CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO JOHN 6:1-71
A. The Gospel of John does not record the Lord's Supper itself, although chapters 13-17 record the dialogue and prayer in the Upper Room. This omission may be intentional. The church of the second century began to view the ordinances in a sacramental sense. They saw them as channels of grace. John may have been reacting to the sacramental view by not recording Jesus' baptism or the Lord's Supper.
B. John 6 is in the context of the feeding of the five thousand. However, many use it to teach a sacramental view of the Eucharist. This is the source of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (vv. 53-56).
The question over how chapter 6 relates to the Eucharist shows the dual nature of the Gospels. Obviously, the Gospels relate to Jesus' words and life, yet they were written decades later and expressed the individual authors' community of faith. So there are three levels of authorial intent.
1. the Spirit
2. Jesus and the original hearers
3. the Gospel writers and their readers
How is one to interpret? The only verifiable method must be a contextual, grammatical, lexical approach, informed by a historical setting and not vice versa.
C. We must remember that the audience was Jewish and the cultural background was the rabbinical expectation of the Messiah being a super-Moses (cf. vv. 30-31), especially in regard to the Exodus experiences like "manna." The rabbis would use Ps. 72:16 as a proof text. Jesus' unusual statements (cf. vv. 60-62, 66) were meant to counteract the crowd's false Messianic expectations (cf. vv. 14-15).
D. The early church fathers did not all agree that this passage refers to the Lord's Supper. Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Eusebius never mention the Lord's Supper in their discussions on this passage.
E. The metaphors of this passage are very similar to Jesus' words used with the "woman at the well" in John 4. Earthly water and bread are used as metaphors of eternal life and spiritual realities.
F. This multiplying of bread is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels (Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:32-44; Luke 9:10-17)!
G. Michael Magill, New Testament TransLine (p. 325) makes an interesting observation related to the different groups in Capernaum and their relation to Jesus' shocking words.
1. the crowd, v. 24
2. the Jews, vv. 41,52
3. the disciples, vv. 60,66
4. the Twelve, v. 67
Jesus had effectively
1. stopped the crowd from trying to make Him king because He fed them (6:15)
2. challenged the Jewish leadership by His radical personal claims
3. caused many peripheral followers to leave
4. elicited a statement of continuing and deepening faith on the part of the Twelve (6:68-69)
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:1-14
1After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?" 6This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little." 8One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, 9"There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?" 10Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12When they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost." 13So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."
6:1 "the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias)" This body of water was known by several other names. In the OT it was called Chinnereth, (cf. Num. 34:11). It was also known as Lake Gennessaret in Luke 5:1 and by the Roman name, the Sea of Tiberias in John 21:1. The parenthesis is another editorial comment by the author. It does show that John's Gospel was for people outside Palestine (cf. 6:4,6,64,71).
6:2 Notice the reason why the crowd followed Him.
6:3 Jesus used the natural amplification of the water and hill side to project His voice. The fact that He "sat down" shows that this was an official teaching session with His disciples. One wonders if the mountain was meant to remind one of a Mosaic setting like Matthew 5-7.
In these large teaching sessions, Jesus often addressed different groups in the crowd. Encircling Him at His feet would have been His close disciples; beyond them, the curious, the rich and the common "people of the land"; and, in small groups, the religious leaders (Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, possibly even Essenes).
6:4 "the Passover, the feast of the Jews" The only way of determining the length of the public ministry of Jesus is the Passovers mentioned in the Gospel of John (first, 2:13; second, 6:4; and third, 11:55 & 13:1). If John 5:1 is also speaking of a Passover then we have at least three and one-half or four years public ministry. There is so much we do not know about the life of Jesus (cf. 20:30; 21:25).
6:6 "This he was saying to test him" This Greek term here for "test" (peirazō) usually carries an evil connotation (see Special Topic at I John 4:1, cf. Matt. 4:1). This is a good example showing that modern interpreters try to force NT words to fit into one definition. Koine Greek was losing many of the grammatical and linguistic distinctions of Classical Greek (cf. note at 5:20).
Jesus was testing Philip, but how?
1. on his faith in Jesus as provider?
2. on his knowledge of the OT (cf. Num. 11:13, on Moses' question to God about providing food)?
3. on his care and concern for the crowd?
