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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

John 6

Verses 1-71

John 6:2 . A great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles. But being dull of apprehension, they seemed to have no idea that the Lord could feed the hungry, as well as heal the sick. Christ rises in the eye of faith as it discovers the glory of his person.

John 6:7 . Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient. William Budæus was a native of Paris, and of very rare erudition. He has left many books in Greek and Latin, much cited by the learned. He measured the ark of Noah, the temple of Solomon, and examined all the weights, measures, and monies, of the holy scriptures. He died in 1539. This author fixes the two hundred denaries in the text at the value of thirty five livres, or f1 .. 9 .. 2, sterling.

John 6:8 . Andrew, not often named, but the Greek church claim him, as having travelled into Scythia, planted the church of Byzantium (Constantinople) and finally closed his labours in Achaia, by martyrdom at Patras. Where accredited history is not regular, the whole weight of tradition is of force.

John 6:9 . A lad with five barley loaves and two small fishes. Elisha in time of famine had twenty loaves sent him as a present to the prophets’ school, accompanied with ears of parched corn, which he divided among two thousand men. But here the Saviour made one loaf feed a thousand. Barley on the hills of Syria was the bread of the common people. It requires less culture than wheat, and on the higher grounds is more productive than the former; yet in point of nourishment, it is not quite equal to oats and wheat.

John 6:12 . Gather up the fragments that remain. They that will have plenty in their houses must gather up fragments; carefulness and liberality must be associated in one. So after sermons, let us gather up the fragments by meditation and prayer.

John 6:14 . This is of a truth that prophet, whom Moses said the Lord would send. Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18. Malachi 4:5. Because, like Moses, he had fed them with bread. His divine works were convictions to the people of his divine descent. And as our Saviour improved this miracle, John 6:27, we ought carefully to gather up the fragments, by remarking, that the gospel is generally compared to a feast, a feast in which Christ still has compassion on the hungry multitude. Proverbs 9:5. Isaiah 55:1. But he feeds them in small companies, congregated to hear his word, to meditate and pray, and talk of his goodness. It is a feast in which the Saviour so blesses and multiplies the heavenly food, that all are satisfied and delighted with the fatness of his house. It is a feast of celestial order and plenitude, for the food was not diminished. Every apostle had his basket full at the end of the feast. In a word, we are exhorted to be diligent in labouring for the bread of eternal life, by walking in all the ordinances of the Lord blameless. A good pasture is the only way to retain the flock; let the shepherds see to this, and endeavour to resemble their Lord in wisdom, and in every grace.

John 6:20 . It is I: be not afraid. See the Reflections on Matthew 14:0.

John 6:27 . Labour not for the meat which perisheth. Christ does not speak here of natural labour, because it is fully understood that we must work with our hands; but he prohibits a profession of religion for secular interest. They who follow him, or hang upon his people for loaves and fishes, will surely meet with a rebuke from the Searcher of hearts. He came not to encourage idle and seditious people, though such characters may sometimes taste of his bounty.

We learn farther from this caution, that our Lord improved his own miracles for spiritual good. Ministers therefore have a full right to do the same. He raised the dead, and said, I am the resurrection and the life. He washed the disciples’ feet, and intimated at the same time, that unless he washed them with justifying and sanctifying grace, they could have no part with him. When he tasted the wine, he made a transition to the better wine he should next drink in his Father’s kingdom. Here then is full justification of those who choose to improve the works of Christ for the benefit of their hearers.

We learn that we must be as diligent in devotion, and in all religious duties to acquire the spiritual bread, as we are in labour to earn our temporal bread. The christian will find it generally true, that the more diligent he is in the means, the more prosperous he will be in his soul. Devotion prepares the soul for grace, and God is never wanting to crown it with a blessing. For that hollowed purpose the Saviour is sealed with all the dignity of office, and anointed with oil of gladness above his fellows. Psalms 45:8.

John 6:30 . What sign shewest thou? The moment the Lord talked to this carnal group of spiritual food, they felt distaste and indulged in a spirit of revolt. They deteriorated the miracle by the allegation, that Moses had fed a whole nation, and for forty years; nay, worse; for, repeating the words of the scribes, they asked a sign, as in Matthew 12:38. They affected not to believe in him, John 6:42, because they knew his parentage, as in John 7:27.

