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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

Feeding Upon Christ.

At this point our Lord's discourse is interrupted. Hitherto he had been addressing the multitude; now for the first time we read |the Jews,| which, as already explained, means adherents of the ruling party which was violently hostile to Christ. Whether these Jews were among the multitude hitherto addressed in this discourse we cannot tell. If so, they had not made themselves prominent and were lost in the crowd. It may be that the regular discourse in the synagogue ended with verse 40, that these official |Jews| were not present, but were soon informed of what he said, and came with their objections. Or, they may have been in the synagogue and kept silence to this point. They may have been sent from Jerusalem to watch Jesus. Mark 3:22 and 7:1 distinctly intimate that Scribes came from Jerusalem to Galilee, and the phrase |the Jews| seems to convey a kind of official meaning. Since the term |Jews| describes, not Galileans, but natives of Judea, it is applied by John, almost without exception, to those connected in some way with the authorities at Jerusalem, and since also, we learn from the passages just cited that officials came from Jerusalem to take note of the words and acts of the Galilean prophet, it is probable that these |Jews| were representatives of the authorities at the Capital. If this view is correct, of which there can hardly be a doubt, it shows the jealousy with which the Sanhedrim watched over Jesus during his entire ministry in Galilee, as well as Judea. (Joh 6:41)

41. The Jews murmured. They found fault and tried to raise discontent among those who had listened willingly to Christ. (Joh 6:42)

42. Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph? If he was Joseph's son, how could he have come from heaven, or be bread from heaven? Their argument is that he was human born and, hence, only a man. They were, no doubt, ignorant of the miraculous conception, and Christ never refers to it in his teachings. He did not bear witness of himself. (Joh 6:43)

43. Murmur not among yourselves. The reply of Jesus is a rebuke. These men were not honest inquirers but cavilers. (Joh 6:44)

44. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him. Two elements are concerned in coming to Christ, the human will and the divine drawing. No man comes unless he wills to come. It was the charge of Christ against the Jews: |Ye will not come to me that ye might have life| (John 5:40). In Matthew 23:37 he exclaims to Jerusalem: |How often I would have gathered your children . . . but ye would not.| A man can refuse to come and God does not compel, but he says |whosoever will, let him come and partake of the water of life freely.| This is the human side. On the divine side God |draws,| not so as to coerce the human will, but to induce the desire to come. |The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.| It is the drawing power. It draws by its manifestation of the love of God, by its revelation of the crucified Savior, and his adaptation to the needs of the soul. God often mellows the human heart by his providences so that it becomes a fit soil for the Word, and by the gospel, the sword of the Spirit, his providence, the invitations of the Spirit, he |draws| men. If our will consents, and we yield to the drawing, we come. If we |will not,| and refuse to be drawn, we do not come. The ball that I hold in my hand is |drawn| to the earth by attraction but is kept away by another force. So, too, the sinner may be |drawn| by the influence that the Father exerts, but, under the influence of other forces, refuse to be drawn to Christ.

No man comes to the Son unless he yields his own will and is drawn by the love of the Father. I will raise him. The Father draws the soul to Christ; then the Son takes up the work and will raise him from the dead. (Joh 6:45)

45. It is written in the prophets, They shall be all taught of God. Christ makes more explicit how the Father draws. It is by teaching men. All taught of God, who |have heard and learned of the Father,| come to the Son. It is what they learn from the Father that makes them willing to come. (Joh 6:46)

46. Not that any man hath seen the Father. Men do not learn of the Father by seeing and hearing him personally, but they learn the Father's will and words from the Son. (Joh 6:47)

47. He that believeth. Here he returns to his former subject and affirms that belief in himself is the source of life. (Joh 6:48) (Joh 6:49) (Joh 6:50) (Joh 6:51)