NASB, NKJV, JB "Two hundred denarii worth"
NRSV "six months' wages"
TEV "two hundred silver coins"
A denarii was a day's wage for a laborer (cf. Matt. 20:2) and a soldier. This would have been almost two-thirds of a year's wage.
SPECIAL TOPIC: COINS IN USE IN PALESTINE IN JESUS' DAY
6:8-9 "Andrew, Simon Peter's brother" This context is such a beautiful picture of Andrew's simple faith and trust in the ability and person of Jesus.
6:9 "barley loaves" This was considered the most inexpensive and least desirable bread. It was the food of the poor. Jesus did not use His powers to provide expensive food!
6:10 "Have the people sit down" People of this culture normally ate while either sitting on the floor or reclining at a low "U" shaped table.
▣ "there was much grass in the place" This is an eyewitness apostolic (editorial) comment.
▣ "So the men sat down, about five thousand" It is really a misnomer to call this "the feeding of the five thousand" because apparently there were more people there that day. The five thousand is a round number and refers to adult men (i.e., 13 and above) and does not include women and children (cf. Matt. 14:21). However, it is uncertain how many women and children would or could have attended (cf. Matt. 14:21).
6:11 "and having given thanks, He distributed" The miracle of multiplication must have occurred in Jesus' hands. In context of the Jews' Messianic hope this event would be the expected sign that Jesus was providing food as Moses provided manna.
The Greek term for "giving thanks" (eucharisteō) later became the name for the Last Supper (cf. I Cor. 11:23-24). Did John use it here with this future, technical definition in mind? The other Gospels which do not have the allusions to the Eucharist use a different term (eulogeō, cf. Matt. 14:19; Mark 6:41). They do use the term eucharisteō (cf. Matt. 15:36; Mark 8:6; Luke 17:16; 18:11) but not consistently in a Last Supper setting. They do use the same term to describe Jesus' thanksgiving prayer in the upper room (cf. Matt. 26:27; Mark 14:23; and Luke 22:17-19). Therefore, since the usage is not uniform, John would have needed to make his allusion more specific if later readers were meant to interpret this in an Eucharistic setting!
6:12 "lost" See Special Topic: Apollumi at10:10.
6:13 "So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets" The term "basket" here refers to a large hamper-type basket. It is significant that Jesus did not waste any of the multiplied food. Nor did He change the nature (or type) of the bread.
Does the term "twelve" have symbolic significance? It is difficult to be certain. It has been interpreted as a reference to the tribes of Israel (Jesus satisfies the OT) or one basket for each disciple (Jesus satisfies and provides for His disciples), but it may just have been an eyewitness detail (like v. 19).
SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NUMBER TWELVE
6:14 "the Prophet" This is an allusion to the Messianic reference of Deut. 18:15-22 (cf. Acts 3:22; 7:37). The crowd recognized the power of Jesus but misunderstood the nature of His mission and signs.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:15
15So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
6:15 The crowd was excited by Jesus' Messianic miracle of providing food. This verse may relate to the evil one's temptation of Matt. 4:3.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:16-21
16Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." 21So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
6:17 "Capernaum" This was Jesus' headquarters during His Galilean ministry because of the unbelief in His hometown of Nazareth (cf. Luke 4:28-29).
6:19 "they had rowed about three or four miles" They were approximately halfway across the lake when Jesus came walking to them on the water. Matthew expands this narrative to include Peter walking to Him on the water.
▣ "they were frightened" These disciples were still estimating Jesus by earthly standards. The disciples' fear is expressed in Mark 6:49. The collective weight of these "signs" forced them to reassess who He was.
6:20 "It is I" This is literally (egō eimi) "I Am" (cf. 4:26; 8:24,28,54-59; 13:19; 18:5-6) which reflects the covenant name of God in the OT, YHWH of Exod. 3:12-15. Jesus is the visible "I Am," the full self-revelation of God, the incarnate Logos (word) of God, the true and only Son. See D in the Special Topic following.
SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY
6:21 "and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going" This apparently was another miraculous occurrence (cf. 22-25) since Mark's Gospel indicates that they had rowed about half way across the lake (cf. Mark 6:47). However, it is not mentioned in the other Gospels (i.e., Matt. 14:32 or Mark 6:51).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:22-25
22The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You get here?"
