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Ver. 1. “After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, of Tiberias.”
Between the facts narrated in the previous chapter and those in the present, there is a period of nearly a whole year. According to John 5:1, Jesus went up to Jerusalem to the Passover, and there healed an impotent man at the pool of Bethesda; and here also, according to ver. 4, the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh. The circumstance that John thus leaps over an entire year, indicates that he did not intend to write a complete Gospel, but only a supplement of previous accounts.
To this result we are also led by the words, “Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee.” The starting-point of this journey cannot possibly have been Jerusalem, as Meyer, proceeding on the ground of an entire disconnection of this Gospel with the former Gospels, supposes,—showing in what difficulties such a disconnection is involved; it must have been a place on the Galilean shore of the lake. The πέραν in ver. 25 corresponds to the πέραν here; and Capernaum is especially indicated by the circumstance that the disciples return thither, ver. 17. And thither also the multitudes go to seek Jesus, for no other reason than because He was at home there. According to ver. 59, Christ holds a conversation with the people in the synagogue at Capernaum; but it is not Capernaum that has been spoken of in the immediately preceding context in John. In chap. 5 we find Jesus in Jerusalem; and in John also Capernaum is not designated as the constant residence of Christ, His ἰ?δύα πόλις , so that His return thither from Jerusalem is not understood as a matter of course. Capernaum has hitherto been mentioned only twice in John,—in John 2:12, when Jesus stays there a few days on His journey to the feast at Jerusalem; and in John 4:46, where Jesus is appealed to for help from Capernaum,—but any residence there is not spoken of.
We find ourselves involved in insurmountable difficulty, so long as we isolate the Gospel of John; but this difficulty vanishes, when, in harmony with antiquity, we perceive that he wrote only paralipomena. In Matthew 4:13 it is related how that Jesus left Nazareth, and settled in Capernaum. In the three first Gospels the latter place is represented as His “own city,” Matthew 9:1, to which He returns from all His journeys. Matthew 8:5; Matthew 17:24, and which was exalted to heaven by being the peculiar abode of Him who came down from heaven. If we regard the four Gospels as a whole, it cannot be doubted that Capernaum was the starting-point of the journey; and then, too, it is understood as a matter of course, that Jesus returned thither from Jerusalem.
When Matthew first mentions the Lake of Gennesaret, he calls it “the Sea of Galilee,” and afterwards commonly, in reference to this passage, “the sea” (in Matthew 15:29, once more ἡ? θάλασσαν τῆ?ς Γαλιλαίας ). The Galilean prefers to use the most stately expression for his national sea,—this being recommended also by the double symbolical action in which Jesus tested His miraculous power over the sea in a small compass on this lake. Matthew is followed by Mark. He calls the lake, when he first mentions it, ἡ? θάλασσαν τῆ?ς Γαλιλαίας , Mark 1:16; and afterwards usually ἡ? θάλασσα ; but in Mark 7:31, τῆ?ς Γαλιλαίας . Luke refrains from designating the lake as sea constantly, and therefore purposely. He has in Luke 5:1, παρὰ? τὴ?ν λίμνην Γεννησαρὲ?τ , and afterwards ἡ? λίμνη , Luke 8:22-23; Luke 8:33. John here designates the lake first as the “Sea of Galilee,” in the interest of harmony with Matthew; and he then adds a second designation, “of Tiberias,” because this was the current name in foreign countries at the time when he wrote. In John 21:1 he speaks merely of the Sea of Tiberias, showing that this was the name which was best known by his first readers, and that he here mentions the Sea of Galilee only in connection with his predecessors. The city of Tiberias, built by Antipas, and named after the Emperor Tiberius, was well-known in the Gentile world. Even Pausanias knows the lake by the name of the Lake of Tiberias, λίμνη Τιβαρίς , and in Arabic it is called Bahr Tabarieh.
The chapter begins, in vers. 1-13, with the account of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, with which is connected, in vers. 14-21, an account of the miracle on the sea following on the feeding. The parallels of the two accounts are Matthew 14:13-36, Mark 6:30-36; and of the first alone, Luke 9:10-17. John gives an account of three miracles in Judea, and three in Galilee: cf. on John 4:54. From the deep significance which he attributed to miracles, it was natural that he should give a particular account of a number of miracles, even though on the whole he referred, with respect to these, to the former Gospels, which had treated of them, with a special preference. That he communicates the account of these miracles not merely for the sake of the discourses connected with them, but as facts in which Christ’s glory was manifested, and which served the general purpose of the Gospel, to show that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, is evident from the circumstance, that there were no extended discourses connected with the two first Galilean miracles. These two first miracles are certainly such as the first Evangelists pass by; and John, as it seems, selected them for this reason. That he makes up the number three by this particular miracle of feeding, and the miracle on the sea connected with it, which had been already treated in detail in the three first Gospels, seems to be occasioned not only by their pre-eminent greatness, but also because by this means a basis was obtained for the communication of the highly important discourses which were appended to the feeding, and of that which took place on the voyage across the lake, concerning which it is to be observed, that the immediately preceding miraculous displays formed a basis for the heavy claims which Jesus laid on the people in these discourses. But it must always be insisted on, that the miracle has an independent significance. And if we consider of what importance is the agreement of all four Gospels in so important a fact as the feeding, we shall have no hesitation in taking this to be a collateral object of John, to confirm the narrative of his predecessors,—a confirmation which transcends its own sphere, and indicates, that where John is silent, his silence is that of presupposition and acknowledgment, and that everywhere, where he has not made it his object to communicate something almost entirely new, his purpose is to supply to the former narratives subordinate circumstances, which are only appropriate to a detailed account.
Ver. 2. “And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased.”
John, says Lampe, refers to the numerous miracles which Jesus had performed in this year after His return from Judea, and which for the most part had respect to the healing of the sick. Cf. Luke 8:27 sq., and Matthew 9, especially Matthew 9:35. He thus in these words presupposes and confirms the narrative of the earlier Evangelists.
Ver. 3. “And Jesus went up into the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.”
The article in τὸ? ὄ?ρος is generic, and the meaning is substantially the same as into a mountain, as Luther translates. Thus τὸ? ὄ?ρος occurs unquestionably several times in the first Gospels,—e.g., in Matthew 5:1; Matthew 14:23. The article is used as in τὸ? πλοῖ?ον , Matthew 8:23; τὸ? τελώνιον , Matthew 9:9; ἡ? οἰ?κία , Matthew 9:28. The preference of Jesus for mountains is perceived from the first Gospels. They are a symbol of the elevation of the mind to God. The mind striving towards heaven loves to have the earth beneath the feet. From John we learn the locality only in general: a mountain on the eastern shore of the Lake of Tiberias. The more exact designation of the spot is given only by Luke, who says in Luke 9:10: ὑ?πεχώρησε κατʼ? ἰ?δίαν εἰ?ς πόλιν καλουμένην Βηθσαϊδά . This Bethsaida must be different. from that occurring elsewhere in the Gospels, for it can be sought only on the eastern shore of the lake; and the name even, Fish-house, would lead us to expect a plurality of places so named. Bethsaida near Capernaum is never designated as a city,—it was, probably, merely the fishery-suburb of Capernaum. The designation, Bethsaida in Galilee, in John 12:21, indicates the existence of another Bethsaida out of Galilee. In striking accordance with Luke, a second Bethsaida on the eastern shore is mentioned by Josephus and Pliny (in his Hist. Nat. 5, 15). Josephus says (De bello Jude 1:1:2:9, 1), that Philip built Julias in lower Gaulonitis; and also (in his Antiq. 18, 2, 1), that Philip made the village, κώμη , Bethsaida into a city, and called it Julias. He did not merely grant it the privileges of a city, but also increased the population.
That Jesus was for some time alone with His disciples on the mountain, is evident from the fact, that He could hardly have ascended the mountain for any other object, and from the expression, “He departed again into a mountain,” John 6:15,—according to which, the mountain must have been the first time also a place of retirement. With this is connected the statement of Matthew 14:13, “When Jesus heard of it. He departed thence by ship into a desert place apart.” The word ἀ?νεχώρησε , which John here avoids, he supplies in ver. 15. Some time must have elapsed before the “multitudes,” who went by land ( Matthew 14:13), followed Him. Much confusion has been caused by referring ἐ?ξελθὼ?ν , in Matthew 14:14, Mark 6:34, to the disembarkation of Jesus from the ship, and thus intimating that the purpose of Jesus to go into retirement with His disciples was frustrated by the circumstance, that immediately on landing they found the multitude again before them. Ἐ?ξελθὼ?ν occurs in the first Gospels by no means pre-eminently of a ship, but with respect to the most various localities: cf. Matthew 13:1; Matthew 15:21; Matthew 24:1. We are to supply here, not, “from the desert place,”—for this is the designation of the whole region, cf. Matthew 14:15; Mark 6:35; Luke 9:12,—but, “from retirement.” When Jesus with His disciples came forth from His concealment. He found the multitude already before Him—προῆ?λθον αὐ?τούς , Mark 6:33.
Ver. 4. “And the Passover. a feast of the Jews, was nigh.”
This remark cannot refer to the following of the multitude in ver. 2; for that this consisted of those who were on their way to the feast, there is not a word to show. The cause of their gathering together is expressly stated in ver. 2; and no other is needed, since this is perfectly sufficient, and the usual one. As little also can the remark have a chronological significance. John has, of course, had the chronology in view; but it is his manner to give such remarks in connection with the practical significance of the event concerned: cf. John 4:35, John 2:13, John 7:2, John 11:55; and there is therefore only one point of view left from which the remark may be regarded, viz., that Christ is the antitype of the Passover, the true Paschal Lamb. Christ has accordingly, in view of the approaching Passover, arranged the feeding of the multitude with the purpose of connecting with it the discourses, the central-point of which is, that His flesh is meat indeed. Quesnel: “Since the Passover is nigh. He gives an emblem of the wondrous Passover which He is preparing for His Church for time and for eternity.” In favour of this view is the analogy of the last Passover of Jesus, at which He so expressly points to Himself as the true Paschal Lamb. In answer to the question, “Can John really have intended this typical meaning?” it is sufficient to refer to John 19:36, where John at once refers that which is written concerning the paschal lamb to Christ; and it is less reasonable to claim that John must then have declared his meaning more plainly, since he is particularly fond of giving mysterious hints.
We have here the third Passover occurring during the ministry of Christ,—the first in John 2:13, the second in John 5:1. This is the only Passover between the baptism of Jesus and His passion, to which He did not go up to Jerusalem. At the second, the Jews had gone so far as to seek to kill Him ( John 5:16; John 5:18); and since His hour was not yet come, and it was not obligatory on Him as a religious duty to attend the Passover. He went out of the way of danger.
Ver. 5. “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?”
Jesus did not see the approaching multitude from the mountain, but after He had descended from the mountain to the shore of the lake, certainly to find there the multitude, to which He wished to show Himself as the Saviour. To this conclusion we are led by ver. 15, according to which Jesus, when the people sought to make Him a king, departed again into the mountain; so that this was a place of retirement on the first occasion also. Jesus was there alone with His disciples. This has been already said expressly by Matthew, according to whom, Jesus, ἐ?ξελθὼ?ν—coming forth from His solitude—saw a great multitude. According to ver. 22 in Matthew’s account, Jesus, after the feeding, was on the shore of the lake with His disciples, and constrained them to get into a ship; and when He had dismissed the multitudes. He went up into a mountain apart to pray.
The narrative is here abridged, and must be supplemented from the first Gospels. John could make this abridgment because he reckoned on this supplementation; and it is not his fault if some find a difficulty in it, because they misapprehend his relation to the three first Gospels, notwithstanding the hints which he has so plainly given. The necessity of the supplementation is evident even from the fact, that the ground for the feeding—“This is a desert place, and the time is now past,” Matthew 14:15, Mark 6:35—is wanting here. To the words, “When He saw a great company,” here, correspond the words, “He saw a great multitude,” in Matthew 14:14. To this must be added first, “He was moved with compassion towards them,” and “He began to teach them many things,” in Mark 6:34, and “He spake unto them of the kingdom of God,” in Luke 9:11. Then follows, “And when it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals,” Matthew 14:15. Then the account in Matthew 14:16-17 of Matthew is here given more in detail. While Jesus, in Matthew, speaks to the disciples in general, He has here to do with Philip and Andrew; but we are not to think of a contradiction to the first Gospels. It is merely what occurs between the seeing and the speaking which is passed over; and the speaking to the disciples, no less than that in the interval, was occasioned by the sight of the multitude.
Ver. 6. “And this He said to prove him: for He Himself knew what He would do.”
Some empty the words of their meaning by the remark, that the proving here does not denote the trial of faith, but whether Philip had any useful information. But decidedly opposed to this is the usual conception of trial in the Scriptures. Lampe: “Jesus proves for the same object for which temptation is attributed to God in Genesis 22:1; Hebrews 11:17, in order that the secrets of the heart may be made manifest to the disciples themselves and to others.” The meaning may be measured especially by 2 Corinthians 13:5: Ἑ?αυτοὺ?ς πειράζετε εἰ? ἐ?στὲ? ἐ?ν τῇ? πίστει ,—according to which the degree of faith is ascertained by examination. Decisive also are the parallels from the Old Testament, to be spoken of presently, in which, before the commencement of the miraculous works of the Lord, doubt in His miraculous power is to manifest itself, in order that the latter may afterwards shine all the more brightly, and unbelief and little faith may be all the more deeply put to shame. Even in the words of Jesus to Philip there is implied an evident insufficiency of human means to feed the multitude; and this is more distinctly stated in the account of Matthew, which this presupposes, where Jesus, on the request of His disciples—”This is a desert place, and the time is now past; send the multitude away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves victuals,”—says: “They need not depart; give ye them to eat;” to which are suitably added His words to Philip: “(But) whence shall we buy bread?” (the ἀ?γοράσωμεν in opposition to the ἀ?γοράσωσιν ἑ?αυτοῖ?ς of the disciples.) If it was thus fixed that Jesus would be the host, in view of the manifest insufficiency of natural means, the thought of a miraculous feeding was very natural to those who had living faith, especially since similar facts had already occurred, as the changing of the water into wine, and since they had before them the miraculous feedings of the Old Testament. Quesnel, therefore, correctly places the object of the temptation in this, “to free us from too low and human conceptions of His omnipotence.”
Why does Jesus apply to Philip? He did not address the three most advanced disciples, because by these an answer might have been given which would not correspond to the object of the question, by which the character of human nature was to be brought to light. Among the rest Philip occupied a somewhat prominent position. He was called soon after the three first, John 1:43; and is also mentioned several times elsewhere in John’s Gospel, John 1:46-49, John 12:21-22, John 14:8-9.
Ver. 7. “Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.” Philip does not stand the testing. Not a thought occurs to him of miraculous assistance.
Vers. 8, 9. “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peters brother, saith unto Him, There is a lad here, who has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” Andrew seconds Philip. There are traces elsewhere, also, of an intimate connection between the two (cf. on John 1:44-45); for Mark ( Mark 3:18) places them in immediate connection in the list of Apostles; and in John 12:22, Philip communicates the desire of the Greeks to see Jesus to Andrew, and they go together to Jesus. Andrew is designated as the brother of Simon Peter in John 1:41, exactly as in our text, but in John 12:12 merely as Andrew.
In Matthew 14:17 it is said, “We have here,” etc. In Mark 6:38, Jesus says, “How many loaves have ye? go and see.” The disciples inform themselves on this point, and then say, “Five loaves and two fishes.” From this it is probable that the bread was in the hands of others, for the disciples would certainly have known the extent of their own scanty store. That which is hinted at by Mark is expressly recorded by John. The Apostles had the five loaves and two fishes only in so far that they were to be had. From the manner in which Andrew speaks of the boy, he had no connection with the Apostles, but had followed the multitude in order to make a little gain.
The apparently superfluous ἐ?ν , which is hence sometimes omitted, is used for the same reason as the diminutive παιδάριον , to call attention to the insufficiency of the means. That one small boy can carry, must, as a matter of course, and without specification, be regarded as insufficient.
The five loaves are common to all the Evangelists, as well as the two fishes; but it is peculiar to John that the loaves were of barley bread. Each of the four Evangelists has such peculiar traits, in proof that none of them has merely drawn from his predecessors. Barley bread occurs in Judges 7:13 as the poorest kind of bread (cf. Studer on this passage); and likewise in 2 Kings 7:1, Ezekiel 4:12. The fishes are to be understood as already prepared. Ὀ?ψάρια , that which is eaten with bread, as a relish, occurs of fishes only in John—here, and in John 21:9-10; John 21:13. It is an usage of language in which the only fisherman among the Evangelists may be recognised, even as Amos, the husbandman, by his picture of rural objects. Fish forms the usual relish of fishermen, as we see in chap. 21.
Ver. 10. “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.”
The number is the same in all the four Gospels, and the ὡ?σεὶ? , “about,” is also added by Matthew and Luke. The mention of the ἄ?νδρες as sitting down, in distinction from the ἀ?νθρώπους in the direction of the Lord, has light thrown upon it by the addition of Matthew 14:21: beside women and children (Mark, Mark 6:44, and Luke, Luke 9:14, have merely ἄ?νδρες ). The men only were numbered, but the women and children also seated themselves, as is shown by the direction of the Lord.
