Confraternity Bible: New Testament and Supplemental Commentary

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JOHN - Chapter 6

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John 6

Supplemental Commentary:

I.  THE PUBLIC MINISTRY OF JESUS  1, 19 -- 12, 50 (continued)

2.  Christ Confirms His Mission  5, 1 -- 6, 72 (continued)

6, 1-15:  Jesus Feeds Five Thousand.  Cf. Matt. 14, 13-21; Mark 6, 30-44; Luke 9, 10-17.    1.  After this, as in 5, 1, is indefinite.  Sea of Galilee: here and in 21, 1 named for Tiberias, a city on its shore built by Herod Antipas.  The reason for going to the other side of the lake is given in the Synoptics.    2.  Followed him includes more than this occasion, and again implies the Synoptic account.    4.  It is in John's manner to mention the nearness of the Passover.  On the same feast in the following year the Eucharist prefigured in this miracle will be instituted.    5 f.  The first detail of interest to John is the question put to Philip, which was probably our Lord's response to the disciples' question in the Synoptics.  Why Philip?  Cf. 14, 8.  He had been present at Cana when the water was changed to wine.  To try him: to excite his confidence or to elicit its expression.    7.  Two hundred denarii (cf. Mark 6, 37) would be a large sum for them (some thirty-eight to forty dollars in our money); and yet not enough to provide for such a crowd; this is a confession of powerlessness.    8 f.  Another confession: the five barley loaves and two fishes are certainly not enough.  Hence something else must be done.  There are ready for the miracle.

10.  Recline expresses the posture at meals according to the fashion of the times.    11.  Thanks: the Synoptics say "he blessed," but the parallel in Matt. 15, 36 and Mark 8, 6 shows that both terms cover one act.  The blessing began with the words, "We give thee thanks."  As much as they wished, to be understood of both bread and fish, indicates the completeness of the miracle.    12 f.  The gathering of the remnants, here performed by the Apostles, calls their attention to the abundance of the provision.    14.  Cf. Deut. 18, 15-18.  In contrast to the disposition of the officials, the people accepted the evidence of the miracle.  Cf. also 1 Mach. 4, 44-46; 14, 41.  Associated with the Messianic hope then current was the idea of a bounteous repast, based on Cant. 5, 1; Isa. 25, 6, also reflected in the apocryphal Henoch 62, 14; Syr. Baruch 29, 8.  Cf. Luke 14, 15.    15.  The danger in this popular enthusiasm explains much of our Lord's reserve in His public ministry.

6, 16-21:  Jesus walks  on the water.  Cf. Matt. 14, 22-33; Mark 6, 45-52.    16.  As in the Synoptics, the event must be placed later that evening.    17.  They went: i.e., were going.  Across the sea: St. Luke places the multiplication of the loaves in a deserted spot near Bethsaida.  Most commentators identify this with Bethsaida Julias, on the north shore of the lake, just east of the Jordan.  Jesus had not come to them: He was still in hiding from the people; cf. 22.    18.  Though comparatively small, the lake is capable of violent storms, dangerous to the small fishing craft.  Cf. Matt. 8, 23-27; Mark 4, 35-40; Luke 8, 22-25.    19.  The lake was about 6 miles wide by 14 long.  Frightened: thinking they saw a specter.    20.  John omits Peter's experience (Matt. 14, 28-31) and the quieting of the storm.    21.  Immediately does not necessary suppose another miracle; they were probably near the land.  Land toward which, etc.: the part to which the storm had driven them, i.e., Genesar (Matt. 14, 34; Mark 6, 53), the littoral plain near Capharnaum.

6, 22-72:  The Discourse on the Eucharist is progressive, leading from the symbol of the manna to the revelation of the full reality.  We can distinguish the setting (22-25) and two main divisions, the bread of life (26-47) and the Eucharist (48-59), followed by certain effects of the discourse (60-72).

