely situated, to do any real good in the world where God has placed us. Christ loves the humble and accepts the little. Take but one instance—kind words. A kind word of praise, of sympathy, of encouragement—it would not cost you much, yet how often does pride, or envy, or indifference prevent you from speaking it. The cup of cold water, the barley loaves, the two farthings—how often we are too mean and too self-absorbed to give even these. And are we not to give them because we cannot endow hospitals, or build cathedrals, or write epics? Ah! if we be in the least sincere, in the least earnest, let us be encouraged. The little gifts of our poverty, the small services of our insignificance, the barley loaves of the Galilean boy on the desert plain, the one talent of poor dull persons like ourselves, are despised by the world; but they are accepted of, they will be infinitely rewarded by, Him without Whom no sparrow falls, Who numbers the very hairs of our heads, Who builds the vast continents by the toil of the coral insect, and by His grains of sand stays the raging of the sea.
F. W. Farrar, Sunday Magazine, 1886, p. 164.
References: John 6:9.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 281; Ibid., vol. ix., p. 187; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 37. John 6:10, John 6:11.—G. Huntington, Sermons for Holy Seasons, 2nd series, p. 147.
John 6:11This narrative falls mainly into two portions, both of which suggest for us some important lessons. There is first the preparations for the sign, and then there is the sign itself. Let us look at those two points in succession.
I. The preparations for the sign. Christ's preparation in making our poor resources adequate for anything, is to drive home into our hearts the consciousness of their insufficiency: "What are they among so many?" When we have once gone right down into the depths of felt impotence, and when our work has risen before us as if it were far too great for our poor strengths, which are weaknesses, then we are brought, and only then, into the position in which we may begin to hope that power equal to our desire will be poured into our souls. Note also the majestic preparation for blessing by obedience: "Make the men sit down." Sit you down when He bids you, and your mouths will not long be empty.
II. The sign itself. (1) It is a revelation of Christ continually, through all the ages sustaining man's physical life, for Christ is creator, our Christ is sustainer, our Christ moves the stars and feeds the sparrows. He opens His hand—and there is the print of a nail in it—and satisfies the desire of every living thing. (2) There is the sign and symbol of Him as the true bread and food of the world. That is the explanation and commentary which He Himself appends to it in the subsequent part of the chapter, in the great discourse which is founded upon this miracle.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Feb. 25, 1886.
References: John 6:11.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 89; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. i., p. 166.
John 6:12The Revised Version correctly makes a very slight but a very significant change in the words of this verse. Instead of "fragments," it reads, "broken pieces." The general notion, I suppose, is that the fragments are the crumbs that fell from each man's hands as he ate, and the picture before the imagination of the ordinary reader is that of the Apostles carefully collecting the debris of the meal from the grass where it had dropped. But the true notion is, that the "broken pieces which remain over" are the unused portions into which our Lord's miracle-working hands had broken the bread, and the true picture is that of the Apostles carefully putting away in store for future use the abundant provision which their Lord had made, beyond the needs of the hungry thousands. And that conception of the command, teaches far more beautiful and deeper lessons than the other.
I. We gather first that thought to which I have already referred as more strikingly brought out by the slight alteration of translation. We are taught to think of the large surplus in Christ's gifts over and above our need. Whom He feeds He feasts. His gifts answer our need, and over—answer it, for He is able to do exceeding abundantly above that which we ask or think; and neither our conceptions, nor our petitions, nor our present powers of receiving, are the real limits of the illimitable grace that is laid up for us in Christ, and which, potentially, we have each of us in our hands whenever we lay our hands on Him.
II. This command suggests for us Christ's thrift (if I may use the word) in the employment of this miraculous power. A law which characterises all the miraculous in both the Old and the New Testaments, and which broadly distinguishes Christ's miracles from all the false miracles of false religions, is this, that the miraculous is pared down to the smallest possible amount, that not one hairsbreadth beyond the necessity shall be done by miracle.
III. Not only does the injunction show us Christ's thrift in the employment of the supernatural, but it teaches us our duty of thrift and care in the use of the spiritual grace bestowed upon us. You have to use wisely, and not waste, the Bread of God that came down from heaven, or that Bread of God will not feed you.