The grass is mentioned by Matthew and Mark. Matthew says that Jesus commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass. Mark mentions the green grass, which plainly shows how little right we have to attribute to Mark, who loves to communicate such slight features, a mere compilation not derived from an eye-witness. The mention of the green grass coincides with the indication of the time here in ver. 4. There is green grass in Palestine only in the early spring, for, as a rule, there is no rain from March to October (Von Raumer, S. 90). Robinson says: “During the summer the entire absence of rain soon destroys the fresh verdure of the fields, and gives the whole country an appearance of dryness and barrenness. The only thing that remains green is the foliage of the scattered fruit-trees, and sometimes also vineyards and millet-fields. The dark screen of the broad fig leaves and of the millet is truly refreshing to the eye amid the general dryness.”
Ver. 11. “And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks. He distributed to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.”
In Luther’s translation there is a double deviation from the original text. The words, τοῖ?ς μαθηταῖ?ς , οἱ? δὲ? μαθηταὶ? , which he translates with the rest, have been introduced into the text from Matthew. Luther also translates: as much as he would, according to a reading, ἤ?θελεν , which is not at all supported by the MSS.
Instead of εὐ?χαριστήσας , Matthew in Matthew 14:19 has εὐ?λόγησε , while at the second feeding in Matthew 15:36 he gives εὐ?χαριστήσας , as here. The verbs are frequently used interchangeably. Mark, e.g., at the second feeding in Mark 8:6-7, has εὐ?χαριστήσας for the loaves, and εὐ?λογήσας for the fishes. Matthew, in his account of the institution of the Supper, has εὐ?λογήσας in Matthew 26:26 in respect of the bread, and of the cup, in Matthew 26:27, εὐ?χαριστήσας , which Luke uses in Luke 22:19 of the bread. Cf. also 1 Corinthians 14:16. Εὐ?λογεῖ?ν alone is used in such cases, as the interchange with εὐ?χαριστεῖ?ν shows, in the sense of to praise and bless, corresponding to the Hebrew ברך , for εὐ?λογεῖ?ν τὸ?ν Θεόν . Luke 1:64; Luke 2:28; Luke 24:53. With this blessing upwards, however, is connected at the same time also a downward blessing, or a blessing on the use of the bread. This is indicated by εὐ?λόγησεν αὐ?τοὺ?ς in Luke 9:16, which cannot be a mere abbreviated expression for He thanked God for them: cf. Luke 2:34; Luke 24:50; Mark 10:16, where it is said that Jesus blessed little children. The same connection of blessing upwards and blessing downwards meets us in 1 Samuel 9:13, where it is said of Samuel, “He doth bless the sacrifice, and afterwards they eat that be bidden.” We are led to the same result also by the nature of the case. The effective point of the miraculous increase must manifestly be contained in the εὐ?λογήσας or εὐ?χαριστήσας ; and that the blessing virtue was in the thanksgiving, is distinctly intimated here in ver. 23. The prayer which is sure to be heard is expressed in the form of praise and thanksgiving. John 11:41 is explanatory: ὁ? δὲ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς ἦ?ρεν τοὺ?ς ὀ?φθαλμοὺ?ς ἄ?νω καὶ? εἶ?πεν , Πάτερ , εὐ?χαριστῶ? σοι ὅ?τι ἤ?κουσάς μου . Here also the Lord expresses the request for a miraculous interposition in the form of thanksgiving. Jesus praises and gives thanks on occasion of the feeding, not as at the usual grace for meat, but because God has so wonderfully blessed the small provision. The same remark applies to the blessing and giving of thanks at the institution of the Supper, for here also it is the form in which the common food is changed into the supernatural. The expression of a request in the form of a thanksgiving which presupposes its being heard, is frequently used in the Old Testament. It was on this ground, e.g., that the thank-offerings, the שלמים , were at the same time precatory offerings,—the nation, to whom had been vouchsafed a revelation, having a God who hears prayer, and to whom they might approach in full confidence of being heard. Here, however, this form of thanksgiving had a special ground. Jesus, in the unity of His will with the Fathers, receives immediately that for which He prays, and may therefore always allow thanksgiving to take the place of prayer.
That Jesus distributed the bread through the intervention of the disciples was already known to us from Matthew ( Matthew 14:19); and John represents that which was done by the disciples as done by Jesus, exactly as in John 3:22, cf. John 4:2. It is thus less probable that the increase took place in the hands of Jesus only, but the miraculous power passed over from Him to His instruments.
Augustine remarks: “majus miraculum est gubernatio totius mundi, quam saturatio quinque millium hominum de quinque panibus: et tamen haec nemo miratur illud mirantur homines non quia majus est, sed quia rarum est.” But Augustine, with perfect correctness, points out, that we should turn our eyes from the outward result as such to the infinitely more important symbolical, prophetic significance of the occurrence: “Non tamen sufficit haec intueri in miraculis Christi. Interrogemus ipsa miracula, quid nobis loquantur de Christo: habent si intelligantur linguam suam. Nam quia ipse Christus verbum Dei est, etiam factum Verbi verbura nobis est.” Now this symbolical meaning we may thus determine, that Christ, whose peculiar mission it was to be a Saviour to the souls of men, yet possesses a miraculous power of spiritual nourishment for His people, and that in the desert of this life He miraculously preserves and spiritually provides for His Church, not excluding outward expedients, but only allowing them a subordinate value. It is, so to speak, in order, that those who by their own fault have not experienced in their heart this power of Christ of spiritual nourishment, and to whom He has not become the bread of life, should entertain doubts with respect to the outward feeding.
Ver. 12. “When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.”
This command is given here only; the earlier accounts relate merely that the Apostles made the collection. The object of the command is given in the words of Jesus, that nothing be lost. The blessing which had come from the hands of God was not to be wantonly squandered. Frugality is a result and sign of gratitude. Yet this is not all; for the fact that all the Evangelists are so exact in their communication of the result of the collection, shows us that this had at the same time the object to bring to light the greatness of the miracle by which the Father sealed the Son, ver. 23.
Ver. 13. “Therefore they gathered together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten.”
The remnants of the fishes are mentioned only by Mark, being considered by the others too insignificant to be mentioned; and even in Mark it is only the fragments of bread that are designated as κλάσματα . In respect of the bread he has κατέκλασε , in respect of the fishes ἐ?μέρισε , and in ver. 43—καὶ? ἦ?ραν κλάσματα δώδεκα κοφίνων πληρώματα καὶ? ἀ?πὸ? τῶ?ν ἰ?χθύων—the κλάσματα are evidently fragments of bread, in distinction from the remnants of the fishes. Twelve baskets are mentioned by all the Evangelists, in distinction from the seven baskets at the second feeding. The baskets were probably found among the multitude, who had brought in them the provisions which they had already consumed. They were so frequently used by the Jews, that Martial (Epigr. 5, 17) calls the Jews in ridicule cistiferos. Since the five loaves with the two fishes, brought by the boy, probably formed the contents of one basket, that which was collected exceeded that which there was before the miracle about twelvefold. The accordance of the Evangelists and the great number of witnesses give this fact the greatest external authentication; and coincident with it is the confirmation which it has received by the experience of the miraculous power of Christ in feeding His followers through the course of so many centuries.
We have now to cast a glance at the Old Testament types of this fact; and first of all must be considered the type of the manna and quails, which, according to ver. 31, occurs also to the people. That the locality is here also the desert (Ἔ?ρημός ἐ?στιν ὁ? τόπος , Matthew 14:15, Mark 6:35) is not an accidental circumstance, but typifies the absolute helplessness of human nature. As Moses considers it absolutely impossible that the whole people should be provided with food, so our Lord purposely brings it about, that the Apostles express the same doubt, that thus may be manifest the character of human nature in its fallen state, and as it is always directed to earthly causes, and that the miracle may make the deeper impression from the contrast of the thought and the reality. In Numbers 11:17-20 the Lord expressed to Moses His purpose, in order to put to shame their murmuring, to give His people flesh to eat, and this for a whole month. Upon this Moses says in vers. 21, 22: “The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and Thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?”
LXX. καὶ? ἀ?ρκέσει αὐ?τοῖ?ς . Cf. here ver. 7. “And Jehovah said unto Moses,” it is said in ver. 23, “Is Jehovah’s hand waxed short? thou shalt see now whether My word shall come to pass unto thee or not.” Christ does not take the position of Moses, but that of Jehovah. Precisely as Moses is related to Jehovah, are the disciples related to Christ, in whom the Angel of Jehovah, with whom Moses had intercourse, has appeared in the flesh and has come unto His own. The weakness of the faith of Moses is enhanced in the unbelief of the people, of whom it is written in Psalms 78:19-20, “Yea, they spake against God: they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness? Behold, He smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can He give bread also? can He provide flesh for His people?”
The manna also had a symbolical meaning. The object for which it was granted is thus stated in the Books of Moses himself, Deuteronomy 8:3, “That He might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by all that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD.” By the manna, Israel is shown that God alone is his preserver, that the power of preserving does not inhere in bread, and that in all bodily and spiritual need he should look upwards for help.
As intermediate between the feeding in the wilderness and Christ’s feeding the multitude, are to be regarded the increase of the scanty store of meal and oil of the widow of Zarephath by Elijah, in 1 Kings 17; the increase of the widows oil by Elisha, in 2 Kings 4:1-7; and the occurrence in 2 Kings 4:42-44. A man of Baal-shalisha brings twenty loaves of barley to the man of God, and Elisha says unto his servant, “Give unto the people, that they may eat. And his servant said. What! should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat and shall leave. So he set before them, and they did eat and left over, according to the word of the LORD.” In reference to this fact, Christ gives the command: συσαγώγετε τὰ? περισσεύσαντα κλάσματα . Elisha does not work the miracle, he only predicts it. Like Moses at the feeding in the wilderness, he is entirely passive; and Christ does not take his position, but that of Jehovah.
Ver. 14. “Then these men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said. This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world.”
That Prophet is the one foretold in Deuteronomy 18 (cf. on John 1:21), and the words, “that should come into the world,” refer to Malachi 3:1 (cf. on John 1:9). Even the conjoint reference to the passage, in which the Messiah is represented as the Lord of heaven, the heavenly King of the covenant-people, shows that the people did not regard the Messiah solely as a prophet, and that they thus designated Him because He had been so called in the original passage of the Books of Moses. That they had also in view the prophecies of the Old Testament, in which the Messiah is represented as King of Israel (cf. on John 1:49), is evident from the occasion which called forth the acknowledgment of Christ as the Messiah; for He had not fed the people as a prophet, but as a king: but especially from the fact, that, according to ver. 15, they wished to make Christ a king.
Chap. John 6:14-21
We have here the second seal by which the Father distinguishes the Son, the second miraculous act by which He proves His right to those high claims which He makes in the discourses which follow both the acts—claims which, though so great, can in view of the facts be regarded as mere assumptions only by the blindness of unbelief. The section has however, of course, together with this, its own independent significance. The fact recorded in it has a symbolical and prophetic character, and contains a rich mine of encouragement for the Church.
The basis for the present symbolical action of our Lord is formed by Psalms 107:23-32: “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in many waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep. For He spake, and raised a stormy wind, which lifted up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so He bringeth them to their desired haven. O that they would praise the LORD for His goodness, and His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt Him also in the congregation of the people, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders.”
According to many expositors, this Psalm portrays the continual course of Divine providence, the deliverances which God vouchsafes to the various classes of sufferers; and we should consequently understand the above section of sea-farers in the ordinary sense. But the beginning of the Psalm is decisive against this; the historical occasion of it being there expressly and purposely stated. According to vers. 2 and 3, it is to be sung by “the redeemed of the Lord, whom He hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy; and gathered them out of all lands, from the rising and from the setting, from the north and from the sea.” Such a situation occurs but once in the history of Israel. Under the Old Dispensation there was but one great national dispersion, that prophesied in Jeremiah 15:4: “And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth;” and but one great national gathering, that from the Babylonian captivity. If the Psalm refers to this, it celebrates the favour of the restoration of the people from captivity; and it is established that this whole section has a figurative character, the Lord’s chosen people delivered from captivity being represented under the figure of sea-farers, who by Divine grace have been enabled to withstand a great storm at sea, and to arrive at their destined haven. The deliverance of the Lord’s people is in this Psalm celebrated in a series, or, so to speak, in a row of varying pictures, of those who wandered hungry and thirsty in the desert, and are now suddenly brought to an inhabited city—of those who were bound in dark prisons, but are now liberated—of those who were sick unto death, but are now restored; and, finally, in this section, of those who have successfully encountered a great storm at sea.
The sea is in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments a symbol of the world. Daniel, in chap. 7, beholds four great beasts come up from the sea, all different from each other, which were the empires of the world following one upon the other. In the Apocalypse ( John 13:1) it is said, “And I saw a beast rise up out of the sea,” i.e., a king rise up in the world. The point of comparison is in the first place their massiveness. And then the constant unrest, in which the mass of the nations is like the sea, as Isaiah ( Isaiah 57:20) says of the ungodly, the citizens of the kingdom of this world, “They are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest.” In Psalms 46:3 the principle of this unrest is represented as being pride, which, not content with the lot appointed by God, is continually seeking to excel others, and to usurp all to itself. And, finally, another point of comparison is the wild roaring which takes place from time to time, especially against the kingdom of God. “The waters therefore roar, are troubled,” it is said of the spiritual sea of the world in Psalms 46; and in Psalms 93 the Lord, in His calm omnipotent majesty, is opposed to the sea of the world raging against the Church. “The floods lift up, O Lord, the floods lift up their voice. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, the mighty waves of the sea.”
Believers who are in the world are represented under the figure of those who voyage on the sea, and do business there as mariners, tradesmen, or fishermen. This is to indicate that their lot is a very exposed one. There is no calling more dangerous, or which so forcibly points upwards, as that of the seaman.
The ships, “since many people are there brought together, having all the same object, danger, interest, and injury,” denote, in the symbolical language of Scripture, communities. In Isaiah 33:21; Isaiah 33:23, the ships signify states. Likewise also in Revelation 8:9, where, in the prediction of a great catastrophe which should devastate the world, it is said, “And the third part of the creatures which were in the sea (the sea of the world, meaning men) and had life died, and the third part of the ships were destroyed.” Here the ships are the symbol of the Church of God: and likewise in our Lord’s symbolical actions, which are based on the passage in the Psalms, the ship denotes the Church, which was of old collected in the ark. “We are all,” says Augustine, “in the ship. Some labour, others are only passengers; but all together suffer danger in the storm, and are delivered in the haven.”
The winds in Scripture denote the sufferings and temptations appointed by God. Job, in John 9:17, complains of God that He breaks him with a tempest, and multiplies his wounds without cause. In Psalms 103:16 it is said, “For the wind passeth over him, and he is not, and his place knoweth him no more.” The wind is meant of sufferings, afflictions, diseases, which assail feeble mortals. In 1 Kings 19:11, the great and strong wind, rending the mountains, and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord, denotes the storm of temptations and afflictions which came upon the Church, and its representative the prophet, and to which at last even his rock-like nature threatened to succumb. The strong storm from the north in Ezekiel 1:4 typifies the Chaldean catastrophe. The winds which in Matthew 7:25 blow and beat upon the house, are an emblem of the temptations by which faith is exercised, and the solidity of the spiritual house is put to the proof. In Revelation 7:1, four angels stand on the four corners of the earth, and hold the four winds of the earth, that no wind blow upon the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree, to intimate that all afflictions come from the hand of God, and that it is He who withholds them, and sends them when they come to pass.
“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still:” this is the happy issue which is ever granted to the Church of God on earth; this is its great privilege above the world, on which the destroying storms of Divine judgment so often break, because it will not cry unto the Lord in its distresses, and because no thanks are to be expected from it after its deliverance. The times of quiet and refreshing are represented under the figure of a calm after a storm also in 1 Kings 19. The storm, earthquake, and fire, in which the Lord is not, are an emblem of the heavy afflictions in which the Lord conceals Himself from the Church, whose representative the prophet is to be considered; as Job so often complains in his sufferings that the Lord is no longer with him, when he expresses the wish, “Oh that I knew where I might find Him, might come to His seat!” as in Psalms 42 it is the Psalmists thorn of pain, that his enemies say unto him, “Where is thy God?”—the still murmuring encourages the prophet: after severe temptations there is the loving help of the Lord.
Now, that which in the Psalm meets us as a figure, is here embodied by the Lord in a double symbolical action, the key and interpretation of which is given in the preceding figurative representation of the Psalm. It is a relation which occurs frequently elsewhere also. Even in the Old Testament the case is not infrequent, that what were only figures originally, were afterwards embodied by men of God in symbolical actions, inwardly or outwardly performed. Thus, e.g., the symbolical action which Jeremiah performs, when he receives the Lord’s commission: “Take this wine-cup full of fury at My hand, and give of it to all the nations to whom I send thee, that they drink, stagger, and be mad, before the sword which I will send among them” ( Jeremiah 25:15-16), is founded on Isaiah 51, where the Lord says: “Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury.
Behold, I have taken out of thy hand the cup of trembling; thou shalt no more drink it again, but I will put it into the hands of them that afflict thee. The symbolical actions of Jeremiah are usually based on such a figure in one of the older prophets. But in the New Testament our Lord’s symbolical actions are, as a rule, founded on the figures of the Old Testament. His entry into Jerusalem, e.g., embodies the word of Zechariah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” The expulsion of the buyers and sellers from the temple gives a visible representation of the word of Malachi, “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, and the covenant-Angel whom ye desire; behold, He cometh, saith Jehovah Sabaoth;” and of Zechariah, “There shall no more be a Canaanite, a merchant (one of Canaan, of the traffickers sort, and not of Judah), in the house of the Lord of hosts.” The cursing of the fig-tree, finally, is founded on the declaration of Micah ( John 7:1): “Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits—there is no cluster to eat: my soul desires the early figs,”—the meaning of which is expressed by the prophet himself in the words, “The good has disappeared from the land, and there is none upright among the children of men;” and then follows a threatening of judgment.
