Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
3. a mountain--somewhere in that hilly range which skirts the east
side of the lake.
4. passover . . . was nigh--but for the reason mentioned
Jesus kept away from it, remaining in Galilee.
WALKS ON THE
(Also see on
14, 15. that prophet--(See on
15. departed . . . to a mountain himself alone--(1) to
rest, which He came to this "desert place" on purpose to do
before the miracle of the loaves, but could not for the multitude that
followed Him (see
and (2) "to pray"
But from His mountain-top He kept watching the ship (see on
and doubtless prayed both for them, and with a view to the new
manifestation which He was to give them of His glory.
16, 17. when even was come--(See on
entered into a ship--"constrained" to do so by their Master
in order to put an end to the misdirected excitement in His favor
into which the disciples themselves may have been somewhat drawn. The
word "constrained" implies reluctance on their part, perhaps from
unwillingness to part with their Master and embark at night, leaving
Him alone on the mountain.
went--rather, "were proceeding."
toward Capernaum--Mark says
"unto Bethsaida," meaning "Bethsaida of Galilee"
on the west side of the lake. The place they left was of the same name
Jesus was not come to them--They probably lingered in hopes of His
still joining them, and so let the darkness come on.
18, 19. sea arose, &c.--and they were "now in the midst of it"
Mark adds the graphic and touching particular, "He saw them toiling in
putting forth all their strength to buffet the waves and bear on
against a head wind, but to little effect. He saw this from His
mountain-top, and through the darkness of the night, for His heart was
all with them; yet would He not go to their relief till His own time
19. they see Jesus--"about the fourth watch of the night"
or between three and six in the morning.
walking on the sea--What Job
celebrates as the distinguishing prerogative of GOD, "WHO ALONE spreadeth out the
heavens, and TREADETH UPON THE WAVES OF THE
SEA"--What AGUR challenges as GOD'S unapproachable prerogative, to "GATHER THE WIND IN HIS FISTS, and
BIND THE WATERS IN A GARMENT"
--lo! this is here done in flesh, by "THE
SON OF MAN."
drawing nigh to the ship--yet as though He
"would have passed by them,"
Ge 18:3, 5; 32:24-26).
they were afraid--"cried out for fear"
"supposing it had been a spirit"
He would appear to them at first like a dark moving speck upon the
waters; then as a human figure, but--in the dark tempestuous sky, and
not dreaming that it could be their Lord--they take it for a spirit.
(How often thus we miscall our chiefest mercies--not only thinking them
distant when they are near, but thinking the best the worst!)
20. It is I; be not afraid--Matthew
give before these exhilarating words, that to them well-known one, "Be
of good cheer!"
21. willingly received him into the ship--their first fears being
now converted into wonder and delight.
and immediately the ship was at the land--This additional miracle,
for as such it is manifestly related, is recorded here alone. Yet all
that is meant seems to be that as the storm was suddenly calmed, so the
little bark--propelled by the secret power of the Lord of Nature now
sailing in it--glided through the now unruffled waters, and while they
were wrapt in wonder at what had happened, not heeding their rapid
motion, was found at port, to their still further surprise.
FOLLOWED BY THE
THEM IN THE
SYNAGOGUE OF THE
CLASSES OF THE
22-24. These verses are a little involved, from the Evangelist's desire
to mention every circumstance, however minute, that might call up the
scene as vividly to the reader as it stood before his own view.
The day following--the miracle of the loaves, and the stormy night;
the day on which they landed at Capernaum.
the people which stood on the other side of the sea--not the whole
multitude that had been fed, but only such of them as remained over
night about the shore, that is, on the east side of the lake; for we
are supposed to have come, with Jesus and His disciples in the ship, to
the west side, to Capernaum.
saw that there was none other boat there, &c.--The meaning is, the
people had observed that there had been only one boat on the east side
where they were; namely, the one in which the disciples had crossed at
night to the other, the west side, and they had also observed that Jesus
had not gone on board that boat, but His disciples had put off without
23. Howbeit, &c.--"Howbeit," adds the Evangelist, in a lively
parenthesis, "there came other boats from Tiberias" (which lay near the
southwest coast of the lake), whose passengers were part of the
multitude that had followed Jesus to the east side, and been
miraculously fed; these boats were fastened somewhere (says the
nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had
given thanks--thus he refers to the glorious "miracle of the
loaves"--and now they were put in requisition to convey the people back
again to the west side. For when "the people saw that Jesus was not
there, neither His disciples, they also took shipping [in these boats]
and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus."