IV. Finally, a solemn warning is implied in this command, and its reason that nothing be lost. Then, there is a possibility of losing the gift that is freely given to us. We may waste the bread, and so, some time or other when we are hungry, awake to the consciousness that it has dropped out of our slack hands.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, Dec. 24th, 1885.
References: John 6:12.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 336; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 116; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 318; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. v., p. 32; J. M. Neale, Sermons to Children, p. 234; E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. i., p. 401; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 215; R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. i., p. 274; G. Dawson, The Authentic Gospel, p. 219; H. Plummer, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 1. John 6:12, John 6:13.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 195.
John 6:17Note here—
I. Christ's thoughts about His disciples. (1) He leaves men, whether the world in general or His own people in particular, for a time in fear and danger. The text records an isolated act, but it is an act in the government of the Unchanging One. The principle of that act runs through all His administration. (2) His delay is not a proof of neglect. He yearns over a sinning, suffering world, and regards His own with more than a mother's love. His delights were with the children of men before His abode was among them. The visions which godly patriarchs saw were glimpses of His countenance, as He bowed His heavens in longing anticipation before the fulness of time. (3) Never and nowhere do they who wait upon the Lord wait in vain. Although to weary watchers the time seemed long, the coming was sure. He took our nature and dwelt among us. He followed these frightened Galileans over the troubled waters, and found them in the dark. Faithful is He that promised; He also will do it. To them that look for Him He will yet come, dispelling by His presence a thicker darkness, and calming a more terrible tempest by His word.
II. The disciples' thoughts about Christ. The storm and darkness made their hearts grieve; and all the more surely, therefore, did these hearts turn and point toward the mountaintop where Jesus, the Daysman, stood laying His hand upon God. They think not, they say not, If the moon should rise—if the gale should moderate—if the harbour were at hand; but if Jesus were here. Such single-eyed, artless truthfulness is sweet to His taste. The example of these Galileans is shown here as in a glass, that every mourner may thereby be encouraged to long for the presence of the Lord. When a deeper sea is heaving underneath and a thicker darkness closing round you, let your heart go out in truthful, fond desire to the Intercessor who trod then upon the mountain, and stands now on the steps of heaven's throne. He cannot withstand your appeal; He will come and will not tarry. Over these waters He will walk until He reach you. When Jesus has come, you are at the land. The moment that the Master comes, the disciples are at home.
W. ARNOT, Roots and Fruits of the Christian Life, p. 268.
References: John 6:17.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 446; W. H. Jellie, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 216; T. T. Lynch, Ibid., vol. xxii., p. 206.
John 6:19-20The pathway of the King. We have here:
I. The struggling toilers. The solemn law under which we live demands persistent effort and imposes continual antagonism upon us. There is no reason why we should regard that as an evil, or think ourselves hardly used because we are not fair-weather sailors. The end of life is to make men; the meaning of all events is to mould character. Anything that makes me stronger is a blessing; anything that develops my morale is the highest good that can come to me.
II. The approaching Christ. We do not know at what hour in the fourth watch the Master came. But probably it was towards daybreak. Toiling had endured for a night. It would be in accordance with the symbolism that joy and help should come with the morning. If we look for a moment at the miraculous fact, apart from the symbolism, we have here a revelation of Christ as the Lord of the material universe, a kingdom wider in its range and profounder in its authority than that which the shouting crowd had sought to force upon Him. We have here a wonderful picture, which is true for all ages, of the mighty Christ to Whose gentle footfall the unquiet surges are as a marble pavement, and who draws near in the purposes of His love, unhindered by antagonism, and using even the opposing forces as the path for His triumphant progress.
III. The terror and the recognition. Do not we, like the disciples, often mistake the coming of the Master, and tremble before Him when we ought to be glad? Let no absorption in cares and duties, let no unchildlike murmurings, let no selfish abandonment to sorrow, blind you to the Lord that always comes near human hearts if they will only look and see.
IV. The end of the tempest and of the voyage. It is not always true—it is very seldom true—that when Christ comes on board opposition ends and the purpose is achieved. But it is always true that when Christ comes on board a new spirit comes into the men who have Him for their companion, and are conscious that they have. It makes their work easy, and makes them more than conquerors over what yet remains.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, March 11th, 1886.
References: John 6:19.—A. P. Peabody, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 388. John 6:21.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 475. John 6:24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi., No. 947. John 6:27.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 111; J. Jackson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 225; E. Blencowe, Plain, Sermons to a Country Congregation, vol. i., p. 286. John 6:27-51.—D. Fraser, The Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 290.