The shore of the Lake of Gennesaret, on both sides, had been already designated by Isaiah (Isa 8:23) as the principal scene of Christ’s activity, and we might expect that the lake itself would not be left unvisited. In a double symbolical action, performed at different times, it is represented as a type of the sea of this world.
The first of these actions is described in the section, Matthew 8:23-27, to which Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25 serve for a supplement. The occurrence typifies in the most significant manner the relation of Christ to His whole Church, and likewise to every individual soul. It is a prophetic act which is continually being fulfilled, and will be most gloriously verified at the end of days. Christ suffers His own to fall into manifold temptations. Often, by concealing His aid, He seems to sleep; but when little faith fancies it sees complete destruction palpably before it, and when it appears boundless folly even to hope, then He suddenly manifests His aid.
The fact, that our Lord has embodied the figure of the 107th Psalm the second time in a symbolical action, proves how very much He desired deeply to impress this conception on the hearts of His disciples. The manifold symbolical elements could not be completely brought out in one action, and a second is therefore added as a supplement. This event, which occurs at the time of Jesus last Passover but one, and therefore at a time when the passion of our Lord, and the closely connected passion of believers in Him, already began to come into the foreground, is recorded by Matthew in John 14:22-31, by Mark in John 6:45-56, and by John in this section. (Luke does not touch on it, doubtless, because he was unable to afford any supplementary particulars.)
Christ, who is the heart of all the three Gospels, leaves His disciples, who are on the unquiet sea of the world, threatened by the storms of temptation, and danger both inward and outward. He allows them to wait long for Him, but finally approaches, unrecognised at first by His disciples, and the danger vanishes.
This event is greatly enhanced in view of the former one. Then Christ was present in the ship, though asleep; but now He is absent. Then it was day; but now the darkness of night increases the danger and the fear Christ’s absence, and especially His stay on the mountain, during the danger of His disciples, and the night, are the two most peculiar features of the narrative.
Ver. 15. “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.”
Calvin: “Volebant Christum rapere, h. e. violento impetu regem quasi invitum facere volebant.” He adds, “quare si probari illi cupimus, quum deferimus honorem, semper quid postulet spectandum est.” That the people wished to force Christ, shows that they had an obscure feeling of the incompatibility with His character of that ordinary royalty which they sought to impose upon Him. The omission of πάλιν in some critical aids is explained by the circumstance, that according to ver. 5, the first stay of Jesus on the mountain did not appear to be for the purpose of retirement. But we have already shown that this is mere appearance. The real object of the stay of Jesus on the mountain had been already stated by Matthew and Mark. After He had compelled the disciples, who could with difficulty part from their beloved Master, to embark alone. He had gone thither alone to pray for His disciples, that in the severe temptation to which He must expose them, their faith might not fail. The Church Fathers, especially Cyril and Augustine, already perceived in this withdrawal of Jesus to the mountain a prefiguration of His ascent into heaven, where He is at the right hand of God, and intercedes for His disciples, who are tossed about on the stormy sea of the world.
Ver. 16. “And when even was come, His disciples went down unto the sea,
Ver. 17. And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.”
The necessary supplement is afforded by Matthew and Mark, from whom we learn that Jesus had commanded the disciples to cross the sea without Him. As He so rarely parted from His disciples, and as they were so unwilling to go alone (He was obliged to constrain them), He must have had important reasons for this; and what these were, we learn from the result. Their departure took place before Jesus retired to the mountain; for He does not dismiss the multitude till after the Apostles have embarked, and then Pie goes to the mountain. John tells us first what Jesus did in view of the popular attempt to make Him a king, and then turns to the disciples. The ὀ?ψία , or latter part of the evening, cf. Matthew 14:15; Matthew 14:23, was also the time when Jesus withdrew to the mountain. But it is mentioned here first that even was now come, because this was of significance to the disciples. To the statement that even was come is afterwards added: “and it was now dark.” It is under all circumstances a critical thing to embark on the deep without Jesus, but especially so when it is evening, and when the day has already declined, and the dark night is coming on with its dangers and fears.
“And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. Ver. 18. And the sea arose, by reason of a great wind that blew.”—“It is well said,” remarks Augustine, “that it was now dark, for Jesus was not yet come.” This it really was that made darkness dark to them; for if they had had the Light of the world with them, night would have been turned into day. Augustine perceives in this darkness a type of the condition which, according to the Scripture, will begin when the end of the world is at hand. “The more the end of the world draws nigh, the more do errors increase,—the more do fears, unrighteousness, unbelief, increase.”
The sea arose, by reason of a great wind. “They stood still more in danger,” says Augustine, “from the doubt in their mind, than from being as to their bodies among the waves.” The outward danger is described more particularly by Matthew. “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves; for the wind was contrary.” It is really said, that the ship was tormented by the waves,—that being transferred to the ship which was felt by those who were in it. Their condition was a hard one. The wind being contrary, they were obliged to row; and this was severe toil, which yet brought them little on their way. Mark, however, causes one ray of light to fall on this gloomy picture, when he tells us that Jesus, as He prayed on the mountain, saw them being thus troubled (ver. 48),—a trait which he doubtless received from Peter, who received it from his Master. By such seeing, Jesus made Himself known as He who once said: “I have seen the affliction of My people in Egypt,” Exodus 3:7; who also numbered the wanderings of David, and had all his tears in view, Psalms 56:8. Such a seeing of Jesus is guaranteed to the Church of all times, and especially in its deep distress at the end of days, by the fact, that the Son of man is at the same time the Lord of heaven. “He that hath formed the eye, shall He not see?” But this is not an idle seeing, it is the seeing of omnipotent love, which prepares help and brings it, when the time and hour have come which He has foreordained.
Ver. 19. “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.”
The ἐ?ληλακότες , “when they had rowed,” is in harmony with the account of Matthew, that the wind was against them; and requires this fact. John has mentioned only the strength of the wind. The statement, ἐ?φοβήθησαν , “they were afraid,” likewise needs to be supplemented from the earlier accounts. The circumstance that Jesus addresses them on the ground of their fear, presupposes that their fear was not merely an inward emotion, but in some way made itself known. Matthew and Mark expressly tell us so. The former to ἐ?ταράχθησαν adds, καὶ? ἀ?πὸ? τοῦ? φόβου ἔ?κραξαν . According to Matthew, the ship was in the midst of the sea, μέσον τῆ?ς θαλάσσης . The more exact statement is given here, that they had rowed from twenty-five to thirty stadia. Josephus (Jewish War 3, 10, 7) makes the lake one hundred and forty stadia in length, and forty stadia in breadth. Robinson determines the greatest breadth of the lake to be about six English miles, but the breadth near Tiberias only five, which would correspond to the forty stadia. The ὡ?ς added is characteristic. Lampe: “religiosorura sane testium est, nihil incertum etiam quoad minimas circumstantias ut certum definire.” The time of the coming of Jesus is more exactly stated by Matthew and Mark, according to whom Jesus came to the disciples on the sea at the fourth and last watch of the night, and therefore at the break of day. So long a time had Jesus passed in prayer, and the disciples in severe toil, distress, and anxiety! How often in the meanwhile had they called, “Watchman, is the night past?” It was the same watch of the night which is in Exodus 14:24 designated as the morning watch, when the Lord looked through the pillar of fire and cloud, and troubled the camp of the Egyptians, so that the Egyptians said: “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians:” it was also the time when the waters returned and covered the horses and riders, with all the host of Pharaoh. It is appropriate to the symbolism of the whole event, that the distress lasts through the whole night, and deliverance comes at the morning dawn, which is the natural type of salvation; as also it was not accidental, in that case of old, that the sea returned at the dawn of the morning, nor that the resurrection of Christ, that great emblem of all salvation to the Church, took place in the early morning, and occasion was given to the Church to sing,
“Welcome to me the darkest night,
If there the Saviour’s presence bright
Beam forth upon the soul dismayed,
And say, ‘Tis I! be not afraid!’”
The symbolism is the same when David sings, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning;” and further, “I will sing of Thy mercy in the morning;” and when the sons of Koralh say from Zion, “God helpeth her at the morning dawn.”
Jesus shows His power over the sea, first, by walking upon it in spite of its raging billows. He follows in this the example of Jehovah, who once of old walked upon the sea, as the Psalmist says ( Psalms 77:19), “Thy way was in the sea, and Thy path in many waters, and Thy footsteps were not known.” The symbolical meaning of this occurrence was rightly perceived already by Augustine: “Although this ship is troubled by the storms of temptation, it yet sees its Lord and God walk upon the heights of the sea,—that is, upon all the dominions of this world.” So also Von Chemnitz: “The Lord will redeem His people at the fourth watch of the night,—that is, at the end of time, when the night of this world is almost at an end. In the meanwhile, the raging sea, however much it may murmur under the footsteps of the Lord, is yet compelled, willingly or unwillingly, to bear Him; even as, however much the heights of this world and its powers may rise, yet our Head treads upon their head.” To walk upon the heights of the sea is represented in the Old Testament as the high privilege of God. “He alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the heights of the sea,” Job 9:8. The fact that Jesus shares this privilege, shows that His Church may calmly, and with cheerful serenity, behold the raging of the sea.
The disciples were afraid when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship. Whence this fear, instead of the exultant joy which we might have expected? John does not himself answer this question, and therefore refers, as plainly as if he had expressly done so, to his predecessors, in whom we do find the answer. Matthew says: “And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying. It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” So also Mark. Apparitions were regarded as the heralds of impending destruction. It is significant, that the disciples at first mistook Christ, who came to put an end to all distress, for a harbinger of destruction. It reminds us that we are too shortsighted, and that often we do not measure appearances by the true standard; that our Saviour often comes in strange apparel; and that those very facts which seem to set immediate ruin before us, are frequently the heralds of approaching salvation, and that therefore we must be cautious about crying out for fear.
Ver. 20. “But He saith unto them. It is I; be not afraid.
Ver. 21. Then they wished to take Him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.”
If, according to the error of our times, and contrary to the custom of universal antiquity, we tear asunder the Gospel of John from the earlier Gospels, there may certainly be some hesitation in supplying the circumstance that Jesus really came on board the vessel. But if John’s presupposes the earlier narrative, he might content himself with intimating that afterwards the disciples desired to take Jesus into the ship. The statement, “they wished,” is opposed to their former fear, when Jesus drew nigh unto the ship: now they wished to take Him into the ship, and after they had done so, they were immediately at the land. A gross contradiction would be nowhere less in place than here, where all else is in harmony even to the minutest particular. The rendering, they wished indeed to do this, but it was rendered unnecessary, etc., etc., would be justified only if but stood in the place of and. The emblem also would have been entirely spoiled if Jesus had not entered the ship, for its central-point is the opposition of without and within. It was the peculiar revelation of Christ’s glory, that the very moment that He stepped on board the ship the wind was calmed, so that in a brief time the short remaining space was traversed. We are not, in accordance with the other Gospels, to suppose any further miracle than the calming of the wind. The words of Psalms 107—“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof were still. Then were they glad because they were quiet; so He brought them to their desired haven”—here received a new fulfilment, being embodied in a fact, which is at the same time a prophecy, and as such is rich in encouragement.
This, then, is the event, in so far as the Evangelists have it in common. The first Apostle of the Evangelists communicates another fact—the walking of Peter on the sea—which the others pass by, doubtless because he had fully imparted it, and there were no materials left to be gleaned. It comes between the word of Christ, “I am He, be not afraid,” and His coming on board the little vessel, which, though in itself so frail, became by His presence impregnable.
Ver. 22. “The day following, when the people, which stood on the other side of the sea, saw that there was none other boat there, save one, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone;
Ver. 23. (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias, nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks;)
Ver. 24. When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also took shipping, and came unto Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.”
The language is here somewhat involved, owing to the scantiness of the Evangelists account of all that which does not directly minister to edification. The narrative is to be thus arranged: One part of the people, on reflecting that Jesus had not gone with His disciples in the only ship there was (ἐ?κεῖ?νο , εἰ?ς , ὅ? ἐ?νέβησαν οἱ? μαθηταὶ? αὐ?τοῦ? , in ver. 22, is a good gloss), had been induced to remain, in the expectation that Jesus must return. On the following day, however, when they saw that neither was Jesus there, nor did His disciples come with the ships from Tiberias to fetch Him away, they made use of these ships to cross to Capernaum, in order to seek for Jesus there.
Ver. 24 cannot be a resumption of ἰ?δών , etc., in ver. 22; but the circumstances are here supplied which determined the people to depart, in opposition to those which had previously caused them to remain. The former intelligence was, in ver. 24, opposed and rendered unimportant by the new perception. For if, on the following day, neither Jesus nor His disciples were there, it was to be concluded, that if He had not gone on the ship, he must have crossed in some other manner. Ὅ?τε οὖ?ν εἶ?δεν is not connected with ἰ?δών , but only with τῇ? ἐ?παύριον—θαλάσσης . From ἰ?δών to ἀ?πῆ?λθον we have the motive to ̔?στηκώς : the people, who stood on the other side of the sea, seeing, or, because they saw. If we recognise this, we shall not feel tempted to take ἰ?δών in the sense of the Pluperfect.
The reading εἶ?δεν , or εἶ?δον , in ver. 22, was the result of an immature comparison with ver. 24, and does not give an appropriate sense. It refers the seeing to the following day, though it can belong only to the evening after the feeding, when they saw, namely, on the previous day; to which also we are led by the ἦ?ν , the συνεισῆ?λθε , and the ἀ?πῆ?λθον .
The notice in ver. 23 serves a double purpose: first, as a ground for mentioning the absence of the disciples, who might have returned in these ships; and then for the statement, that they also took shipping. It is entirely confusing to assume the dependence of this sentence on ὅ?τι in ver. 22. The ἰ?δών refers to the perception of facts which pertained to the evening of the feeding; but, on the other hand, the ships did not arrive till the following day.
Why did the ships come from Tiberias? Probably to seek for Jesus on that side of the lake; and then it is explained why the use of these ships was so readily granted to the multitude, who brought them not to Tiberias, but to Capernaum. When they had heard the news that Jesus was probably in Capernaum, they directed their course thitherward.
It is not the great multitude which had been miraculously fed which is here spoken of, but those who had remained at the place of the feeding, in distinction from the certainly far larger number of those who had gone home, or into the villages round about, Mark 6:36, in obedience to the direction of Christ, who had dismissed the multitudes, and thus formally declared to them, that He did not wish to have further intercourse with them at this place. Matthew 14:22-23. The vessels from Tiberias could have taken only a relatively small part of the former great multitude. Those who had remained were certainly at least deeply moved, and were probably those from whom had proceeded the proposal to make Christ a king, even against His will. This proposal and their remaining proceeded from the same motive; and this remark is not without importance with respect to what follows. The low views of those who made the proposal are not, in the absence of further indication, to be attributed to the whole number of those who were fed. The miracle itself presupposes that there were some who were able to understand it and to take it to heart. Jesus would, as it seems, have wasted His miraculous power, if what He says in ver. 26 applied to all the subjects of it. He would, in contradiction to His own words, have cast pearls before swine.
Chap. John 6:22-59
Give an account of the conversation of Jesus with the Jews, which followed on the feeding, and in which Jesus pointed to Himself as the true bread. This and the subsequent conversation with the Apostles, John 6:60-71, are peculiar to John.
Ver. 25. “And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi, when earnest Thou hither?”
According to ver. 59, they found Jesus in the synagogue at Capernaum. But on the other side of the sea: this was what surprised them, and the question was as to the manner in which He crossed the sea.
The Jews speak six times, and Jesus answers six times, so that the conference is completed in the number twelve.
The question as to the time, is at the same time also a question as to the manner. If Jesus had come to Capernaum at the same time as His disciples. He must have done so in a miraculous manner; for they had seen that Jesus had not embarked with His disciples, and that there had been no other ship there. But they were interested in the manner, in so far as they hoped that the miraculous power therein made known might be exerted in furtherance, not indeed of the salvation of their souls, but of their worldly prosperity. He whom the Sea of Tiberias must obey, could not be withstood by the sea of nations, and would be an excellent king to feed His people. This perverse disposition of mind, which prompted the question, explains why Jesus did not give them any answer, but proceeded at once to speak of other things. If they had put the question in the interest of their immortal souls, in order to learn of the saving power which Jesus had for these, the question would not have remained unanswered. Jesus would have expressly told them what He now admits by His silence, that He had crossed the sea in a miraculous manner, and therefore possessed the power to sway the troubled sea of their lusts and passions, and to conduct the ship of the Church into the haven of eternal life. But as they now ask in the interest of their lusts. He leads their minds from the external to the internal, from the thought of earthly food and outward prosperity to the true nourishment for the soul, that food of eternal life which had been typified by the outward food. Augustine: “Ille post miraculi sacramentum et sermonem infert, ut si fieri potest, qui pasti sunt pascantur, quorum satiavit panibus ventres, satiet et sermonibus mentes; sed si capiant.”
Ver. 26. “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.”
The outward act of Jesus is an intimation of the powers and treasures which He possesses for the exercise of His peculiar calling—the impartation of eternal life, which is the only aim worthy of God’s people, and the only gift worthy of the true Saviour. He who does not in the miracles of Jesus see signs in this sense, but only the beginnings of an activity directed to outward earthly blessing, degrades at the same time both himself and the Saviour. Yet those Jews have still many associates in Christian lands, for it is temporal prosperity which most persons seek in Christ (Augustine: “Vix quaeritur Jesus propter Jesum”); and when this is withheld, they are offended. While they eat bread and are satisfied, they are grateful and faithful; but when trial comes, and the temporal is taken from them, then they fall away. This is a deeply-seated fault of human nature.
