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We now come to the discourse given by the Lord Jesus when the people come to Him on the other side of the lake the day after they were miraculously fed. We shall notice as we proceed that just as there were three main actions on the part of the people when the manna was given, so there are these same three actions expected in this chapter. In Exodus 16:4 we read, “The people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day”. Then they were told, “And in the morning, then ye shall see the glory of the Lord”, Exodus 16:7. Then in verse 18 “They gathered every man according to his eating”. So the three main actions expected were seeking, seeing, and eating. And this is how we may divide John 6:22-59.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN CHAPTER 6, VERSES 22 TO 46
6:22 The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone;
6:23 (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)
6:24 When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
6:25 And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?
6:26 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.
6:27 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 God the Father sealed.
6:28 Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent.
6:30 They said therefore unto Him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe Thee? what dost Thou work?
6:31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
6:32 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.
6:33 For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
6:34 Then said they unto Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
6:35 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.
6:36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen Me, and believe not.
6:37 All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.
6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.
6:39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
6:40 And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
6:41 The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.
6:42 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?
6:43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.
6:44 No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
6:45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me.
6:46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.
The section may be divided as follows:-
Verses 22-24 (i) The energy of the flesh.
Verses 25-26 (ii) The exposure of failure.
Verses 27-29 (iii) The energy of faith.
Verses 30-32 (iv) The explanation of the Father’s gift.
SECTION 3 Verses 22-33 SEEKING THE TRUE BREAD
(i) The energy of the flesh
6:22-24 The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone; (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:). When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.
John gives elaborate details as to the way in which the people at last discovered the Lord on the other side of the sea. But it was all carnal energy, as is revealed by the exposure of the thoughts of their hearts by the Lord Jesus. These details highlight the different ways in which different persons reached the shores of the lake:
The Lord Jesus and the twelve apostles journeyed by ship to the eastern shores of Lake Galilee.
The people reached the eastern shore by running and walking, so that they arrived at the spot before the boat did, Mark 6:33.
After the feeding of the 5000, the crowds presumably went into the nearby villages to lodge for the night, see Luke 9:12.
After retiring to the mountain to pray, the Lord walked on the water to overtake the apostles as they rowed across the lake in a storm.
They arrived at the western shore safely.
The people had seen the previous evening that the apostles had got into the boat and started out to cross the lake without the Lord. The next day they found that the Lord was nowhere to be seen, and assumed He had walked round during the night.
The people take advantage of the ships that had come during the night, (perhaps sheltering from the storm), and cross the lake in these.
(ii) The exposure of failure
6:25 And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi, when camest Thou hither? They know nothing of His walk across the water, and the Lord does not tell them. They are only thinking of timing, and have no inkling that He can walk on water. If they had suspected this, they would have said, How? They do not really appreciate a miracle they saw with their own eyes in daylight, so how would they believe something which took place in the dark? The Lord never satisfies idle curiosity, yet is ever ready to reveal Himself to an earnest seeker. They call Him Rabbi, but will they progress to a confession like Peter’s in verse 69?
6:26 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. There are three levels on which the miracles of the Lord Jesus may be thought of. The first and lowest level is simply the realisation that a miracle has been performed. Then there may be wonder at the effect the miracle had. Then there was the third level, and the one on which the miracle should ideally be appreciated, namely, the understanding of the truth expressed by the miracle. The Lord shows by His word that the people in general are only on the first level, recognising that He was a miracle worker. Note the double affirmative, “Verily, verily”, meaning “Truly, truly”. This is found only in John’s gospel, and asserts four things. First, that there is a new development in the teaching of Christ, and fresh truth is about to be spoken. Second, that the truth about to be expressed is definite. Third, that the word expressed may be difficult to take in, yet nonetheless is true. And fourthly, that even though men may doubt or deny it, it is indeed true, being doubly sure.
(iii) The energy of faith
6:27 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 God the Father sealed. Note the important truth that even miraculously provided bread perished. So with the manna; if left it bred worms and stank, Exodus 16:20. The bread which perisheth is all the people saw in the loaves He had fed them with, and they had now expended much energy on acquiring a further supply. This the Lord rebukes.The word meat is used here in the sense of food. The pot of manna which was laid up in the Tabernacle to commemorate the giving of the manna did not perish, giving a hint of meat that did not perish, Exodus 16:32-34. This the Lord exhorts them to strive for. As Son of Man He is available to men, having come down to where we are, just as the manna fell round about the camp of Israel. He is also available to all, not just Israel. The title Son of David limits Him to Israel. “For Him hath God the Father sealed” shows us, remarkably, that it is the Son of Man in relation to the Father here, indicating that He has lost nothing of His eternal relationship with the Father by coming to earth. He is sent, sealed, and special. Bakers put their own mark on the loaves they wish to be identified with. So the Father bore witness to His Son at His baptism. He was also marked out by the miracles He performed, “A man approved of God by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him…” Acts 2:22. If they would have this Divinely-approved food, then they must go to Christ for it, for He is not only the one God approves of as to His person, but He is the one approved of as provider of spiritual food. When men lacked bread in Egypt, the word was “Go to Joseph”, Genesis 41:55.