John 6:28-29Difficulties respecting Justification by Faith
I. It is an important rule to seek for the most exact language on any subject in those writings which treat of it generally and directly, rather than in those where it is spoken of by the way, the notice of it arising out of some other matter which was the writer's particular subject at the time. And, according to this view, we should expect to gain the clearest view of this question of justification from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, because the very object of that Epistle is to give a clear notion of that very point, as the foundation of Christianity; and, so far as we know, there was nothing in the particular circumstances of those to whom it was written which makes it more applicable to them than to others. It would seem, therefore, to explain St. Paul's language in other Epistles where he may touch upon the same subject incidentally, by his language upon it in the Epistle to the Romans, where he has written upon it expressly.
II. Now, it cannot be denied that the faith on which St. Paul lays so much stress, in the Epistle to the Romans, is opposed to the works of the law in this sense—that he who would be justified by the law says to God, "Thou hast commanded certain things, and I have done them, therefore I have earned my wages;" whereas he who would be justified by faith says rather, "Thou hast commanded certain things, and I have not done them, therefore I have earned no wages, but only displeasure, only I throw myself on Thee as on a God who forgavest sin." The essence, then, of justification by works is a reliance on what we have done for ourselves; that of justification by faith is a reliance on what God has done and will do for us.
III. But the difficulty lies beyond. If we look to our holiness of life for assurance, is not that to build upon the quicksand? Or if, without looking to ourselves, we look only to Christ, and hope and believe while we are full of sin, and look to be redeemed from death because Christ has died, although we have never risen with Him again to a new life of holiness—is not this to make Christ the minister of sin, and to hope where God says there is no hope? We must see, therefore, how it may be possible to seize the truth of each of these views, and yet escape their error.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 263.
References: John 6:28, John 6:29.—J. Natt, Posthumous Sermons, p. 155; J. Burton, Christian Life and Truth, p. 172. John 6:29.—G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 27. John 6:32, John 6:33.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 328.
John 6:35I. The conversation of our Lord was well fitted to damp the zeal of those worldly-minded ones whose only object was to use His aid in resisting the Roman power. He had never sought to make partisans. He would simply encourage the faith which would lead them, whose hearts were honest, from things temporal up to things spiritual. He shows that there is not only provided for us spiritual food—food for the soul; Christ, not only is the giver of it, but yet more, the spiritual food is Himself.
II. It was impossible for those who heard our Lord at the time of His uttering these solemn words to understand their full import. But thus much they could understand, that having had proof that our Lord could give miraculous food, and that in some way or other He would confer it upon those who should abide with Him, it was their duty to have acknowledged Him, to have said, "We believe and are sure that Thou art Christ, the Son of the Living God, and we will stay with Thee to be instructed further in the mysteries of that kingdom of which Thou art the King."
III. And when the kingdom of God was established, when our Lord had commissioned His Apostles and successors, what He did mean was fully known. To us, then, it is given to know that by union with Him we are united to God; and He thus is the support of the soul—to know that there is Bread from heaven, that Christ is that Bread; nay, further, that the Bread, the sustenance, with which He supplies us, is His Body and Blood, no longer visibly present, but sacramentally received by faith in the holy ordinance called on that very account the "Sacrament of His Body and Blood."
IV. By our Lord's command to gather up the fragments we are taught that it is sinful to waste any of the good things with which God may at any time bless us, and that it is our duty, when our souls are strengthened and refreshed by the Bread of Life, to take care that none of the superabundant grace be lost in us, but that we may abound more and more in works and labours of love.
W. F. Hook, Sermons on the Miracles, vol. i., p. 321.
References: John 6:35.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 220; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 286; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1112; F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 172.