Jesus here evinces Himself to be He who knows what is in man, John 2:24-25. That He does not express psychological conjectures, but speaks as He who tries the hearts and the reins, is shown by the lively asseveration, ἀ?μὴ?ν ἀ?μὴ?ν λέγω ὑ?μῖ?ν (cf. at John 1:51), which recurs four times in this discourse, John 6:32; John 6:47; John 6:53, and always points to Jesus as He in whom we may place absolute confidence, because He speaks that which He knows, and testifies that which He has seen. Jesus here showed at the same time that He is unconditionally exalted above the people, and having nothing to seek from them, has no reason to flatter their perverse inclinations, to which course those are condemned, who come in their own name.
Ver. 27. “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 the Father sealed, God.”
As Jesus, when speaking to the woman of Samaria, passed over from the bodily to the spiritual water, so here He passes from the bodily to the spiritual bread. And so likewise here He designates Himself as the bread of life, as He had then designated Himself as the water of life. The meat which endures unto everlasting life here, corresponds to the water, which becomes a fountain springing up into everlasting life, in John 4:14.
The meat which the Son of man gives is, according to ver. 33, Himself. He gives the meat, by giving an interest in Himself.
The meat, in itself perishable. Matthew 15:17, cannot afford imperishable well-being, and is therefore of subordinate importance; and on the same line with the perishable meat lies all that which serves for the furtherance of the earthly existence. Calvin: “Noverat hominum sensus terrenis curis devinctos teneri.” Quesnel: “When we regard all worldly conditions, is it not true that we find there almost all men engaged solely in care for perishable food, or in thoughts of a still more perishable and vain happiness, as though it was for this that man had received life?”
That they are to labour for the higher food, and thus to gain it, shows that faith—in which the work, according to ver. 29, consists—is no pillow for idleness, but demands a greater spiritual energy than the performance of so-called good works. It is indolence which keeps so many from believing. They will not rouse themselves from their natural state, which by use has become dear to them; they have a great aversion to the earnestness of repentance, which is the foundation of all true faith; and they shun the effort to collect their scattered senses from the many to the one object of faith. How inseparable working and struggling are from faith, and how far from it is all dead passivity, was typified even in primitive times by the wrestling of Jacob. Faith is also represented as work, ἔ?ργον , in opposition to all false quietism, in 1 Thessalonians 1:3, where the parallel κόπος serves for explanation; and in 2 Thessalonians 1:11 also Paul speaks of the ἔ?ργον πίστεως . In Php_2:12 , he speaks of a working out of salvation.
We are not to conclude from the word labour that faith is a human work, in direct opposition to ver. 44, according to which no one can come to the Son except the Father draw him, and to ver. 65. The working is not performed independently, but in dependence on God, who always grants the will and the accomplishment, Php_2:13 . There can be no thought of an independent working in the domain of that revelation which even on its first pages declares the essence of piety to consist in walking with God, and this to be the only means of resistance against the might of the deep corruption which has come upon human nature in consequence of the Fall: Genesis 5:24; Genesis 6:9.
Faith is not itself the meat, nor that which can nourish and refresh the soul,—this is Christ, ver. 35; His flesh and His blood, ver. 55,—but is only the precondition of the reception of the food, the praying hand stretched out to receive it.
The benefits of salvation to be afforded by Christ are represented under the figure of meat and drink in Isaiah 55:1-2. The kernel of this salvation we learn from chap. 53. It is redemption and atonement by the Servant of God. Yet we are not to stop with this. It is rather the entire fulness of salvation in Christ which is designated, by which the hungry and thirsty soul is satisfied. The expression labour here, corresponds to the thrice repeated come and buy in Isaiah 55:1: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.” That the coming and buying take place by means of repentance, which is the indispensable condition of a participation in salvation, is shown by what follows: cf. vers. 6 and 7.—“Which the Son of man shall give unto you.” They are required to labour now for the meat; and accordingly the future δώσει can refer only to the presupposition of the labour, and not to the passion and glorification of Christ: q.d., which the Son of man shall give you at once, so soon as you have performed the requisition to labour by faith, and its ground-work repentance. Christ designates Himself as the Son of man in reference to the Divine glory which, according to the original passage in Daniel, was hidden behind His lowly human appearance. Cf. at John 1:51. The fact of the human abasement of Christ formed a sharp contrast to the fact that He here represents Himself as the only bestower of the gift which is unto eternal life. Christ allows the contrast, but takes from it its strangeness by the reference to the prophecy of Daniel, in which the Son of man is at the same time the Lord from heaven.—“For Him hath the Father, God, sealed.” The expression, to seal, occurred already in John 3:33, in the sense of to confirm. The seal of confirmation which the Father has impressed on the Son consists in the works, John 5:36, which are so many signs. Christ is speaking to those who at the feeding of the five thousand had just been present at such a sealing, and who had also some knowledge of the miracle upon the sea, ver. 26. Luther: “The Father has hung His seal and bull on the Son.
As though He should say: See to it, that ye adhere stedfastly to this. If another teaching comes, which would feed thee eternally, but has not that seal and these letters as Christ has, be on thy guard against it.”
To the Father is added ὁ? Θεός , “to render more prominent the highest authority.”
Ver. 28. “Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
In explanation of the works of God here, may serve the sacrifices of God in Psalms 51:19, which are those required by Him, and well-pleasing to Him; this being shown by the antithesis to ver. 17, and the parallelism: cf. the ways of God in ver. 13. In Jeremiah 48:10, “Cursed is he that doeth the work of the Lord remissly,” the work of the Lord is that required by Him, and therefore well-pleasing to Him. The answer of the Jews testifies, according to the correct remark of Olshausen, “plainly of a certain spiritual understanding.” From the ἐ?ργάζεσθε , labour, they rightly conclude that Jesus requires an effort on their part as the condition of obtaining the exalted good placed by Him in prospect. Those give too much meaning to the plural, who conclude from it that they at once thought of good works in the Jewish sense. They abstain from any judgment in reference to the more precise character of that which is to be done, washing first only to learn what Christ understands by it. To work the works of God is a specific conception, just as the sacrifices of God in Psalms 51 are specific, for only one sacrifice follows: “the sacrifices of God are a broken heart.” They ask what they are to do in this case, in order to be able to respond to the general requisition to do what is well-pleasing to God. They might as well have asked. What in this case is the work of God which we are to work? Christ meets them with a simple answer to their question, and not a correction of it, as though one, necessary work were opposed to their multiplicity of works. There is the less ground for such an opposition, since even the one work of faith comprises a multiplicity of acts and works; so that the plural would not refer to the ordinary Jewish works, even if the generic character of the expression should be denied.
Ver. 29. “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”
Against those who hold that faith is here called a work of God, because it is effected by God, it has been already remarked by Lampe, that “the Jews had inquired concerning a work, which they wished to work.” What had not the Jews to do and to work in order to believe in Christ? What “great labour” (Luther sings in his sacramental hymn, “Jesus Christ our Saviour”—“Such mighty grace and favour the heart must seek oft with great labour”) was here imposed upon them? The Jew was obliged to break with ecclesiastical tradition, which presented before him a false image of the Messiah—with all the authorities, which had already at that time assumed a decided opposition to Christ—with public opinion, and with his own fleshly lusts—he must give the death-blow to his honour among men, and, what was the most difficult, to all dreams of his own excellence, and all claims to be, or to be able to do something, or to be of some account, of himself. (Calvin: “Fides nihil ad Deum affert, quin potius hominem vacuum et inopem sistit coram Deo, ut Christo ejusque gratia impleatur.” Quesnel: “The law of works, which only puffs up, is now reduced to the single law of faith, which humbles a man, and takes from him all ground of boasting.”) This was a work above all other works, a struggle for life and death. Luther: “This is taught by trial and experience, that to depend on God’s word, so that the heart is not terrified by sin and death, but trusts and believes God, is a much severer and more difficult thing than the Carthusians or all the orders of monks.” To believe in Christ was to give up all on which the heart had hitherto depended, to tear out from it the dearest “possessions of the heart” ( Job 17:11). The Jew lost the communion of his people ( John 16:2), of his kindred ( Matthew 10:35), of himself ( Luke 14:26). To believe was to renounce all that he had, and to return to the same condition in which he had come into the world. The Pharisees were the straitest of sects, but the endless multiplicity of their demands weighs lighter than a feather against the one work which Christ requires.
Ver. 30. “They said therefore unto Him, What sign showest Thou then, that we may see, and believe Thee? what dost Thou work?
Ver. 31. Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”
The τί ἐ?ργάζῃ? is the pointed Jewish answer to the ἐ?ργάζεσθε . The Berleb. Bibel: “What dost Thou work? Here they wished as it were to present again and give back to Christ the word work: We return it, and say. What dost Thou work? So rude and insolent is man.” The point would be less fine if they had added the σύ , which is only carried on from what precedes. They have comprehended the greatness and difficulty of the demand which Christ makes upon them. In order to be able to require so much, and to make upon us the demand to give up ourselves, Thou must do much greater works in proof of Thy authority than Thou hast yet done. Thou requirest infinitely more than Moses, and yet Moses did a much greater work. Thy feeding cannot compare with the miracle of the manna.
The Jews thought themselves very cunning in this requisition. They overlooked only one thing, that Christ’s miracles were only signs, which were to point them to the majesty of His person. It was their own fault that they had no regard to this, the real miracle. If they had had eyes to see ( Deuteronomy 29:3), the manna of the desert, even in the unhistorical exaggerated representation of it which was then current (cf. the Book of Wisdom, and my essay. Misunderstandings with respect to the Manna, at the close of the treatise on Balaam), would have appeared to them as something very small when compared with the gift which was now offered them. For the very reason that Moses was nothing more than a poor frail man, he needed the stronger outward proofs that he was one sent of God.
By indirectly making the demand on Christ to outbid the manna, they at the same time lead the matter back, as it were, unremarked, and with supposed craftiness, to that domain from which Christ had driven it in ver. 26. They wish to cause him to be a Messiah in the Jewish sense, who cares for the body, and lets “eternal life” go.
Proceeding on the conception that the whole of the Old Testament is the word of God, it is of slight importance to ascertain where precisely the words quoted are to be found. The preference which is perceptible in the New Testament for such general forms of citation is always founded on this conception.
It is said in Exodus 16:4, “Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you;” in John 16:15, “And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord gives you to eat”
LXX.: Οὗ?τος ὁ? ἄ?ρτος , ὃ?ν ἔ?δωκεν κύριος ὑ?μῖ?ν φαγεῖ?ν ; in Psalms 78:24, “And He rained down manna upon them to eat, and gave them of the corn of heaven.” The Jews have in view all these passages together. As the quotation professes to be a verbal one, we are not to stop with the two former passages. The αὐ?τοῖ?ς is from the Psalms. But we are not to stop merely with this, for it is not natural that the real fundamental passages should be left out of account. The highly emphatic words, from heaven, ἐ?κ τοῦ? οὐ?ρανοῦ? , form the antithesis to the common earthly bread which they had eaten on the day before. The Berleb. Bibel: “From Moses we saw great signs from heaven, but from Thee only a little from earth.” In reference to this “from heaven,” Jesus, as first pointed out by Bengel, says seven times in what follows, that He came down from heaven, vers. 32, 33, 38, 50, 51, 58, 62. It was an anachronism to require bread from heaven, while this bread, to which the former was related as the shadow to the substance—this bread, to eat which is eternal life—was already in their midst. “So is it with an atheist,” remarks Quesnel, “who demands proofs of the Deity, although every day he meets with miracles, which having continued from the beginning of the world in a certain order and regularity, which they never disown, are therefore only the more wonderful than passing miracles.”
Ver. 32. “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.”
Moses had indeed given bread from heaven, but not the bread, q.d., the true bread,—the bread, compared with which, all other bread from heaven is not regarded, being considered as not-bread.
The true bread forms the antithesis to the perishable meat, which gives nourishment only to the body. The soul is represented even in the Old Testament, first in Genesis 49:6, as the כבוד , the glory, the pars melior of man. Only that heavenly bread which nourishes this can be regarded as the true bread, of which the manna was prefigurative; and it is folly to demand this after the appearance of the antitype.
When God is designated as the Father of Jesus Christ, it is implied in this, not less than in the Present δίδωσι in opposition to δέδωκε , that the feeding pertains to the present, and is in connection with the advent of Christ, or His epiphany, with which the proclamation of the Son by the Father is coincident, Matthew 3:17.
Ver. 33. “For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.”
We are not to interpunctuate after ὁ? καταβαίνων ἐ?κ τοῦ? οὐ?ρανοῦ? , but must connect this, which is common to the heavenly bread of Mosaic times with Christ (it is said that the manna came down from heaven in Numbers 11:9, LXX.: κατέβαινε τὸ? μαννα ), with what follows, by which the new heavenly bread is distinguished from the old. We have the carrying out of the thought in vers. 49, 50.
That ὁ? καταβαίνων does not refer directly to Christ, but to the bread, is evident even from the answer of the Jews, which presupposes that Jesus had not yet pronounced concerning the identity of the bread and His own person, which He does first in ver. 35, then in ὁ? ἄ?ρτος ὁ? ἐ?κ τοῦ? οὐ?ρανοῦ? καταβαίνων in ver. 50, and ὁ? ἄ?ρτος ὁ? ἐ?κ τοῦ? οὐ?ρανοῦ? καταβὰ?ς , vers. 41, 51. The participle Present also is opposed to the direct reference to Christ, for He has already come down from heaven; but the bread, the nourishing virtue proceeding from Him, comes down anew, whenever there are hearts capable of receiving it. Cf. the Future δώσει in ver. 27.
The whole world apart from Christ is represented as lying in death, in harmony with the declaration, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt die;” for in the whole wide universe. He is the only point whence life proceeds. Cf. the remarks on the words, “in Him was life,” of the Prologue. There is, perhaps, in the life-giving bread here a reference to the death-bringing food of yore. In view of our incapacity to raise ourselves to the heavenly source of all life, it is a great grace that the life has come down to us, and is thus brought within our reach. On the words, “and giveth life unto the world,” the Berleburger Bibel says, “There they got the true wide horizon before them. It was necessary to say this to the Jews, for they applied everything to their nation. Thus they must be introduced into God’s wider circle. Such a Messiah must be so for the whole world.”
Only the bread which gives life to the world, and imparts to all men a happy immortality, truly deserves the name of the bread of God, and not the manna, which only in a lower and imperfect sense is called in Psalms 78:25, “bread of the mighty,” bread from the region of the angels, or bread of heaven.
Ver. 34. “Then said they unto Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.”
We have no reason, with some old expositors, to call this answer of the Jews an apple of Sodom. Even the address κύριε shows that they do not wish to mock, but are in earnest with their request. They do not know what this bread is in itself, but perceive thus much, that it must be something very glorious, and that Jesus sets before them something more exalted than the extolled manna of the desert.
The similarity of the answer of the Jews here to the answer of the Samaritan woman in John 4:15, is explained by the fact, that it is the same Jesus who draws forth both the one and the other answer. On both occasions He had placed in prospect a glorious good—there a precious drink, here a precious food,—and not until He had called forth the expression of desire for it, did He explain the connection of this good with His own person. The πάντοτε refers to the transient character of the feeding which Jesus had just granted, and reference is made to πάντοτε here by πώποτε in ver. 35.
Ver. 35. “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.”
Luther: “These words should be written on the heart with golden letters, yea, with living letters (that would be better), so that every one might know where he should leave his soul, and where he was to go, when he should leave this world; or so that, when he went to bed, or rose in the morning, or did anything else, he might know this golden piece of art: Here in Christ stays my soul, so that I need not hunger nor thirst.” The bread of life is, according to ver. 33, the bread which gives life. There is nothing implied in the form of the expression that is inaccessible to the Jews. The good things of the Messianic kingdom had been already represented under the figure of a rich repast in Isaiah 25:6, “And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things.” “They shall not hunger nor thirst,” it is said with respect to the times of Christ in Isaiah 49:10. Cf. remarks on John 4:14. In Isaiah 55 the good things of Christ’s kingdom had been represented under the figure of a precious drink and a glorious feast: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price. 2. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken, hearken unto Me, and eat ye good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” To this passage, in which the Messianic salvation is represented as the only food which quenches hunger and thirst, the Lord distinctly refers, together with Isaiah 49:10. By the reference to these passages the circumstance is explained, that to the declaration that they shall not hunger, which alone stands in relation to bread, it is added that they shall not thirst. From Isaiah 55 are also taken the words, ὁ? ἐ?ρχόμενος πρὸ?ς μὲ? : cf. ver. 3, “Incline your ear, and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live.” Even in ver. 1 of this original passage, solid food or bread is promised together with the drink, being implied by the exhortation, eat. To the words, οὐ? μὴ? πεινάσῃ? , corresponds in the original passage, שברו , buy. The verb שבר does not signify to buy in general, but only that buying which procures the means of quieting the sense of hunger. Corn in Genesis 42:19 is called שבר , because it breaks or stills hunger.
Calvin rightly emphasizes the words, “that Cometh unto Me: “neque enim quidquam incredulis prodest Christum esse panem vitae, quia vacui semper manent: sed tunc efficitur Christus panis noster, cum famelici ad eum accedimus ut nos impleat.”
Ver. 36. “But I said unto you. That ye also have seen Me, and believe not.”