48, 49, 50, 51. I am that bread of life. The multitude had spoken of the manna given to their fathers. They had all perished, for it was not the bread of life, and could not communicate life, but the true Bread was that which came from heaven, the appropriation of which would impart immortality because it had life in itself. He is that Bread. If a man eat of this bread, he shall live forever. He now goes one step further, and declares that that bread is his flesh. (Joh 6:52)

52. The Jews strove among themselves. They could not comprehend what had just been said, and they discussed how Jesus |could give his flesh to eat.| (Joh 6:53) (Joh 6:54)

53. Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. The Jews had already stumbled over the statement that his flesh must be eaten, but the Savior, as was his custom (see the case of Nicodemus and the woman of Sychar), reiterates his statement in still stronger language. Not only must his flesh be eaten, but they must drink his blood if they would have life, a startling statement to those who had not learned the lesson of the cross, and one that has caused no little discussion in the Christian world. Let us seek his meaning. He had revealed himself already as the Life. In some way he would give immortality to those who partook of his life. He had declared himself to the Samaritan woman as the giver of the Water of life, and in this discourse, as the Bread of life. He had plainly taught that the partakers of himself, the Water of life, the Bread of life, should have eternal life. But how shall that Bread be eaten, or in other words, how shall mortals so partake of Christ as to receive the life he had himself, and thus have eternal life? The answer is that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood, but how? Those who accept the doctrine of transubstantiation assert that this is done in the Lord's Supper; that the bread and wine are literally transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ, and thus his flesh and blood are eaten and drunk. Others affirm that his language is parabolic, and that he means that the emblems that represent his body and blood must be appropriated. I believe that he means that every man must become a partaker of the benefits of his death, his slain body and shed blood, by an appropriation of them to himself, in order to live. It is only after his death that his flesh can be said to be eaten. The flesh of animals we eat is dead flesh, but this is living Bread; not dead flesh, but living Flesh. It is, then, not literally eaten, but is otherwise appropriated so that the living flesh of the Son of God becomes the sustenance and the life of those who partake of it. At death he shed his blood to wash our sins away; in his resurrection and ascension his glorified flesh was raised and ascended to heaven. As Alford says: |I cannot see how anything short of his death can be meant. By that death he has given his flesh for the life of the world.| How shall one, then, eat his flesh and blood? Verses 47 and 48 show that the Bread of life is appropriated by believing. There must, then, be such a belief, not merely in Christ as a divine teacher, but in his death and resurrection, as will induce us to be planted in the likeness of his death and raised in the likeness of his resurrection. We eat the bread on our tables because we believe it to be bread and that it will sustain life; he that believeth upon the crucified Lord enters into the fellowship of his sufferings, is crucified with him by repentance, buried into his death, raised in the likeness of his resurrection with the new life to walk in newness of life. See Rom.6:1-8.

It is shown in verse 63 that it is not the literal flesh eaten that makes alive, but the spirit and the words of Christ are endowed with spirit and life. It is said, Heb.4:12, that the word of God is quick (alive, living) and powerful. By the appropriation of the words of Christ, faith in the crucified and risen Savior, and the incorporation of the will and life, as expressed in his word, into our lives, we are made alive. (Joh 6:55)

55. My flesh is most indeed. Is food indeed. The body does not feed upon it, but the soul. Its hunger and thirst are satisfied, and by the appropriation of this, it becomes endowed with the vital principle of the Bread of life. (Joh 6:56)

56. Dwelleth in me, and I in him. By this eating one enters into. Christ and partakes of his life. See Rom.6:1-8. (Joh 6:57)

57. The living Father. The Father who is the fountain of life. He sent Christ endowed with his life. So Christ endows with life those who |eat| him. It was the meat of Jesus to do the will of the Father. We eat Christ, our meat, by making his will the will of our lives. (Joh 6:58)

58. Your fathers did eat manna. That food might sustain life for a season, but could not impart it, for it was dead food. The Bread from heaven is endued with life, and hence, gives eternal life. (Joh 6:59)

59. These things said he. This ends the discourses in the synagogue. There is a third discourse to his disciples. Synagogue. See note on the Jewish synagogue at the close of this chapter. (Joh 6:60) (Joh 6:61)