25. when they had found him on the other side--at Capernaum.
they said, &c.--astonished at His being there, and wondering
how He could have accomplished it, whether by land or water, and
when He came; for being quite unaware of His having walked upon the
sea and landed with the disciples in the ship, they could not see how,
unless He had travelled all night round the head of the lake alone, He
could have reached Capernaum, and even then, how He could have arrived
26. Ye seek me, &c.--Jesus does not put them through their
difficulty, says nothing of His treading on the waves of the sea, nor
even notices their question, but takes advantage of the favorable
moment for pointing out to them how forward, flippant, and superficial
were their views, and how low their desires. "Ye seek Me not because ye
saw the miracles"--literally, "the signs," that is, supernatural
tokens of a higher presence, and a divine commission, "but because ye
did eat of the loaves and were filled." From this He proceeds at once
to that other Bread, just as, with the woman of Samaria, to that
We should have supposed all that follows to have been delivered by the
wayside, or wherever they happened first to meet. But from
we gather that they had probably met about the door of the
synagogue--"for that was the day in which they assembled in their
synagogues" [LIGHTFOOT]--and that on being asked,
at the close of the service, if He had any word of exhortation to the
people, He had taken the two breads, the perishing and the
living bread, for the subject of His profound and extraordinary
27. which the Son of man--taking that title of Himself which denoted
His incarnate life.
shall give unto you--in the sense of
him hath God the Father sealed--marked out and authenticated for that
transcendent office, to impart to the world the bread of an everlasting
life, and this in the character of "the Son of man."
28-31. What shall we do . . . the works of God--such works as God will
approve. Different answers may be given to such a question, according
to the spirit which prompts the inquiry. (See
Here our Lord, knowing whom He had to deal with, shapes His reply
29. This is the work of God--That lies at the threshold of all
acceptable obedience, being not only the prerequisite to it, but the
proper spring of it--in that sense, the work of works, emphatically
"the work of God."
30. What sign showest thou, &c.--But how could they ask "a sign,"
when many of them scarce a day before had witnessed such a "sign" as had
never till then been vouchsafed to men; when after witnessing it, they
could hardly be restrained from making Him a king; when they followed
Him from the one side of the lake to the other; and when, in the opening
words of this very discourse, He had chided them for seeking Him, "not
because they saw the signs," but for the loaves? The truth seems to
be that they were confounded by the novel claims which our Lord had
just advanced. In proposing to make Him a king, it was for far other
purposes than dispensing to the world the bread of an everlasting life;
and when He seemed to raise His claims even higher still, by
representing it as the grand "work of God," that they should believe
on Himself as His Sent One, they saw very clearly that He was making
a demand upon them beyond anything they were prepared to accord to Him,
and beyond all that man had ever before made. Hence their question,
"What dost Thou work?"
31. Our fathers did eat manna, &c.--insinuating the inferiority of
Christ's miracle of the loaves to those of Moses: "When Moses claimed
the confidence of the fathers, 'he gave them bread from heaven to
eat'--not for a few thousands, but for millions, and not once only, but
daily throughout their wilderness journey."
32, 33. Moses gave you not, &c.--"It was not Moses that gave you the
manna, and even it was but from the lower heavens; 'but My Father
giveth you the true bread,' and that 'from heaven.'"
33. For the bread of God is he, &c.--This verse is perhaps best left
in its own transparent grandeur--holding up the Bread Itself as
divine, spiritual, and eternal; its ordained Fountain and
essential Substance, "Him who came down from heaven to give it"
(that Eternal Life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us,
and its designed objects, "the world."