The rendering of Meyer, “but I wish to tell you,” has no justification in New Testament usage. There can be no doubt that Jesus refers to some expression which had occurred in the present conversation, just as in ver. 65 He refers to a word which He had spoken in ver. 44; and this can be found only in ver. 26: “Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.” That this reproach amounts to that of unbelief is shown by ver. 29, where Jesus designates it as the task still to be performed by the Jews, that they should believe on Him; and by ver. 30, where the Jews concede the fact of their unbelief. What else was it but unbelief, when in that which had taken place, the healings of the sick and the feeding, they had perceived no sign, and when they had not been led by these to the recognition of that which was really essential in the appearance of Christ? To believe is nothing else but to recognise this, to perceive in Christ the Son of God, the Saviour, and the Bestower of eternal life. He who regards Him only as one who can procure for him some advantages in this life, is still in unbelief.
This seeing of Jesus is shown, by comparison with ver. 26, to be not an ordinary seeing, which would form no contrast to their unbelief, but a seeing of Him in the exercise of His calling, and the full radiation of His Divine nature, as on the previous day, and at the feeding of the five thousand, when Jesus had taught, healed, and fed. By all these revelations of His character, which are continued in the Church, they had not been led to the knowledge of Him. These facts were to have been signs to them; but they had not been so, for how then could they have desired new and greater miracles from Christ? This desire shows that they had not yet penetrated into the miracle of His person.
In the previous verse it is the glorious benefits which are laid up in Christ for human need that are spoken of; but here, alas! the Jews are excluded from these by their unbelief. To this is then added, in vers. 37-40, a further declaration concerning that which Christ vouchsafes to His followers, which is forfeited by unbelief in which is also included an urgent invitation to renounce unbelief. It treats at last of nothing less than the resurrection at the last day, and eternal life. Woe unto him who excludes himself from this by his unbelief.
Ver. 37. “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me: and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”
Luther: “When the Lord says. Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. He wishes in a gracious manner to image forth and portray Himself for us, in order that we may know how to regard Him. Thou art not to fear Him, or to think that He is an angry judge, who stands with a scourge behind the door, and wishes to judge thee or condemn thee; for He is the true Bishop of souls, a true teacher and a faithful pastor.” To the giving of the Father here (cf. ver. 65, John 10:29, John 17:12), corresponds the drawing of the Father in ver. 44. The Lord speaks the words, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come unto Me,” in view of the unbelief of so many, and to their shame. Unbelief thinks itself great, and imagines itself to be independent, and exalted above Christ, whom it refuses to acknowledge, whose claims it rejects, and on whom it sits in judgment. In opposition to this, Christ discloses another point of view. All that the Father has given Him comes to Him; and none can come to Him except the Father has given it him. The chief reason why they do not come to Him, is not in their own will, but in a decretive act of God, which excludes them from Christ, and thus from the source of all salvation. There is no absolute predestination taught in this. The declaration, Ye would not, Matthew 23:37, remains still in force. How else could Christ reckon to them their unbelief, as is the case throughout this discourse, as a moral offence? The decretive act of God is based on the position which they occupy. They shall not, only because they will not. But the relation is seen in quite a different light, and the pride of unbelief receives a powerful impulse, if this is represented as fate. These words, however, spoken certainly with the mildest accent, do not contain the main thought. This is contained rather in the words, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out,” so certainly as in ver. 37-40 all has the object to present the glorious blessings which are laid up in Christ, and thus to allure some to faith in Him. The casting out is common to the discourses of Christ in John, cf. John 15:6, and in the first Gospels, cf. John 8:12, Luke 13:28. It is founded on the comparison of the kingdom of God, or the Church of Christ, with a building, a dwelling-house, full of light and pleasantness, but without the dark night, into which he is thrust who is not agreeable to the lord of the house. The words, “I will in no wise cast out,” refer here not merely to the first acceptance, but, as shown by vers. 39, 40 (cf. also John 10:28), to constant support and protection.
Ver. 38. “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.
Ver. 39. And this is the will of Him who 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.”
With respect to the coming down of Christ from heaven, cf. remarks on John 3:13. Christ’s opposing the will of Him that sent Him to His own will, is with reference to the error of the Jews, who wished to erect a wall of separation between Him and the Father. In opposition to them, He renders prominent the fact, that it is not merely His will, but at the same time that of the Father, that His own should become partakers of everlasting bliss. That ἀ?πόλλυμι stands here with the signification of to lose, is shown by comparison with John 12:25, John 17:12, John 18:9. Christ loses none of those whom the Father has given Him, because He preserves, and guards them, John 17:12, and allows none to pluck them out of His hand, John 10:28. The resurrection at the last day is represented not as the whole, but as the completion, of the salvation which Christ imparts to His own. From the moment of their believing He is unto them the bread of life, and this life attains its perfection at the resurrection. (Bengel: “Hic finis est, ultra quem periculum nullum. Citeriora omnia praestat Salvator.”) Calvin, however, with perfect correctness, points out, that the emphasis on the resurrection presupposes, that until it takes place, the life of all believers is in many ways still tainted with death. The words, ἀ?ναστήσω αὐ?τὸ?ν ἐ?ν τῇ? ἐ?σχάτῃ? ἡ?μέρᾳ? , form a kind of refrain. They recur again in vers. 40, 44, 54. The words in which Christ subjoins the final decision should be indelibly impressed on, and be as a goad, to all hearts. The resurrection is here used in an emphatic sense. The ἀ?νάστασις κρίσεως , John 5:29, is left out of account, as a resurrection which is no resurrection. We have here one last day, on which at the same time the resurrection of all the members of Christ takes place. The doctrine of a double resurrection of the righteous is opposed to the words of Christ, and it has also the Apocalypse, when correctly understood, not in its favour, but in opposition to it.
Ver. 40. “For this is the will of My Father, that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” He who sees the Son, θεωρῶ?ν , with the bodily eye during His appearance in the flesh, or with the eye of the spirit after He has ascended to heaven. The seeing is the precondition of faith. He who is to believe must necessarily have Christ placed before him. Faith, however, is not the necessary consequence of seeing; for we may see Christ, and yet not believe on Him, cf. ver. 36. “Eternal life” is that which makes the resurrection at the last day, which alone had been spoken of in ver. 39, so desirable. Although eternal life has its prelude even on this side the grave, cf.” remarks on John 3:15, yet here, where it stands in immediate connection with the resurrection, it is only its full realization in the future which is to be understood. Cf. the ἀ?νάστασις ζωῆ?ς in John 5:29.
Ver. 41. “The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
Ver. 42. 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?”—Γυγγύζειν has the meaning of to whisper only in John 7:32, but elsewhere in the New Testament always the meaning of to murmur; and this meaning is recommended here by the unmistakeable connection of this passage with those passages of the Old Testament in which a murmuring, γογύζειν , of the Jews is spoken of, in accordance with which, the word ἐ?γόγγυζον is to be regarded as provided, as it were, with quotation-marks. The Jews here verified, as the word intimates, their character as already known from the Old Testament. As they had before murmured against Jehovah, so now they murmur against Christ. Cf. Exodus 16:7-9, Numbers 11:1: καὶ? ἦ?ν ὁ? λαὸ?ς γογγύζων πονηρὰ? ἔ?ναντι κυρίου ; Numbers 14:27, where God says to Moses and Aaron: ἃ? αὐ?τοῦ? γογγύζουσιν ἐ?ναντίον ἐ?μοῦ? , τὴ?ν γόγγυσιν τῶ?ν υἱ?ῶ?ν Ισραηλ , ἣ?ν ἐ?γόγγυσαν περὶ? ὑ?μῶ?ν , ἀ?κήκοα . Cf. Psalms 106:25, Wisdom 46:7. 1 Corinthians 10:10 indicates that the expression is taken from the Old Testament: μηδὲ? γογγύζετε , καθάπερ τινὲ?ς αὐ?τῶ?ν ἐ?γόγγυσαν .
We are not to suppose that here others came up, who were farther from Christ. The rising opposition is explained by the fact, that Christ now presents His claims more distinctly, at which those took offence who had been hitherto apparently well-disposed towards Him. They now first perceive what is His real design. And the circumstance that His opponents are here first designated as “the Jews” (cf. remarks on John 1:19), is explained by the fact, that they now for the first time fully manifested that disposition which afterwards brought the Jews in a compact mass into opposition to the Christian Church.
The Jews understood the words of Christ perfectly well, as generally in this conversation it is not a question of misunderstandings, but of the offence which is taken at the words of Christ as correctly understood. They perceived that Christ, in His assertion of His having come down from heaven, ascribed to Himself a full participation in the Divine glory, and that on the ground of this glory He claimed an absolute superiority. This it was which roused their rebellious spirits. They would willingly have allowed Him the Messianic dignity, and even a certain divinity; but He was only to be the first among those in nature like Himself. His claim to be very God, and to be absolutely above them, was insufferable, and moved them to withhold any acknowledgment from Christ. Was He not a “son of man” like them, and, besides this, of mean origin? The supposed fact of His descent from Joseph, and whatever else was connected with this, at which the people of Nazareth had already taken offence, appeared to them to be a convincing instance against such presumption. At this apparent fact they directed their constant gaze, and took away their eyes from beholding the works of Christ, such as had been done by no other, and this before their seeing eyes.
The Jews are here the representatives of the natural man, who is untouched by Divine grace. The words of Augustine point out the deepest ground of their opposition: “Panis quippe iste interioris hominis quaerit esuriem: unde alio loco dicit: beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt justitiam, quoniam ipsi saturabuntur.” He whose heart is filled with pride, who does not feel his own misery, and who needs no Saviour, his whole nature must rebel when Christ meets him with the words, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” Quesnel says, “The great truths confuse the weak, and render blind the wicked, while at the same time they console the humble children of God.
A great number of dogs, which tear to pieces the preachers of the truth, or of swine, which tread them under foot, may not hinder the lambs and the doves from being fed.”
Vers. 43, 44. “Jesus therefore answered and said unto them. Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to Me, except the Father, who hath sent Me, draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
The Jews thought that Jesus had given them offence by His intolerable assumption; but Jesus points out that the offence which they had taken, rests on an entirely different ground, viz., that they have not been drawn by the Father to Him, and have thus remained in their corrupt state of nature, in the stupidity and blindness of the flesh, which is incapable of perceiving Divine things, or of entering into relation to them. (Calvin: “ideo non sapit, quia insipidura vobis est palatum.”) Where there is not this drawing of the Father, there arise of themselves various erroneous conceptions and offences. Would that, instead of murmuring, they would rather open their hearts (Augustine: “nondum traheris? ora ut traharis”), that the Father may draw them to the Son, and thus render them partakers of eternal life!
The drawing of the Father is connected with subjective conditions; for if it were not so, this conversation with the Jews would have no object. The desire of the soul must meet the attractive influence, the feeling of one’s own misery, the desire for redemption, the beseeching hand stretched out upwards. It is the fault of the Jews that they are not drawn, just as in Deuteronomy 29:4 it is said, “Yet the Lord hath not given you any heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day,” not to excuse, but to accuse the Jews. With the heart as it is by nature, swollen with conceit and pride, they cannot draw near to Christ (Calvin: “opus esse nova mente et novo sensu”); it must be their aim to obtain a new heart, which can come only by the gift of God.
Lampe supposes, if it is certain that he who is drawn by the Father will attain to the resurrection, none can fall from grace. But if the commencement of the drawing is subjectively conditioned, its continuance also may be endangered by the ceasing of the subjective conditions.
It is said in John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me,” according to which, the drawing is also the work of the Son; and this is confirmed by ver. 46, here, according to which, there is no relation to the Father but that which is mediated by the Son. Even in the Old Testament passage, of which we are to speak presently, the drawing is attributed to the Messiah. It is attributed to the Father here, as the highest cause, for the reason that the Jews acknowledged the Father, and were labouring to raise a partition-wall between Christ and the Father.
The drawing is here, and in John 12:32, taken from Song of Solomon 1:4: cf. my Commentary on the passage. There also the drawing designates an internal influence on the mind. There also the following is made absolutely dependent on the drawing: “Draw me, so will we run after Thee.” The two passages are further based on those dependent on the original passage, Jeremiah 31:3, Hosea 11:4.
The words, ὁ? πέμψας με , intimate the ground of the drawing: He who has sent Christ, must also lead susceptible hearts to Him.
The words, “And I will raise him up at the last day,” indicate of what great importance it is to yield to the attraction of the Father. The great question is here pending concerning blessedness or perdition. The resurrection is here also that of the righteous. The other scarcely deserves the name, for it is only the completion of death.
Ver. 45. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every one therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me.”
That which Jesus had said of the necessity of a renewal of the heart from above, as the condition of a participation in the Messianic salvation (Augustine: “Quare hoc dixi, o Judaei? Pater vos non docuit: quomodo potestis me agnoscere?”). He proves from the writings of the Old Testament, the authority acknowledged by the Jews, and which He here presents as raised above all doubt.
The declaration quoted pertains to one prophet only, Isaiah. The general formula of citation indicates that this individual case is only one link of a whole chain, or, as the Berleburger Bibel says, “The harmony of the prophets arises from the fact, that they all speak from one mouth.” As here the individual is generalized to an entire class, so elsewhere, in the phrases, γέγραπται λέγει ἡ? γραφή , etc., it is to the entire course of the sacred Scriptures: cf. John 13:18, John 17:12. When the prophets in general are mentioned, the attention is more withdrawn from the human instrument and directed to the heavenly Author, as for the same reason the prophet is frequently spoken of, with the omission of the proper name: cf., ex. gr., Matthew 1:22; Matthew 2:5; Matthew 2:15; Matthew 13:35. Entirely analogous is Acts 13:40, where one passage, Habakkuk 1:5, is quoted with the formula, τὸ? εἰ?ρημένον ἐ?ν τοῖ?ς προφήταις , and likewise Acts 7:42.
In Isaiah 54:13 it is said, “And all thy sons (O Zion) shall be taught of the Lord.” There can be no doubt as to what is the principal subject of the instruction. The central-point of prophetic prediction in the second pail is formed by the advent and the atoning sufferings of the Servant of God. The real classical passage, the climax of the second part, is formed by the immediately preceding chap. 53, in which all the salvation of the world is made dependent on the atoning death of this Mediator. Chap. 54 stands in close connection with this chapter. It portrays the glory which should accrue to the people of God in consequence of the appearance of the Mediator. The LXX. translate: καὶ? πάντας τοὺ?ς υἱ?ούς σου διδακτοὺ?ς Θεοῦ? . They had already preceded in setting Θεοῦ? instead of κυρίου . “Thy sons” is omitted here, because it did not come into account for the present purpose.—“Every man who hears and learns of the Father.” According to John 16:13, it is the Holy Spirit who guides into all truth. The Father, however, works, as through the Son, so also through the Holy Spirit. From Him at last cometh every good gift, James 1:17.
Ver. 46. “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.”
Jesus had spoken in the foregoing verses of a drawing by the Father, and of a hearing and learning of the Father. Now this might easily be understood of an immediate relation to the Father, and then the mediation of Christ might seem to be superfluous. Christ here guards against this false apprehension. There is no other access to the Father but by the Son. He alone stands to the Father in an immediate relation. By communion with Him only can a relation to the Father be obtained: cf. remarks on John 1:18, John 5:38.
We are not to determine the sense thus: that the drawing of the Father, the hearing and the learning of Him, proceeds no further than to lead to the Son,—the closer and deeper relation to the Father can be obtained only by the Son. The drawing of the Father is also through the Son, and is mediated by Him, as is shown by the original passage, Song of Solomon 1:4, and John 12:32. “Without Me ye can do nothing, says Jesus in John 15:5. It would be in contradiction to John’s whole conception of Christ, and likewise also to the declaration of the Lord in Matthew 11:27, if the first and fundamental access to Christ could be obtained without Christ, to whom all things are delivered by the Father.
There is no opposition here between seeing and hearing; but, together with all seeing that is not mediated by Christ, is also denied all immediate hearing, learning, and being drawn. The Lord indicates that He has spoken of the drawing of the Father, and the hearing and learning of Him, only in opposition to the character of human nature as left to itself, which can never come to Him, and in whose bands the poor Jews lay bound, but not in opposition to the mediation to be granted by Him, which is always to be understood where a relation to the Father is treated of, whose operations are all performed through the Son.
Our verse forms at the same time the transition from vers. 44, 45, to the renewed declaration following in vers. 47-51, of the gifts and graces which are laid up in Christ for those who are hungering for salvation. Jesus is in this conversation always alike in the prominence He gives to the exceeding majesty of His own person, and so also the Jews in their attacks upon it.
Ver. 47. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” The threefold repetition of the Amen with respect to the same subject is the less to be regarded as accidental, since even in the Old Testament the threefold repetition is frequently used for corroboration; ex. gr., in Ezekiel 21:32; Jeremiah 6:3. Jesus first presents here that which He grants to His own in unfigurative language (cf. John 3:15); and then in the following verse recurs to the figure of bread, peculiar to this conversation. The way has already been prepared for what is here said in the preceding verse.
Ver. 48. “I am that bread of life.” The bread which gives life to the world, ver. 33.
Ver. 49. “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
Ver. 50. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.” Jesus admits what the Jews had said in ver. 31, “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert;” but He points out the unsatisfying nature of this gift by adding: “and—are dead!” This does not apply to the true bread, which has come into the world. For the death of the Christian is not to be called a death,—“death has become a sleep.” “Your fathers, He says, and not ours; and by this He shows that He has a more exalted origin than they thought,” ver. 42 (Bengel).