John 6:36The Reason of Faith
I. Look first at two kinds of faith which are universally practised; for if faith is, in the nature of things, absurd or unintelligent, we shall be as likely to discover the fact here as anywhere. And we may discover, possibly, that the very persons who discard faith, as an offence to intelligence, are not even able to do the commonest acts of intelligence without it. (1) We begin, then, with the case of sight, or perception by sight. In our very seeing we see by faith, and without the faith we should only take in impressions to remain as lost things in the brain. Hence, perhaps, the word perception, a through-taking, because we have taken hold of objects through distances, and so have bridged the gulf between us and reality. Is, then, sight itself unintelligent because it includes an act of faith? Or, if we believe in realities, and have them by believing, would it be wiser to let alone realities, and live in figures and phantasms painted on the retina of our eyes? (2) But there is another kind of faith, less subtle than this, which also is universally practised, and admitted universally to be intelligent. It is that kind of faith which, after sensation is past or perception is completed, assigns truth to the things seen, and takes them to be sound historic verities. Thus, after Christ had been seen in all the facts of His life, it became a distinct question what to make of the fact—whether, possibly, there was any mistake in the senses, or any sleight-of-hand by which they were imposed upon. If God were to burn Himself into souls by lenses bigger than worlds, all you could say would be that so much impression is made, which impression is no historic verity to the mind, till the mind assents on its part, and concludes itself upon the impression. Then the impression becomes to it a real and historic fact, a sentence of credit passed. (3) We now come to the Christian, or third kind of faith. First, we complete an act of perception only by a kind of sense-faith, moving from ourselves, and not from the objects perceived. Next, we pass on to the historic verity, the moral genuineness, of what we see; and our act of credit, so passed, is also a kind of faith moving from us, and is something over and above all the impressions we have received. A third faith remains, that is just as intelligent, and, in fact, is only more intelligent than the others, because it carries their results forward into the true uses. This distinctively is the Christian faith, the faith of salvation, the believing unto life eternal. It is the act of trust by which one being, a sinner, commits himself to another being, a Saviour. It is the faith of a transaction.
II. Note some of the lessons this subject yields. (1) The mistake is here corrected of those who are continually assuming that the Gospel is a theory, something to be thought out—not a new premiss of fact communicated by God, by men to be received in all the threefold gradations of faith. (2) We discover that the requirement of faith, as a condition of salvation, is not arbitrary, as many appear to suppose, but is only a declaration of the fact, before existing, that without faith there can be no deliverance from sin. (3) We perceive, in our subject, that mere impressions can never amount to faith. (4) Finally, it is very plain that what is now most wanted in the Christian world is more faith.
H. Bushnell, The New Life, p. 44.
References: John 6:37.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 599; vol. xxx., No. 1762. John 6:37.—Homilist, new series, vol. iii., p. 385. John 6:39.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 361; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1117; Homilist, new series, vol. iv., p. 390.
John 6:44These words have often been supposed to mean that no one can become a Christian unless an irresistible influence is put forth by God for his conversion. I think, if you look at the words of the text in their connection, and in relation to the circumstances in which they were written, you will see that Jesus is not here speaking either of an eternal "going" or of an irresistible "drawing."
I. What had drawn these crowds across the lake, away from their homes and their occupations? They cared merely for the material benefits which Christ's miracles conferred. They had eaten of the loaves and were filled. They were not following the drawing of the Father; they were merely drawn by the loaves and fishes. This was not the kind of coming Christ cared for. The crowds had come to Capernaum; they had not come to the Saviour.
II. To learn of the Father's teaching is to yield to the Father's drawing. So that the whole process here indicated is divisible in thought into three stages. First, there is the beginning; the Father teacheth—draweth. But not all whom the Father teaches listen as yet to His teaching—not all whom the Father draws yield as yet to His drawing. Hence, secondly, there is the middle point of separation: a man hears and learns of the Father; he accepts the teaching of the inward voice; he yields himself up to the inward drawing. Then, thirdly, there is the result; the man who thus submits to the Divine teaching and drawing cometh unto Christ; he recognises in Christ one whom the Father has sent to meet the needs and longings which the Father Himself has awakened.
III. Never imagine that there may be a secret decree of God, shutting you out from salvation. "God willeth all men to be saved." Yield to the Father's drawing. By His providence, His Holy Word, His Gospel, His Spirit, He has often appealed to you. He has made you conscious of your need. He has made you think of your future. He has given you glimpses of a higher life which it is possible for you to live. Yield, then, to His drawing, and come to Christ as your Teacher, your Exemplar, your Redeemer, and your King.
T. C. Finlayson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 280.
References: John 6:44.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 182. John 6:47.—Ibid., vol. xxviii., No. 1642. John 6:48.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 201. John 6:48, John 6:49.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 110. John 6:48-54.—Ibid., vol. i., p. 110; vol. ix., p. 201. John 6:52.—G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 52; Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 232. John 6:52-63.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 31; B. Jowett, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 10.
