John Chapter 6: First Feeding of the Multitude, Walking on Water, Bread of Heaven

Jan 15th, 2010 | By | Category: John, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

John Chapter 6: First Feeding of the Multitude, Walking on Water, Bread of Heaven

John 6:1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.

John 6:2 And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased.

John 6:3 And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples.

John 6:4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.

This is the third Passover John mentioned, establishing the chronology (John 2:13; 5:1; 6:4).

Therefore, five chapters of the Gospel of John cover 2 1/2 years of Jesus’ ministry. Stated another way, the beginning of Chapter 6 occurred about a year before his demise. John 11:55 mentions the fourth Passover, so approximately half of John’s Gospel concentrates on just the last week of Jesus’ ministry. (John 11:55 and 18:28 both refer to the fourth Passover.)

John covered the last week of Jesus’ ministry from a discourse standpoint. The other Gospel writers treated mostly where Jesus went and what he did, but not the discourse en route to the Garden of Gethsemane. John also told about incidents at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry that were omitted by the others, for example, the first cleansing of the Temple and the first six months or so of Jesus’ ministry in Judea including Nicodemus and the woman of Samaria. Then John jumped to the end of Jesus’ ministry. In other words, John filled in significant omissions.

The feeding of the multitude, about to occur, took place on a grassy plain on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee near the upper, or northern, end. Historically, there were no cities on the grassy plain, even though this and another plain were broad and they embraced almost half of the land along the Sea of Galilee on the east.

John 6:5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?

John 6:6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.

John 6:7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.

John 6:8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him,

John 6:9 There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?

John 6:10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand.

This incident was the feeding of the 5,000. (The later feeding was of 4,000.) The pronouns in verse 6, which can be confusing, are as follows: “And this he [Jesus] said to prove him [Philip]: for he [Jesus] himself knew what he would do.” It is interesting that John had the insight to realize Jesus addressed the question to Philip to “prove” or test him. Philip was very practical-minded. Another factor is that Philip came from Bethsaida (John 1:44), and the feeding took place in the “wilderness” near Bethsaida. The Jordan River enters the Sea of Galilee at the north end between Capernaum on the left and Bethsaida on the right. Bethsaida was large, extending almost a quarter of the way around the north end of the sea.

Because Philip lived in Bethsaida, the nearest city, he knew where to buy bread, but Jesus had an ulterior motive, even though the other apostles would have thought the reason was just Philip’s familiarity with the area. Jesus knew in advance that he would perform the miracle of feeding the multitude. Incidentally, bread and fishes were the common staples of that area. A humble type of life was led by Jesus and his apostles.

Why did Philip say that “two hundred pennyworth” was not sufficient for such a multitude? The value of 200 pennyworth was 200 denarios, or 200 days’ labor, that is, the wages of an average worker for 200 days. There were 5,000 men plus women and children—therefore, probably at least 6,000 people. Looking at the 5,000-plus people, Philip said that the amount of money in the apostles’ “treasury” was not enough. (Obviously, Philip knew how much money they had.) And the amount of money was not enough for each of the multitude to take even “a little,” let alone have a regular meal—or even a snack.

The Master had been doing miracles all along, and here was another opportunity. Jesus was testing Philip’s faith and confidence that the needs of his people can be satisfied. If we seek first the Kingdom of God, the necessary things of life will be furnished (Matt. 6:33). Our “bread and water” are assured.

According to the Diaglott, the “lad” (verse 9) was a little boy. Andrew remarked spontaneously, “A little boy is here who has five barley loaves and two small fishes to sell, but what good will that do?” The latter part would have been said shamefacedly or naively, even though Andrew was older than Philip. These replies were insights into Philip’s and Andrew’s characters. Incidentally, people in middle age or older can be naive.

Adding the figures of the two feedings numerically indicates that the world of mankind in the Kingdom will be nourished and fed through The Christ. The feeding was a miracle of multiplication (five loaves fed 5,000, so the bread was multiplied as it was handed out, and the two fishes likewise increased). The math emphasizes the 144,000.

5,000 + 4,000 = 9,000 2 fishes + 5 loaves + 2 fishes + 7 loaves = 16 9,000 x 16 = 144,000 The feeding of the world in the next age is based on the character development of Christians in the present age; that is, the Christian’s main purpose in this age is sanctification and becoming qualified for the elect body, who will feed the world of mankind in the future. Hence the feedings of the 5,000 and the 4,000 are mainly a picture of the next age.

John 6:11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.

An insight into fallen humanity’s nature will come later by comparing the testimony in verse 14 that these “men” thought Jesus was the Messiah with verse 30, which gives their remarks the next day. Mankind are fickle, often thinking one way one day and another way the next day.

Jesus gave the instruction, and the apostles carried out the order, so that the people at down or reclined on the grass in an orderly fashion. Although there would have been some faith for all (apostles and people) to sit down as Jesus had directed, they must have wondered what would follow. The stage was being set. No doubt Jesus had a definiteness in his manner for others to obey so readily.

Jesus gave thanks to God, the Author, and then performed the miracle through the twelve apostles. In other words, Jesus distributed the loaves and the fishes to his disciples, who in turn gave food to the people. A Gospel Age application is that the bread represents God’s Word, which was first given to the twelve apostles, who became channels of truth to others. Another Gospel Age lesson is that the bread of life comes from Jesus and from the writings and teachings of his apostles.

