34. They said therefore to him, Lord, give us always this bread.35. Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth in me shall never thirst.36. But I have told you that you have also seen me and do not believe.37. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will not cast out; 38. For I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.39. And this is the will of the Father who sent me, that of all that he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.40. And this is the will of him who sent me, that whosoever seeth the Son, and believeth in him, shall have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
34. Give us always this bread. There is no doubt that they speak ironically, to accuse Christ of vain boasting, when he said that he was able to give the bread of life. Thus wretched men, while they reject the promises of God, are not satisfied with this evil alone, but put Christ in their room, as if he were chargeable with their unbelief.
35. I am the bread of life. First, he shows that the bread, which they asked in mockery, is before their eyes; and, next, he reproves them. He begins with doctrine, to make it more evident that they were guilty of ingratitude. There are two parts of the doctrine; for he shows whence we ought to seek life, and how we may enjoy it. We know what gave occasion to Christ to use those metaphors; it was because manna and daily food had been mentioned. But still this figure is better adapted to teach ignorant persons than a simple style. When we eat bread for the nourishment of the body, we see more clearly not only our own weakness, but also the power of divine grace, than if, without, bread, God were to impart a secret power to nourish the body itself. Thus, the analogy which is traced between the body and the soul, enables us to perceive more clearly the grace of Christ. For when we learn that Christ is the bread by which our souls must be fed, this penetrates more deeply into our hearts than if Christ simply said that he is our life
It ought to be observed, however, that the word bread does not express the quickening power of Christ so fully as we feel it; for bread does not commence life, but nourishes and upholds that life which we already possess. But, through the kindness of Christ, we not only continue to possess life, but have the beginning of life, and therefore the comparison is partly inappropriate; but there is no inconsistency in this, for Christ adapts his style to the circumstances of the discourse which he formerly delivered. Now the question had been raised, Which of the two was more eminent in feeding men, Moses or Christ himself? This is also the reason why he calls it bread only, for it was only the manna that they objected to him, and, therefore, he reckoned it enough to contrast with it a different kind of bread The simple doctrine is, |Our souls do not live by an intrinsic power, so to speak, that is, by a power which they have naturally in themselves, but borrow life from Christ.|
He who cometh to me. He now defines the way of taking this food; it is when we receive Christ by faith. For it is of no avail to unbelievers that Christ is the bread of life, because they remain always empty; but then does Christ become our bread, when we come to him as hungry persons, that he may fill us. To come to Christ and to believe mean, in this passage, the same thing; but the former word is intended to express the effect of faith, namely, that it is in consequence of being driven by the feeling of our hunger that we fly to Christ to seek life.
Those who infer from this passage that to eat Christ is faith, and nothing else, reason inconclusively. I readily acknowledge that there is no other way in which we eat Christ than by believing; but the eating is the effect and fruit of faith rather than faith itself. For faith does not look at Christ only as at a distance, but embraces him, that he may become ours and may dwell in us. It causes us to be incorporated with him, to have life in common with him, and, in short, to become one with him, (John 17:21.) It is therefore true that by faith alone we eat Christ, provided we also understand in what manner faith unites us to him.
Shall never thirst. This appears to be added without any good reason; for the office of bread is not to quench thirst, but to allay hunger. Christ therefore attributes to bread more than its nature allows. I have already said, that he employs the word bread alone because it was required by the comparison between the manna and the heavenly power of Christ, by which our souls are sustained in life. At the same time, by the word bread, he means in general all that nourishes us, and that according to the ordinary custom of his nation. For the Hebrews, by the figure of speech called synecdoche, use the word bread for dinner or supper; and when we ask from God our daily bread, (Matthew 6:11,) we include drink and all the other parts of life. The meaning therefore is, |Whoever shall betake himself to Christ, to have life from him, will want nothing, but will have in abundance all that contributes to sustain life.|
36. But I have told you. He now reproves them for wickedly rejecting the gift of God, which is offered to them. Now, that man is chargeable with wicked contempt of God, who rejects what he knows that God has given him. If Christ had not made known his power, and plainly showed that he came from God, the plea of ignorance might have alleviated their guilt; but when they reject the doctrine of him whom they formerly acknowledged to be the Lord's Messiah, it is extreme baseness. It is no doubt true, that men never resist God purposely, so as to reflect that they have to do with God; and to this applies the saying of Paul,
They would never have crucified the Lord of glory, if they had known him
(1 Corinthians 2:8.)
But unbelievers, because they willingly shut their eyes against the light are justly said to see that which immediately vanishes from their sight, because Satan darkens their understandings. This, at least, is beyond all controversy, that when he said that they saw, we must not understand him to mean his bodily appearance, but rather that he describes their voluntary blindness, because they might have known what he was, if their malice had not prevented them.
