30. They said therefore to him, What sign doest thou then, that we may see and believe thee? What dost thou work? 31. Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written, He gave them bread of heaven to eat, (Exodus 16:15; Psalm 78:24.) 32. Jesus therefore said to them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33. For the bread of God is this which hath come down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.
30. What sign doest thou? This wickedness abundantly proves how truly it is said elsewhere, This wicked generation seeketh a sign, (Matthew 12:39.) They had been at first drawn to Christ by the admiration of his miracles or signs, and afterwards, through amazement at a new sign, they acknowledged Christ to be the Messiah, and, with that conviction, wished to make him a king; but now they demand a sign from him, as if he were a man unknown to them. Whence came such sudden forgetfulness, but because they are ungrateful to God, and, through their own malice, are blind to his power, which is before their eyes? Nor can it be doubted that they treat disdainfully all the miracles which they had already beheld, because Christ does not comply with their wishes, and because they do not find him to be what they imagined him to be. If he had given them expectation of earthly happiness, he would have been highly applauded by them; they would undoubtedly have hailed him as a Prophet, and the Messiah, and the Son of God; but now, because he blames them for being too much addicted to the flesh, they think that they ought not to listen to him any more. And in the present day, how many are there who resemble them! At first, because they promise to themselves that Christ will flatter their vices, they eagerly embrace the gospel, and call for no proof of it; but when they are called to deny the flesh and to bear the cross, then do they begin to renounce Christ and ask whence the gospel came. In short, as soon as Christ does not grant their prayers, he is no longer their Master.
31. Our fathers ate manna in the wilderness. Thus we see that Christ put his finger on the sore, when he told them that they came like brute beasts to fill their belly; for they discover this gross disposition, when they demand a Messiah by whom they are to be fed. And as to the magnificent terms in which they extol the grace of God in the manna, they do this cunningly, in order to bury the doctrine of Christ, by which he condemned them for immoderate desire of corruptible food; for they contrast with it the magnificent title bestowed on the manna, when it is called heavenly bread But when the Holy Spirit bestows on the manna the honorable appellation of the bread of heaven, (Psalm 78:24,) it is not with this intention, as if God fed his people, like a herd of swine, and gave them nothing more valuable; and, therefore, they are without excuse, when they wickedly reject the spiritual food of the soul, which God now offers to them.
32. Verily, verily, I say to you, Moses gave you not bread from heaven. Christ appears to contradict what was quoted from the psalm, but he speaks only by comparison. The manna mn is called the bread of heaven, but it is for the nourishment of the body; but the bread which ought truly and properly to be reckoned heavenly, is that which gives spiritual nourishment to the soul. Christ therefore makes a contrast here between the world and heaven, because we ought not to seek the incorruptible life but in the kingdom of heaven. In this passage, truth is not contrasted with shadows, as is often done elsewhere; but Christ considers what is the true life of man, or, in other words, what it is that makes him different from brute beasts, and excellent among the creatures.
My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. When he adds these words, the meaning is,| The manna which Moses gave to your fathers did not bring heavenly life, but now heavenly life is truly exhibited to you.| True, it is the Father whom he calls the giver of this bread, but he means that it is given by his own hand. Thus the contrast relates, not to Moses and God, but to Moses and Christ. Now, Christ represents his Father rather than himself as the Author of this gift, in order to procure for himself deeper reverence; as if he had said, |Acknowledge me to be the minister of God, by whose hands he wishes to feed you to eternal life.| But, again, this appears to be inconsistent with the doctrine of Paul, who calls the manna -- spiritual food, (1 Corinthians 10:3.) I reply, Christ speaks according to the capacity of those with whom he has to deal, and this is not uncommon in Scripture. We see how variously Paul speaks about circumcision. When he writes about the ordinance, he calls it the seal of faith, (Romans 4:11;) but when he has to contend with false apostles, he calls it rather a seal of cursing, and that by taking it with the qualities which they ascribed to it, and according to their opinion. Let us consider what was the objection made against Christ, namely, that he did not prove himself to be the Messiah, if he did not supply his followers with bodily food. Accordingly, he does not inquire what it was that was prefigured by the manna, but maintains that the bread with which Moses fed their bellies was not true bread.
33. For the bread of God. Christ reasons negatively from the definition to the thing defined, in this manner: |The heavenly bread is that which hath come down from heaven to give life to the world In the manna there was nothing of this sort; and, therefore, the manna was not the heavenly bread.| But, at the same time, he confirms what he formerly said, namely, that he is sent by the Father, in order that he may feed men in a manner far more excellent than Moses. True, the manna came down from the visible heaven, that is, from the clouds; but not from the eternal kingdom of God, from which life flows to us. And the Jews, whom Christ addresses, looked no higher than that the bellies of their fathers were well stuffed and fattened in the wilderness.
What he formerly called the bread of heaven, he now calls the bread of God; not that the bread which supports us in the present life comes from any other than God, but because that alone can be reckoned the bread of God which quickens souls to a blessed immortality. This passage teaches that the whole world is dead to God, except so far as Christ quickens it, because life will be found nowhere else than in him.
Which hath come down from heaven. In the coming down from heaven two things are worthy of observation; first, that we have a Divine life in Christ, because he has come from God to be the Author of life to us; secondly, that the heavenly life is near us,
so that we do not need to fly above the clouds or to cross the sea, (Deuteronomy 30:12, 13; Romans 10:6-8;)
for the reason why Christ descended to us was, that no man could ascend above.