34. Lord, evermore give us this bread--speaking now with a certain
reverence (as at
the perpetuity of the manna floating perhaps in their minds, and much
like the Samaritan woman, when her eyes were but half opened, "Sir,
give Me this water," &c.
35. I am the bread of life--Henceforth the discourse is all
in the first person, "I," "Me," which occur in one form or other, as
STIER reckons, thirty-five times.
he that cometh to me--to obtain what the soul craves, and as the
only all-sufficient and ordained source of supply.
hunger . . . thirst--shall have conscious and abiding
36. But . . . ye have seen me, and believe not--seen Him not in His
mere bodily presence, but in all the majesty of His life, His teaching,
37-40. All that, &c.--This comprehensive and very grand passage is
expressed with a peculiar artistic precision. The opening general
consists of two members: (1) "ALL THAT THE FATHER GIVETH ME SHALL COME TO
ME"--that is, "Though ye, as I told you, have no faith in Me, My
errand into the world shall in no wise be defeated; for all that the
Father giveth Me shall infallibly come to Me." Observe, what is
given Him by the Father is expressed in the singular
number and neuter gender--literally, "everything"; while those
who come to Him are put in the masculine gender and
singular number--"every one." The whole mass, so to
speak, is gifted by the Father to the Son as a unity, which the
Son evolves, one by one, in the execution of His trust. So
"that He should give eternal life to all that which Thou hast
given Him" [BENGEL]. This "shall" expresses
the glorious certainty of it, the Father being pledged to see to
it that the gift be no empty mockery. (2) "AND HIM THAT
COMETH TO MEI WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT." As
the former was the divine, this is just the human side of
the same thing. True, the "coming" ones of the second clause are just
the "given" ones of the first. But had our Lord merely said, "When
those that have been given Me of My Father shall come to Me, I will
receive them"--besides being very flat, the impression conveyed would
have been quite different, sounding as if there were no other laws
in operation, in the movement of sinners to Christ, but such as are
wholly divine and inscrutable to us; whereas, though He
does speak of it as a sublime certainty which men's refusals
cannot frustrate, He speaks of that certainty as taking effect only by
men's voluntary advances to Him and acceptance of Him--"Him that
cometh to Me," "whosoever will," throwing the door wide open. Only it
is not the simply willing, but the actually coming, whom
He will not cast out; for the word here employed usually denotes
arrival, as distinguished from the ordinary word, which rather
expresses the act of coming (see
Greek), [WEBSTER and WILKINSON]. "In no wise" is an emphatic negative, to meet
the fears of the timid (as in
to meet the presumption of the hardened). These, then, being the two
members of the general opening statement, what follows is meant to take
38. For I came down from heaven not to do Mine own will--to play an
but--in respect to both the foregoing things, the divine and the
human side of salvation.
the will of Him that sent Me--What this twofold will of Him that sent
Him is, we are next sublimely told
(Joh 6:39, 40):
39. And this--in the first place.
is the will of Him that sent me, that of all--everything.
which He hath given Me--(taking up the identical words of
I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day--The
meaning is not, of course, that He is charged to keep the objects
entrusted to Him as He received them, so as they should merely
suffer nothing in His hands. For as they were just "perishing"
sinners of Adam's family, to let "nothing" of such "be lost," but
"raise them up at the last day," must involve, first, giving His
flesh for them
that they "might not perish, but have everlasting life"; and
then, after "keeping them from falling," raising their sleeping
dust in incorruption and glory, and presenting them, body and soul,
perfect and entire, wanting nothing, to Him who gave them to Him,
saying, "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me." So much
for the first will of Him that sent Him, the divine side
of man's salvation, whose every stage and movement is inscrutable to
us, but infallibly certain.