I. When our Lord spoke of Himself as the Bread from heaven, the Jews murmured at Him, and said, "Is not this Jesus, whose father and mother we know? How is it, then, that He saith, I came down from heaven?" Then it was that Jesus spoke the words of my text. All such murmurings and disputations would not bring them any nearer to Him or to the truth. If they would listen to the still small voice which was trying to make itself heard in their deepest nature, then the words of Jesus would attract them; but so long as they drowned the inward voice by mere disputations, these words of Jesus would be only likely to repel them. Yielding to the drawing of the world, they might murmur and discuss and dispute, but they would only be drawn away from Him; they could not really come to Him, unless they yielded to the drawing of the Father.
II. Where, then, is there in this any hint of an exclusive election, or of an irresistible grace? On the contrary, does not Jesus here quote from the prophets a wide, inclusive word: "They shall be all taught of God"? And is He not here virtually blaming those who do not believe in Him because they are not learning of the Father? The fact is, that we all stand between two drawings—the drawing of the flesh and the drawing of the Spirit. And what the text says is, that no man can come to Christ except as drawn by the Father. This, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter: yield to the Father's drawing, and come to Christ as your Teacher, your Exemplar, your Redeemer, and your King.
J. C. Finlayson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 280.
John 6:48I. It is in the Lord himself alone that the power of life dwells, and from Him that it goes forth. There is no intermediate agent. He is the life of men, and it is by feeding on Himself that eternal life is both obtained and assured. But as in the miracle, so in this which is signified by it, He is pleased to impart this nourishment of life not without visible and sensible material, on which His life-giving power will be exercised. In the one case, it is the five loaves and the two fishes which represent and as it were carry the weight of so mighty a thing, in the other case, it is the visible Body and Blood of the Lord, whatsoever He is pleased to appoint to set them forth and carry the semblance of them to us. The great truth which underlies the whole is this, that Christ is the Bread of life, the only food of man for an eternity of vitality and blessing, that this blessing must come from no other than the Lord Himself in direct and personal contact with a man's own self in his inner being; but that He is pleased, in condescension to our weakness, to make use of signs and symbols whereupon His power acts, and by means of which man apprehends His life-giving power, and becomes partaker of it.
II. This incident our Lord's interpretation shows, as plainly as can be shown, that the ordinance of the Sacrament is not commemorative merely. An actual feeding upon Christ, not indeed corporeal, but spiritual, is spoken of throughout His discourse here. And when Christ said, "This do in remembrance of Me," it is plain that the remembrance is to be understood as bringing with it and involving not merely the revelation of an event past, or of a dear departed friend and benefactor, but the participation also in a present benefit, grounded on the realizing of that past event and the union with that Divine benefactor and source of life, in an actual and present manner. The discourse of which my text is part is thus of immense value to the Christian, as assuring him of a real living and feeding upon his Saviour, in that Sacrament, rescuing him from the notion of its being merely a commemoration without present living benefit.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vi., p. 233.
References: John 6:48.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix., p. 201. John 6:48-54.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 110.
John 6:61Christ is the life of the world. It is as the world's life that we have fellowship with Him. It is as the world's life that faith recognises Him and rejoices in Him. Christ our life! This is our watchword and our experience. To say that Christ is our life, is not only to say there is life in Christ for me, but that life is flowing down for me and into me. It is life most full and ample; it is life abiding and unbroken; it is life undeserved and unpurchased; it is life which no power of death nor influence of disease can affect and impair.
I. It is connection with Christ that brings the life into us. He is in heaven and we upon earth; but the greatness of distance matters not, provided there be connection—the connection, as it were, of a single wire. That single wire is faith. This is the one connecting medium; unbelief is the great nonconducting medium, which arrests in a moment all communication between heaven and earth. Faith only restores this, establishing the surest and most blessed of all connections between Christ and the soul, between heaven and earth.
II. It is connection with Christ that continues the life. The life is not like a treasure of gold brought to us and deposited with us to serve us for a lifetime. It is not like a lake or cistern of water formed within us, rendering us independent of all without us. It is something laid up in heaven, and transmitted down to earth, hour by hour, as light is deposited in the sun, and at each successive moment emitted from Him to us. The connection between us and Christ must be kept unbroken, else the life is us will fail.