Ver. 51. “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.” That the words ὁ? ζῶ?ν have here their full meaning, and do not designate merely the personal bread in contrast to the material manna, is evident even from the declaration based upon them, “he shall live for ever.” and from ver. 57. This living nature can be predicated in its full sense only of God, and Christ could ascribe it to Himself only on account of His community of essence with the Father. God is repeatedly called the Living even in the Old Testament: Numbers 14:21; Deuteronomy 32:40; Joshua 3:10. The living bread is at the same time that which bestows life, ver. 57. Jehovah is frequently designated the Living in the Old Testament, with reference to the quickening power which proceeds from Him to His people. On Psalms 18:46, “The Lord liveth,” it was remarked in my Commentary, “The Lord is named living in contrast with the dead idols, who can do nothing, leave their own without support, given up to destruction. That David was living, showed that his God was also living. He is himself the living proof of His vitality.” So also on Psalms 42:2, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God:” “His God is not a phantom, which, itself dead, is also incapable of imparting life; He is the living, and consequently the life-giving: comp. the corresponding phrase, ‘The God of my life,’ in ver. 8, rich in salvation for His people.”
Collateral with the declaration. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever, is this, If any man eat not of this bread, he shall die eternally. Wherever there seems to be life without this eating, it is but a concealed death, and will in due time throw off its disguise. Καὶ? ὁ? ἄ?ρτος δὲ? : καὶ? intimates the connection of the thought to be expressed with what precedes; δὲ? , that it is not a mere repetition, but here takes a new turn. “Δὲ?—says Winer, Gram. 393—is frequently used, where only something new, other and different from what precedes, but not entirely opposite, is added.” Καὶ? here is not, as frequently, where it occurs in connection with δὲ? , also, but and; cf. καί—δέ in 1 John 1:3. Now that which is new here is, that Jesus, while He had hitherto spoken of Himself as the bread of life, and this indeed even at the beginning of the verse, now designates more particularly His flesh as the bread which He will give. It seems that in this He refers back to the occurrences of Mosaic times. Moses had given to his people flesh as well as bread: cf. Psalms 78:19. As the antitype, Christ in His own person gives both at the same time, the true bread and the true flesh.
The external authorities favour the omission of the words, ἥ?ν ἐ?γὼ? δώσω ; and it is difficult to see how they came to be left out, if they formed a part of the original text. The addition, on the other hand, might easily be occasioned by the circumstances, that the early readers could make nothing of the mere expression, ὑ?πὲ?ρ τῆ?ς τοῦ? κόσμου ζωῆ?ς ; that ὑ?πέρ occurs with respect to the atoning death of Christ in Luke 22:19-20, τὸ? ὑ?πὲ?ρ ὑ?μῶ?ν διδόμενον , τὸ? ὑ?πὲ?ρ ὑ?μῶ?ν ἐ?κχυννόμενον , as also in John 10:11; John 10:15; John 11:51-52, and in many passages of the Epistles; and that, from a false apprehension of the first δώσω , and in untimely comparison of passages like Matthew 20:28, Galatians 1:4, they thought that this atoning death must be meant.
The words, ὑ?πὲ?ρ τῆ?ς τοῦ? κόσμου ζωῆ?ς , need no supplementation. They form a clause in apposition, which states the object for which Jesus gives His flesh as bread: ὑ?πέρ , in the interest of, for. Winer, Gramm. S. 342. We have the commentary immediately afterwards in vers. 53, 54, 57, 58, where life is represented as absolutely dependent on the eating of Christ’s flesh.
But even if we allow the additional clause, ἥ?ν ἐ?γὼ? δώσω , to be genuine, we must not take it in the sense, that Jesus intimates that His flesh, before it can be offered for food, must first pass through the atoning death, or that only after the atoning death it will receive power to become the food of life; but we must understand ἥ?ν ἐ?γὼ? δώσω not of the sacrificial offering, but of the offering for food, so that the sense is entirely the same as if the words had been omitted: q.d., And I will indeed give or dispense My flesh. It is decisive in favour of the latter rendering of the words, if they are regarded as genuine, that in the following verses, where Christ carries out the thought here expressed, it is not His atoning death which is spoken of, but always the eating of the δώσω , corresponding to the first δώσω , nowhere its offering. There is not the slightest hint, that the eating of the flesh pertains purely to the future, as must have been the case if the atoning death were made a condition of it; but everything leads to the conclusion, that Jesus invites the Jews to eat His flesh even in the present.
We may not say that even the first δώσω points to the future. Δώσει occurred even in ver. 27, because Jesus had to do with those who have not yet received the gift, and because the realization of the condition, the coming to Jesus, must precede the bestowment of the gift. But with this is interchanged in ver. 32 the Present δίδωσιν , in order to indicate that the gift is even now to be had, and in ver. 33 the bread of God is designated as that which gives, διδούς , life to the world.
The Jews have certainly, in ver. 52, only the first δώσω in view (or if at the same time the second, only in the sense of the first), to which they correctly supply (φαγεῖ?ν ; for if bread or flesh is given, it is given only to be eaten. The thought that Jesus is speaking of a future feeding, which is to be rendered possible only by His death, does not once occur to these persons, who do not on this occasion misunderstand the words of Jesus, but oppose themselves to them as correctly understood. They ask. How can this man give us His flesh to eat?
The flesh of Christ is, according to John 1:14, John 17:2, 1 John 4:2, His humanity. The flesh of Christ is, of course, not the cause of life in itself, but only as penetrated by the Divine essence. But this Divine essence alone could not have exercised the life-giving power, for the bridge of connection between it and the human race would have been wanting. Only Christ as God-man could be our Saviour.
The Jews took offence at the flesh; they were scandalized that a man like them should make such disproportionate demands; but it is this very flesh which gives life to the world. The same cause produced the offence and the life.
That which Christ here says of His flesh was prepared for in ver. 27, where it is the Son of man who gives the meat which endureth unto everlasting life. It was in opposition to the offence which the theanthropic nature of Christ gives to human thought, and especially to human inclination—in opposition to the pride, which cannot bear that a son of man should stand on an elevation absolutely unattainable by all others, and be absolutely different from them not in rank but in nature—and in opposition to the attempts which proceed from this source, to emphasize the impersonal divinity in Jesus only, and to represent this as the common good of all, and to render it prominent, as of great importance, that he cannot have the life who will not have His personal appearance,—that all salvation is connected with the historical God-man, the “historical Christ,”—and that there is here the representation of an idea, which is independent of the historical appearance; but that all life proceeds from an absolute self-surrender to this historical appearance as such, to which also those of the highest rank can stand in the relation only of recipients.
In the interest of the exclusive reference of these words to the Lord’s Supper, it has been maintained (Kahnis on the Supper, S. 125): “When Jesus first speaks of an enjoyment of His person, and then of an enjoyment of His flesh, the latter is evidently meant to express a higher degree of communion than the former. Where Christ speaks of the enjoyment of His person, enjoyment is used metaphorically; but where He speaks of the enjoyment of His flesh, it is to be taken literally.” But it is decisive against such a view, that Christ everywhere speaks of that which could be realized in the present, that He requires the Jews to eat His flesh now, and that it is precisely this requisition which is refused by the Jews. Further, if such an opposition should exist between the enjoyment of Christ’s person and that of His flesh, how then could Christ, in ver. 57, return to the former, ὁ? τρώγων με ζήσεται ? The true connection is, that the words, “and the bread that I will give is My flesh,” determine more exactly where the nourishing and life-giving power in Christ is to be sought, viz., that it is inseparably connected with His flesh, or His human appearance. This was perceived with perfect clearness even by Luther, who says, among other things, “Thou shalt know of no other God, nor Son of God, but He who was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man, as the Christian religion teaches. And if any wish to separate Him from God’s Son, and to raise a wall between God’s Son and the Son born of the Virgin Mary, do not receive such a preacher, and do not listen to him, but say, I know of no God or God’s Son, but Him of whom the Creed says: I believe in Jesus Christ, etc. If he is not the man who was born of Mary, I will not have him.
He wishes to anticipate these cavillers, and that our faith may depend and be fixed on the flesh and blood which they saw before them.
Reason says. Flesh is flesh, make of it what you will; you cannot make anything else of it. So also say the Sacramentarians. But open your eyes, give your heart and your ears to it, and make a distinction between flesh, and the word, My flesh. He who speaks is Christ; and in this Christ is full, complete divinity.
He did not wish to give His divinity merely, for this was impossible. For God has said, No man shall see Me and live; and thus it remains. God must therefore hide and veil Himself in order that we may be able to grasp and apprehend Him. He must conceal Himself in flesh and blood.
This text is a thunderbolt against the fanatics. (So Luther calls those who give the rein to their thoughts, instead of directing them in love and devotion to the historical appearance of Christ.) We eat and drink His divinity in His human nature. He who thinks of God and seeks Him elsewhere than in this person, he has lost God and finds Him not, he wanders and loses Him; but he who seeks Him in the appointed way, meets with Him.”
That the eating of the flesh of Christ here refers to the believing appropriation of His theanthropic personality, is a point in which Luther and Calvin are agreed. The former says, “To eat and drink of His flesh, is firmly to believe on Him.” With respect to the latter Lampe says, “Calvini ejusque sequacium constans haec sententia est, de manducatione solum spirituali in hoc loco agi.” This declaration was formally sanctioned by the Formula Concordiae. That the most natural sense can be no other than this, is evident from the fact, that this only could be accessible to those to whom Christ addressed the words, and that the requisition always appears as one that can be immediately complied with. But the two principal explanations,—that of the flesh of Christ to be given up to death, and thus prepared to be the food of life; and that of the Lord’s Supper, which latter from the middle of the fourth century was almost universal among the Church Fathers (Lampe: “Negari nequit Patrum maximum numerum nostrum locum de sacramentali manducatione intellexisse),—are not therefore to be entirely rejected. They are false only in so far as they are opposed to the first, which forms their starting-point and necessary basis. They have a firm point of support in the time when this conversation, together with the feeding on which it is based, occurred, and in the express reference to the significance of this time in ver. 4. If Christ, by giving His flesh to be eaten, is the antitype of the paschal lamb, the connection with His atoning death and with the Lord’s Supper cannot be mistaken. Jesus already gave His flesh to His own to eat: he who approached Him in faith, could by accession to His theanthropic personality obtain the death of his lusts and passions, and be glorified in His image. To Christ, however, the further development of His destiny lay even then clearly exposed. He has already mentioned His death for the salvation of the world in John 2:19, and especially in John 3:14-15. He speaks even in this discourse of His ascension to heaven, ver. 22, and of the betrayal of Judas, vers. 70, 71. If His flesh was to be prepared first by His death to be the food of life; if the corn of wheat must fall first into the earth, John 12:24; if He must be lifted up from the earth, in order to draw all men unto Him, John 12:32; and if the offering of His flesh as a sin-offering is the condition of the perfect salvation of the world, cf. Romans 8:3,—the reference to His atoning death can be erroneous only when it is opposed to an immediate enjoyment of His flesh. Likewise, if it is established that in the Lord’s Supper Christ grants to His own in a wonderful manner the enjoyment of Himself, this enjoyment must be included in the declaration so certainly, as here all that is spoken of by which the flesh of Christ is proved to be the life-food of the world, and as Christ, from His epiphany onwards, beheld with perfect clearness the whole of His work of redemption in all its particulars. Cf. the further discussion at ver. 53.
Ver. 52. “The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying. How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
They contended among themselves—some absolutely denying the ability of Christ to give His flesh to be eaten, others merely expressing doubt and hesitation; some in an unqualified manner condemning Him and accusing Him of blasphemy, others more or less excusing Him, or wishing to suspend their judgment.
The Jews understand Christ quite correctly, and the “Capernaitic eating” is a mere fiction of the expositors. Those who had grown up in the school of the Old Testament, and were accustomed to its figurative language, must have easily adopted the figurative expression, to eat the flesh of Christ, for, to receive into one’s self His theanthropic personality. We need only to refer to such forms of expression as “eat up my flesh,” in Psalms 27:2, to denote enmity; and to passages like Proverbs 9:5, where Wisdom says, “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I mingle.” If the offence were founded on a misunderstanding, Jesus would have given some intimation of this. The fact that, in the following verses. He repeats in the strongest manner the propositions which were offensive to the Jews, and that He dismisses a large number of those who had been His disciples hitherto, without making any attempt to remove the offence by an explanation, shows plainly that this offence was caused by the substance and not the form of the declaration. In the fact, however, that Jesus does not avoid this offence, and that, in view of the danger of dividing the hitherto united band of His disciples, instead of breaking off the conversation, or directing it to other topics, He rather intentionally brings it to a point, we perceive that there must be here before us the cardinal point of Christianity, without which all the rest has no significance, and that the refusal to acknowledge in Jesus the absolutely central personality, is a fundamentally destructive error; so that nothing is lost in the departure of some because they cannot reconcile themselves to this, as is also implied in the highly emphatic assurance of Christ, that life can be attained solely and alone by the eating of His flesh.
The οὗ?τος is used contemptuously,—“the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know,” ver. 42,—and on this rests the emphasis. The offence is founded on the circumstance, that Jesus, to all appearance a mere man, and indeed a man who has not where to lay His head, and in whom all that the eye of the natural man can see is lowly, claims for Himself the right and the power to penetrate all others with His individuality, and so to impress His image upon them, that He is all, and there is nothing besides left to them. Christ’s apparently ascribing too much to Himself is the rock of offence throughout this conversation: cf. especially ver. 41. And from this proceeds the conflict between Him and the Jews almost throughout the Gospel of John; as, ex. gr., in the preceding chapter, the point of controversy between the Jews and Jesus is this, that He πατέρα ἴ?διον ἔ?λεγεν τὸ?ν θεὸ?ν ἴ?σον ἑ?αυτὸ?ν ποιῶ?ν τῷ? θεῷ? , John 5:18, and as in John 8:53 the Jews ask, τίνα σεαυτὸ?ν ποιεῖ?ς ; When Paul speaks of the σκάνδαλον τοῦ? σταυροῦ? ( Galatians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 1:23), the offence consists not in the death of Christ in itself, but rather in this, that a crucified one is said to be the power of God and the wisdom of God, 1 Corinthians 1:24. In the dialogue with the Jew Trypho, the chief offence which the Jews took at Christianity is represented as this: “they could not reconcile themselves to the idea, that Christianity sets up a second God by the side of the Creator of the universe” (Graul, The Christian Church on the threshold of the age of Irenaeus, Leipzic 1860, S. 64). The former messengers of God had directed the gaze of others away from themselves as weak and unworthy instruments; God alone was to be honoured, and He only was to be served. How retiring was Moses, the founder of the Old Covenant! He represents himself in his work as a poor sinner, who, before entering on his calling, was under sentence on account of his neglecting the circumcision of his son, and at the end of his career was, on account of his sin, excluded from the promised land, and only permitted to see it afar off. To the reproach of presumption he answers, that no one in the world can think less of himself. Numbers 12:3. None of the earlier messengers of God had ever claimed that the people should eat his flesh, and that he should impress upon them absolutely the stamp of his own individuality. All had desired only the reception of their message. In this state of the case, the position of Jesus would have been an entirely untenable one, if the Father had not sealed Him, and if there had not been presented in His works the proof of the credibility of His assertion, that He stood in an absolutely unique relation to God. Those who deny or depreciate the miracle of the feeding, or of the walking on the sea, destroy the absolutely necessary foundation for the claims which Christ here puts forth. Only where there existed such a basis could it be urged upon the consciences of the Jews, who had not, as we have, the experience for centuries of the life-giving power proceeding from Christ, to acknowledge these claims of Christ.
Ver. 53. “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.”
Jesus says. Verily, verily: He solemnly assured them, and confirmed it as by an oath, that life is only to be found where His flesh is eaten and His blood is drunk; and that all which elsewhere gives itself out to be life, is only a wretched pretence, a whitewashed sepulchre, which appears outwardly fair, but within is full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
Stier remarks, “At the same time, the definite separation and juxtaposition of flesh and blood speaks in the most significant manner of that death of which ver. 51 testified (?), since only a perfect death entirely separates the flesh and blood.” But always where flesh and blood occur in connection in the New Testament, they constitute the living organism. So here in John 1:13; Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12, where the human nature is denoted by flesh and blood. In Hebrews 2:14, flesh and blood occurs of the human personality of Christ. Flesh and blood everywhere stands only where flesh merely might have stood, by which is commonly designated the whole human being. The σάρξ is the whole, the blood the conspicuous part, the soul of the flesh, as it is represented in the Old Testament: Genesis 9:4, “Flesh with its soul, its blood, ye shall not eat;” Leviticus 17:14, “The soul of all flesh is its blood;” Deuteronomy 12:23. We are led to conclude that αἷ?μα is not primarily the blood shed, but that which is in the flesh, by the fact, that in the really principal declaration in ver. 51, which is here only confirmed anew against objections, it is only the eating of the flesh which is spoken of. To the same result we are led also by the Saviour’s omission of the drinking, again in vers. 57, 58. There can then be no doubt that here such an eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood is primarily spoken of, as needed not to wait for the death of Christ, but at once came to life, so soon as susceptible minds were found. To the corrupt flesh and blood of the natural man is here offered, in the holy flesh and blood of the Redeemer, a means of salvation, to the use and operation of which no other condition is attached but that of eating and drinking, or of faith. To this end the Logos became flesh, that His theanthropic personality might penetrate and ennoble that of the common man.