In the Millennial Kingdom, the same channel of blessing will apply. One proof is that Jesus told his apostles they would be seated on twelve thrones judging the children of Israel (Matt. 19:28). At that time, all will eat and be full, whereas in the Gospel Age, relatively few receive (eat) of the Word. In the present age, the Church is fed dispensationally through seven pipes, or channels (Zech. 4:2). In the next age, the feeding will be primarily through the twelve apostles. The order or hierarchy of those who were present was God, Jesus, the twelve apostles, the men (as head of their families), wives, and children. A current application would be God, Jesus, the twelve apostles, and the brotherhood (which is neither male nor female but is organized through the male). In the wilderness, God sent the bread of heaven through Moses to the children of Israel, who had to gather the manna to satisfy their daily needs. The manna was also a miraculous feeding. Incidentally, of the nominal mass who were there for the loaves and the fishes, some were sincere.

John 6:12 When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.

John 6:13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten.

John 6:14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

All of the remaining fragments were gathered up so that “nothing [would] be lost.” We are reminded of Samuel, of whom it was said, “[He] did let none of his [the Lord’s] words fall to the ground” (1 Sam. 3:19). The Lord’s words were not wasted on Samuel. Also, the thought that God’s Word does not return to Him void but will accomplish all that is purposed shows great economy (Isa. 55:11). And Jesus said that every jot and tittle must be fulfilled (Matt. 5:18).

Nothing of the Lord’s Word is wasted, for it will reach the class for whom it is intended. God is not stingy, and neither should we be stingy. However, He is economical, and hence we should not waste.

The leftover fragments were collected in “baskets” (knapsacks). With most transportation being on foot in those days, people carried knapsacks with their belongings when they were covering distances. Since the majority of people walk no faster than 2 1/2 miles an hour, most had containers for carrying bread. However, in this case, the multitude, who lived mainly on the west bank of Galilee, did not anticipate that Jesus would cross the sea and hence did not bring their knapsacks.

Generally speaking, the multitude (“the men”) recognized Jesus as the Messiah at this point. They said, “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.”

The multiplication took place in the baskets after Jesus blessed the five loaves and the two fishes. Like what happened with the widow’s cruse, as the disciples removed bread and fishes, there was a continuous multiplication. The 5,000-plus would have realized the baskets could not originally hold enough food for all of them. Hence they slowly recognized the miracle. Each person must have thought, “Perhaps the food will run out before the disciples get to me.”

When the food not only did not run out but had leftovers, all knew it was a miracle. Truly the Lord’s Word is a mine that is deeper than mortal man can ever go. No matter how much we are fed, more truth remains.

How were the fragments gathered up? Where did they come from? Probably the fragments were gathered up from the ground, but we do not know for sure. A practical reason for the leftovers is that the disciples themselves had to eat, and they ate last. They first sought the Kingdom of God and then got side benefits (their own feeding) from the feeding of others.

Comment: A possible lesson seems to be that there is a sufficient feeding for Christians in each age, dispensationally speaking. When the feeding for that age is complete, some remains for the next age.

Moses fed the Israelites with bread that fell from heaven, and Jesus fed the multitudes with bread blessed from heaven that multiplied. Hence there was this similarity between Moses and Jesus. Those Jews who earnestly studied Moses’ life should have recognized the similarity with “that prophet” (Jesus), who was “like unto” Moses (Deut. 18:15,18). Another similarity is that Moses walked across the bottom of the Red Sea dry-shod, and Jesus walked across the top of the Sea of Galilee. In both cases, a miracle was involved, and mastery of the sea was illustrated.

John 6:15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.

John 6:16 And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea,

John 6:17 And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them.

Jesus had just fed the multitudes on the grassy plain. Impressed by the miracle, the crowd was thinking of him as Messiah and wanted to start a movement to declare him “king.” Since they were going to Jerusalem for the Passover (No. 3) anyway, they reasoned that they could proclaim him King while they were there, thus forcing the issue. However, Jesus wanted to circumvent this thinking, so he went up into a mountain alone, without the disciples. (A famous painting shows the mountain near the grassy plain.) The other Gospels tell that he had instructed the disciples to get into a boat and head across the Sea of Galilee. Of course the disciples did not want to leave Jesus, so his instruction was contrary to their desires.

John 6:18 And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.

While Jesus was on the mountain and the disciples were in the ship out on the sea, a “great wind” came up. The wind probably arose from Mount Hermon in the north and came down between the mountains like a funnel, blowing with fury on the sea. This type of wind is known as being especially treacherous.

John 6:19 So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.

The disciples were rowing to Capernaum on a northerly diagonal course. Jesus, up on the mountain, could see that the disciples had rowed about 25 or 30 furlongs (three miles), and they were now at midpoint on the sea. In other words, there were still three miles to go, even though the disciples had been rowing for about nine straight hours—a long time. They were out in the wind, being blown contrary to their destination of Capernaum.

Incidentally, when Capernaum and Magdala were occupied, they covered much more territory than today. In fact, they practically bordered each other. Capernaum means “village of Nahum,” and Nahum has the thought of “comforter.” Hence Capernaum means “village of comforter.” This signification was appropriate, for Jesus comforted the disciples with the words “Be not afraid” (verse 20), and the disciples were going to Capernaum.