40. And this--in the second place.
is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son
and believeth on Him--seeing the Son believeth on Him.
may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last
day--This is the human side of the same thing as in the
foregoing verse, and answering to "Him that cometh unto Me I will in
no wise cast out"; that is, I have it expressly in charge that
everyone that so "beholdeth" (so vieweth) the Son as to believe on Him
shall have everlasting life; and, that none of Him be lost, "I
will raise him up at the last day." (See on
41-46. Jews murmured--muttered, not in our Lord's hearing, but He
he said, I am the bread, &c.--Missing the sense and glory of this,
and having no relish for such sublimities, they harp upon the "Bread
from heaven." "What can this mean? Do we not know all about Him--where,
when, and of whom He was born? And yet He says He came down from
43, 44. Murmur not . . . No man--that is, Be not either startled or
stumbled at these sayings; for it needs divine teaching to understand
them, divine drawing to submit to them.
44. can come to me--in the sense of
except the Father which hath sent me--that is, the Father
as the Sender of Me and to carry out the design of My mission.
draw him--by an internal and efficacious operation; though
by all the means of rational conviction, and in a way altogether
consonant to their moral nature
Ho 11:3, 4).
raise him up, &c.--(See on
45. written in the prophets--in
Jer 31:33, 34;
other similar passages may also have been in view. Our Lord thus falls
back upon Scripture authority for this seemingly hard saying.
all taught of God--not by external revelation merely, but by
internal illumination, corresponding to the "drawing" of
Every man therefore, &c.--that is, who hath been thus efficaciously
taught of Him.
cometh unto me--with absolute certainty, yet in the sense above
given of "drawing"; that is, "As none can come to Me but as divinely
drawn, so none thus drawn shall fail to come."
46. Not that any man hath seen, &c.--Lest they should confound that
"hearing and learning of the Father," to which believers are admitted by
divine teaching, with His own immediate access to Him, He here
throws in a parenthetical explanation; stating, as explicitly as words
could do it, how totally different the two cases were, and that only He
who is "from God" hath this naked, immediate access to the Father. (See
47-51. He that believeth, &c.--(See on
48. I am the bread of life--"As he that believeth in Me hath
everlasting life, so I am Myself the everlasting Sustenance of
that life." (Repeated from
49. Your fathers--of whom ye spake
not "ours," by which He would hint that He had a higher
descent, of which they dreamt not [BENGEL].
did eat manna . . . and are dead--recurring to their own point about
the manna, as one of the noblest of the ordained preparatory
illustrations of His own office: "Your fathers, ye say, ate manna in the
wilderness; and ye say well, for so they did, but they are dead--even
they whose carcasses fell in the wilderness did eat of that bread; the
Bread whereof I speak cometh down from heaven, which the manna never
did, that men, eating of it, may live for ever."
51. I am, &c.--Understand, it is of MYSELF
I now speak as the Bread
from heaven; of MEif a man eat he shall live for ever; and
BREAD WHICH I WILL GIVE IS MY
FLESH, WHICH I WILL GIVE FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD."
Here, for the first time in this high discourse, our Lord
explicitly introduces His sacrificial death--for only rationalists
can doubt this not only as that which constitutes Him the Bread of life
to men, but as THAT very element IN
HIM WHICH POSSESSES THE LIFE-GIVING VIRTUE.--"From
this time we hear no more (in this discourse) of "Bread";
this figure is dropped, and the reality takes its place" [STIER]. The
words "I will give" may be compared with the words of institution at
the Supper, "This is My body which is given for you"
or in Paul's report of it, "broken for you"
52. Jews strove among themselves--arguing the point together.
How can, &c.--that is, Give us His flesh to eat? Absurd.
53-58. Except ye eat the flesh . . . and drink the blood
. . . no life, &c.--The harshest word He had yet uttered
in their ears. They asked how it was possible to eat His flesh.
He answers, with great solemnity, "It is indispensable." Yet
even here a thoughtful hearer might find something to temper the
harshness. He says they must not only "eat His flesh" but "drink
His blood," which could not but suggest the idea of His
death--implied in the separation of one's flesh from his blood.