III. Connection with Christ introduces us into the everlasting life hereafter. For the present is but the earnest of the coming life. It is into a glorious flower that the present bud expands; and its future expansion it owes to the same connection which quickened and nourished it here. For faith is the substance of things hoped for; and it is into these things hoped for that faith introduces us at last. The fulness of the life is yet to come. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be," but we know that the future life of vision into which the present life of faith is leading us, will be as unutterably blessed and glorious, as it is abiding and everlasting.
H. Bonar, Christian Treasury, 1868, p. 529.
John 6:53The Words of Christ
Let us take the words of the text, and by seeing the different ways in which they have been misinterpreted, let us learn to hold fast the lessons of our Lord in all their original freshness and piercing power.
I. First, there was the error of those who understood, or rather pretended to understand, our Lord's words according to the very letter, who said "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" It would have been such utter foolishness so to have misunderstood Him, that we cannot suppose that any one could really have been so ignorant. To follow the letter of our Lord's words on many occasions would either profit us nothing, or would absolutely be mischievous to us.
II. Theirs, however, is a more common error, who, not content with not following the letter of the commandment, lower and weaken the spirit also; and thus set up for themselves a different and less perfect rule of life than that which God has given us. Persons of this sort would explain the words of the text by saying "Except ye keep the commandments of Jesus Christ ye cannot be saved." Now, this doubtless is very true; but it is not exactly the whole truth of Christ's expression. To keep the commandments of Jesus Christ does not quite come up to the force of His own lively words that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. These words express that He must be to our souls what daily food is to our bodies; that we must live upon Him; that we must be ever walking by faith in Him; that we must look up to Him habitually in all our temptations, distresses, and perplexities—as our only deliverer, comforter, and guide; that we must be in communion with Him as members with their head; and this day by day, and always, for without Him we can do nothing, and our souls will sicken and fall away from their sound health if they are kept even a day without that nourishment, which turning to Him in prayer and in constant meditation can alone supply them with. Many persons, by forgetting the force and peculiar meaning of the command to make Christ our food, and by putting always in the place of such lively expressions the mere injunction to obey Christ's law, have, in fact, grown cold in their feelings towards Him, have lost the sense of their close relationship to Him, have not held fast to Him as their Head, nor have sought of Him daily their spiritual nourishment and strength.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. i., p. 208.
References: John 6:53.—H. Alford, Sermons on Christian Doctrine, p. 294. John 6:53-56.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1288; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. iii., p. 105. John 6:53-57.—W. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, 2nd series, p. 154. John 6:54, John 6:55.—F. Tugwell, Penny Pulpit, No. 383. John 6:55.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1460; R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 406.
John 6:57(with Galatians 2:20)
The Meaning of Justification by Faith
I. Looking steadily at the two passages of Scripture which I have chosen for my text, we shall gain the clue to the full scriptural truth about justification. First of all, St. Paul, speaking of himself many years after his conversion, declares that he lives by faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave Himself for him. It is manifest, then, that the principle of a Christian life, after the knowledge of Christ had been received, was still to be a faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us. This faith entertained not once only, but always, ascribes clearly the whole merit of our justfication to Christ; that for His sake God looks upon us, not as enemies, but as children—not as condemned, but as forgiven.
II. And further, the Scripture supposes that whenever and so far as we realize to our minds the fact that God has forgiven us, we are also drawn to love Him as His children; nay, that the two feelings are in fact inseparable; that faith in Christ's atonement places us necessarily in the state of loving children to God; that if we do not love Him, such want of love is clearly one way or another a want of faith in Christ—either that we do not believe we needed the atonement, and therefore so far deny its reality, or do not believe that God has fully forgiven us, and so far deny its efficacy. But believing that we were without Christ dead, and that through Him we are alive and forgiven, that belief places us in the state of children towards God, with open and thankful hearts, loving Him because He first loved us.
III. St. Paul says, in his Epistle to the Romans, "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Faith in Christ is not only faith in His having died for us; it is faith in Him as our Saviour now also by His life; it is that throwing ourselves upon Him in all things, as our Redeemer, as our Saviour, as our Head of whom we are members, deriving our life only from Him, which is expressed by our Lord in these remarkable words, where He says, "He that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me." And thus it is true that our faith in Christ alone justifies; our faith in His death once, in His life evermore—our faith in Him as redemption and as sanctification—our faith in Him leading to union with Him, that so being His members truly we shall be with Him and in Him evermore.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 271.