6:28 Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? He had said “Labour”, and “God the Father”, so they appear keen to do what He said, but are not prepared for His answer. They wanted to do works, and clearly were thinking of legal works by which they also might be sealed, or approved by God. It is significant that the sabbath, instituted by God in creation week, was not mentioned in the scriptures for 2600 years until the manna was given, Exodus 16:23. Sadly, some of the people transgressed over the matter of the sabbath when they went out to collect manna on the seventh day. They failed to realise that God was teaching them that true rest would be known by those who, having the word of God in their hearts, obeyed it. The Lord Jesus connected “learning of Him”, with finding “rest for your souls”, Matthew 11:29. Both Israel and Adam collected food when they were forbidden to do so, and reaped the consequences.
6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent. There is one action, from which all others proceed, and that is faith. Believing is not a work in the sense that it gains merit, but it is an action, and as such may be described as a work. Moreover, it is the work of God. Clearly this does not mean it is a work God does, but rather is a work He expects. Some think this phrase refers to the work of God in a person, so that they are brought to faith. In the context however, it is something a man does, as suggested by the use of the word “labour” in verse 27, meaning “be diligent”. Paradoxical as it may seem, the work of God is to rest in who Christ is.
(iv) Explanation of the Father’s gift
6:30 They said therefore unto Him, What sign showest Thou then, that we may see, and believe Thee? What dost Thou work? The Jews require a sign, 1 Corinthians 1:22, and refuse to believe unless one is given. But they had seen a sign relevant to the subject in hand, and yet seem not to have believed- why would they believe another sign if they believed not the first? They almost seem to be taunting the Lord by their use of the word work. As if to say, why expect us to work, and you do not?
6:31 Our fathers did eat manna in the wilderness; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. The implication of their words, to which they give an appearance of spirituality by alluding to scripture, is that Moses did a far greater thing than feed a small crowd with one meal. The manna had lasted for 40 years, and had fed millions of people for all that time. They ask for a second sign in order to be convinced that He is superior to Moses, whom they revered, and whom they here credit with giving the manna.
6:32 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. The Lord is asserting His authority here as the One sealed by the Father. They have misinterpreted the Psalm they quoted, for they had combined two phrases from Psalm 78:24,25, and made a false conclusion from them. The Lord corrects their error by declaring that it was God that the psalmist referred to as “He”, and not Moses. Moreover He goes on to state that the same God who sent the manna was His Father, and He, as the Son, shares every attribute of God, being equal in nature. This means He has insight into Divine things, and can speak with authority about the giving of the manna and its meaning. It is not that the manna was false, but that the bread from heaven being offered to them by the Father was the reality of which the manna was an illustration and an indication. The manna had come from the skies, whereas the true bread came from the very presence of the Father in heaven.
We may compare and contrast the manna and Christ as follows:
The manna was from heaven, the sky. Christ was from heaven, the presence of His Father.
The manna was small in size. Christ refused to be made king, 6:15.
The manna was round in shape, symbolic of eternity. Christ is eternal in His being, 6:62-“where He was before”.
The manna fell round about the camp. Christ, as Son of Man, 6:27, 53, was available to all.
The manna was freely given. Christ is given by the Father to those who believe.
The manna was a test of obedience, Exodus 16:4. Response to Christ is the supreme test-“Will ye also go away? 6:67.
The manna was given in abundant supply. Christ has life for the world.
The manna was only bread. Christ is a living person.
The manna was like ordinary bread. Christ is spiritual bread.
The Israelites ate the manna, but still died. Those who believe in Christ, eat, and live for ever, 6:51.
The manna bred worms and stank. Christ is meat that endureth.
The manna was supplied for 40 years, then stopped. When Christ is eaten, there is no more hunger,
The manna was given to Israel alone. Christ is available to the world.
The manna supported natural life. Christ gives and supports spiritual life.
6:33 For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven and giveth life unto the world.