And as He had already hinted that it was to be something very different
from a natural death, saying, "My flesh I will give for the life
of the world"
it must have been pretty plain to candid hearers that He meant
something above the gross idea which the bare terms expressed. And
farther, when He added that they "had no life in them unless
they thus ate and drank," it was impossible they should think He meant
that the temporal life they were then living was dependent on
their eating and drinking, in this gross sense, His flesh and blood.
Yet the whole statement was certainly confounding, and beyond doubt was
meant to be so. Our Lord had told them that in spite of all they had
"seen" in Him, they "did not believe"
For their conviction therefore he does not here lay Himself out;
but having the ear not only of them but of the more candid and
thoughtful in the crowded synagogue, and the miracle of the loaves
having led up to the most exalted of all views of His Person and
Office, He takes advantage of their very difficulties and objections to
announce, for all time, those most profound truths which are here
expressed, regardless of the disgust of the unteachable, and the
prejudices even of the most sincere, which His language would seem only
designed to deepen. The truth really conveyed here is no other
than that expressed in
though in more emphatic terms--that He Himself, in the virtue of His
sacrificial death, is the spiritual and eternal life of men; and that
unless men voluntarily appropriate to themselves this death, in its
sacrificial virtue, so as to become the very life and nourishment of
their inner man, they have no spiritual and eternal life at all. Not as
if His death were the only thing of value, but it is what gives
all else in Christ's Incarnate Person, Life, and Office, their whole
value to us sinners.
54. Whoso eateth . . . hath, &c.--The former verse said that
unless they partook of Him they had no life; this adds, that
whoever does so "hath eternal life."
and I will raise him up at the last day--For the fourth time
this is repeated (see
Joh 6:39, 40, 44)
--showing most clearly that the "eternal life" which such a man
"hath" cannot be the same with the future resurrection
life from which it is carefully distinguished each time, but a life
communicated here below immediately on believing
(Joh 3:36; 5:24, 25);
and giving to the resurrection of the body as that which
consummates the redemption of the entire man, a prominence which
in the current theology, it is to be feared, it has seldom had. (See
56. He that eateth . . . dwelleth in me and I in him--As our food
becomes incorporated with ourselves, so Christ and those who eat His
flesh and drink His blood become spiritually one life, though
57. As the living Father hath sent me--to communicate His own life.
and I live by the Father--literally, "because of the Father"; My life
and His being one, but Mine that of a Son, whose it is to be "of the Father." (See
Joh 1:18; 5:26).
he that eateth me, . . . shall live by me--literally, "because of Me."
So that though one spiritual life with Him, "the Head of every man
is Christ, as the head of Christ is God"
(1Co 11:3; 3:23).
58. This is that bread, &c.--a sort of summing up of the whole
discourse, on which let this one further remark suffice--that as our
Lord, instead of softening down His figurative sublimities, or even
putting them in naked phraseology, leaves the great truths of His Person
and Office, and our participation of Him and it, enshrined for all time
in those glorious forms of speech, so when we attempt to strip the truth
of these figures, figures though they be, it goes away from us, like
water when the vessel is broken, and our wisdom lies in raising our own
spirit, and attuning our own ear, to our Lord's chosen modes of
expression. (It should be added that although this discourse has nothing
to do with the Sacrament of the Supper, the Sacrament has everything to
do with it, as the visible embodiment of these figures, and, to the
believing partaker, a real, yea, and the most lively and affecting
participation of His flesh and blood, and nourishment thereby of the
spiritual and eternal life, here below).
59. These things said he in the synagogue--which seems to imply that
what follows took place after the congregation had broken up.
60-65. Many . . . of his disciples--His pretty constant followers,
though an outer circle of them.
hard saying--not merely harsh, but insufferable, as the word often
means in the Old Testament.
who can hear--submit to listen to it.
61, 62. Doth this offend . . . What and if, &c.--that is, "If ye
are stumbled at what I have said, how will ye bear what I now say?"