The disciples had departed the grassy plain in late afternoon, when it was just beginning to get a little dark. Now it was the darkest part of the night. They had anticipated arriving at Capernaum by dark, but such was not the case. Around 3 a.m., Jesus intercepted them. Imagine rowing for nine hours and being only halfway—at the point of no return!

The fact that Jesus could see the disciples means that he had a good view from the mountain and there was moonlight. Thus, also, the disciples could subsequently see Jesus approaching them on the water. The artist’s conception in the famous painting shows Jesus approaching on the path of moonlight on the water, and the very mountain is in the background.

John 6:20 But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid.

John 6:21 Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.

“It is I; be not afraid.” Jesus’ words signify that the disciples were afraid, for they thought they were seeing an apparition or a spirit being walking on the water. These characteristic words of Jesus probably had an intonation of his personality that strengthened the disciples. (By the way, the Egyptian hieroglyph for a “miracle” or something impossible is a foot on choppy water.) Following Jesus’ words of comfort, the apostles willingly received him into the boat.

Mark 6:48 tells that Jesus would have passed them by if they had not cried out to him. He replied with these words, and then Peter walked out to him, etc.

Notice the word “immediately.” The disciples received Jesus into the boat, and immediately the boat was at their destination. As the writer of the last Gospel, John did not repeat all the details of the other Gospels but added new information, and this important detail had been overlooked. Apparently, the other writers just saw Jesus as stopping the wind and calming the elements. However, as Jesus stepped into the boat, it was at land—immediately. This incident shows his control of the elements (as does his walking on the sea). It also has an antitypical fulfillment (as does the earlier incident where he was asleep in the boat during the storm).

This experience illustrates the way the Lord deals with his people. Jesus allowed the apostles to struggle for nine hours in the fierce wind and waves before he intervened. The men and the boat were strong, but the waves really buffeted them. The bow had to be kept in the right direction lest the boat capsize or get swamped. Finally Jesus came and stepped into the boat, and they were immediately at their destination. What is the lesson? With Jesus’ assistance, all obstacles can be overcome.

The time of Jesus’ coming was the fourth watch (Matt. 14:25). The watches were as follows: 1st watch: 6 to 9 p.m. 2nd watch: 9 p.m. to midnight 3rd watch: midnight to 3 a.m. 4th watch: 3 to 6 a.m.

Jesus came to the disciples in the fourth watch, that is, before dawn. Hence they had been rowing for at least nine hours. In antitype, the time element of the fourth watch is significant. Luke 12:38 mentions not knowing what watch Jesus would come. In the parable that follows, if the good man of the house (Satan) had known what hour the thief (Jesus) would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken up. Since the time of this coming is unknown and the second and third watches are suggested, then by implication, Jesus will come in the fourth watch, that is, at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth watch.

Incidentally, there are different comings: (1) October 1874 was the beginning of the parousia. Jesus came to feed his people in the Harvest period, and no one knew Jesus was present until the faithful and wise servant served meat in due season. (2) He will come for his Bride (still future). Several dates already suggested have ended in disappointment, but he must come before the sunrise to the world. In connection with this prophetic event, the winds and the waves will rage.

The following are a few examples of type and antitype:

Type Antitype

Jesus went to the mountain alone. Jesus ascended to heaven at his First Advent.

Jesus came to his disciples. Jesus will come for the feet members.

The ship was immediately at shore. The feet members will have an instantaneous change when they are caught up in a cloud to their haven of rest (Capernaum/heaven).

The change of the feet members will be a collective rescue, for there will be no last individual member of the Little Flock. Elijah’s being taken up into heaven by a whirlwind pictures a class.

Noah represents Christ, and Shem, Ham, and Japheth (the three sons) picture the feet members. All were in the Ark of salvation. Three Hebrew children (feet members) were cast into the furnace of fire. Gideon fought the battle with three bands of 100 each. All of these are group or collective pictures of the feet members going violently as a class. The heel members (plural) will be bruised by the Adversary. The picture here of Jesus and the disciples in the boat harmonizes with these other types.

The first and the last “Passovers” corresponded with the calendar in every respect. The lamb was selected on the tenth day, slain on the 14th day, and eaten on the 15 day. In the morning of the same day (the 15th), the Israelites exited from Egypt. The last Passover/Memorial even corresponded with the day of the week of the First Passover. Jesus died on a Friday, the 14th of Nisan. On the 16th of Nisan, the sheaf offering was waved, corresponding with Sunday, when Jesus was raised from death. The first Passover in Egypt corresponded (both numerically and on the same day of the week) with Jesus’ institution of the Memorial. At the end of the age with the feet members, the Memorial will probably again correspond.

In AD 69, Jerusalem was attacked on the Day of Atonement by the Roman army because the Romans knew many Jews would be congregated at that time for religious purposes. A cordon was drawn around the city, and then it took several years to subdue the city. In modern times, the Yom Kippur War occurred. Strategically, the Arabs knew the Jews’ celebration of Yom Kippur would make them especially vulnerable. At the end of the age, Satan may select the Passover for destroying the Jews.

Darkness was on the land from 12 noon to 3 p.m., which corresponded with the time Jesus was on the Cross, and he died at 3 p.m. Adam fell in the “cool of the day,” which was late afternoon, perhaps 3 p.m. (Gen. 3:8).