6:23 "Tiberias" This city was built by Herod Antipas in a.d. 22 and became his capital.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:26-34
26Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal. 28Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" 29Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." 30So they said to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.'" 32Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world." 34Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread."
6:26,32,53 "Truly, truly, I say to you" "Amen," "Amen." This is a Hebrew phrase that has three distinct usages.
1. In the OT the word was used for "trust." Its figurative sense meant "to be firm" and was used to describe one's faith in YHWH.
2. Jesus' usage reflects the introduction of important and significant statements. We have no other contemporary usage of "amen" in this way.
3. In the early church, like the OT, it came to be a term of affirmation or concurrence.
See SPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN at 1:51.
▣ "but because you ate of the loaves" Their motives were physical and immediate, not spiritual and eternal.
▣ "and were filled" This term meant "to gorge," it was often used of animals (especially cows).
6:27 "Do not work" This is a present middle imperative with the negative particle which usually means to stop an act already in progress. The OT background to this passage is Isaiah 5. This conversation has many similarities to the one with the woman at the well in John 4.
▣ "perishes" See Special Topic: Apollumi at10:10.
▣ "has set His seal" This is literally "sealed." This was a sign of authenticity, ownership, authority, and security (cf. NEB and Matt. 28:18; John 17:2). TEV and NIV translate it as "approval" since it is used to assert God the Father's approval of Jesus' ministry. See SPECIAL TOPIC: SEAL at 3:33, where it may refer to the Holy Spirit.
6:28 "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God" This was the central religious question of first century Judaism (cf. Luke 18:18). The religious Jew was assumed to be right with God based on (1) his lineage and (2) his performance of the Mosaic Law as it was interpreted by the Oral Tradition (Talmud).
6:29 "that you believe in Him whom He has sent" This is a present active subjunctive followed by an aorist active indicative. The word "believe" is crucial in understanding the NT teachings about salvation. See Special Topic at 2:23. The word's primary orientation was volitional trust. The Greek word group pistis can be translated as "believe," "trust" or "faith." The focus of human belief must be "in Him" (cf. 1:12; 3:16), not in human sincerity, commitment, nor enthusiasm. The immediate orientation of this passage is to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not orthodox theology about Him, expected religious ritual, nor even ethical living. All of these things are helpful but not primary. Notice that Jesus changes the plural "works" of their question to the singular "work."
For "sent" see Special Topic: Send (Apostellō) at 5:24.
6:30-33 It must be remembered that this group had just participated in a miraculous feeding of the five thousand. They had already had their sign! Rabbinical Judaism thought the Messiah would repeat certain OT acts, such as sending of the manna (cf. II Baruch 29:8). The rabbis used Ps. 72:16 as a proof text for this view of a "super-Moses" type of Messiah (cf. I Cor. 1:22).
There is an important grammatical feature between the "believe in Him" of v. 29 and "believe You" of v. 30. The first focuses on John's usual construction of believing in/into Jesus. It is a personal focus. The second focuses on believing Jesus' words or claims which is a content focus. Remember, the Gospel is both a person and a message. See Special Topic at 2:23.
6:31 "as it is written" This is a periphrastic perfect passive participle. It was the standard grammatical form to introduce Scripture quotes from the OT. It was an idiom affirming the inspiration and authority of the OT. This quote could refer to one of several OT texts or a combination: Ps. 78:24; 105:40; Exod. 16:4,15, or Neh. 9:15.
6:32 Jesus addresses the Jews' traditional theology. They asserted that the Messiah must perform wonder-works like Moses because of Deut. 18:15,18. Jesus corrects their assumption at several points.
1. God, not Moses, gave the manna
2. manna was not of heavenly origin although the people thought it was (cf. Ps. 78:23-25)
3. the true bread of heaven was Jesus, who was not a past act, but a present reality
6:33 "is that which comes down out of heaven" This is a recurrent theme in John (cf. 3:13). It is John's vertical dualism. In this context Jesus' descent is stated seven times (cf. 6:33,38,41,42,50,51,58). It shows Jesus' pre-existent, divine origin (cf. vv. 33,38,41,42,50,51,58, and 62). It is also a play on "manna" which came from heaven as did Jesus the true Bread, the Bread of life.
This is literally "the bread of God is the one coming down out of heaven." Here the masculine present active participle refers to (1) "bread" or (2) a man, Jesus. Often in John these ambiguities are purposeful (double entendres).