60, 61. Doth this offend you? His disciples could not take in what had just been said. They expected an earthly king, not a crucified Savior. Hence they murmured and were offended. (Joh 6:62)

62. What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend? He points out a still greater marvel than eating his flesh and blood. He came from heaven and he will return there. This passage is remarkable as furnishing the only instance in which the Lord spoke in specific terms of his ascension during his earthly ministry. It is true that he often speaks of his return to the Father, but he does not explain whether it is a spiritual return or in what sense it was meant. Here he speaks positively of his ascension, and his words must be regarded a prophecy of his ascent from the heights of Olivet, in the presence of his disciples. (Joh 6:63)

63. It is the spirit that quickeneth. These words we may paraphrase as follows: |I shall ascend to heaven so that my flesh cannot be literally eaten; the flesh literally profits nothing. It is the spirit that makes alive. The spirits of men must eat, or partake of me, and be thus quickened by my spirit. My words are spirit and life, and he who feeds upon them makes them his soul food, governs his life by them and will be made alive.| He had spoken |in parables| to the Jews, but explains to his disciples his meaning as was his custom. See Matt.13:10, 11. (Joh 6:64)

64. There are some of you who believe not. Had no living, appropriating, trusting faith. (Joh 6:65)

65. Except it were given him. See, for explanation, verses 44, 45. (Joh 6:66)

66. Many of his disciples went back. They were of the unbelieving. Their faith was not strong enough to accept the great doctrine of eating his flesh. (Joh 6:67) (Joh 6:68)

67, 68. To whom shall we go? Christ, apparently sad that these had turned away, asked the twelve whether they would go also. Peter, always prompt, even impetuous, answers: To whom shall we go? The world may well ask this question. If it turns from Christ, to whom shall it go? He only has the words of eternal life. (Joh 6:69)

69. We believe . . that thou art the Christ. It is worthy of remark that the same confession made at Cesarea Philippi is here made by Peter. (Joh 6:70)

70. One of you is a devil. Is |diabolical| comes nearer the idea. I chose you and one has fallen away. The shadow of sorrow is still upon his spirit. The word in Greek is diabolos, not daimonion. (Joh 6:71)

71. He spake of Judas Iscariot. At that time none knew of whom he spoke. The words were well calculated to cause each one to examine himself. Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. The Revision reads, |the son of Simon Iscariot,| which is the proper rendering of the Greek. Simon, the father of Judas, is called Iscariot as well as his son, which shows the word is not a surname but evidently designates place. They were men of Kerioth, a place in Judah named in Joshua 15:25. Some have endeavored to identify the father of Judas with |Simon the Canaanite,| one of the apostles, others with |Simon the leper,| who lived at Bethany, but there is just as much warrant for identifying him with Simon Barjona, or Simon the Galilean Pharisee, or Simon, one of the brethren of our Lord. The name was a very common one and we have nothing particular about this Simon except that he was the father of Judas and a man of Kerioth.

In this remarkable chapter there are given three discourses of the Savior, or three separate sections of one discourse. The bread with which the five thousand had been fed furnishes the text, as the water of the well of Jacob did when he discoursed of the Water of life. An examination of his words will show the gradual development of his thought. He announces:

1. Verse 33, the Bread of God, which cometh from heaven, and giveth life to the world.

2. In verses 48 and 50 he declares: |I am the Bread of life.| . . . This is the bread which cometh down from heaven that a man may eat of it and not die.

3. Verses 51-56 show that the Bread of life must be eaten by becoming partakers of his flesh and blood, or by becoming the kindred of Christ and dwelling in him and having him abide in us.

4. Verse 63 shows that eating his flesh and drinking his blood are not literal acts, but are symbolical expressions. The literal flesh profiteth nothing. The words of Christ are spirit and life. The spirit of man is quickened (made alive) by feeding upon those divine words which are endued with life.

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