22-25:  The setting.  Next day the people, knowing that Jesus had not gone with the disciples, looked for Him near the scene of the miracle.  (The note that other ships docked there is a parenthetic explanation of 24b.)  Finding that He also was gone, they went by boat to look for Him at Capharnaum; and meeting Him there, expressed surprise at His having evaded them.  Their motive, vitiated by material notions of the gifts of the Messias, is the starting point of His discourse.

26-47:  The bread of life.  The place is the synagogue at Capharnaum (60).  In this part of the discourse our Lord leads His audience from their material aims to a knowledge of the true bread which gives spiritual life, and of the need of faith in His words.  He addresses those who had witnessed His miracle, the people of Capharnaum, who had not, and the officials of the synagogue.  Which endures: i.e., produces an enduring effect, eternal life.  Set his seal by divine confirmation, through miracles.    28.  Their question means, what work, in addition to fulfilling the Law, can win us this divine reward?    29.  Faith in Christ, the constant lesson of the Gospel, is now required particularly to receive the coming revelation.

30-36:  The true bread from heaven.    30.  The question is somewhat impatient, either reflecting the official temper, or defending the sufficiency of the Law against implied derogation.    31.  Yesterday's miracle is balanced on their minds by the manna of Moses, which was known as bread from heaven: cf. Ex. 16, 13-15; Ps. 77, 24 f; Wisd. 16, 20.  For the demand of a further sign cf. Matt. 16, 1; Mark 8, 11; Luke 11, 16.    32.  The manna was from heaven only in the sense that it was given by God.  In itself it was perishable, and it nourished bodily life only.  It is not the true bread.    33.  This true bread not only comes down from heaven, but also gives life, the real life to mankind.    34.  Give us . . . this bread recalls the request of the Samaritan woman for the living water.    35.  Our Lord's answer leads them a step nearer His object.  He is the heavenly bread; faith is necessary to make it available; and its effect is a life which knows neither hunger nor thirst.  Cf. Isa. 49, 10.    36.  Reminding them that He has already adverted to their lack of faith, Jesus now emphasizes this radical impediment.

37-47:  The necessity of faith.    37.  The call of the Father is vital to faith.  Cast out: cf. Matt. 22, 13.    38-40.  Our Lord holds an essential place in the divine plan to give mankind eternal life, so that belief in Him is absolutely necessary.    41.  The Jews, without replying, whisper to one another an objection which reveals some misunderstanding on their part.    42.  They object that they know His parents: cf. Matt. 13, 55; Mark 6, 3.  Knowing nothing of His virgin birth, they think His earthly origin incompatible with the claim of descent from heaven.    43-47.  Jesus does not reply by explaining His Incarnation, but repeats His relation to the divine plan, insisting that correspondence with the Father's invitation means adherence to the Son.  The quotation in 45 is from Isa. 54, 13 (cf. Jer. 31, 33).  In the Prophets: i.e., in the volume containing their writings.  Not that any one has seen: cf. 1, 18; 5, 37.  Him who is from God, not only by mission but also by nature.  The conclusion is that faith in Him ensures eternal life (5, 24; 6, 40).

48-59:  The Eucharist.    48-51.  Christ is the bread of life.  This returns to the direct line of the revelation to which Jesus is tending.    48.  I am the bread of life definitely identifies with His own person the notion of the true bread which gives spiritual life.    49 f.  This bread surpasses the manna in two respects: it gives life, and that life is eternal.    52-59.  The climax, the revelation of the Eucharist.    52.  The Eucharist explicitly announced: the bread which gives eternal life is the flesh of Christ.    53.  The Jews understand Jesus to speak of the eating of His flesh, and the statement puzzled them.    54-59.  Our Lord's reply is a solemn insistence upon this literal meaning of His words.    54.  Spiritual life requires this eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood of the Messias.    55.  In the Semitic manner, the thought is repeated in a more positive form, excluding any symbolic interpretation.    56.  It is repeated a third time, with emphasis on the fact that this food is His flesh and blood.    57.  The effect of this food is to communicate life by uniting him who eats of it with Christ; cf. 15, 4-7; 17, 23; 1 John 3, 24; 4, 16.    58.  I live because of the Father probably signifies both His eternal generation and the Incarnation; further, it expresses Christ's devotion to the work of His Father, and His servant's devotion to the service of Christ.    59.  The revelation concludes with a final comparison between the Eucharist and the manna; the comparison is that of death with life.