Not that His ascension itself would stumble them more than His death,
but that after recoiling from the mention of the one, they would not
be in a state of mind to take in the other.
63. the flesh profiteth nothing--Much of His discourse was about
"flesh"; but flesh as such, mere flesh, could profit nothing, much less
impart that life which the Holy Spirit alone communicates to the
the words that I speak . . . are spirit and . . . life--The whole
burden of the discourse is "spirit," not mere flesh, and "life"
in its highest, not its lowest sense, and the words I have employed are
to be interpreted solely in that sense.
64. But there are some, &c.--that is, "But it matters little to some
of you in what sense I speak, for ye believe not." This was said, adds
the Evangelist, not merely of the outer but of the inner circle of His
disciples; for He knew the traitor, though it was not yet time to expose
65. Therefore said I, &c.--that is, "That was why I spoke to you of
the necessity of divine teaching which some of you are strangers to."
except it were given him--plainly showing that by the Father's
was meant an internal and efficacious operation, for in
recalling the statement here He says, it must be "given to a man
to come" to Christ.
66-71. From that time, &c.--or, in consequence of this. Those last
words of our Lord seemed to have given them the finishing stroke--they
could not stand it any longer.
walked no more--Many a journey, it may be, they had taken with Him,
but now they gave Him up finally!
67. the twelve--the first time they are thus mentioned in this Gospel.
Will ye also go away?--Affecting appeal! Evidently Christ felt the
desertion of Him even by those miserable men who could not abide His
statements; and seeing a disturbance even of the wheat by the
violence of the wind which blew away the chaff (not yet visibly showing
itself, but open to His eyes of fire), He would nip it in the bud by
this home question.
68. Then Simon Peter--whose forwardness in this case was noble, and
to the wounded spirit of His Lord doubtless very grateful.
Lord, to whom, &c.--that is, "We cannot deny that we have been
staggered as well as they, and seeing so many go away who, as we
thought, might have been retained by teaching a little less hard to take
in, our own endurance has been severely tried, nor have we been able to
stop short of the question, Shall we follow the rest, and give it
up? But when it came to this, our light returned, and our hearts were
reassured. For as soon as we thought of going away, there arose upon us
that awful question, 'TO WHOM shall we go?' To the lifeless formalism
and wretched traditions of the elders? to the gods many and lords many
of the heathen around us? or to blank unbelief? Nay, Lord, we are shut
up. They have none of that 'ETERNAL LIFE' to offer us whereof Thou
hast been discoursing, in words rich and ravishing as well as in words
staggering to human wisdom. That life we cannot want; that life we have
learnt to crave as a necessity of the deeper nature which Thou hast
awakened: 'the words of that eternal life' (the authority to
reveal it and the power to confer it). Thou hast: Therefore will we
stay with Thee--we must."
69. And we believe,--(See on
Peter seems to have added this not merely--probably not so much--as an
assurance to his Lord of his heart's belief in Him, as for the
purpose of fortifying himself and his faithful brethren against
that recoil from his Lord's harsh statements which he was
probably struggling against with difficulty at that moment.
Note.--There are seasons when one's faith is tried to the
utmost, particularly by speculative difficulties; the spiritual eye
then swims, and all truth seems ready to depart from us. At such
seasons, a clear perception that to abandon the faith of Christ is
to face black desolation, ruin and death; and on recoiling from
this, to be able to fall back, not merely on first principles and
immovable foundations, but on personal experience of a Living
Lord in whom all truth is wrapt up and made flesh for our very
benefit--this is a relief unspeakable. Under that blessed Wing
taking shelter, until we are again fit to grapple with the questions
that have staggered us, we at length either find our way through them,
or attain to a calm satisfaction in the discovery that they lie beyond
the limits of present apprehension.
70. Have not I chosen . . . and one of you is a devil:--"Well said,
Simon-Barjonas, but that 'we' embraces not so wide a circle as in the
simplicity of thine heart thou thinkest; for though I have chosen you
but twelve, one even of these is a 'devil'" (the temple, the tool of
that wicked one).