This is what is primarily declared, and this is the sense in which the Jews took, and were expected to take, the words of Christ. But we are not to stop with this. Jesus, to whom the future was always manifest, cannot have spoken without some reference to the Supper, to be instituted a year later. The hint is too strong for it to be regarded as accidental. The denial of the connection with the Supper was on the whole prevalent in the Lutheran Church, but yet the Lutheran sacramental hymns are full of references to this chapter. When Jesus says, Λάβετε φάγετε , τοῦ?τό ἐ?στιν τὸ? σῶ?μά μου , there is a striking accordance with the eating of the flesh here; and when He says, Πίετε ἐ?ξ αὐ?τοῦ? πάντες· τοῦ?το γάρ ἐ?στι τὸ? αἷ?μά μου , this cannot without violence be separated from πίητε αὐ?τοῦ? τὸ? αἷ?μα , or from πίνων μου τὸ? αἷ?μα , in ver. 54. It must not be overlooked that John passes over the institution of the Supper; and it is therefore the more natural to suppose that he has it in view in communicating this discourse of Christ, just as there is a reference to baptism, the institution of which by the baptism of Christ is likewise passed over, in the conversation of Christ with Nicodemus, John 3:5. John wrote for those who had before them the accounts of the earlier Evangelists concerning the institution of the Supper, and who constantly celebrated it in the appointed manner. The necessary consequence, that they referred the present words of Christ to the Supper, must be regarded as purposed by John.
As the connection with the Supper, so also that with the atoning sufferings and death of Christ, presses itself forcibly upon our attention. The atoning blood of the Servant of God had been already represented in Isaiah 53 as the central-point of the redemptive work. “So shall He sprinkle many heathens,” Isaiah 52:15; “by His wounds we are healed,” Isaiah 53:5; “His soul shall give restitution,” ver. 10; “because He hath poured out His soul unto death,” ver. 12. Even the Baptist represents Christ as the Lamb which taketh away sin by His blood. According to the declaration of Christ, the New Covenant is founded in the blood of Christ, which is shed for many, for the forgiveness of sins. The Apostles likewise represent the sacred body of Christ, which was given to death and made sin for us, and His atoning blood, as the central-point of the Christian faith. They attribute the same effect to the crucified Christ and His atoning blood, which is here ascribed to the eating of the flesh of the Son of man and the drinking of His blood: Romans 3:25; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 12:11.
A complete disconnection from the Supper and from Christ’s atoning death seems the more inappropriate, if we take into view the significant hint in ver. 4: “And the Passover was nigh.” If Jesus, in view of the Passover, speaks of the importance of eating His flesh and of the partaking of His blood as the condition of life, the thought is very natural, that He has in view the paschal lamb as an offering and a sacrament,—the more so, since Christ has been already represented as the antitype of the paschal lamb in John 1:29; since in John 19:36, that which is said in the law of the paschal lamb is at once applied to Christ; and since Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7 designates Christ as our passover sacrificed for us, and Peter in 1 Peter 1:19 calls Him the Lamb without blemish and without spot.
Now, how are we to reconcile the grounds which favour these apparently opposite views? Some means must be sought by which these views may be brought into harmony with each other. When Jesus speaks of the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood, He understands primarily by this, a relation which may at once be formed, the giving up of one’s own natural life and being, and unconditional consecration to the Son of man, so that His holy flesh and blood take the place of that which is natural and unholy, and His theanthropic personality penetrates and ennobles that of the I ordinary man, so that he can say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” We can obtain a clear conception of this in the case of the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who rested in His bosom. He had already truly eaten, before the atoning death of Jesus Christ, with the mouth of the Spirit, and had drunk His blood, and had become a different person, as one alive from the dead,—he had obtained different inclinations and impulses, different features, a different look, and a different step. But there were further developments before him, in which the eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood received a deeper meaning; and Christ had these developments already in view, when He with so much emphasis made all salvation dependent on the eating of His flesh and the drinking of His blood. After Christ had offered up His flesh upon the cross, and had thus earned new power of life for our flesh, which was pervaded with death, and after His sacred blood had there taken away sin. He became in a still higher degree the food of the soul. And this is the third stage in the Holy Supper: His “body, for us wounded,” and His sacred blood, were made, by an adorable mystery, and an ever-repeated miracle, the central-point of the Church. The enjoyment in the Supper forms no opposition to the purely spiritual enjoyment, as it is primarily taught here, but rather its highest degree—the condition of efficacious and lifelong realization of the demand, which Christ here expresses.
Only if the words of Christ refer directly and exclusively to the Lord’s Supper can the assertion of Stier be justified, that the Supper is to be understood absolutely according to this passage, and that Luther’s “exaggerated doctrine of the eating and drinking of unbelievers” is by it entirely refuted. The relation of the body and blood of Christ to unbelievers lies here without the circle of thought, not being in the same line with that purely spiritual appropriation, which is here the fundamental conception. In this misuse of the passage, he had, however, been preceded by the Reformed theologians. It was fear of this misuse which led so many Lutheran theologians to deny altogether the reference to the Supper.
Ver. 54. “Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Cf. ver. 40, where believing occupies the same position as the eating of the flesh and blood here.
Ver. 55. “For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.” For ἀ?ληθῶ?ς Lachmann and Tischendorf read ἀ?ληθής . But to the former a parallel is furnished by ἀ?ληθῶ?ς Ἰ?σραηλίτης in John 1:48, and ἀ?ληθῶ?ς μαθηταί in John 8:31; while, on the other hand, not a single exactly accordant parallel passage can be brought forward for ἀ?ληθής . Ἀ?ληθῶ?ς or ἀ?ληθής forms the antithesis to a merely imaginary food; ἀ?ληθινός would form an antithesis to a lower food, like the manna. Substantially, however, the two amount to pretty much the same, for the inferior food may be regarded as merely mock food. According to vers. 27, 58, the Lord seems to have the manna really in view. By ἀ?ληθῶ?ς or ἀ?ληθής , however, is at all events, together with the manna, all that which, apart from the flesh and blood of Christ, promises to satisfy human hunger and thirst, degraded to a mere mock satisfaction, in harmony with Isaiah 4:2: “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken, hearken unto Me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” Apart from the salvation brought by Christ, all else is, according to this passage, not bread, but such as does not serve to satisfy the soul.
Ver. 56. “He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.” Since the natural character of man and the nature of Christ are totally opposed to each other, a true and lasting union between them can be brought about only when the man gives up his nature and receives into himself the nature of Christ. The man must become Jesus-like, or his union with Christ will be only a vain pretence, which vanishes like a morning cloud. Our text is the fundamental passage with respect to dwelling in Christ. That which is here intimated is carried out in John 15:4 sq.; and that which occurs in the first Epistle of John 2:6; John 2:24; John 3:6, is to be regarded as its echo. In the Gospel this expression is not found, except in the passages designated. The distinction from the first Gospels is not a decided one, since they do not communicate the last discourses of Christ in the circle of His disciples, in which the main passage is found.
Ver. 57. “As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.” Christ brings the life, of which the original source is the Father, down to the human race, which since Genesis 3 is involved in death. To the words: On the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt die, are, after Christ has appeared in the flesh, opposed these: In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt live. The discourse of Christ returns at its close to the generalness of the commencement. He here says again. He that eateth Me; not. He that eateth My flesh and blood.
Ver. 58. takes up again the figure of the bread of the life as contrasted with the manna in vers. 48-51, and thus rounds off the discourse. Ver. 58. “This is the bread, which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat, and are dead. He that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.”—
Ver. 59. “These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum.”
The Conversations of Jesus with His Disciples at the Close of That with the Jews
Ver. 60. “Many therefore of His disciples, when they heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?”
The disciples—those who already stood in a close relation to Christ—are opposed to those Jews who were only superficially touched. The disciples offered a great variety, as represented in the parable of the sower. It was not all who thus spoke, but only many. Jesus says in ver. 64: εἰ?σὶ?ν ἐ?ξ ὑ?μῶ?ν τινες οἳ? οὐ? πιστεύουσιν . The Apostles also were among the disciples, and formed the centre of a whole multitude of those who were deeply interested. Of the number of those who here took offence, many certainly returned repentant and ashamed, when, by the resurrection of Christ, the high demands were sealed and justified, to which they were now unable to reconcile themselves. Cf. vers. 61 and 62, and the words of Christ, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” A hard saying is one repugnant, unpleasant, and offensive, in opposition to a tender, mild, and agreeable one: cf. σκληρὸ?ν δὲ? ἐ?φάνη τὸ? ῥ?ῆ?μα σφόδρα in Genesis 21:11, LXX.; and ver. 15 of the Epistle of Jude, περὶ? πάντων τῶ?ν σκληρῶ?ν ὧ?ν ἐ?λάλησαν , where the hard speeches are those which are repugnant. The ground of their repugnant and offensive character was not their form,—for then they would have said to Christ: (φράσον ἡ?μῖ?ν τὴ?ν παραβολήν ταύτην , Matthew 13:36; Matthew 15:15,—but the matter itself. They had not obtained a deeper insight into their own character, their unfathomable corruption (cf. John 3:6, and πονηροὶ? ὄ?ντες , Matthew 7:11), and into the nature of Christ, His true divinity; and thus they cannot reconcile themselves to His being all and they nothing, and they rebel against the requirement to leave all and cleave to Christ. The remark, “And indeed the saying appeared hard to them, because they could not receive the thought of the death of the Messiah,” testifies of a complete misapprehension of the question. It is not His death that Christ has spoken of, but the eating of His flesh and blood as the necessary condition of life. He had adjudged all to death who do not obtain life by the eating of His flesh. The expression, Who can hear it? is—according to Jeremiah 6:10, LXX.: ἰ?δοὺ? ἀ?περίτμητα τὰ? ὦ?τα αὐ?τῶ?ν , καὶ? οὐ? δύνανται ἀ?κούειν , and Mark 4:33: καὶ? τοιαύταις παραβολαῖ?ς πολλαῖ?ς ἐ?λάλει αὐ?τοῖ?ς τὸ?ν λόγον καθὼ?ς ἠ?δύναντο ἀ?κούειν—q.d., who can understand it? As the object of hearing is to understand, a saying that is not understood is as though it were not heard; and here the unintelligible is the senseless, the absurd. The key to the understanding of the saying of Christ is the perception of one’s own misery, and of the Divine majesty of Christ. Those who have not this key must regard Christ’s demand as incomprehensible.
Ver. 61. “When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured at it. He said unto them. Doth this offend you?
Ver. 62. [What] and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?”
The disciples whispered among themselves. Jesus did not hear them with the bodily ear, and needed not to ask; He perceived what they said in the spirit, as He who knew what was in man, John 2:25. Cf. with εἰ?δὼ?ς ἐ?ν ἑ?αυτῷ? the expression, καὶ? ἰ?δὼ?ν ὁ? Ἰ?ησοῦ?ς τὰ?ς ἐ?νθυμήσεις αὐ?τῶ?ν , in Matthew 9:4 (before, εἶ?πον ἐ?ν ἑ?αυτοῖ?ς , they thought), John 12:25. There is an aposiopesis at the close of ver. 62: What shall ye then say? Shall ye still take offence? The ascension of Christ was adapted to cause offence only in so far as it furnished a proof that the weakness of the flesh, which was the ground of it, was assumed by Him freely and in loving condescension. Christ was proved to be the Son of God by the resurrection, and its consummation in the ascension, Romans 1:4; so that all appearance of presumption is completely removed, and a powerful counter argument is furnished to the declaration, “The son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know.” That this is the true seat of the offence, is expressly indicated by Christ in designating Himself the Son of man. Elsewhere also He opposes to the doubt and offence which proceeded from the lowliness of His human appearance, and the contempt which was based upon it. His resurrection, ascension, and glorification. Cf. John 2:18-19, John 8:28; Matthew 26:64.
The word θεωρεῖ?ν , which is an especial favourite of John, is commonly used of seeing outwardly. We have the commentary to θεωρῆ?τε in the words, βλεπόντων αὐ?τῶ?ν ἐ?πήρθη , in Acts 1:9. Cf. also Revelation 11:12, where with respect to the ascent of the two witnesses to heaven, which is a copy of Christ’s ascension, it is said: καὶ? ἀ?νέβησαν εἰ?ς τὸ?ν οὐ?ρανὸ?ν ἐ?ν τῇ? νεφέλῃ? , καὶ? ἐ?θεώρησαν αὐ?τοὺ?ς οἱ? ἐ?χθροὶ? αὐ?τῶ?ν . Here the vision is evidently a bodily one. When the Son of man ascends, His ascension also can be only a visible one. The saying is directed to the disciples in general. It is sufficient that the ascension should take place in the presence of the disciples merely. Those who were present represent the entire body of the disciples. The expression, to ascend up to heaven, is always used in the New Testament of the ascension in the proper sense, the visible ascension of Christ. Cf. remarks on John 3:13. Even in His conversation with Nicodemus, Christ had referred to His ascension, and He also mentions it in John 20:17. For the very reason that he does not give an account of the ascension, John loves to communicate those expressions of Christ which relate to it, following the same course in this as with respect to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. To the intimations of the ascension here, and in the other passages quoted (cf. also John 16:28), corresponds that in Revelation 11:11-12; on which it was remarked in my Commentary, “The form in which the triumph of the witnesses, after their apparent defeat, is here related, is derived from the history of Christ, whose ascension is typical of the lot of His followers.”—Ἀ?ναβαίνω , used of Christ’s ascension, has reference to the prefigurative ascensions of the Lord and His Angel under the Old Covenant. In Judges 13:20 it is said, “And the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar, and Manoah and his wife saw it;” in Psalms 47:5, “God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.” The Lord rises to heaven, typifying the ascension of Christ, after He had made Himself known on earth in acts of omnipotence and love, and has prosecuted the cause of His people. Cf. also Genesis 17:22; Psalms 68:19.—“Where He was before.” The Lord had repeatedly said that He came down from heaven. In John 16:28 He says that He came forth from the Father, and is come into the world; but that again He will leave the world, and will go to the Father. According to chap. 1, the Logos was with God, Christ according to His Divine nature. Here the being in heaven, or with God, is ascribed to the Son of man on account of the unity of His person. Among the diverse explanations, the most untenable is this: “You are offended at My words concerning My death; how much more will it offend you when I die!” It is not probable, a priori, that Christ would bring forward that which was only adapted to increase the offence. Jesus had not, according to the correct interpretation, previously spoken a single word concerning His death. It is assumed without reason that the disciples took offence at Jesus announcement of His death; while the object of the offence is, throughout this conversation, that Jesus, in spite of His lowliness, takes all from His followers, and gives all to Himself, and that He is not willing to be the first among equals, but the God-man. The words here cannot refer to the death, but only to the ascension, and indeed to a visible ascension. This does, indeed, presuppose the death; but His death could not possibly be designated here by that consequence of it which removes all ground of offence.
The opinion, that the ascension of Christ would remove the offence only in so far as it shows that it is not a carnal eating of Christ that is spoken of, is based on the fiction of a carnal misunderstanding of the words of Christ, while, as it has been already shown, the opposition is directed against the words of Christ as rightly understood.
Finally, the interpretation of Stier: “Then will it be disclosed to you that, and in what way. My human corporeity, become heavenly and glorified, may be given to be eaten and to be drunk,” is founded on the incorrect assumption that Christ is speaking of a purely future eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood.
Ver. 63. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth. nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life.”
If it is established that in ver. 62 Christ obviates the offence which the Jews took at His apparently assigning too much to Himself, even that wdiich absolutely transcended the sphere of man, and at His seeming to displace the boundaries between heaven and earth by His reference to His divinity, to be hereafter proved by the ascension, we shall expect here also a reference to the Divine nature concealed behind His appearance as the Son of man. A transition to a new thought would have been more distinctly designated; and if there be one here, the words receive a rhapsodical, fragmentary character, and the exposition enters into the slippery region of guess-work.—“The flesh” cannot possibly be the flesh of Christ. The whole impression of the preceding discourse, where Christ has so emphatically made life and salvation dependent on the eating of His flesh, would be destroyed, if He here at once denied all value to His flesh. If He had meant mere flesh in contrast with that which was penetrated by the Divine nature, He must at all events have said this more distinctly, since all depended on this point, and it was not this which caused the offence, but that Christ represented His flesh as bearing the Divine nature, or as deified.
Everywhere else, when there is an antithesis of flesh and spirit, the spirit is the Divine principle, and flesh the lower corporeity, especially weak, sinful, and materialistic human nature. So in Isaiah 31:3, and in John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Romans 8:5: Οἱ? γὰ?ρ κατὰ? σάρκα ὄ?ντες τὰ? τῆ?ς σαρκὸ?ς φρονοῦ?σιν , οἱ? δὲ? κατὰ? πνεῦ?μα τὰ? τοῦ? πνεύματος . Ver. 8: Οἱ? δὲ? ἐ?ν σαρκὶ? ὄ?ντες Θεῷ? ἀ?ρέσαι οὐ? δύνανται . Ver. 9: Ὑ?μεῖ?ς δὲ? οὐ?κ ἐ?στὲ? ἐ?ν σαρκὶ? ἀ?λλὰ? ἐ?ν πνεύματι , εἴ?περ πνεῦ?μα Θεοῦ? οἰ?κεῖ? ἐ?ν ὑ?μῖ?ν .