60-72:  The effect of the discourse.  This illustrates the crisis in faith which terminated the Galilean ministry as narrated in the Synoptics.  Its value to John's thesis is patent.

60-67:  The doctrine alienates many followers.    60.  Cf. 18, 20; Matt. 4, 13; 11, 23.  This supposes that we know the circumstances of the Galilean ministry.  What follows probably did not occur in the synagogue.    61.  The crisis is the graver as chiefly involving disciples (in the general sense of the term); probably the people had already displayed coldness.  Cf. Matt. 11, 20-24; Luke 10, 13-15.  Said: they only thought this, or spoke of it quietly among themselves.  A hard saying: from the Greek term "severe," or as the Septuagint Version uses it, "forbidding."  Who can listen to it: i.e., believe it.  This was the crisis; they could not accept our Lord's words for what seemed difficult to them.    62-65.  He encourages them to believe by promising stronger evidence of His knowledge of things now hidden from them.  Knowing in himself: by His supernatural knowledge.  Scandalize: a word implying both surprise and consequent loss of confidence.    63.  Cf. 1, 50; 3, 12.  Jesus promises an equally marvelous confirmation of the literal meaning of His words.  His ascension will reveal His divine nature, though He remains the Son of Man.    64. Flesh in John's usage generally denotes human nature unaided by grace; if that is its signification here, the meaning is that they cannot understand the revelation without the help of the Spirit.  Another explanation: it is not the flesh as such, but the flesh united to the Divinity, that becomes a food of supernatural efficacy.  His revelation, if accepted, will lead them to this spiritual life.    65.  From the beginning of their association with Him.  Who should betray him points to Judas as the chief example of unbelief.    66.  This is why: i.e., lack of faith; implying that many must have followed our Lord for temporal reasons.    67.  Turned back from His society, and perhaps also returned to their former occupations; the word has both moral and physical import.

68-72:  The Twelve are put to the same test: a final confirmation of the literal meaning of our Lord's words on the Eucharist.    69.  Simon Peter, speaking for them all, replies in the terms of 64.  He acknowledges that Christ has no superior in their interests, and that they accept this doctrine on His word.  This is true faith.    70.  We have come to believe: from witnessing His miracles and from their general experience with Him.  The sense is, we now believe that thou art the Messias.  Son of God: or, "the Holy One of God."  Cf. 10, 36; Mark 1, 24.  This is the better reading.  Peter regards Christ as the one uniquely set apart and consecrated for the work of God.  This is not a full confession of His divinity; which was revealed to Peter later: cf. Matt. 16, 13-16; Mark 8, 27-30; Luke 9, 18-20.    71.  Cf. 13, 18; 15, 16.  A devil: cf. 13, 2.27.  Here the term is comparative: like unto the devil.  Jesus shows that Peter's words of faith do not express the sentiments of all the Apostles, puts them on guard against the scandal of Judas' betrayal, points to the need of guarding their faith.    V.72 expresses John's own wonder at the betrayal.

Confraternity Bible:

Jesus Feeds Five Thousand  1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias.  2 And there followed him a great crowd, because they witnessed the signs he worked on those who were sick.  3 Jesus therefore went up the mountain, and sat there with his disciples.

4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.  5 When, therefore, Jesus had lifted up his eyes and seen that a very great crowd had come to him, he said to Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread that these may eat?"  6 But he said this to try him, for he himself knew what he would do.

7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not enough for them, that each one may receive a little."  8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, 9 "There is a young boy here who has five barley loaves and two fishes; but what are these among so many?"  10 Jesus then said, "Make the people recline."