▣ "gives life to the world" This is the purpose for which Jesus came (cf. 3:16; Mark 10:45; II Cor. 5:21). The goal is "new life," "eternal life," "new age life," "God's kind of life" to a lost and rebellious world, not to some special group (Jew/Gentile, elect/non-elect, conservative/liberal), but to all!
NASB, NKJV "Lord"
NJB, NET Bible,
NIV, REB "Sir"
These two terms both reflect different semantic usages of kurios. In this context the second option seems best. The crowd did not understand Jesus or His words. They did not perceive Him as the Messiah (also note 4:11; 5:7).
▣ "always give us this bread" This is similar to the statement of the woman at the well in John 4:15. These Jews did not understand Jesus' spiritual metaphors either. This is a recurrent theme in John.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:35-40
35Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."
6:35 "I am the bread of life" This is one of the "I Am" statements which is so characteristic of John (cf. 6:35,41,48,51; 8:12; 10:7,9,11,14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1,5). John's Gospel focuses on the person of Christ. This is related to the Jews' Messianic expectations about manna and the new Law giver Who would bring a new exodus (from sin). See note at 8:12.
▣ "He who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" These are two strong Double negatives in Greek, "will never no never" (cf. v. 37).
There is a parallel relationship between "comes" and "believes" (cf. 7:37-38, similar to "sees" and "hears"). They are both present participles. Believers' coming and believing are not one-time decisions, but the beginning of a lifestyle of fellowship, friendship and followship.
▣ "hunger. . .thirst" Hunger and thirst were often used to describe spiritual reality (cf. Ps. 42:1; Isa. 55:1; Amos 8:11-12; Matt. 5:6).
6:36 "that you have seen Me" Some ancient witnesses (MSS א, A, and many Old Latin, Vulgate, and Syriac versions) omit "Me," making Jesus' statement refer to His sign (i.e., feeding the crowd). The pronoun is included in so many Greek manuscripts and versions that the UBS4 could not decide which was original.
6:37 "All that My Father gives Me will come to Me" The primary emphasis of this passage is on the sovereignty of God. The two definitive passages on this theological truth are Romans 9 and Eph. 1:3-14. It is interesting that in both contexts mankind's response is required. Romans 10 has seven all inclusive phrases. This is also the case in Ephesians 2, where the discussions of God' grace in vv. 1-7 issue in a call to faith in vv. 8,9. Predestination is a doctrine for the redeemed, not a barrier to the unsaved. The key to unlock the doctrine is the love and grace of God, not eternal decrees. Notice that all who God gives to Jesus also "come" to Him. God always takes the initiative (cf. vv. 44,65), but humans must respond (cf. 1:12; 3:16). See Special Topic at 3:16.
▣ "the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out" This is another strong double negative. This emphasizes the truth that God calls and welcomes everyone to Himself through Christ (cf. Ezek. 18:21-23; 30-32; I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9). God always takes the initiative (cf. vv. 44,65), but humans must respond (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:21). What a wonderful passage on security (cf. Rom. 8:31-39)!
SPECIAL TOPIC: CHRISTIAN ASSURANCE
6:38 "I have come down from heaven" This is perfect tense which refers to the Incarnation (cf. John 1:1ff; Eph. 4:8-10), and its results remain. It also shows the heavenly origin of Jesus (cf .vv. 41,62).
▣ "not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" The NT asserts both the unity of the Trinity (see Special Topic at 14:26), example 14:8-9 and the personality of the three persons. This verse is part of John's ongoing emphasis on Jesus' submissiveness to the Father. See full note at 5:19. See Special Topic: Send (Apostellō) at 5:24.
6:39 "that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing" There is an obvious relationship between the neuter singular "all that" of v. 37 and the neuter singular of v. 39. John uses this unusual form several times (cf. 17:2,24). It apparently emphasizes the corporate whole (cf. vv. 40,45).
This is a great promise of God's keeping power, a source of Christian assurance (cf. John 10:28-29; 17:2,24, see Special Topic at I John 5:13). Notice that the verb tense of v. 37 is Present tense, while in v. 39 it is perfect tense. God's gift abides! Also the last two affirmations of v. 39 are both aorist active; Jesus does not lose any of that which the Father has given to Him (vv. 37 and 39) and He raises all those who are given to Him on the last day (cf. v. 44). Here are the divine promises of (1) election and (2) perseverance!