The expression “bread of God” indicates at least four things:
1. It is used of the sacrifices offered on Israel’s altar, Leviticus 21:6,8,17,21, so the Lord is preparing His hearers for the idea that He can only become available to them through His sacrificial death. 2. It signifies that Christ was entirely satisfying to God.
3. It indicates that He was approved of God, for “Him hath God the Father sealed”,6:27.
4. In the context of the verse, it shows that He is the one who is able to give life from God. He is the bread that God uses to supply the needs of the hungry soul.
SECTION 4 Verses 34-46 SEEING THE SON
The passage may be divided as follows:
Verses34-36 (i) Seeing and not believing, verse 36.
Verses 37-40 (ii) Seeing and believing, verse 40.
Verses 41-42 (iii) Seeing naturally, verse 42, “whose father and mother we know”.
Verses 43-46 (iv) Seeing the Father through the Son, verse 46.
(i) Seeing and not believing.
6:34 Then said they unto Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. They reason that just as the manna only supplied the need of a day, and had to be given again the next day, so Christ needs to give and give again. They plead with Him to continue for ever giving them this bread. They seem not to have captured the significance of “The bread of God is He…” The bread is not external to Himself, hence the “I am” expressions that follow, verses 35,41,48,51.
6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that cometh to Me shall never thirst. He Himself is the bread. The “I” is emphatic- “I, and no other, not even Moses”. Only those who come to Him in the right way, that is, by faith and not in the energy of the flesh, have everlasting life. Everlasting life is not only life that goes on for ever, but life which lasts, or retains its force, for ever, too. They will not need to come in initial faith again if they have come once, for they will not hunger again. Neither will they thirst if they come to Him and drink. Perhaps the Lord is gently reminding them of the murmuring of their ancestors with regard to the lack of water in the desert. They should beware lest they murmur too. Alas they did, in verse 41. Sometimes what we eat makes us thirsty, but they never thirst who come to Him who is the bread from heaven. The mention of drink anticipates the truth of John 7:37-39.
6:36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. The word ‘but’ indicates that they had not really come in faith. They had made a physical journey to Him, travelling many miles across the lake and were now able to physically see Him again. But just as the Israelites physically saw the manna and said, “What is it”, so these did not have spiritual insight into who He really was. They had seen the sign, and therefore had seen Him as a miracle-worker; they had not seen Him as the Son of God, the bread from heaven.
(ii) Seeing and believing.
6:37 All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. Despite the fact that thousands of people had seen Him, had eaten of the miraculously-provided loaves, and yet did not believe, God’s purpose was not frustrated. He would sovereignly work to ensure that many did come. The present tense, “giveth”, shows it to be a present work, not a matter of predestination in eternity. The way in which they came, and thus were given by the Father to the Son, is detailed in verses 39-41. Note that it is “all that”, and not “all whom”. In other words, the Lord is referring to a company, considered as one whole thing, and of which no individual would ever be lost, verse 39. So much for the side of Divine Sovereignty. Human responsibility is clearly seen in the words, “And him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”. Him that cometh means no restriction. In no wise means no reason. Not cast out means no refusal. All that the Father gives to Christ shall come, and all that come will be received. The reason for this is given in the next verses. In verses 35 the coming is not physical; in verse 36 it is not natural; in verse 37 it is not accidental; and in verse 37 again it is not impersonal.
6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. This is one of the reasons why He does not cast out those that come, for He is on a mission from heaven, and is governed only by His Father’s will. That will is explained by the next verse.
6:39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. Since He is committed to the will of Him that sent Him, having subjected His will to His Father’s, then it is certain that He will safeguard all who come to Him, for that is His Father’s will. This safe keeping involves both the soul and the body, for He not only preserves His people now, but will also raise their bodies from the graves at the last day. The Jews divided time into “The age before the Messiah”, and “The age of the Messiah”. The present age is a matter of revelation, not being revealed in Old Testament times, see Ephesians 3:1-12. The last day refers to the last day of 24 hours of the particular age in question. As far as Old Testament saints are concerned, the last day, when they shall be raised, is the last day of the “Age before the Messiah”, at the moment when Christ comes to earth to reign, see Revelation 11:18. This was the expectation of Martha with regard to her brother, John 11:24. She learns, however, that since Christ is the Resurrection and the Life, He could intervene before that last day if He chose to do so. He intervened immediately in the case of Lazarus, and will intervene at the end of this present age of grace as far as church believers are concerned. Christ instructed the disciples that not a tiny fragment of the loaves should be lost, verse 12, but He will also personally ensure that the bodies of His people are not lost.