John 6:32 . Moses gave you not that bread. Moses never thought of praying for bread to fall from heaven, till God told him what he would do. It was not given by any virtue in Moses: and after all it was only a figure of Christ, the true bread that nourishes the soul of man, even as bread nourishes the body. In order to get this bread, we must come to Christ, or believe in him, as in John 6:35. He is the bread which, like the manna in the desert, descended from above. John 6:33, The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven. The divine descent of the Messiah is the current language of the old and new testament. Psalms 85:10-11. Proverbs 8:22-30. 1 John 3:13; 1 John 3:13.

John 6:37 . All that the Father giveth me shall come to me. Παν , all, is of the neuter gender, denoting nations, languages, gentiles. Such is the import of Revelation 21:27. Παν κοινουν , all that is common or unclean, as in Acts 10:14. Nothing shall enter the holy city that defileth; which excludes all the gentiles, finally impenitent, from the kingdom of God. Let us hear the paraphrase of Erasmus, whom we all regard as the father of biblical literature.

“And though you (jews) do now lothe this living bread through unbelief; nevertheless my Father hath not sent me into the world without a laudable mission. There shall yet be a people to whom this bread shall bring eternal life, although the Son be rejected by the whole nation of the jews; and though by so doing they are wicked towards God in despising the Son, whom the Father hath sent to save the whole world; for my Father is the God, not of the jews alone, but also of the gentiles. I have indeed nothing myself, but what the Father giveth me: and what kind [or nation] of people soever it may be, the same shall come to me by faith, although it hath nothing whatever to do with the law of Moses. And whosoever shall come to me, (and would to God that it might be all nations) him will I not reject. For my Father’s will is, that all men might be saved. Romans 10:1. 1 Timothy 2:4. And as his will and mine are one, for this very purpose I descended from heaven, not to do my own will, as though it were at issue with the will of my Father; but to do the Father’s will who sent me, and from whose pleasure I cannot recede.”

One remark is obvious here, that Erasmus literally adheres to the neuter form of our Saviour, “That which the Father hath given me.” St. Paul does the same in using the word creature for the gentile world. Romans 8:19. Colossians 1:27. The same word is also used in Mark 16:15. This learned man in the above paraphrase, I can say with confidence, speaks like the fathers of the primitive church. I will also give a faithful translation of John CALVIN’S comment on these words.

“In order that the incredulity of the jews might not derogate from his doctrine, Jesus says that the cause of their obstinacy was, because they were reprobates, and did not belong to the flock of God. His intention was, in thus distinguishing between the elect and the reprobate, that the rejection of his doctrine by a great part of the world might not diminish its authority. For on the one hand, the wicked traduce the word of God, and make it of no account, because they doubt whether what a great part of the world reject, really be the word of God. Now, Christ rebuts the slander, when he says that those who do not believe are not his sheep, if they do not taste the truth of God, and which is no surprise; but as many as do receive his word are the children of God. He adds, “All that the Father giveth him should come to him;” by which he would say, that faith does not depend on the will of men, as though it were a chance whether this or that man would believe; but that God had elected those whom he had given into the hands of his Son; for when he says, that all those who are given to him shall come; we gather from his words, that all are not given.”

We may ask with deference, how can any man know the certainty of those terrific doctrines, here unhesitatingly declared as facts. St. Paul says, Oh the depth! And if those absolute decrees are true, how could the Saviour affirm to those very jews, “But these things I say, that ye might be saved?”

Chap. John 5:34. How could he weep and pray at the tomb of Lazarus, that they might believe? What can we do but weep with the Saviour over a gloomy theology, which freezes the lips of ministers, torporizes the church, and has driven Swisserland to arianism and infidelity. The comment of Erasmus has with me a strong preference to that of Calvin.

John 6:39 . I should lose nothing. Christ speaks here not of apostasy, but of the resurrection. Jesus, the son of Joseph? Christ had delicately asserted his divine descent, to draw them to believe, after having seen his miracles. But alas, like other unitarians, they knew him only after the flesh, of humble parentage, and utterly overlooked by the Asmonean family. “Jesus gave them a new proof of his divinity, by revealing the thoughts of their hearts. There is no cause why you should murmur at me; your own infidelity is the cause why my words have no place in your minds. You see, and see not; you hear, and hear not; and even while present, you are absent. Of a truth, whosoever comes to me shall obtain eternal life, but he must come by faith, which is by the inspiration of God. By breathing into their souls, he draws them to his Son. He that believeth in me receives an excellent endowment. Meanwhile, those who do not believe, cannot excuse themselves by saying, that they were not drawn. For the Father, so much as lieth in him, is desirous to draw all men. He who is not drawn, is wholly himself in the fault, because he withdraws his heart from him who otherwise would draw him.” ERASMUS.