This concept of a day of consummation (both positive and negative) is called by several titles.
1. the last days, 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24; 12:48; II Tim. 3:1; I Pet. 1:5; II Pet. 3:3
2. the last time, I John 2:18; Jude v. 18
3. that day, Matt. 7:22; II Tim. 1:12,18; 4:8
4. a day, Acts 17:31
5. the great day, Jude v. 6
6. the day, Luke 17:30; I Cor. 3:13; I Thess. 5:4; Heb. 10:25
7. His day, Luke 17:24
8. the day of the Lord, I Thess. 5:2; II Thess. 2:2
9. the day of Christ, Phil. 1:10; 2:16
10. the day of the Lord Jesus Christ, I Cor. 1:8; 5:5
11. the day of the Lord Jesus, II Cor. 1:14
12. the day of Christ Jesus, Phil. 1:6
13. the day of the Son of man, Luke 17:24 (see also #7)
14. day of judgment, Matt. 10:15; 11:22,24; 12:36; II Pet. 2:9; 3:7; I John 4:17
15. day of wrath, Rev. 6:17
16. The great day of God - Rev. 16:14
▣ "but raise it up in the last day" This refers to resurrection day for believers but judgment day for unbelievers (cf. vv. 40,44,54; 5:25,28; 11:24 and I Cor. 15). Frank Stagg has a helpful statement at this point in his A New Testament Theology:
"The Gospel of John is emphatic about a future coming (14:3,18 f.,28; 16:16,22) and it speaks clearly of the resurrection and final judgment 'in the last day' (5:28 f., 6:39 f., 44,54; 11:24; 12:48); yet throughout this Fourth Gospel, eternal life, judgment, and resurrection are present realities (3:18 f.; 4:23; 5:25; 6:54; 11:23 ff.; 12:28,31; 13:31 f.; 14:17; 17:26)" (p. 311).
6:40 "this is the will of My Father" This is Jesus' answer to the question of v. 28, "what shall we do that we may work the words of God?" See Special Topic: The Will of God at 4:34.
▣ "that everyone who beholds the Son" The present active participles of "beholding" and "believing" are parallel (like "comes" and "believes" in v. 35, like "sees" and "hears"). These are ongoing actions, not one-time events. The term "beholding" meant "to gaze intently" at something so as to understand or know it.
I surely like the term "everyone" (pas), notice
1. that all might believe through him, 1:7
2. enlightens every man, 1:9
3. whoever believes may in Him have eternal life, 3:15
4. that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life, 3:16
5. that all may honor the Son, 5:23
6.-9. John 6:37,39,40,45
10. everyone who loves and believes in Me shall never die, 11:26
11. I, if I, be lifted up from the earth will draw all men to Myself, 12:32
12. everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness, 12:46
This is the mystery of sovereignty (cf. vv. 38-39; 17:2,24 vs. freewill). Both are somehow true. For me the theological concept of "covenant" unites them best!
▣ "believes in Him" Remember that salvation is primarily a personal relationship, not a creed, correct theology, or a moral lifestyle (cf. 3:16; 11:25-26). The stress is on the object of one's faith, not the intensity. See Special Topic at 2:23.
Notice the balance of the emphasis on God's sovereign choice in vv. 37a,39,44,65 and mankind's faith response in v. 37b,40. These biblical tensions must be maintained. God's sovereignty and mankind's free will form the twin aspects of biblical covenant.
▣ "may have eternal life" This is a present active subjunctive; a response is required (cf. I John 5:11). Also note that v. 39 is corporate, while v. 40 is individual. This is the paradox of salvation.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:41-51
41Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, "I am the bread that came down out of heaven." 42They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down out of heaven'?" 43Jesus answered and said to them, "Do not grumble among yourselves. 44No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh."
6:41 "Therefore the Jews were grumbling" This is an imperfect tense, which implies they started to grumble or grumbled again and again. The parallel with the wilderness wandering period (cf. Exod. and Num.) is striking. The Israelites of that day also rejected Moses, God's representative, who also provided them food.