References: John 6:57.—Contemporary Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 345; Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 357.
John 6:58Means to Faith—the Scriptures and Prayer
I. It is not enough to love the character of Christ; who can help loving it? It must be something of a closer and more personal feeling, if I may so speak, that will make Him become to us the bread of life; and this feeling will only be gained by prayer. The knowledge of the Scriptures brings rapidly before our minds all the promises we most need. It reminds us that we must be earnest in prayer, and not faint; that the kingdom of God is like the seed which grew up in its season, though it showed no signs of life at once; that he who shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
II. Amidst our prayers, thus repeated, a wonderful change is effected within us; our dispositions are greatly softened and sweetened, our views of life and death become different, our interest in earthly things less engrossing; our selfishness generally less intense. And that this change, so real and so visible, is the work of the Holy Spirit of God—of the manner of which we can see and know nothing, but whose effects both we and all the world can witness—this we learn from the Scriptures; and it forms one of the great and most consoling truths of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Unquestionably, where this change is wrought, faith overcometh the world. The good things which God has prepared for them that love Him, His love to us in Christ Jesus, the abiding influence of His spirit, all these are things which our prayers have made quite familiar, not to our ears only, but also to our hearts; they are things which have become the great interest of our lives, and we live in the daily consciousness of their reality.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 16.
References: John 6:62.—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of St. John, p. 186. John 6:63.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xi., No. 653; T. Lloyd, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 69; D. Rhys Jenkins, The Eternal Life, p. 221; Bishop Simpson, Sermons, p. 115; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 1870, p. 544.
John 6:66-67Forsaken ideal
This sorrowful appeal from the less noble but natural feelings of the twelve to their very highest and most spiritual thoughts was not in this case in vain. The appeal "Will ye also go away?" revealed the higher nature of the Apostles, perhaps even to themselves; showed them that there was something within themselves beyond the judgment of the many, and of the worldly wise, which, without arrogance, could judge more forcibly, more wisely; enabled them to see more clear and bright than ever, the excellence of that Ideal which now for many months had been before them.
I. Who can tell what a sorrow it is for a soul to have set a really high ideal before it, and then to have taken the step of turning away, and to reflect for the rest of life on what might have been, with a little more perseverance, a little more faith in God. Let us think of the dangers that beset us here. There is (1) the danger of apathy. Even to look on such an ideal without love is hardening. To have a conception of some nobleness in character, and not to wish to possess it, not to make some effort after it, lowers us. (2) The danger of changeable-ness in our ideals—waste of time and power. As we all have different characters, as our capabilities differ, so do our conceptions. Then, to exchange our own for other men's views is often dangerous, but characters grow; they are not suddenly made. (3) The danger of misjudging other ideals. It is vain for us to think how well we should do in another man's place, instead of being earnest in doing well in our own.
II. Find out your work, then; find out the best outline of it, the ideal of it, and pursue it; knowing that in so doing you follow Christ, you follow light, you follow after life. "For he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Not in darkness with its fears and fantasies, and exaggerations of earthly objects, but with the light of life before him, fixed in a sure place to guide him, shining in a broad clear track on the face of the sea, shining on his face and rejoicing his eyes with its beauty,—not a light only, but a life, a breath, a spirit from on high.
Archbishop Benson, Boy Life, Sundays in Wellington College, p. 109.
References: John 6:66.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 83; S. Macnaughton, Real Religion and Real Life, p. 209. John 6:66-69.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxviii., No. 1646; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. xi., p. 258; vol. xiii., p. 257; A. F. Joscelyne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 131; G. Jenkins, Ibid., vol. xxiii., p. 305; E. Bersier, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 18.
John 6:66-71The First Confession
In connection with this narrative many practical lessons suggest themselves. I select only the following:
I. We are reminded by this history of the fluctuating character of human applause.
II. We are shown the tap-root from which all apostasy springs. Judas put temporal interests uppermost. The apostates were all wedded to the world.
III. The elements of Christian steadfastness. (1) The setting of spiritual things above temporal. (2) The experimental knowledge of Christ's salvation.