37. All that the Father giveth me. That their unbelief may not detract anything from his doctrine, he says, that the cause of so great obstinacy is, that they are reprobate, and do not belong to the flock of God. His intention, therefore, in distinguishing here between the elect and the reprobate is, that the authority of his doctrine may remain unimpaired, though there are many who do not believe it. For, on the one hand, ungodly men calumniate and utterly despise the word of God, because they are not moved by reverence for it; and, on the other hand, many weak and ignorant persons entertain doubts whether that which is rejected by a great part of the world be actually the word of God. Christ meets this offense, when he affirms, that all those who do not believe are not his own, and that we need not wonder if such persons have no relish for the word of God, but that it is embraced by all the children of God. In the first place, he says, that all whom the Father giveth him come to him; by which words he means, that faith is not a thing which depends on the will of men, so that this man and that man indiscriminately and at random believe, but that God elects those whom he hands over, as it were, to his Son; for when he says, that whatever is given cometh, we infer from it, that all do not come. Again, we infer, that God works in his elect by such an efficacy of the Holy Spirit, that not one of them falls away; for the word give has the same meaning as if Christ had said, |Those whom the Father hath chosen he regenerates, and gives to me, that they may obey the Gospel.|
And him that cometh to me I will not cast out. This is added for the consolation of the godly, that they may be fully persuaded that they have free access to Christ by faith, and that, as soon as they have placed themselves under his protection and safeguard, they will be graciously received by him. Hence it follows, that the doctrine of the Gospel will be salutary to all believers, because no man becomes a disciple of Christ who does not, on the other hand, feel and experience him to be a good and faithful teacher.
38. For I came down from heaven. This is a confirmation of the preceding statement, that we do not seek Christ in vain. For faith is a work of God, by which he shows that we are his people, and appoints his Son to be the protector of our salvation. Now the Son has no other design than to fulfill the commands of his Father. Consequently, he will never reject those whom his Father hath sent. Hence, finally, it follows, that faith will never be useless. As to the distinction which Christ makes between his own will and the will of the Father, in this respect, he accommodates himself to his hearers, because, as the mind of man is prone to distrust, we are wont to contrive some diversity which produces hesitation. To cut off every pretense for those wicked imaginations, Christ declares, that he has been manifested to the world, in order that he may actually ratify what the Father hath decreed concerning our salvation.
39. And this is the will of the Father. He now testifies, that this is the design of the Father, that believers may find salvation secured in Christ; from which again it follows, that all who do not profit by the doctrine of the Gospel are reprobate. Wherefore, if we see that it turns to the ruin of many, we have no reason to despond, because those men willingly draw down the evil on themselves. Let us rest satisfied with this, that the Gospel will always have power to gather the elect to salvation.
That I should lose none of it. That is, |That I should not suffer it to be taken from me or perish;| by which he means, that he is not the guardian of our salvation for a single day, or for a few days, but that he will take care of it to the end, so that he will conduct us, as it were, from the commencement to the termination of our course; and therefore he mentions the last resurrection. This promise is highly necessary for us, who miserably groan under so great weakness of the flesh, of which every one of us is sufficiently aware; and at every moment, indeed, the salvation of the whole world might be ruined, were it not that believers, supported by the hand of Christ, advance boldly to the day of resurrection. Let this, therefore, be fixed in our minds, that Christ has stretched out his hand to us, that he may not desert us in the midst of the course, but that, relying on his goodness, we may boldly raise our eyes to the last day.
There is also another reason why he mentions the resurrection. It is because, so long as our life is hidden, (Colossians 3:3,) we are like dead men. For in what respect do believers differ from wicked men, but that, overwhelmed with afflictions, and like sheep destined for the slaughter, (Romans 8:36,) they have always one foot in the grave, and, indeed, are not far from being continually swallowed up by death? Thus there remains no other support of our faith and patience but this, that we keep out of view the condition of the present life, and apply our minds and our senses to the last day, and pass through the obstructions of the world, until the fruit of our faith at length appear.
40. And this is the will of him who sent me. He had said that the Father had committed to him the protection of our salvation; and now he likewise describes the manner in which it is accomplished. The way to obtain salvation, therefore, is to obey the Gospel of Christ. This point he had, indeed, glanced at a little before but now he expresses more fully what he had spoken somewhat obscurely. And if it is the will of God that those whom he has elected shall be saved, and if in this manner he ratifies and executes his eternal decree, whoever he be that is not satisfied with Christ, but indulges in curious inquiries about eternal predestination, such a person, as far as lies in his power, desires to be saved contrary to the purpose of God. The election of God is in itself hidden and secret; the Lord manifests it by calling, that is, when he bestows on us this blessing of calling us
They are madmen, therefore, who seek their own salvation or that of others in the whirlpool of predestination, not keeping the way of salvation which is exhibited to them. Nay more, by this foolish speculation, they endeavor to overturn the force and effect of predestination; for if God has elected us to this end, that we may believe, take away faith, and election will be imperfect. But we have no right to break through the order and succession of the beginning and the end, since God, by his purpose, hath decreed and determined that it shall proceed unbroken. Besides, as the election of God, by an indissoluble bond, draws his calling along with it, so when God has effectually called us to faith in Christ, let this have as much weight with us as if he had engraven his seal to ratify his decree concerning our salvation. For the testimony of the Holy Spirit is nothing else than the sealing of our adoption, (Romans 8:15.) To every man, therefore, his faith is a sufficient attestation of the eternal predestination of God, so that it would be a shocking sacrilege to carry the inquiry farther; for that man offers an aggravated insult to the Holy Spirit, who refuses to assent to his simple testimony.
Whosoever seeth the Son, and believeth in him. He uses the words, see and believe, in contrast with what he had formerly said; for he had reproached the Jews with not believing, even though they saw, (verse 36.) But now, speaking of the sons of God, with the feeling which they have of the power of God in Christ, he joins the obedience of faith. Moreover, these words show that faith proceeds from the knowledge of Christ; not that it desires anything beyond the simple word of God, but because, if we trust in Christ, we must perceive what he is, and what he brings to us.