Now there was much grass in the place.  The men therefore reclined, in number about five thousand.  11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, distributed them to those reclining; and likewise the fishes, as much as they wished.  12 But when they were filled, he said to his disciples, "Gather the fragments that are left over, lest they be wasted."  13 They therefore gathered them up; and they filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 When the people, therefore, had seen the sign which Jesus had worked, they said, "This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world."  15 So when Jesus perceived that they would come to take him by force and make him king, he fled again to the mountain, himself alone.

Jesus Walks on the Water  16 Now when evening had come, his disciples went down to the sea.  17 And getting into a boat, they went across the sea towards Capharnaum.  And it was already dark, but Jesus had not come to them.  18 Now the sea was rising, because a strong wind was blowing.  19 But after they had rowed some twenty-five or thirty stadia, they beheld Jesus walking upon the sea, and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened.  20 But he said to them, "It is I, do not be afraid."  21 They desired therefore to take him into the boat; and immediately the boat was at the land towards which they were going.

The Discourse on the Eucharist  22 The next day, the crowd which had remained on the other side of the sea observed that there had been but one boat at that place, and that Jesus had not gone into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had departed alone.  23 But other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread, when the Lord gave thanks.  24 When therefore the crowd perceived that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and came to Capharnaum, seeking Jesus.  25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when didst thou come here?"

26 Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you seek me, not because you have seen signs, but because you have eaten of the loaves and have been filled.  27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for that which endures unto life everlasting, which the Son of Man will give you.  For unto him the Father, God himself, has set his seal."

28 They said therefore to him, "What are we to do that we may perform the works of God?"  29 In answer Jesus said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."  30 They said therefore to him, "What sign, then, dost thou, that we may see and believe thee?  What work dost thou perform?  31* Our fathers ate the manna in the desert, even as it is written,
'Bread from heaven he gave them to eat.'"
32 Jesus then said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."

34 They said therefore to him, "Lord, give us always this bread."

35 But Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.  36 But I have told you that you have seen me and you do not believe.  37 All that the Father gives to me shall come to me, and him who comes to me I will not cast out.  38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.  39 Now this is the will of him who sent me, the Father, that I should lose nothing of what he has given me, but that I should raise it up on the last day.  40 For this is the will of my Father who sent me, that whoever beholds the Son, and believes in him, shall have everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day."

41 The Jews therefore murmured about him because he had said, "I am the bread that has come down from heaven."  42 And they kept saying, "Is this not Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How, then, does he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"

43 In answer therefore Jesus said to them, "Do not murmur among yourselves.  44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him up on the last day.  45* It is written in the Prophets,
'And they all shall be taught of God.' 
Everyone who has listened to the Father, and has learned, comes to me; 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God, he has seen the Father.  47 Amen, amen, I say to you, he who believes in me has life everlasting.

48 "I am the bread of life.  49 Your fathers ate the manna in the desert, and have died.  50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that if anyone eat of it he will not die.  51 I am the living bread that has come down from heaven.  52 If anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

53 The Jews on that account argued with one another, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

54 Jesus therefore said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.  55 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has life everlasting and I will raise him up on the last day.  56 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 57 He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him.  58 As the living Father has sent me, and as I live because of the Father, so he who eats me, he also shall live because of me.  59 This is the bread that has come down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and died.  He who eats this bread shall live forever."

60 These things he said when teaching in the synagogue at Capharnaum.

61 Many of his disciples therefore, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying.  Who can listen to it?"  62 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were murmuring at this, said to them, "Does this scandalize you?  63 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascending where he was before?  64 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.  65 But there are some among you who do not believe."  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was who should betray him.

66 And he said, "This is why I have said to you, 'No one can come to me unless he is enabled to do so by my Father.'"  67 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him.

68 Jesus therefore said to the Twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"  69 Simon Peter therefore answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast words of everlasting life, 70 and we have come to believe and to know that thou art the Christ, the Son of God."

71 Jesus answered them, "Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?  Yet one of you is a devil."  72 Now he was speaking of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon; for he it was, though one of the Twelve, who would betray him.


31: Ex. 16, 15 f.

45: Isa. 54, 13.