John 6:44 . No man can come to me, except the Father draw him. He draws us, as “with the cords of a man,” by argument, by love, and with all the sweet attractions of grace. It is in vain here for the slothful to say he wants grace, while “he draws iniquity with the cords of vanity, and sin as with a cart-rope.” The man who despises divine ordinances, and pleads the want of grace as an excuse for continuing in sin, offers the foulest of insults to the Most High.

John 6:45 . It is written in the prophets, they shall be all taught of God. Isaiah 2:2-5; Isaiah 54:13. Jeremiah 31:34. Micah 4:1-4. This teaching is,

( 1) By the word; for Christ opened to his disciples the scriptures.

(2) It is by reading and meditation, and by sincere purposes of obedience; for so are the promises. The meek he will guide in judgment: the meek he will teach his way. And Christ says, speaking of the Father, If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.

(3) It is by the inward teaching of the Holy Spirit, who will irradiate the mind and guide it into all the truth, and into the peace and consolation of God. The soul divinely taught in the regenerating influences of the cannot do.

John 6:53 . Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man ye have no life in you. He said this that they might not still persist in understanding him in a carnal sense, for he speaks of ascending to the place where he was before he descended. Besides, his flesh was to be so great a feast as to give life to the world. Now, though the jews could not understand him as speaking of the last sacramental supper, I think, with deference to those who think otherwise, that he did not exclude the idea; and this chapter is often cited in sacramental books. The hint to the last supper was no more obscure to those jews, than the allusion to the brazen serpent was to Nicodemus. He dropped many words to be recollected, and to be understood at a future time, after he was risen from the dead.

John 6:68 . Lord, to whom shall we go? When men forsake God, and take offence at an evangelical ministry, it would be well for them to make a contrast between what they leave, and what they embrace. Christ has the words of eternal life. Believing in him, eternal life opens in the heart, and gives the true enjoyment of God. And what has a dry morality, or the honour that comes of men, to compensate for this? Christ’s flock will have a glory, when the blaze of the world shall expire like a meteor. Piety is the life and soul of the church.


This chapter is full of comfort to the souls that simply follow the Lord Jesus: he will give them bread in the time of hunger. But the grand view of the disputation with the jews who had eaten of the loaves and fishes, and after being rebuked, had followed him, as in John 6:59, to the synagogue of Capernaum, was there exhibited.

The bread of which he had spoken to them by the sea-shore, is the bread of life, imparted by the knowledge and enjoyment of God. Christ the second Adam is that living principle formed within us, and diffusing light, and life, and love through the soul.

This is the bread that came down from heaven, the tree of life growing in the paradise above, ever verdant, ever in bloom, ever bearing fruit. It grows not in schools of philosophy, and is often injured by approximations to the tree of knowledge. Our carnal life must cease, having crucified the flesh; then we live not, but Christ lives in us, the hope of glory. This bread is given with a liberal hand, and with a luxuriance like the harvest, if men did not lothe the light food. It falls abundantly like the manna around the camp. The bread that I shall give you, said the Saviour, is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. Other princes gave the bullocks and wine in feasts; the Lord gives himself as our passover.

Oh Lamb of God, was ever pain, Was ever love like thine?

This is the true bread, the bread of God which gives eternal life to the soul. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Therefore, because the head forever lives, the members shall live also. As Christ lives by the Father, so the believer lives by the Saviour. He is the only-begotten of the Father; and by the word of truth he hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by his own resurrection from the dead.

This bread is distinguished from the manna that fell in the desert, a figure of the hidden manna. It could only preserve the life of man for a short time; but this true bread, like the Lord and giver of life, is the same for ever. It is given in daily emanations of charity, accompanied with the fountain of life that is never dry. Oh feed me evermore with this bread; and let me not cast it away with disdain, like the unbelieving nation who tasted it not, because it was covered with the husks of flesh and blood.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on John 6". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.