A convenient time to imprison the brethren would be at the Memorial, when they customarily gather together. Those who are fearful will stay away on that occasion. Only the brethren who are courageous will meet. At that time, the test will be NOT to compromise, and the mettle of our characters will surely be tested. Theoretically, it is easy to die for the Lord, but whether one is faithful under such testing remains to be seen. Our families may be threatened, but we must be faithful—regardless—to be of the Little Flock. Satan used all kinds of techniques in the past to make the consecrated compromise either directly or through their families. No doubt under those circumstances, many brethren will be fearful to congregate. Health, family, etc., may seem like logical and prudent reasons to refrain, but the faithful will meet.

What about the logistics of Jesus’ walking on the Sea of Galilee? The wind was sufficiently strong to hold back the waves where he walked (as with the crossing of the Red Sea), and then the wind froze, or congealed, the water to make ice so that Jesus walked on a frozen path.

Moreover, the wind kept the water off the ice so that it was not slippery. Especially a “frosted” freezing would not be slippery, and it is probable that this phenomenon was miraculously provided for Jesus. Peter no doubt saw the frozen path and started out on it to meet Jesus. As he became fearful, however, the ice softened and wavered, and he started to sink. When he called out to Jesus, his faith strengthened, the ice resolidified, and he could again walk above the water.

Waves in the prophetic aspect picture the Church’s time of trouble. The subsequent world’s time of trouble will start with the fall of the nominal systems. The escapees will be the Great Company class, among others, and they, too, will have a time of trouble. And so will Israel. With the Church, however, the time of trouble will be a deliverance, a privileged experience for those who have a sufficiency of faith and exercise it at that time.

When we approach this incident as a moral lesson, as opposed to a prophetic lesson, the boat in the sea can be the Christian in the world, and the waves are the trials of life. The Christian is not of the world if the water stays out of the boat.

John 6:22 The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone;

John 6:23 (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:)

John 6:24 When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus.

John 6:25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither?

This was the day following the miraculous feeding of the 5,000-plus and the night when Jesus walked on the sea to the apostles in the boat during the storm. The people on the other side of Galilee where the feeding had occurred now realized that Jesus was not there. Several details become apparent. These people (but not necessarily all of the 5,000-plus) had stayed there overnight because they did not see Jesus depart. They saw the disciples leave in the boat and Jesus go up into the mountain, but that was all. Therefore, the people waited until morning. However, Jesus, having walked on the sea the night before, was already on the other side. Because John’s style of writing was very different from that of the other Gospel writers, he is often misunderstood. Part of verse 22, paraphrased, is as follows: “the people who stood on the other side of the sea, when they saw that there had been no other boat except the one the disciples had entered”; that is, when the multitude was fed, only one boat was there. In this one boat, Jesus and the disciples had traveled to the grassy plain in the wilderness. In this same (and only) boat, the disciples had departed in late afternoon for the other side of the sea.

The next morning other boats came from Tiberias. Some of the people requisitioned these boats to take them back to the other side (to Capernaum). As “ferries,” the boats made several trips to Capernaum. This information tells us that the trip was a distance of only five to six miles, which could be covered relatively quickly by rowing under normal circumstances. What a contrast the night before when it took the disciples nine hours to go about three miles to the midpoint of the distance to their intended destination!

When the people found Jesus at Capernaum, they said, “Rabbi, when camest thou hither?” They had been waiting for Jesus to descend the mountain. When they realized he had left, they were puzzled—hence the question.

John 6:26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

John 6:27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

John 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Verses 26 and 27 give Jesus’ answer to the people’s query “When camest thou hither?” In other words, he ignored the specifics of their question. Many feel they are required to give an answer, but the Scriptures do not so teach. Yes, we are to be always ready to give a reason for our faith, but there are times when it is proper not to answer. Why did Jesus ignore the question? He disapproved of their reason for pursuing him. Their motive was not pure, for they wanted him to provide food, and Jesus was looking for a higher motive than feeding their stomachs.

Jesus’ words would be considered uncouth by many if we uttered them today. In addition to ignoring the question, we would be accused of being impolite and speaking too bluntly, yet Jesus did the proper thing. Having a ministry to fulfill, he was not to be sidetracked needlessly, so he came directly to the point. And this method produced an effect (verse 34).

Jesus said the motivation in seeking him was for the loaves and the fishes. Isn’t this rather surprising? When the 5,000-plus went around to see him initially, they did not know he would feed them miraculously out of compassion. Originally, their motive in seeking Jesus might have been curiosity (as opposed to real sincerity), but after the miraculous feeding, the motivation changed to one of food—a selfish motive along temporal lines. Instead we are to seek “first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these [temporal] things shall be added” (Matt. 6:33). Thus Jesus gave a rebuke to the people, for their labor should have been for “meat which endureth unto everlasting life.”

“Him hath God the Father sealed.” The Father had appointed Jesus as the channel to dispense this higher “meat.” The word “sealed” means “impressed with an insignia.” When one sent a letter anciently, he sealed it with hot wax and his insignia to authenticate that it was truly from him. The fact that the Father had “sealed” Jesus unto this work or ministry authenticated Jesus’ being the Messiah. The people should have recognized this from Jesus’ miracles. He bore credentials in more ways than one: the miracles he performed plus his teaching. Elsewhere Jesus said, “If you do not believe me, at least believe the works that I do” (John 10:38 paraphrase); that is, the works should have awakened the people to his Messiahship.

Verse 27 reminds us of the Samaritan woman. Jesus spoke bluntly to her, using no flattery.

“You have well said that you are not married, for he whom you now live with is not your husband” (John 4:17,18 paraphrase). This instance of Jesus’ speaking with authority (because he was sealed of the Father) evoked a favorable response, for exposing her sin convinced her that Jesus was more than a prophet. And Jesus then said, “I am that Messiah.”

In the present incident, there was a favorable response briefly: “How do we labor to get this higher food? We want to know more about this meat, but you speak mysteriously.” The Samaritan woman had said similarly, “Give me of that water that I may drink and live forever.” She was rather naive, and so were the people here. They were sort of mesmerized momentarily. With the Samaritan woman, the results were positive. With the people here (except for individuals perhaps), the results were not so favorable.

Notice John’s observation that in almost every instance, Jesus first gave credit to God. This is true of the Book of Revelation as well as of John’s Gospel. Jesus first mentioned the Father and His service, and then spoke strongly, and with authority, about himself.

Jesus’ answer (verse 29), “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent,” implied something the people should have grasped. Nominal Christendom teaches, “Just believe on the name of Jesus, and you will be saved,” but more than mere mental assent is needed. The Diaglott shows that the work of God is to believe into Jesus, that is, to continue to follow Jesus, which costs something. The people were not willing to take that step. Jesus had revealed truth, and now the responsibility lay with them. It was up to the people to respond to the necessary information they had received by becoming followers of Jesus. “Belief” is more than an intellectual acceptance, for it involves making a commitment. Even Satan and the demons recognized that Jesus was the Son of God and shuddered (James 2:19). The group here still did not get the point but were thinking on an earthly plane, probably because they were used to the works of the Law; that is, their question in verse 28 was, “Just tell us what we have to do. How do we earn this miraculous feeding?”

Jesus used the word “work.” To merely believe that he is the Messiah without doing anything about it—without consecrating—would not get them the bread they were asking for. Jesus whet their appetites for something mysterious above and beyond literal eating for the natural body. The people said they were interested and asked, ”How do we obtain it?” Jesus did not answer, “Just believe,” for a work was involved and there was responsibility. A superficial acknowledgment was not enough.

John 6:30 They said therefore unto him, What sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?

John 6:31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

The people’s reply in verses 30 and 31 shows that they knew what Jesus meant, but they were not ready to comply. They realized that to obtain the “meat” would mean giving up something—a cost was involved.

Proof that their heart attitude was not right is their question “What sign will you show that we may see and believe?” Just the day before, Jesus had created a miraculous feeding, which was witnessed by all, and he had healed many sick, yet now they had the nerve to compare Jesus’ miracles with Moses’ providing of manna in the wilderness and to give Moses the higher priority. They probably reasoned this way: “Moses fed millions on a daily basis for 40 years.

You fed 5,000-plus on one occasion for one meal. Hence there is no comparison.” The real problem was that they had reservations and did not want to fully commit. To hide this attitude, they tried to save face with these comments. They were trying to justify their reservations because they were not ready to take the step of consecration.

John 6:32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.

John 6:33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

Jesus’ reply is interesting, but a proper emphasis is needed to get the point. In verse 31, the people were emphasizing Moses’ role and heaven—that Moses supplied the bread from heaven. Jesus said, “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven.” In the Wilderness of Sinai, the manna was supplied almost like distilled dew on the ground. Nehemiah 9:15 calls the manna “bread from heaven” because God was the source of the bread, yet it did not come down from “heaven”—it did not fall on the ground but sort of came up from the ground.

On the other hand, Jesus had come down from heaven. He said, “I have been in heaven, and I have come down.” Yes, God supplied the manna, but it did not come from heaven. However, Jesus, the true bread from heaven, came down from the Father. Jesus said in effect, “I am the true bread that you are inquiring about.” The true bread was more than the manna—it was higher than just temporal security. Now the people realized that Jesus’ thinking was on a higher plane.

John 6:34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.

The people said (paraphrased), “Yes, we would like to know more about this new bread.”

Although they naively said, “Lord, evermore give us this bread,” their motivation and thinking were still mixed up, for they expected Jesus to hand them something. Again we are reminded of the Samaritan woman, who said, “Give me that water, Lord, so that I will not have to draw water at the well anymore.” It was laborious work to carry heavy jugs of water.

John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

John 6:36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.

Here was a penetrating thought. The people asked an ostensibly desirable question, which seemed to be pure and spontaneous, but Jesus, knowing they still did not have the proper motivation, said, “Ye believe not.” Their hearts and minds were not ready to follow his instruction. On many occasions, however, when Jesus gave similar instruction, there were some who benefited. John showed this in various ways. For example, the Samaritan woman at the well went into the city and got many others to come out and hear Jesus. Our Lord was very blunt with Nicodemus. His method here and elsewhere produced results, but it was contrary to the prevailing opinion that one should always speak gently and softly with tactful, measured words. A proof of results with Nicodemus is that he and Joseph of Arimathea begged Jesus’ body, removed it from the Cross before the whole nation, and wrapped it.

To “never hunger” and “never thirst” referred to the higher plane. If one finds the source of answers for questions he has long asked—what is man’s purpose? who is God, and where is He?—he should be fully satisfied. Those who “believe” into Jesus and work “the work” no longer hunger and thirst. Jesus satisfies!

John 6:37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

John 6:39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

John 6:40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

In verse 40, the word “on” should be “into”: “And this is the will of him [God] that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on [into] him, may have everlasting life.”

Why did Jesus say, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me”? Although Jesus addressed these words to a mixed multitude, he knew that his ministry would be a success in the final analysis. Thousands followed him from all parts of Israel and the Middle East, but except for a few, they did not continue with him. People listened only up to a point because they had other motivations such as healing, curiosity, and receiving the loaves and the fishes.

Consider the lepers: nine of them were thankful they were cleansed, but only the tenth came back to express his appreciation. So here Jesus was saying, “Those who observe my ministry will see multitudes following me and deserting me, following and deserting, etc.” Those who came only for the healing returned to their homes after it was accomplished. Only a relative handful, as it were, became disciples. Therefore, Jesus was saying, “My ministry is a success.”

No matter how his ministry was viewed, the few who adhered to his doctrine (compared to the thousands who heard him) were those the Father was “giving” to him—just as intended.

Jesus “came unto his own, and [except for the intended few] his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God” (John 1:11,12). In fact, throughout the Scriptures, we see the concept of a remnant. Of all who receive a blessing, only a remnant go on to receive the maximum blessing through consecration and faithfulness unto death. In other words, not all who are drawn of the Father fully appreciate the drawing. It is a miracle to even understand the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. One who does not realize he is being miraculously drawn, and thus fails to act on it, loses the chief promise.

Jesus was exercising faith in his Father, so he did not have to be too concerned about who his followers would be. Some missionaries and ministers get frenzied and anxious in exhorting people to accept Jesus lest they perish, but Jesus was not worried. He knew that out of the multitudes, all whom the Father wanted would come to him.

“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Some merely become acquainted with certain doctrines and others truly “come” in a deeper sense. The same distinction applies to hearing. There are two kinds of coming (out of curiosity and out of sincerity) and two kinds of hearing (superficial and obedient). All who are in their graves shall hear the voice of Jesus, but only the right-hearted will hearken in the sense of obedience (John 5:28). As for Jesus’ consecrated followers, these words are very comforting, for regardless of past background and inherent weaknesses, Jesus will not cast out his little ones.

Let us consider Jesus’ words again: “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Later Jesus explained that he lost none except the “son of perdition” (Judas), yet here and in verse 39, he said he would lose nothing: “And this is the Father’s will … that … I should lose nothing.”

How can the two thoughts be reconciled? Here Jesus was speaking of a finished work. He will “raise it [the body complete, the 144,000] up again at the last day.” Individuals may end up as Great Company or go into Second Death, but the body will be completed. God’s plan will not fail, and all of the very elect will come through Jesus.

The Apostle John made strong statements, especially in his epistles, that must be considered against the whole. Other verses are buffers or modifiers, and these must be regarded lest false concepts be taught. Here Jesus was saying that he would do his utmost to see that we make our calling and election sure. If anyone fails to obtain the chief prize, he has only himself to blame, for Jesus wants us to succeed. Doubts may occur where we want assurance that we are still under God’s watch-care, but such trials are permitted so that our faith can be developed by exercise. Doubts are necessary to create faith. Opposites create the struggle, and in the struggle, faith is enhanced if we are rightly exercised by the experience. Incidentally, the “son of perdition” is a class, a Second Death class. Judas represents the Second Death element, which is an appreciable number.

Earlier Jesus said that those who believed into him would never hunger or thirst. In verse 40, he supplemented that thought. Even though the Christian seems to die like others, if he is a faithful overcomer as part of the Great Company or the Little Flock, Jesus promised to “raise him up at the last day” to everlasting life. He will die in the present life, but when raised from that death, he will never die again.

“Everlasting life” includes the Great Company, the great mass of Christians who are faithful to their covenant. Only the Little Flock will receive immortal life. Those who consecrate can be assured of getting everlasting life if their continuing desire is to do God’s will, but they will not necessarily receive immortality, which is reserved for the more-than-overcomers (Rom. 8:37).

John was showing that life itself is a privilege. From the dungeon of despair and misery down here, we have the hope of a high calling—and life. The raising up to everlasting life by Jesus is one plane, but the giving of immortality comes only from the Father—for both Jesus and the Church. Resurrection to spirit nature is one thing, and resurrection from spirit nature to immortality is another. Divine nature will be given later—probably at the marriage—for the Father has some gift to give, in addition to the Son. The Son welcomes the Little Flock members individually and personally first with a “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). In other words, the personal, private audience with Jesus will occur at the moment of resurrection, before one sees the apostles or any of the other saints. Later Jesus will acknowledge the Bride before the Father.

John 6:41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.

While Jesus was talking, the Jews murmured. Jesus not only had a clear voice but a penetrating emphasis, and he probably used the following emphasis here: “I [pause] am the bread of life.”

This statement rubbed the Jews the wrong way. They felt he had a lot of nerve to equate himself with the miraculous manna.

Evidently, with a perfect mind completely free of disease, one can perceive a lot of things from a natural standpoint. While talking, Jesus was conscious of the murmuring and what bothered the Jews. No doubt he intentionally used the emphasis, knowing that the effect would be good on some and poor on others.

John 6:42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

The Jews reasoned this way because Jesus kept calling God his “Father,” a term they were not accustomed to use. Also, they had not seen Jesus come down from heaven. To them, he was apparently born like all mankind—of an earthly father and mother. With regard to Almighty God, “Father” was too intimate and endearing a term for the Jews. Notice that they went back two generations to the grandparents. Jesus was the “son of Joseph,” and they knew Joseph’s parents. (Of the four Gospel writers, only John noticed this point.)

John 6:43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.

John 6:44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

In replying to the murmurers’ question “How can he say he came down from heaven?” Jesus was saying, “Your words expose your wrong heart condition, and that is why the Father is not drawing you.” Jesus knew that his remarks would not make sense to most of those listening to him, but the ones who were drawn of the Father could overcome that obstacle.

Earlier Jesus said that those who ate the manna died, but those who followed him would never die, yet he died and so did his disciples. The clause “and I will raise him up at the last day” shows Jesus meant that his followers would die but that when he raised them at the “last day,” they would have everlasting life, including both the Little Flock and the Great Company. Those who are raised in the Kingdom, that is, the world, will be raised to a temporary life that will become permanent only if they obey the rules of the Kingdom and make full progress. But those who are raised to spirit life, having had their trial in the present life, will not die. Only those of the world who enter the ages of ages will get everlasting life. Although it is true that everlasting life is conditional, the probability of death from that point on is minuscule. Every human being will get one trial for life, and the vast majority of the trials will be in the Kingdom.

John 6:45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.

Jesus backed up verse 44 with this statement. “They [the class who come and cling to Jesus] shall all be taught of God.” True, we must hunger in order to be fed to the fullest on meat in due season, but nevertheless, all who consecrate—the class who are being drawn—are being personally and individually dealt with whether or not they appreciate that fact. They may not react favorably to certain experiences—they may take a step in a wrong direction—but they will get opportunities of retrieval. All are being personally superintended whether or not they realize it. The Father desires that none should be lost (John 6:39). God is for us, so if we go astray, it is completely our responsibility. How comforting to realize that whatever degree of development a Christian is in, help will be provided!

Those who truly came to Christ had previously “heard” and “learned” (that is, been “taught”) of the Father. This shows that even before consecration, a providence is exercised over those who are being drawn. When one consecrates, the individual attention continues but on an even more personal basis.

John 6:46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

Jesus was saying, “I do not mean that any man has literally seen the Father, for that is not necessary. Nevertheless, there is a personalized dealing with those who are being drawn. I am the only one who has seen the Father.” John was picking up loose ends from the other Gospels. His Gospel is difficult to understand, but then our Lord is also difficult to understand unless we weigh and consider all that he said.

However, there is figurative sight, for we figuratively see the Father by studying Jesus. For example, Philip said to Jesus on another occasion, “Show us the Father.” Jesus replied, “He who has seen me has seen the Father”; that is, the character of God could be seen demonstrated in the life of Jesus, for Jesus said and did the things the Father would have done under the same circumstances (John 14:8,9).

John 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

John 6:48 I am that bread of life.

John 6:49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.

John 6:50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.

Lest a wrong conclusion be drawn from the last statement, “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die,” we must go back to verse 44: “I will raise him up at the last day.” We must consider all remarks in order to see that the “not dying” applies after literal death and resurrection. And the being raised up is conditional, for it applies only to overcomers and more-than-overcomers of the present age, who will get everlasting life on the spirit plane.

John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Jesus again compared himself with the bread/manna in the Wilderness of Sinai. The Israelites ate that bread and continued to die. To get life, one has to figuratively eat (appropriate to himself) the merit of Jesus. In the days of Moses, the Israelites had to gather daily a homer of manna from the ground in order to have enough food for the day. That quantity sustained life for a period of time, and then the people died. But Jesus was saying, “What occurred back there was a type, which I am fulfilling. That bread represents me.” Jesus’ comparison of himself to the manna also indicated more than a nominal acceptance of him. We must “feed” on Jesus on a day-to-day basis.

John 6:52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

The Jews could not accept the thought that Jesus’ flesh must be eaten and that he would give his flesh for the life of the world. Right away there was a tumult.

John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

John 6:54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6:55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

John 6:56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

John 6:57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.

John 6:58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

The Jews were already upset, but when Jesus added more fuel to the fire by saying, “In addition to eating my flesh, you must also drink my blood,” they were horrified. Although the Mosaic Law absolutely forbids the drinking of blood, anyone with common sense should have realized that Jesus did not mean to take a literal bite out of him. If one wants to find fault, he will find fault—even in Jesus Christ. The odd thing is that the doctrine of Transubstantiation is really teaching that very thing—that the bread becomes Jesus’ literal flesh and the wine his literal blood, and these must be consumed.

The disciples who remained loyal to Jesus had followed him for a while and knew he spoke above their heads on many issues. Great men do not lower their capabilities but give others something to aspire to. As Christians, we are to teach the gospel and not lower ourselves to the level of the decadent in trying to reach others. Jesus used the terminology of the Father, and so should we. We are not to compromise and popularize Scripture, leaving out valuable spiritual “vitamins.”

Jesus spoke opposite to what is considered decorum and tact. He constantly intentionally rubbed many the wrong way. His very words here (to the effect that all who were of the Father were drawn to him) excluded most of the listeners. Although these words could be offensive, they were not “hard sayings” to those who continued to be drawn and led of the Father, for faith overcomes natural prejudices. The right-hearted knew his “mysterious” sayings could be explained, even if they did not understand them.

Mostly, Jesus talked of his followers’ obtaining everlasting life (which included the Great Company), but in verse 53, he referred to having “life in you,” that is, immortality. Those who obtain spirit nature as the Great Company, plus those who get everlasting life here on earth, will “eat the flesh of the Son of man”—they will partake of the bread of life—but only the Little Flock in the final analysis will partake of the blood, which means they will be part of the sin offering.

We are to run the race with all dil igence to win it. We must stretch forth as if there is only one prize. Setting our sights any lower can be dangerous, for we could get tired and give up. Any who are called can make their calling and election sure. If we fail, it is our own fault.

Verse 57, “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me … shall live by me,” shows a chain of command. Jesus lives through the Father, and we live through Jesus. Thus this verse disproves the Trinity, for it shows levels of life.

John 6:59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.

The setting for many of Jesus’ remarks was the synagogue. Following an Old Testament reading, it was customary for a discussion to take place in the synagogue. Perhaps the lesson that day was on the manna in the wilderness. The Apostle Paul also had opportunities to read and discuss in the synagogue.

John 6:60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?

Evidently, others had turned away earlier. Now some of the disciples were also having a problem with Jesus’ teachings.

John 6:61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?

Jesus asked the disciples, “Doth this [teaching] offend you?” In other words, he accentuated their difficulty. Similarly, with the importunate widow, the judge kept stalling. The delay was for her ultimate good, for it brought out her hunger and desire. Thus a delayed blessing is a better blessing.

John 6:62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?

Why did Jesus ask this question? A few verses earlier, he had said he would give his flesh for the life of the world (verse 51). Now he was saying that he would be raised from death and they would see him ascend to his Father. He told these things in advance so that when they came to pass, the disciples would recall these words and realize Jesus’ foreknowledge of certain events.

“What” is a supplied word that should be deleted, and the word “and” should be changed to “even“ or “suppose.” “Does this offend you? Even if you see me go up into heaven, will that still offend you? Will you still doubt?” No, of course not! Jesus repeatedly used the technique of predicting what would come to pass, especially with regard to his crucifixion. Although not understood at the moment, the words would be grasped at (or shortly after) the time of fulfillment. Jesus often said something startling to “score” it in their minds for later recall.

John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

Jesus explained what he meant by “eating his flesh” and “drinking his blood.” Jesus’ “spirit” was his doctrine, his words, that is, the message that he preached. Therefore, to “eat Jesus’ flesh” means to feed on his message. And to “drink Jesus’ blood” means to make his message and doctrine the center of our life; it is like draining the cup, wanting every last drop. Many were turned off rather quickly by Jesus’ words, but those who stayed and persisted were rewarded with the explanation of his symbolic and enigmatic words.

John 6:64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.

John repeatedly referred to Jesus’ foreknowledge of Judas’s betrayal. John had insight, but Jesus had far more. These observations are important. Notice the plural “they” versus the singular individual (Judas) who would do the betraying. In the Greek, the difference in number is very apparent. The point is that Jesus was aware of who did not believe him and particularly of who would betray him.

At the end of the age, there will be a Judas class. Some who are intimate disciples of the Lord— closely related to the brethren—will betray their brethren to the authorities, much as Judas betrayed the Master but for different motivations.

John 6:65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.

Jesus advised us to count the cost before we consecrate, for it is better not to consecrate than to do so halfheartedly. But when we consecrate, we must rely on Jesus and have FAITH in him, for we cannot slay the giants alone. For example, David was no match for Goliath but went out in the strength of the Lord. Although Goliath had defied the Lord of hosts, no one challenged his blasphemy until David came along. David’s faith made him strong, for physically he was greatly outmatched.

It is important to keep in mind that we would never have been drawn and led up to the step of consecration unless we could actually make the grade. It is not by our own might or birth or influence but by God’s “spirit” (doctrine, teaching, reasonings of Scripture) that we get the necessary strength to make our calling and election sure.

John 6:66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

John 6:67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

John 6:68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

John 6:69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

When Jesus asked earlier, “Does this offend you?” and then added, “Even if you see the Son of man ascend to heaven?” his words stumbled some. He had said he came down from heaven, and now he inferred that he would go back up to heaven in a visible ascent. Of those who had followed him for some time, there was a separation, with “many” turning back. First, there was a separation among the multitude, and now there was a separation among the disciples, who previously had faith in him. This latter forsaking left only the apostles and a very few others.

Following the separation, Jesus asked the Twelve, “Will you also go away?” Jesus kept asking questions. Hence penetrating words and experiences come into the lives of Christians to test them as to whether they really love the Lord. We do not understand some experiences and words at the time, but eventually we will. Meanwhile, we accept by faith that they are superior to the capability of our own brain to grasp.

Peter’s reply was delightful—honest, simple, and with such high hopes: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” He had learned far too much to forsake the Master, even if he could not understand the current words. And Peter added, “We believe and are sure you are the Messiah.”

John 6:70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

John 6:71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.

If all of the instances are considered together, Jesus certainly gave many warnings about one of the Twelve not having the right heart condition. Jesus used strong language here: “One of you is a devil.” Jesus’ words should have pricked the conscience of Judas, but instead he became more and more hardened up to the point of incorrigibility at the Cross.

“Have not I chosen you twelve?” Although Jesus selected the apostles, they were previously appointed by the Father.

(1986–1987 Study)

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