Through the Bible Day by Day
After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.
THE MULTITUDE SATISFIED WITH FOOD
In this chapter we have a further illustration of John’s method in selecting for his purpose the miracles which became the texts of our Lord’s discourses. These multitudes had evidently gathered on their way to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover; and the imminence of that great festival, when the worshipers not only sacrificed but partook of the slain lamb, gave point to much that our Lord said after this memorable feeding of the multitude.
Christ often tests us to see what we shall say and do in the presence of overwhelming difficulty, but He always knows the way out. We at once begin to calculate our paltry resources, and to confess their inadequacy. We come back to explain that when we have done our utmost, we can provide very little. Then He steps in, determined that everyone shall be filled, with an ample supply left over. He makes His guests sit down in comfort on the grass, because there is plenty of time, as well as an abundance of food, for a happy and comfortable meal. We must bring Him what we have, however slender; must enter into His great plan and arrange the people for the banquet; must distribute the food and gather up the broken pieces. The world is to be fed by the cooperation of Christ and His Church.
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.
JESUS BRINGS PEACE TO TROUBLED HEARTS
The most conclusive proof that our Lord was no weak fanatic or enthusiast is afforded by the calm temper which refused the eager impulse of the crowds to make Him king. Here the temptation of the wilderness was repeated; and only one who was filled with the unwavering determination to do God’s will, could have refused this short cut to Messianic empire. Notice these withdrawals of our Lord to the calm of nature’s stillness and the bosom of God. If he needed such spaces of undisturbed meditation and communion, surely we do.
He knew when he pressed the disciples into the boat, that the night would be full of storm, but He did not hesitate to expose them to its peril; he was conscious of His ability to turn that storm to the highest use by coming to their help. His advent is often delayed, but he always comes. Delays are not denials. He is as near in the storm as though already in the boat. The storm-waves are His pathway. Be not afraid! The people hurried across the Lake in the early morning, conveyed in the boats which had come to take them off; but as Jesus sorrowfully perceived, their object was to receive His gifts and not Himself.
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;
INSINCERE SEEKERS OF TRUTH
The mention in Joh_6:23 of Christ’s giving thanks, recalls the vivid impression made by that solemn act, and the great importance which those who witnessed it attached to it. When the multitudes, disembarking on the other side of the Lake found Jesus there, though they knew that He had not accompanied His disciples in the one boat that left the farther shore on the previous night, His presence had the effect of an apparition. See Joh_6:25. Our Lord’s answer to the question of the crowd deals with the motive that dictated it. He exposed the spurious and carnal impulses that actuated them, and contrasted the satisfaction of natural hunger, Joh_6:26, with that true and effectual seeking which leads to the nourishment of the spirit, Joh_6:27. What a difference between these people, with their gross aspirations and carnal desires, and the spiritual Israel, which could say with the psalmist, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God!” All the labor described in Joh_6:27 is to maintain a pure heart and exercise an appropriating faith. God sealed Christ by His declaration at the water of baptism and the miracles which were wrought through the Father’s power, Joh_14:10.
They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
THE FATHER’S WILL JESUS’ LAW OF LIFE
On the day following, our Lord had to encounter, first the demand of the people for a continuation of the miracle of the preceding night, Joh_6:25-40; second, the murmur of “the Jews,” that is, their religious leaders, Joh_6:41-51; third, the growing heat of His opponents, Joh_6:52-59; and lastly, the failure of many of His disciples, Joh_6:60-71. But His mountain prayer had prepared Him, Joh_6:15.
The manna was only a type of His mission to meet the hunger of the human spirit for truth, and love, and hope. He is the true bread from heaven, God’s best gift (of the reality of which all material substances are but emblems), not only satisfying passing hunger but imparting life, and only waiting to be appropriated by any that will. Let us come to Him, turning from all else. To come is to cease to hunger, to trust is to lose our thirst. Jesus suffices for heaven; shall he not suffice also for earth? Note the identical clauses of Joh_6:37. All whom the Father gives to Christ come to Him; and all who come to Him prove that they are included in the Father’s gift, bestowed before the worlds were made. See Joh_10:28-29; Joh_17:6.
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
THE FOOD OF ETERNAL LIFE
That phrase, the last day, was constantly on the Master’s lips, Joh_6:39-40; Joh_6:44; Joh_6:54; Joh_12:48. It is an indefinite expression for those final scenes in which the history of our race is to be consummated through resurrection and judgment. Jesus lays great emphasis on His resurrection as completing His work for those who come to Him. It is not enough to impart eternal life. That would bless the spirit, but leave the body untouched. And He cannot rest until the whole of our complex nature shares in the emancipation and fullness of His salvation. A transfigured manhood and a glorified body must be the crown of His service to His own. By His mighty power, He will raise them up in the likeness of His glory, that they may share His royal and exalted state. Nothing less will satisfy Him, or undo the ruin that sin has introduced. Let us feed on Christ, by meditation on His words, and by communion with Himself, of which the sacred Feast of the Lord’s Table is a perpetual reminder. Notice that every soul which is taught of God will recognize Christ, Joh_6:45!
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
EAT AND LIVE
In Joh_6:57 our Lord gives the secret of His inner life. At the beginning of His ministry He told the tempter that man did not live by bread alone, but by God’s Word. Here He goes further and says that He lived not only by the words of God, but by God Himself. There is also this other truth, that each of us is called to exercise toward Christ the same attitude and dependence that He exercised toward the Father. It is impossible by one illustration to set forth the eternal facts of the spiritual world. Metaphor has to be heaped on metaphor. Already our Lord had dealt with the symbol of manna and bread; He now goes further in order to emphasize the truth that the power to communicate life can only be acquired through death. Our Lord, therefore, describes the bread of the soul-life as His flesh, which he would give for the life of the world. Obviously flesh is that which has passed through death. But it should always be borne in mind that the Christian soul does not dwell exclusively on the death of Jesus, but on the life of Him who died. It is the risen and ascended Christ, who died for our sins but whom God exalted to His right hand, that should fill our thoughts.
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
THE SIFTING OF JESUS’ FOLLOWERS
The teaching of this chapter involves a deliberate act of Christ to arrest the revolutionary movement that was gathering around His person and making Him its figure-head, Joh_6:15. He therefore set Himself to teach that these people had misconceived the meaning of His ministry, which was not intended to raise a standard of revolt against Rome, but to lead to a spiritual revolution. The effect of His words was precisely what he expected, and must have shattered any ambitions that had begun to stir in the hearts of His disciples. In Joh_6:41 the men who the night before wished to crown Him, murmured at Him. In Joh_6:52 they strove among themselves. In Joh_6:60 many of His disciples said that His sayings were hard to be understood, and still harder to be obeyed. In Joh_6:66 many went back. And now as the shades of evening began to fall and the synagogue was almost empty, he was left alone with the little company of twelve, who had sorrowfully watched the overthrow of their hopes. Christ’s pathetic question-Will ye also go away?-elicited from Peter a reply which proved that the inner meaning of His words had already broken upon their souls. “Thy words give us and nourish within us the eternal life.”
The questions on Section 1-28, to be found on pp. 232, 233, will serve as a review at this point.