6:40 And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one that seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. In the previous verse, the idea was of all believers considered as one whole thing, hence the expressions like “all which…nothing…raise it”. Here, however, the emphasis is on individual responsibility, and so it is more personal-“every one…raise him”. The mention of everlasting life in connection with the resurrection would remind us that the bodies of believers are going to be transformed, so that the full effects of having eternal life may be appreciated and expressed for all eternity. So verse 39 has to do with resurrection as the consummation of the Father’s will, and verse 40 links resurrection with coming to Christ, for those that are in the grave shall come forth in response to His word, just as they responded to His word in salvation. See John 5:24,25. The fact that Christ will raise at the last day implies that He will already have risen from the dead. Note that a stronger word is used here for seeing. It signifies to contemplate, giving the idea of an interested look, rather than a look that may be casual.
(iii) Seeing naturally.
6:41 The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. In John’s gospel it is the rulers who are called the Jews. These are different, then, to those in the crowd that spoke in verse 34. There is a great multitude present, and John is giving us different reactions to Christ’s teaching. This group is still occupied with what He said in verse 33. They were like the Israelites who, when confronted with the manna, said, “It is manna”, for “they wist not what it was”, Exodus 16:15. The Hebrew word “man” or “min” is very common, and simply means “what?”.
6:42 And they said, is not this Jesus, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He saith He came down from heaven? It is usually thought that Joseph had died by the time the Lord began His public ministry. The literal order of the words is “Of whom we know the father and mother”. In other words, they could know who his father was without actually personally knowing him. In any event, they deny His relation with God as His Father, and this is the cause of all their other difficulties. Once a person has accepted the truth of the Deity of Christ, everything else falls into place. In 8:19 the Lord tells them that they neither know Him nor His Father. If they had known Him, it would mean they knew the Father also. Both the “we” and the “He” are emphatic, “We know”…”He saith”. They are setting their knowledge against His.
(iv) Seeing the Father through the Son
6:43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. They would have done far better if they had enquired humbly of Him, rather than assert themselves as knowledgeable on this matter. The Israelites had been marked by murmuring in the wilderness, Numbers 14:26,27.
6:44 No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. The only way for them to see that their opinions about Him were wrong, and to gain right thoughts about His person, was to be drawn by the Father. None who earnestly seek the truth shall be left without light. Note the united interest on the part of Father and Son in the souls of men; the Father draws to the Son, then the Son raises and takes to the Father in heaven. How the Father draws is explained in the next verse.
6:45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. They claimed to know, but had missed the teaching of the prophets on this matter as found in Isaiah 54:13. In that chapter Isaiah speaks of the coming kingdom, which the Lord’s references to the last day should have reminded them of. Those who are in the good of the New Covenant, which involves knowing God, (see Jeremiah 31:34), will only know Him because they have been taught of God. Thus the Lord establishes from the Old Testament prophets the principle He is setting out to them. The specific quotation is just the words “taught of God”, and “they shall all be” is the Lord’s adaptation of the previous words. He has authority to quote in this way. The people had mishandled the psalmist’s words in verse 31, and by so doing only showed their ignorance. Those who have heard the truth about the person of Christ, and respond by learning it, taking it in for themselves, are sure to come in faith to Christ. And since the words of the Lord Jesus were words given Him by His Father to speak, then they have available this teaching- they have no excuse. Sadly, many of them had closed their ears to the truth he brought, and closed their eyes to the significance of the miracles He wrought, see Matthew 13:10-17.
6:46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father. Only the Son has eternal and infinite insight into the nature of the Father. All others must rely on the revelation He gives of Himself through the One who is most fitted to give it, even the Son. Here the Lord claims exclusive rights to the truth concerning Himself and the Father. The “He” is emphatic, “He, and He only”. See also John 1:18, with its connection between seeing and declaring.
As we come to the end of this important section, we may summarise the truth of it as follows:
What they must do if they are to see Christ in the right way:
1. Realise that He can assess their motives, verse 26.
2 Realise that He provided bread in the same way as Jehovah did in the desert. They spoke as if He only copied Moses, and misquoted scripture to support that idea.
3 Realise that the Father has sealed Him, and thereby marked Him out as approved.
4 Realise that He came down from heaven from the Father, and does not owe His manhood to Joseph.
What the Father and the Son do so that they may see in the right way:
1 Shew that the Son knows that they murmur in unbelief.
1 Make clear that the Father does draw to Christ.
2 Stand by the promises under the New Covenant.
What the response of the Father and the Son is to those who come to Him:
1 The Father gives the whole company of believers to Christ as they come to Him one by one in faith.
2 The Son promises not to reject any who come.
3 The Son promises them resurrection, because this is His Father’s will.
4 The Son promises eternal life to all who come.
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