The Spirit is here represented by Christ; q.d., the Spirit, as the resurrection and ascension will show, dwells in Me. That which Christ here ascribes to the Spirit, He elsewhere ascribes to Himself, as just before, and in John 5:21, Ὁ? υἱ?ὸ?ς οὓ?ς θέλει ζῳ?οποιεῖ? . It is a fundamental thought in the Gospel, that life proceeds only from Christ. If therefore quickening power is here ascribed to the Spirit, this can be regarded as the case only in so far as He dwells in Christ, and passes from Him to His believing ones, who thus become θείας κοινωνοὶ? φύσεως , 2 Peter 1:4, are received into the sphere of the Spirit, which is the Divine Spirit, and removed from the sphere of the flesh, to which all that is human apart from Christ is miserably banished. Christ has His name from the Spirit, being called the Anointed, as pervaded by the Spirit; and from the Spirit He has His origin: τὸ? ἐ?ν αὐ?τῇ? γεννηθὲ?ν ἐ?κ πνεύματός ἐ?στιν ἁ?γίου , says the angel to Mary. To possess the Spirit without measure is designated by the Baptist, in John 3:34, as the high prerogative of Christ. As Bleek remarks on Hebrews 9:14, “The πνεῦ?μα which is here spoken of, cannot be other than the πνεῦ?μα ἅ?γιον , the Spirit of God, who is at the same time the Spirit of Christ, which already during His walk on earth dwelt in all His fulness in Him, was to Him at every moment His animating principle, and did not allow Him to be subject to the dominion of death. It is the same which in Romans 1:4 is designated as πνεῦ?μα ἁ?γιωσύνης , by virtue of which Jesus is the Son of God, in opposition to the σάρξ , by virtue of which He is the Son of David.” And Philippi on Romans 1:4, “Πνεῦ?μα ἁ?γιωσύνης is here nothing else than the higher, heavenly, Divine nature of Christ, by which or in which He is the Son of God.” This higher Divine nature of Christ is designated by πνεῦ?μα also in 1 Peter 3:18: θανατωθεὶ?ς μὲ?ν σαρκὶ? ζῳ?οποιηθεὶ?ς δὲ? πνεύματι . In 2 Corinthians 3:17 Christ is called τὸ? πνεῦ?μα , in harmony with πνεῦ?μά ὁ? Θεός in John 4:24, and with Isaiah 31:3, where the Divine essence, in opposition to that which is earthly and material, is designated by Spirit: “Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit.”
To the Spirit represented by Christ, and incarnate in Him, is opposed the flesh, or humanity destitute of the Spirit. In what respect it profiteth nothing, is to be learnt from the first clause, viz., for the attainment of life. We have here the same thought which our Lord expresses in ver. 53, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, ye have no life in you,”—with this difference, that here this thought is suggested at the same time by the reference to the fact, that the Son of man is Spirit, but all others are flesh, of which it is the necessary consequence, that the quickening power can proceed only from Him. By this view only is brought into a clear light the manifest connection of this declaration with John 3:6, and Romans 8:5; Romans 8:8-9. Luther: “Christ calls all that flesh which is born of the flesh,—all the children of Adam, who come of the flesh, with the exception of the unique body of Christ, which was born not of the flesh, but of the Holy Ghost, as we confess in the Creed: I believe in Christ, who was conceived not of the flesh, but of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost has begotten Him, and penetrated His flesh with spirit.”
That the life-giving Spirit dwells in Him, Christ proves preliminarily, until the great proof has been given by His resurrection and ascension, by the character of His words, spoken here and previously (λελάληκα , not λαλῶ? , is the best authenticated and correct reading: Christ is speaking to His disciples, who had long been instructed by Him), which breathe out life and spirit as the breath of His personality. If He speaks such words as never man spake, John 7:46, and if His words have a life-giving and spiritualizing effect. He must indeed be spirit. Luther: “These words are really spirit, and lead a man into another world and state of being, and give him another heart and mind, so far above and beyond all reason, that the reason cannot comprehend it, although it would gladly do so.”
According to a very old interpretation, by spirit is here designated a spiritual, and by flesh a literal apprehension. Even Tertullian says, “de resurrectione carnis per spiritum hic intelligi sensum spiritualem, per carnem autem carnalem.” On the other hand, as Lampe justly remarks, there is no proof that a spiritual sense is designated in the Scriptures by spirit alone. It is, however, still more decisive, that this exposition is based on the entirely unfounded assumption of a carnal misunderstanding of the words of Jesus.
On the same foundation also rests the view of Kahnis: “The act which will terminate My earthly presence, and render My earthly body a heavenly one, will end the misunderstanding.
Ye shall eat My body, but not as outward flesh, but as bearing My spirit, not My earthly, but My heavenly body as glorified in spirit.” The second incorrect basis of this view is the opinion, that Christ, in ver. 51 sq., spoke of a purely future oral enjoyment of His glorified body and blood. The Jews understood Christ quite correctly to make a requisition which was to be realized at once.
Ver. 64. “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.”
Jesus throws the fault of the offence back on those who wished to lay it upon Him: It is not My presumption, but your unbelief. A commentary to the words, “from the beginning,” is formed by the remark of the Evangelist, made of Cephas in John 1:43, and of Nathanael in John 1:48. The beginning of the relation into which Christ enters with individuals, forms the antithesis to a longer association, which gives occasion to psychological observations. Not from such did Jesus derive His knowledge, but from His participation in the privilege of Him who tries the hearts and the reins: cf. remarks on John 2:24-25.
It is in vain to twist and trifle with the declaration that Jesus knew from the beginning who should betray Him. He could not have been the Logos appeared in the flesh, nor the Son of God, nor our Saviour, if it had been otherwise. His previous knowledge of the betrayal of Judas, far from determining Jesus not to receive him among the Apostles, must have rather occasioned His doing so. The circle of the Apostles would not have been the true representation of the Church, which it was to be, if Judas had not been included in it. It is a fact of the greatest significance, and admonishes us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, that it was one of those nearest to the Saviour who betrayed Him, in proof that nothing can avail but an unconditional surrender of the heart, and unceasing watchfulness and prayer. The opinion, however, that Jesus needed not to have furthered the crime of Judas by receiving him into His company, is founded on a misapprehension of the living moral plan of the world in God and in Christ, which even to the present day still involves those whose hearts are not right in circumstances in which the temptation comes to them, whereby their sin is developed and matured. Most murderers might have been quite respectable people under other circumstances. It was for Judas, if he would repent, the highest of all graces, but if not, his just punishment, that he was brought into proximity to Christ. It was not a fate which ruled over him: conversion was at any moment accessible to him. If he had sought it, he would have obtained salvation; but he was received into the number of the Apostles in the foresight that he would not seek it. The circumstance that the bag was entrusted to Judas, at which some take offence, in case Christ penetrated his character, presupposes his tendency to avarice. If we do not thus view the fact, Jesus must have had less psychological penetration than every advanced Christian. The development of sin is necessary for both conversion and judgment. Every one is still so led, that all must be manifest which is hidden in the depths of his heart; and it is not the manner of God to be careful not to awaken that which is slumbering in the heart, but His whole leading is designed to bring about a decision either for salvation or for perdition.
Ver. 65. “And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given him of My Father.”
Therefore, in foresight of your unbelief, and in order to obviate the offence which might arise from it. The Lord refers to vers. 44, 37. Cf. οὐ?κ ἠ?δύναντο πιστεύειν in John 12:39. Unbelief loses its offensiveness when it is regarded from the point of view of a Divine appointment, a righteous Divine judgment. This gives the occasion for turning and plucking up the evil roots which call forth this judgment.
Ver. 66. “From that [time] many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.”—Ἐ?κ τούτου occurs likewise in John 19:12. Ἀ?πῆ?λθον εἰ?ς τὰ? ὀ?πίσω refers to Isaiah 1:4, Psalms 44:18, where the turning back occurs with respect to Jehovah.
Ver. 67. “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?”
This sudden introduction of the twelve Apostles, in their full number, shows that John presupposes the former Evangelists, who had recorded the appointment and names of these twelve. The Apostles are designated as the “twelve,” not because they happened to be just twelve, but from the significance of the number twelve. On the ground of the fact, that the sons of Jacob, the ancestors of Israel, were twelve in number, the number twelve appears repeatedly in the Old Testament as the signature of the covenant-people, the Church; and on the ground of this significance, the Lord called just twelve Apostles, who represented the Church of the New Covenant, the authorized continuation of the Old Testament Israel. In the Apocalypse the number twelve appears repeatedly as the signature of the Church of the New Covenant. Cf. my Commentary on John 4:4, John 7:4.
Jesus asks the twelve, not as though He were in doubt, but, where so much unbelief has been acknowledged, a reviving conclusion is necessary; and He therefore asks in order to call forth a solemn confession of faith by the Apostles, who represent the believing Church of the New Testament, in opposition to Judaism, fast ripening into the synagogue of Satan.
Ver. 68. “Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. 69. And we believe, and are sure, that Thou art Christ, the Son of (the living) God.”
Peter answers in the name of the Apostles, not, as Lampe supposes, “ex solito fervere, quo solebat alios praevertere,” but as the called head and authorized mouthpiece of the Apostles, in the energy of the spirit of faith, on the ground of which this eminent position was assigned to him. The words, “To whom shall we go?” indicate, that if we tm-n away from Christ, wherever we may go, we shall only find death and certain destruction before us. The declaration, “Thou hast the words of eternal life,”—those which bring with them and give eternal life,—is the answer of the confessing Church to that of Christ, “The words which I have spoken unto you are spirit and are life,” in ver. 63. Christ’s words, because they are living, are also quickening. The clause, “we are sure,” added to, “we have believed,” indicates that faith is not blind, but is supported on established facts. The declaration, “Thou art Christ,” the Anointed, the bearer of the Spirit, is the answer of the confessing Church to that of Christ, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth,”—q.d., I make alive, because the Spirit is represented by Me. The added clause, “the Son of God,” refers to the immediately preceding, ver. 65 (cf. ver. 57), where Christ had designated God as His Father. The Christ is, as such, also the Son of God; but as there was a lower conception of Him, the addition was of importance. The addition, τοῦ? ζῶ?ντος , is but poorly authorized, and was probably introduced from Matthew 16:15. If the authority had been better, it would have been recommended as genuine by the reference to ver. 57. It is a great thing to be the Son of the living God, whose fulness of life passes over to the Son.
Lachmann and Tischendorf read ὁ? υἱ?ὸ?ς τοῦ? Θεοῦ? . But though the authorities in favour of this reading are important, and it is also a natural supposition that the words, ὁ? υἱ?ὸ?ς τοῦ? Θεοῦ? , have been brought hither from Matthew 16:15, we must still have some hesitation in giving up the latter reading. The peculiar expression, ὁ? ἅ?γιος τοῦ? Θεοῦ? , which has no root in the Old Testament, and only imperfect parallels in ὃ?ν ὁ? πατὴ?ρ ἡ?γίασεν in John 10:36, and in 1 John 2:20, where Christ is designated as ὁ? ἅ?γιος , has probably been introduced from Mark 1:24, where the possessed man says, οἶ?δά σε τίς εἶ? , ὁ? ἅ?γιος τοῦ? θεοῦ? (Origen has here υἱ?ός , on the reverse, for ἅ?γιος ), and from Luke 4:34. It would be strange if Peter accorded exactly with the possessed man in this expression, which is not found elsewhere in the whole New Testament. The expression has no support in the discourse of Christ, the echo of which we perceive elsewhere in this verse; and it also declares less than we expect. After all that which Christ has claimed, we expect a glad confession of His deity. It was the emphatic declaration of this that had caused the offence, and developed and matured the unbelief. In opposition to this, belief must also receive its full expression. The Holy One of God would testify only of a Divine mission, and therefore still less than the name Christ.
Ver. 70. “Jesus answered them. Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
Peter had spoken for the twelve, and the answer is directed to the disciples generally, but primarily to Peter. It is in him that our Lord elsewhere also opposes the confidence which borders on undue self-exaltation: cf. John 13:37-38; Luke 22:33-34; Matthew 14:28-33.
Why does Jesus speak here of the betrayal of Judas? He wishes to put to shame the confidence of Peter, who had, as it were, given security for all, and to admonish all to watchfulness and prayer. Our Lord pursues a similar course at the last Supper: Ἀ?μὴ?ν
He there says, Matthew 26:21—λέγω ὑ?μῖ?ν ὅ?τι εἷ?ς ἐ?ξ ὑ?μῶ?ν παραδώσει με . The feeling which prompts each of the disciples to say, μήτι ἐ?γώ εἰ?μι , κύριε , is that which He wishes to quicken in them. Quesnel: “Wondrous procedure of Jesus Christ, to leave the Apostles so long in such terrible uncertainty, while each had reason to distrust himself, and all were under obligation to judge no one, and not to suspect their neighbour of such a crime. Fear and distrust with respect to our weakness, the duty of watching our hearts and of observing ourselves, aversion to sin, and Christian humility, are the fruits of this disquietude, which God brings out of it by His grace.” Jesus calls His betrayer a devil, i.e., a man of absolutely devilish disposition. Διάβολός occurs in the Gospels, especially in that of John, and likewise in the Epistles of John and the Apocalypse, always only of the devil. As an appellative, it is found altogether only a few times in Paul: 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3; and there it has always the meaning of calumniator, which is not suitable here. Of Satan is, according to 1 John 3:8, every one that committeth sin. The wicked are represented as the children of Satan in John 8:44; cf. Acts 13:10, where Paul addresses Elymas the Magian as Son of Satan. Judas the betrayer is brought into special relation to Satan in John 13:2, according to which the devil put it into his heart to betray Christ. Our text accords still more closely with John 13:27 (cf. Luke 22:3), καὶ? μετὰ? τὸ? ψωμίον τότε εἰ?σῆ?λθεν εἰ?ς ἐ?κεῖ?νον ὁ? Σατανᾶ?ς . After he had put it into the heart of Judas, he himself entered in; and he, into whom Satan has entered, is himself an incarnate Satan. Perfectly analogous, however, is Matthew 16:23 ( Mark 8:33), where Jesus says to Peter: Ὕ?παγε ὀ?πίσω μου , Σατανᾶ? . There also Satan is a satanic man, an incarnate Satan. That Jesus does not address Satan himself, but Peter, who had for the moment resigned himself to him, is shown by the words, ὅ?τι οὐ? φρονεῖ?ς τὰ? τοῦ? θεοῦ? ἀ?λλὰ? τὰ? τῶ?ν ἀ?νθρώπων , which does not suit Satan, but only Peter. The parallel is here to be drawn the rather, since it is not John, but Christ, who speaks. In the preceding discourse, Christ had represented Himself as the life of believers, and had desired that they should eat His flesh and blood, and become partakers of His nature; and with this it corresponds, that He here ascribes the unbelievers and wicked to Satan. Christ and Satan are the two ruling powers. He in whom Christ is not formed, must finally assume the form in which Satan appears. Judas, in this respect, bears a typical character, being the first who matured into a devil.
Ver. 71. “He spake of Judas of Simon, Iscariot: for he it was that should betray Him, being one of the twelve.”
John only has communicated the name of the father of the betrayer. The surname Iscariot Ἰ?σκαριώτην , not with Lachmann Ἰ?σκαριώτου ) is usually explained to mean, man of Karioth, a wholly obscure place in the tribe of Judah, of which we know only the bare name from Joshua 15:25. But there are serious difficulties connected with this explanation. Of the surnames of the New Testament, none refers to the place of nativity. For designations like ὁ? ἀ?πο Ἀ?ριμαθαίας are not to be regarded as surnames. Usually these surnames have a theological character: cf. Acts 1:23; Acts 4:36. Especially is this the case with all the surnames of the Apostles. So of Boanerges, which Jesus gives to the sons of Zebedee, Mark 3:17; and so of the surname Peter. The surnames of the other Judas among the Apostles, Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus, have likewise a theological character, denoting the heartiness of the relation of love in which the Master stands to this Judas: bosom-friend, from תד = שד , mamma, and diaphragm (darling). Since it is a fact that several of the Apostles bore significant names (one is Matthew, gift of God, surname of the former Levi; and another “the Zealot,” as surname of Simon, Matthew 10:4), and especially he, with whom the list of Apostles always begins, it is not to be assumed that the surname of Judas, with whom the list closes, and whom it was most natural to characterize theologically, has no such signification. The necessity of distinguishing this Judas from others of the same name, and especially the other Apostle Judas, is already met in another way, by giving the other Judas the name Lebbaeus, in the place of his proper name, together with the name Thaddaeus, and also by the designation Ἰ?ούδας Ἰ?ακώβου , by which he could and must distinguish himself from the other Judas, because the names Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus were only suitable to be used by others; and further, by the addition of the name of his father, Simon, to that of Judas the Traitor. The fact, that Ἰ?σκαριώτης also is added, where the interchange was already prevented by the addition Σίμωνος , as here, in John 12:4, and John 13:2; John 13:26, shows that this surname must have had another design. It is also of importance to note that there is no trace that Judas bore the name Iscariot before his betrayal. Jesus addresses him in Luke 22:48 merely as Judas.
The name Iscariot means, the man of lies, איש שקרים . We have probably the root of the surname, which was given to the traitor after his deed and its sad consequence, in Proverbs 19:5, “A false witness, עד שקרים , shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall not escape.” Here we have both the deed of Judas, —which he himself confessed, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood,”—and his fate. The only objection that can be brought against this explanation, that the inserted ω cannot be thus explained, is not decisive, since the ground of the insertion may be a euphonic one. A full and sounding form was desired. Ἤ?μελλεν does not designate his design to betray, but only the futurity of the fact: cf. John 12:4, and ὁ? παραδώσων αὐ?τόν , ver. 64.
Jesus on this occasion spoke, as it seems, for the first time of the betrayal of Judas. The assertion, however, that He had not thought of it before, is in manifest opposition to “from the beginning” in ver. 64, and to the true divinity of Christ, which does not permit the thought, that for a considerable time He had, without suspecting it, cherished a serpent in His bosom. That Jesus, whose foreknowledge must be kept in strict separation from His foreordination, nevertheless offered to the future betrayer all the benefits of His kingdom, in devoted love held intercourse with him, and made every effort to touch and gain his heart, is a fact which is still repeated, and without which Christ could not be the Saviour of the world. No one can be lost for whom Christ has not done all that can be done, and without the truth of the declaration, “Ye would not,” having been most clearly illustrated.
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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on John 6". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent