The Agora
Bible Commentary

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John 6

Joh 6:1

JESUS CROSSED TO THE FAR SHORE: He separates his disciples from the world -- by water. Jesus needs solitude for thought and prayer (cp Isa 50;4; Psa 119:147,148). A list of "solitude passages": Mar 1:35-37; 3:7,9,20,21; 4:35-38; 6:31; 7:17,18,24; 8:10,11,27; 9:30; 10:32; 14:32.

SEA OF TIBERIAS: This name used only in Gospel of John. City of Tiberias was of no consequence until after AD 70. Thus this mention fixes date of writing at after AD 70 (LB 398).

Joh 6:2

And he had compassion of them, and healed them: Mat 14:14; Mar 6:35; Luk 9:11.

Joh 6:3

THEN JESUS WENT UP ON A MOUNTAINSIDE: Instances of Jesus withdrawing into a mountain, apart -- sometimes for privacy and prayer, and sometimes to instruct his followers: Mat 5:1; 8:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16; Mark 3:13; 6:46; 9:2; 13:3; Luke 6:12; 9:28; 22:39; John 6:3,15; 8:1.

Joh 6:4

THE JEWISH PASSOVER: The third of 4 Passovers (see note below). Thus, a one-year gap between Joh 5 and Joh 6.

John lists all four Passovers in Jesus' ministry: Joh 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 13:1. Proof of 3 1/2 year ministry.

Joh 6:5

JESUS LOOKED UP AND SAW A GREAT CROWD: At this sight, Jesus "he had compassion on them" (Mar 6:34; cp Heb 4:15).

WHERE: Actually, "out of what resources".

Joh 6:7

WOULD NOT BUY ENOUGH: Lit, "is not sufficient". Sw Exo 12:4. Philip's desperation matches that of Moses (Num 11:11,22).

FOR EACH ONE TO HAVE A BITE: Man gives sparingly; Jesus gives bountifully (v 11).

Joh 6:10

PLENTY OF GRASS: "Green grass" (Mar 6:39), indicating spring and time of Passover.

AND THE MEN SAT DOWN: Cp special ordering of wilderness encampments (Num 2).

Joh 6:11

...TOOK THE LOAVES, GAVE THANKS, AND DISTRIBUTED: The language of the Last Supper.

AS MUCH AS THEY WANTED: "Satisfied with the bread of heaven": Psa 105:40; cp Psa 22:26; 132:13-16; Isa 25:6-8.

Joh 6:12

GATHER THE PIECES: Kept, like manna in the pot: Heb 9:4.

LET NOTHING BE WASTED: In ministering to others, they lost nothing themselves. (In the sacrifice of Christ, there is ample provision for all to be filled.) "That I shall lose none of all that he has given me" (Joh 6:39).

Joh 6:13

TWELVE BASKETS: "Kophinos" = small basket, in ct "spuris" (large basket) of Mat 15:37; Mar 8:8. Twelve full baskets, ie, the 12 apostles, full of the "bread" of life. In ministering to others, they lost nothing themselves. (In the atonement of Christ, there is ample provision for all.)

PIECES: Which the Canaanite woman, like a "dog" under the Jewish "table", was only too willing to eat (Mat 15:27; Mar 7:28).

Joh 6:14

THE PROPHET: Deu 18:15-19.

Joh 6:15

KNOWING THAT THEY INTENDED TO COME AND MAKE HIM KING BY FORCE: "The waves of popular acclaim might have drowned him in a glory which was suffocation in the sea of men" (NMk 63).

WITHDREW AGAIN TO A MOUNTAIN BY HIMSELF: From the "mount", Christ could see his disciples on the troubled sea, going toward Bethsaida (Mar 6:45). At the appropriate time, ie when they were in the greatest need, he could go to them.

Instances of Jesus withdrawing into a mountain, apart -- sometimes for privacy and prayer, and sometimes to instruct his followers: Mat 5:1; 8:1; 14:23; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16; Mark 3:13; 6:46; 9:2; 13:3; Luke 6:12; 9:28; 22:39; John 6:3,15; 8:1.

Joh 6:16

Christ first breaks bread -- signifying his own body in death -- and then, when his disciples are in distress on a troubled sea, comes to calm and save them -- his second coming!

Joh 6:17

AND JESUS HAD NOT YET JOINED THEM: And when he did, it would leave them terrified (v 19)! Surely a lesson for us: our prayers may be answered, but it can be a frightening experience (cp Peter's release from prison: Acts 12).

Joh 6:18

A STRONG WIND WAS BLOWING AND THE WATERS GREW ROUGH: "Life can present a picture of a dark and turbulent sea with Jesus afar off. It is the slow triumph of faith to see him on the heights above in communion and intercession with his Father. Sometimes he comes to us in the midst of the storms and darkness, in unfamiliar form which we must learn to recognize. We are quick to appreciate, if we are slow to learn, that when we walk over the waters to meet him, we must not be dismayed by the darkness, the wind or the waves; we must believe that his power is greater far; that he can save even unto the uttermost: that faith can only be sustained by keeping our eyes fixed lovingly and obediently upon him" (MP 193).

Joh 6:19

// Psa 77:16-19; Luk 21:25-28.

See VL, Disciples, slow comprehension.

WALKING ON THE WATER: "He was about to pass by them" (Mar 6:48).

THEY WERE TERRIFIED: They thought he was a ghost (Mar 6:49).

Joh 6:21

Parable: Christ first breaks bread (Joh 6:11) -- his body in death -- then comes to calm disciples on stormy sea -- the Second Coming -- at last bringing them safely to shore (the Kingdom!).

Joh 6:25

Vv 25-65: Numerous allusions to Psa 78: Moses gives them bread from heaven in the wilderness.

RABBI, WHEN DID YOU GET HERE?: Did they suspect that he had passed THROUGH the sea, like Moses and Joshua?

Joh 6:26

Paraphrase: 'You did not truly see (ie understand) the miracles! You just ate the bread!' The disciples were blind to the spiritual significance. "In a single gesture Jesus swept into oblivion the mighty work of yesterday; he all but repudiated it because it had dazzled their eyes, and diverted their attention from the true bread" (MP 194).

Joh 6:27

DO NOT... BUT...: "Not only, but also" (Hos 6:6r).

SEAL OF APPROVAL: The affixing of royal credentials, so as to protect and retain for imperial use. (As Moses "sealed" manna in golden pot.)

Joh 6:28

WHAT MUST WE DO...?: That is, 'How shall we claim our own kingdom, as our fathers did in Joshua's day?' Answer (v 29): 'The first thing you must do is believe in me, as God's special prophet!'

Joh 6:29

TO BELIEVE IN: "In" = "eis" -- into! To "believe into" Christ is to be "believe" and "be baptized".

Joh 6:30

WHAT MIRACULOUS SIGN THEN WILL YOU GIVE...?: Moses had brought plagues against Israel's masters, and freed God's people. They are suggesting that Moses' successor should do likewise to free them from the Romans.

Joh 6:31

A deprecating comparison of Jesus with Moses. Moses had provided manna for 40 years. 'Continue to give bread and we might believe.'

Joh 6:32

IT IS NOT MOSES... BUT IT IS MY FATHER: Christ's answer to v 31: 'God, not Moses, provided that manna in the wilderness.'

Joh 6:33

THE BREAD OF GOD: An ambiguous phrase: either (1) the bread God gives man, or (2) the bread God receives in sacrifice from men. This second theme will be developed by Jesus in the vv that follow.

HE: Or "that" (RV). Is he referring to the lit manna here, or to himself as the spiritual manna? Or both?

WHO COMES DOWN FROM HEAVEN: Or, poss, "that comes down". But the manna in the wilderness did not literally float down from the heavens; rather, it was manufactured upon the earth by Divine power. Similarly, Jesus did not float down from heaven lit, but was created by Divine power in the womb of his mother Mary.

Joh 6:35

I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE: Seven times he gives this same key message: vv 35, 40, 44, 47, 51, 54, 58.

Seven "I am's" of John: "the bread of life" (Joh 6:35); "the light of the world" (Joh 9:5); "the door" (Joh 10:9); "the good shepherd" (Joh 10:11); "the way" (Joh 14:6); "the resurrection and the life" (Joh 11:25); and "the vine" (Joh 15:1).

WILL NEVER GO HUNGRY: The literal bread Christ provided lasted one meal, whereas Moses "gave bread" for 40 years. But the spiritual "bread of life" provided by Christ will last FOREVER.

WILL NEVER BE THIRSTY: Although the main subject is bread, yet Christ -- with the Passover motif in mind -- alludes to the wine of the Passover feast (sym his blood).

Joh 6:37

WHOEVER COMES TO ME I WILL NEVER DRIVE AWAY: As Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:24).l

Joh 6:38

I HAVE COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN: In virgin birth (Luk 1:27). Figuratively, as bread, the manna of life: cp vv 33, 51. Also cp Exo 3:8: "I am come down."

Joh 6:39

THAT I SHALL LOSE NONE: The lesson of the fragments: v 12.

Joh 6:40

In v 39, the divine perspective: "that I should lose none". In v 40, the human perspective: "I will raise him up".

Joh 6:41

THE JEWS: The rulers, but where were they? Hiding among the crowd and "secretly" observing! Cp the 13 murmurings in the wilderness: Exo 5:21; 14:10; 15:24; 16:2; 17:2; 32:1; Num 11:1,4; 12:2; 14:2; 16:3; 20:2; 21:5. Those who murmur without cause are soon given cause to murmur.

GRUMBLE: Cp Exo 16:7,8; Num 11:4,10.

See Lesson, John's figurative language.

Joh 6:42

WHOSE FATHER... WE KNOW: Present tense: was Joseph still alive?

Joh 6:44

Cp Dan 10:2; Song 1:4; Act 2:39; Joh 15:16.

DRAWS: The Father draws by the Word: Rom 10:17; Jam 1:18; 1Pe 1:23,25.

Joh 6:45

THEY WILL BE TAUGHT BY GOD: "The people of God are ever anxious to learn. They have no time for or patience with foolishness. They do not want to be amused, or excited, or entertained -- they want to be taught. They are ever eager to learn more about God and His Word -- what He has said, and what He has done -- the marvelous and beautiful kaleidoscope of divine and human events from Adam in Eden to John in Patmos. They never have time hanging on their hands. They never have 'nothing to do' -- the pitiful bane of empty, infantile minds. All the spare time in their busy, active lives is given to study and meditation on the wonders of the Word. They begrudge time spent -- even necessarily -- on present, passing things: though, in love and faith, and stumbling, slow-learning patience, they realize that these things too, if necessary, can equally be a service to, and communion with, their loving Father" (GVG).

Joh 6:47

Eternal life, not actually a present possession: Joh 5:24; 1Jo 5:13r. See Lesson, Eternal life now?

Joh 6:48

// Rev 2:17.

Joh 6:49

YOUR FOREFATHERS: "Yours", not mine! They were faithless and died in the wilderness.

Joh 6:51

THE LIVING BREAD: Not like the corruptible manna.

HE WILL LIVE FOREVER: "...To reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever" (Gen 3:22).

MY FLESH: Jesus partook of "flesh and blood", ie human nature: Heb 2:14,18; 4:15; Rom 8:3.

Joh 6:53

Does this teach "transubstantiation" (ie that at Catholic Mass the "priest" lit turns the bread into Christ's flesh, and the wine into his blood)? Of course not. Notice v 63: "the flesh counts for nothing".

UNLESS... YOU HAVE NO LIFE: Nevertheless, some eat the bread to their own condemnation: 1Co 11:29.

'I am the covenant-victim,' Jesus says. 'And if you want to be a part of this covenant between my Father and Abraham, the eternal covenant -- involving the forgiveness of sins, freely provided by the Father through me, and resurrection from the dead to a Kingdom inheritance -- then you must partake of the covenant-victim. You must meet with the Father between the pieces of the sacrifice, and eat of my flesh, and drink of my blood.'

Joh 6:54

To "eat" of Christ is to live the sort of life he lived: see the idiom in Eze 3:3; Jer 15:16; Pro 9:5; Rev 10:9,10. See Lesson, Eternal life now?

Joh 6:55

REAL: Not that which is "true" in ct to that which is "false", but that which is "real" or "substantial" in ct to that which is "symbolic" or "typical".

Joh 6:56

REMAINS IN ME, AND I IN HIM: "We abide in him because we are his members, but he abides in us because we are his temple."

Joh 6:58

WILL LIVE FOREVER: "...To reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever" (Gen 3:22). Cp v 51.

Joh 6:61

GRUMBLING: Exo 16:7,8.

Joh 6:62

ASCEND TO WHERE HE WAS BEFORE: Might mean: ascend out of grave to stand on earth again [the proof of resurrection was seen by hundreds, but the proof of ascension by only 11]. Or perhaps the language of theophany: Gen 11:5; 18:21; Exo 3:7,8; 19:11,18,20; 34:5; Psa 18:9,10; 19:8; Pro 30:4; Isa 64:1; Eph 4:9,10. (Context: the manna from heaven was preserved by being laid up in the most holy place: Heb 9:4; Exo 16:33,34.)

Joh 6:63

THE SPIRIT: The Spirit-life in Christ: 2Co 3:4,6; Rom 8:9,10; 1Co 15:45.

THE WORDS I HAVE SPOKEN TO YOU ARE SPIRIT AND THEY ARE LIFE: "John the apostle says, 'the spirit is the truth'. He had learned this from Jesus, who said, 'It is the spirit that quickeneth: the words that I speak unto you are spirit and life'; and because the apostles believed this, Peter declared that the words he delivered were 'the words of eternal life'. Paul's testimony upon this point is equally forcible: 'The word of God' saith he, 'is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart'. This word was developed by the Spirit moving holy men of old to write the purposes, promises and teaching of God in a Book called the Scriptures. Hence the truth revealed in these is styled 'Spirit', because it came by spirit, and is quickening. He that is quickened by the truth, then, is quickened by spirit, and he that is not quickened by the truth, is not quickened by spirit. Hence, Paul declares the converting power to be in scripture given by inspiration of God, in testifying that it is able to make wise to salvation through the faith which is in Christ Jesus. When we consider what he states the scripture is able to do, we must be satisfied that no other agency in conversion is needed than the scripture in the mouth of faithful men who are able to teach others. He says, 'it is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.' Our proposition, then, is this: He that is taught of the written word is taught of God; and that a man hath just so much of the Spirit of God in him, as he hath of the truth in him intelligently and affectionately believed" (JT, Herald 1861).

Joh 6:64

The coming betrayal by one is necessary so that the true "bread" may be given to others.

Joh 6:66

They went back to the "company" of those who ate manna in the wilderness and are dead (Joh 6:49). It is an interesting coincidence that a verse -- here -- which speaks of "apostasy" (ie turning away) should be identified by 3 sixes (cp Rev 13:18)!

Joh 6:70

'I chose you 12, so I know what is in each of you.' One should have "gone back" (v 66), but did not! There is therefore an election by grace, from which one may fall.

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