6:42 This shows that the Jews understood Jesus' words about Himself. He was clearly using Jewish idioms to claim to be pre-existent and divine! Jesus' words are still shocking coming from a Galilean carpenter! Jesus made such strong statements about Himself. He is then
1. the incarnate Son of God who brings eternal life by His words and deeds or
2. a premeditative liar or
3. a lunatic (taken from Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict)
The truthfulness of Jesus' claims is the issue of Christianity.
6:43 "Do not grumble among yourselves" This is a present imperative with Negative particle which usually means to stop an act already in progress.
6:44 "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him" God always takes the initiative (cf. v. 65 and 15:16). All spiritual decisions are the result of the wooing of the Spirit, not mankind's religiosity (cf. Isa. 53:6). God's sovereignty and a mandated human response are inseparably linked together by the will and mercy of God. This is the OT concept of covenant.
The balance to this "drawing of God" is found in 12:32 where Jesus "draws all men to Himself." This drawing reverses the OT pattern of God's people not responding to His prophetic word (examples: Isa. 6:9-13; 29:13; Jeremiah). God now speaks, not through prophets to Israel, but through His Son to all mankind (cf. Heb. 1:1-3). See Special Topic: Send (Apostellō) at 5:24.
6:45 "It is written in the prophets" This is a quote from Isa. 54:13 or Jer. 31:34 which describes the internal (new heart, new mind) aspect of the "New Covenant."
▣ "Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me" It is impossible to claim to know God and reject Jesus (cf. I John 5:1-12).
6:46 "Not that any man has seen the Father" Jesus' affirmation is that only through Him can one really understand and know God (cf. John 1:18; 14:6,9). Even Moses never truly saw YHWH (cf. note at 5:32).
6:47 This verse summarizes Jesus' offer of a free salvation to all humans ("the one believing," present active participle; "eternal life" cf. vv. 51,58; 3:15,16,36; 5:24; 11:26; 20:31). Jesus is the only true revelation of God, the only true door to God (the exclusivism of the gospel, cf. 10:1-6,7-9; 14:6), but this is available to all sons and daughters of Adam (the inclusivism of the gospel fulfills 1:4,7,12; 3:16; Gen. 3:15; 12:3).
6:50 This verse, like 31-35, is a play on the meaning of bread, physical bread (manna) and heavenly bread (Jesus). One gives and sustains physical life, but must be repeated and eventually cannot stop death. The other gives and sustains eternal life, but must be accepted and nurtured and puts an immediate end to spiritual death (broken fellowship with God; intimate fellowship with sin and self).
6:51 "I am the living bread" This is one of the famous "I am" statements of John's Gospel (cf. 6:35,48,51). It was a literary technique of Jesus to focus attention on His person. Salvation, like revelation, is ultimately a person.
▣ "for the life of the world is My flesh" This is a metaphor emphasizing that Jesus Himself, not some food supply, is our central need. This phrase obviously links back to 1:14.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:52-59
52Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" 53So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." 59These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
TEV "an angry argument"
The imperfect tense meant the beginning of something or the continuing of something in past time. This is a strong Greek term for fighting (cf. Acts 7:26; II Tim. 2:23-24; Titus 3:9) and used metaphorically in II Cor. 7:5 and James 4:1-2.
▣ "How can this man give us His flesh to eat" In John Jesus speaks in metaphoric language that is regularly misunderstood in a literal sense: (1) Nicodemus, 3:4; (2) Samaritan woman, 4:11; (3) Jewish crowd, 6:52; and (4) disciples, 11:11.
6:53-57 The verbals in vv. 53 and 54 are very interesting. In v. 53, "eat" and "drink" are aorist active subjunctives which speak of a volitionally potential initiating act. The verbals in v. 54, "eats" and "drinks," are Present active participles which emphasize continuing action (cf. vv. 56,57,58). It seems that this confirms the fact that one must initially respond to Jesus and continue to respond (cf. v. 44).
It must be remembered that to take this passage literally is to misunderstand the Jewish horror at drinking blood (cf. Lev. 17:10-14). To take Jesus' obvious allusions to the manna in the wilderness (cf. v. 58), and use them as literal phrases connected with the Eucharist is a manipulation of the historical setting and literary context for liturgical purposes.
6:54 "flesh. . .blood" This is a Jewish metaphorical way of referring to the whole person, like "heart."