W. M. Taylor, Peter the Apostle, p. 65.
References: John 6:67.—R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 1st series, p. 184; Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 78; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 297. John 6:67, John 6:68.—G. Salmon, Non-Miraculous Christianity, p. 56; Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 134; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 255. John 6:67-69.—A. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation, p. 187.
John 6:67-70The Danger of Relapse
I. Experience has so often proved that men have not laid fast hold on the grace which they had received, that we may well conceive our Lord to say to each successive congregation who have professed to be His disciples, "Will ye also go away? For eighteen hundred years I have accomplished the work of man's redemption. Your salvation has been purchased, the door of the kingdom of heaven has been set open, but yet, age after age and year after year, men have refused to be saved, and the way to eternal life has been thrown open to thousands in vain. Will ye also go away? Will ye also despise the riches of God's goodness and the precious blood of Christ, which purchased your salvation, and will ye go after your own desires, each man after the idols of his own heart, and be not saved, but lost?"
II. There is always danger in moments of recoil. In things not spiritual, we know that the mind often flies back too vehemently when its work is over, and abandons itself to total idleness. After every effort there is always the notion that we have earned our rest. How easily will the present drive out the past, unless Christ's grace preserve it to us? How readily will the mind turn in other directions, and the sun of our life will be veiled in clouds, so as neither to be seen nor felt? Pray that these clouds may not overshadow Him; pray that Christ may be present with us in our labours of tomorrow, even as He has been present with us here today. For indeed it is our privilege to be with Him ever, and to have Him ever with us; whether we eat or drink, or whatever thing, grave or light, we may be engaged in. There is nothing strange, nothing profane, nothing presumptuous, in praying that Christ may be with us in all those common works which our daily life brings with it. It is the great object of our finding Christ in the Church, it is the greatest object of our receiving the Holy Communion, that we should so find Him everywhere.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 155.
References: John 6:67-71.—R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 20. John 6:68.—G. E. L. Cotton, Sermons and Addresses in Marlborough College, p. 9; Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 25. John 6:69.—G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 207.
John 6:70-71I. Note first, the relation of Judas and Jesus Christ. He was one of the twelve selected Apostles; he had all the privileges, all the opportunities, of Christ's near and dear companions; he was chosen, as were Peter and John and James, out of the increasing number of disciples, to be the chief companions—chief messengers of Jesus Christ. It is awful to think that an Apostle was a betrayer; that a man so fenced about with safeguards, should make shipwreck of his soul.
II. What was it in Judas' case that made him a traitor? what lay at the root of the mischief? for he could not all at once have turned out so bad. The root of the mischief, the little seed which grew up and brought such a harvest of evil to Judas, was this: he was fond of money; and, unhappily for him, he had in his office of pursebearer an opportunity of indulging his love for money. Many a little act of pilfer, many a dishonest appropriation of the funds entrusted to him, must have preceded the final act of wickedness. When the love of money gets rooted in a man, it changes him for the worse. It deadens religion in his soul. It shuts up his compassion. It withholds his hand from doing good.
III. Observe what that sin was of which Judas was guilty—he betrayed his Master. We betray Christ when, from fear or any other motive, we shrink from confessing Him before men; when we stand by and see our Master denied and dishonoured, and have not the courage to show our colours. We betray Christ when we side with the enemy; when we fall away from His side; when we turn our backs upon His ordinances.
IV. All repentance is not true repentance; is not repentance unto life. The sorrow of Judas was the sorrow of the world that worketh death. It was despair. Could Judas have believed that God is gracious and mighty, even in his terrible situation he might have sought and obtained pardon.
R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 74.
References: John 6—A. B. Bruce, The Training of the Twelve, p. 121. John 6:70, John 6:71.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 155. John 7:5.—E. M. Goulburn, The Gospel of the Childhood, p. 235; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. ix., p. 45. John 7:6, John 7:7.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 141. John 7:8.—H. Wace, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. ii., p. 197 John 7:11.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes; Gospels and Acts, p. 136. John 7:15.—H. Wonnacott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 46.
And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.
And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.
And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
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?
And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto him,
There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?
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.
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.
When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.
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.
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.
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.
And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,
And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.
And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.
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.
But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.
Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
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;
(Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)
When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?
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.
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.
Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven 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.
For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us 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.
But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
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.
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.
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
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?
Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
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.
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.
Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
I am that bread of life.
Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
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.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
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.
Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.
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.
These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are 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.
And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.