6:55 "true food. . .true drink" This is John's characteristic use of the term true/truth (see special topic below). John, writing later than the other NT writers, had seen the development of several heresies (overemphasis on John the Baptist, overemphasis on sacramentalism, overemphasis on human knowledge-Gnosticism).
SPECIAL TOPIC: "TRUTH" (THE CONCEPT) IN JOHN'S WRITINGS
6:56 "abides in Me and I in him" This same truth is stated in John 15:4-7; I John 2:6,27,28; 3:6,24, see Special Topic: Abiding at I John 2:10. This is the ongoing NT emphasis on the perseverance of saints (cf. Gal 6:9; Rev 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21, see Special Topic at 8:31). True response is validated by a continuing response. This emphasis on perseverance is the missing element in American evangelicalism. One must not only start in faith, but finish in faith (Hebrews 11). Jonathan Edwards said, "Sure proof of election is that one hold out to the end." W. T. Conner said, "The salvation of a man elected to salvation is from eternity to eternity certain in the mind and purpose of God, yet it is conditioned upon faith, and a faith that perseveres and conquers."
6:57 "the living Father" This phrase is unique, but the concept is used often in the Bible. There are several different ways to interpret the origin of this title for God.
1. the basic name of the Covenant God (cf. Exod. 3:12,14-16; 6:2-3, see Special Topic at 6:20)
2. oaths by God, "as I live" or in God's name, "as the Lord lives" (cf. Num. 14:21,28; Isa. 49:18; Jer. 4:2)
3. as a description of God (cf. Ps. 42:2; 84:2; Josh. 3:10; Jer. 10:10; Dan. 6:20,26; Hos. 1:10; Matt. 16:16; 26:63; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; II Cor. 3:3; 6:16; I Thess. 1:9; I Tim. 3:15; 4:19; Heb. 3:12; 9:14; 10:21; 12:22; Rev. 7:2)
4. the statements in John 5:26 that the Father has life in Himself and has given it to the Son and 5:21 where the Father raises the dead as does the Son.
6:58 This is a comparison of the Old Testament and the New, Moses and Jesus. (See the book of Hebrews, esp. chapters 3, 4).
▣ "the fathers ate and died" This may also have served the theological function of denying salvation through lineage (cf. 8:33-39) or through the Mosaic Law (Torah).
▣ "forever" See Special Topic below.
SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER ('OLAM)
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:60-65
60Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, "This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?" 61But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, "Does this cause you to stumble? 62What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father."
6:60 "Therefore many of His disciples" This use of the term "disciple" has a wide connotation. In John this term and "believe" are used of both (1) true followers (v. 68) and (2) temporary followers (v. 64, cf. 8:31-47).
▣ "heard. . .listen" There is a play on the word "hear" (akouō). They heard Jesus' words, but they did not understand them and act on them. In this sense this Greek term functions like the Hebrew shema (cf. Deut. 4:1; 5:1; 6:3,4; 27:9-10).
6:62 This is an incomplete first class conditional sentence with no conclusion. The implication is they would see it (cf. Acts 1). After Jesus' death/resurrection/ascension and the coming of the Spirit, much of Jesus' teachings and acts would make sense to them.
▣ "ascending to where He was before" This is the continuing emphasis on Jesus as "coming down out of heaven." It speaks of His pre-existence with the Father in heaven and His intimate fellowship with the Father in heaven (cf. 17:5,24).
SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ASCENSION
6:63 This verse, because of the larger context of chapter 6, may relate to a contrast between old covenant versus new covenant, Moses versus Jesus (cf. v. 58; II Cor. 3:6, see the comparisons of the two covenants in the book of Hebrews).
▣ "the Spirit who gives life" This is one of many phrases that are used for both Jesus and the Spirit.
1. the Spirit is life-giving water (7:38-39)
2. Jesus is the living water (4:10-14)
3. the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (14:17; 15:26; 16:13)
4. Jesus is the truth (14:6)
5. the Spirit is paraclete (14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7)
6. and Jesus is paraclete (I John 2:1)
See Special Topic at the 14:16.
Notice in this verse that "spirit" (pneuma) is used in two specialized senses.
1. the Holy Spirit (cf. 1:32,33; 3:34; 7:39; 14:17; 15:26; 16:13)
2. spiritual (cf. 4:24; 11:33; 13:21)
In John 3:5,6,8 it is hard to know which is meant. Being John, possibly both.
SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT (PNEUMA) IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
6:64 This group of apparent but false followers is reduced to the false follower- Judas (cf. vv. 70-71; 13:11. There is surely mystery involved in levels of belief.
SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI)
6:65 This expresses the same truth as v. 44. Fallen mankind does not seek God on its own initiative (cf. Rom. 3:9-18 for a series of OT quotes which emphasize mankind's sinfulness and rebellion).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 6:66-71
66As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67So Jesus said to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" 68Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." 70Jesus answered them, "Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" 71Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him.
6:67 "the twelve" This is the first use in John of this collective term for the Apostles (cf. 6:70,71; 20:24). See Special Topic at 6:13.
6:68 "Simon Peter answered" Peter is the spokesman for the Twelve (cf. Matt. 16:16). This is not to imply they saw him as their leader (cf. Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46; 22:24).
▣ "You have the words of eternal life" Christianity is both (1) truth contained in a message, "words of eternal life," and (2) truth expressed in a person, Jesus. The Gospel, then, is both a message and a person. The term pistis can relate to both (1) a message (cf. Jude 3,20) and (2) a person (cf. John 1:12; 3:15-16). See special Topic at 2:23.
6:69 "We have believed and have come to know" These are both perfect active indicatives. Salvation here is in perfect tense which means a past, culminated act has become a settled state of being. True salvation involves all the Greek verb tenses. See Special Topic: Greek Verb Tenses Used for Salvation at 9:7.
NJB "You are the Holy One of God"
NKJV "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God"
TEV "You are the Holy One who has come from God"
There is a manuscript problem at this point. The shorter text (NASB, NRSV, NJB) is supported by the ancient Greek manuscripts P75, א, B, C*, D, L, and W. Later scribes obviously inserted the additional words from Martha's confession of 11:27 or Peter's of Matt. 16:16. The UBS4 gives the shorter text an "A" rating (certain).
The phrase of "Holy One of God" is an OT Messianic title. It is alluded to in Luke 1:35 and Acts 3:14. It is the title by which the demonic addressed Jesus in Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34. See Special Topic: at I John 2:20. This is another confession of faith by the Twelve, similar to Matthew 16.
6:70 "Did I Myself not choose you" This is another emphasis on the divine election of the disciples (cf. vv. 44 and 65). Notice Jesus' question of v. 67. Divine election and human volition must remain in a biblical tension. They are two sides of a covenant relationship.
▣ "and yet one of you is a devil" What a startling statement! It does not refer to one of the fringe disciples who turned back (cf. v. 66), but to one of the twelve chosen apostles who claimed faith in Him. Many have linked this to 13:2 or 27. There are several questions related to our understanding of this verse: (1) why did Jesus choose a devil? and (2) what does the term mean in this context?
The first question has to do with predictive prophecy (cf. 17:12; Ps. 41:9). Jesus knew what Judas would do. Judas is the ultimate example of the unpardonable sin. He rejected Jesus after hearing, seeing, and being with Him for several years.
The second question has two possible meanings.
1. some relate this to the devil (used with no article for Satan in Acts 13:10 and Rev. 20:2) entering Judas (cf. 13:2,27)
2. possibly the term is being used generically (no article as in I Tim. 3:11; II Tim. 3:3; and Titus 2:3)
Judas was an accuser in the OT sense, as was Satan (see Special Topic at 12:31). The Greek term implies a slanderer or tale-bearer. The Greek term is a compound, "to throw across."
6:71 "Simon Iscariot" There are several theories concerning this word (the word is spelled differently in various Greek manuscripts). It could refer to
1. a man of Kerioth, a city of Judah
2. man of Kartan, a city of Galilee
3. the leather bag used to carry money
4. the Hebrew word for "strangling"
5. the Greek word for assassin's knife
If #1 is true he was the only Judean in the Twelve. If #5 is true he was a zealot like Simon.
There has recently been written a book that interprets Judas in a positive light. The book is entitled Judas, Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? by William Klassen, Fortress Press, 1996. My problem with it is that it does not take the comments in John's Gospel seriously.
▣ "betray" This Greek term is widely translated and in most contexts is neutral. However, in connection with Judas handing Jesus over to the authorities, it takes on sinister connotations. See note at 18:2.
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