“THE SIGN OF JONAH”
The Pharisees had asked the Lord for a sign, which he refused in the following words: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so the Son of Man shall be three days and three nights IN THE HEART OF THE EARTH,” Matt. 12: 39, 40.
Now to say that this was fulfilled by our Lord’s body being placed in the cave of the rock is trifling; for a rock on the very surface cannot, with any propriety, be called the heart of the earth. It bears no sort of analogy to the invisible position of the heart in the body, to which it is compared. It would more properly be said - if this were its meaning - in the skin of the earth. Nor has it any analogy with that case of Jonah, with which our Saviour institutes a comparison; for it was not in the exterior surface of the whale that Jonah was lodged, but in the fish’s deep and invisible interior. Neither, lastly, could the dead body of Christ be justly called “the Son of Man.” “The Son of Man” denotes the human soul of Christ united to the divinity. For the Scripture, when it speaks of Abraham and of David after death, does not mean by those terms their dead bodies, but their living and yet surviving souls - which are far more truly themselves, than any part of their corruptible bodies could or can be. I conclude, therefore, that this passage not ambiguously signifies, that Christ’s soul should sojourn for three days in the deep and invisible interior of the globe, among the rest of the departed spirits [i.e., disembodied souls] of human kind; for thus only will the analogy between Jonah and the Lord be satisfied. Nor will the conclusion be shaken by a reference to the prophet Jonah, a prophet sent of God to warn an ungodly nation. But as the “greater than Jonah,” he did not refuse his message, nor seek to flee from the face of Jehovah. He resembled, however, Jonah in the storm that lay upon the vessel wherein he sailed; and the advice which he gave to the sailors, that the sea “might be calm unto them,” answers to the prophetic intimations of his death our Lord gave at various times during his life. For what said Jonah when the mariners asked what they should do? “And he said unto them, LIFT ME UP, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you; for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.” Now this was our Lord’s declaration respecting himself – “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, SO MUST THE SON OF MAN BE LIFTED UP, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3: 14, 16. Again – “When ye have LIFTED UP the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He,” John 8: 28. And again - “I, if I be LIFTED UP from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said signifying what death he should die,” John 12: 32, 33. As, then, the storm that lay on Jonah and the mariners typified the storm of God’s wrath; and the vessel and the mariners, the world and its inhabitants; and Jonah’s advice to the mariners to lift him up and cast him into the sea, signified the death he was to die, that the sea might be calm unto them: so the same expression of “lifting up,” signified the Saviour’s death by crucifixion, as the means whereby the wrath of God may be pacified toward us. Jonah thus was “lifted up” [See Hebrew text …] and cast into the sea, “and the sea ceased from her raging.”
Thus Jesus was
cast forth into the
In this situation of terror, Jonah prayed. And from the midst of Hades, Christ also prayed, as many of the Psalms show. It will be further evident from a careful perusal of Jonah’s prayer, that it was not only suited to the prophet, but prophetically written of Christ Jesus. “From the belly of Hades,” saith Jonah, “cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” And so did Jesus cry, and thus was he heard. “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever; yet thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God,” Jonah 2: 6. And these very same words will apply to the Lord Jesus without the change of a letter, according to the doctrine now advocated. And as “the Lord spake to the fish, and it vomited Jonah upon the dry land;” so did God give commandment that Christ’s bonds should be loosed, and himself set free, on the morning of the resurrection, after the same interval of detention as Jonah. I am inclined to believe further, that when Jonah declared that he called to God “out of the belly of Hades,” it was strictly true. For, as I have before observed, the ocean communicates with its springs below - which are called in the second commandment “the waters under the earth:” In the providence of God, then, I believe that the fish that swallowed up Jonah passed through one of these communicating apertures into the abyss of waters beneath the crust of the earth. And when once there, he was in Hades: for by that name, taken generally, is intended all the space contained in the interior of the globe.
This, if admitted, renders Jonah a more evident type of our Lord. And if so, we may see how literally true would be the words of our Lord – “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me.” The breaking open the crust of the earth, and the pouring out of the waters of the great deep beneath, was, I suppose, the cause of the flood, Gen. 7: 11. And to this place again they retired. Hence it is, I presume, that St. Peter thus speaks of the earth - “By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth, at once standing out of [See Greek …] water and in water, perished.” By which (“waters,) the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished” That the earth stands out of water is clear - this effect was the work of the third day. “And God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together in one place: and let the dry land appear. And it was so.” Gen. 1: 9. The other expression is also easily explained on the foregoing supposition. The earth is standing in water, because there is water beneath it, and the crust of the earth rests on the waters beneath. Moreover, the earth is in both states at the same time. It was likewise by the junction of both those bodies of water, - the upper sea and the under sea - that the world was flooded. Hence the sacred writer speaks of the causes of the flood in the plural.
Hence also the Psalmist, describing the state of the earth, says, that God “stretched out the earth above the waters,” Psalm 136: 6. Now I do not see how this can be true on any other supposition. But if so, then any soul that either goes down into Hades or comes up from it, must pass through the mighty waters. And even so is it affirmed in the description of the resurrection of Christ’s people contained in Psalm 18.
“Then the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the Lord, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils. He sent from above, he took me, HE DREW ME OUT OF MANY WATERS,” verse 15, 16.
* * *
“For the revelation awaits an appointed time;
It speaks of the end,
And will not prove false.
Though it linger, wait for it;
It will certainly come,
And will not delay.”
Habakkuk 2: 3.
“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
But He will heal us;
He has injured us
But He will bind up our wounds.
After TWO days He will revive us;
On the THIRD day He will restore us,
That we may live in his presence.
Let us acknowledge the Lord;
As surely as the sun rises,
He will appear…”
Hosea 6: 1-3.
* * *
FEEDING THE FIVE THOUSAND
1-4. ‘After these things, Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which
Gospel supposes the previous appearance of the other three Gospels. It takes for granted our Lord’s return to
Galilee after His sojourn at
could not go up now to
The miracle before us is related by all four Evangelists. But John gives it, by way of introducing the Saviour’s discourse which follows, in which He shows Himself to be the true fulfilment of things given in type under Moses and the prophets.
Our Lord’s power is here virtually compared with that of Moses and Elisha; and His great superiority is manifested.
after being in peril at last through Pharaoh’s anger, leads out
In the Gospel, our Lord, in peril after the slaying of His forerunner by Herod, retreats into a desert region. He crosses the sea, that His power over the water and the land may be seen.
sea is called the ‘
great multitude of old was led by Moses; a multitude is led by our Lord. Though seemingly but a peasant, His powers of
miracle, greater than those of Moses or Elijah, attracted very many to follow
Him. Many brought the sick to be cured.
Jesus had crossed the sea to get some rest for Himself
and the disciples. But the people
followed Him on foot, round the lake.
Many were drawn to see the daily miracles of healing ‘which
to do on the sick.’ These were
tokens of a dispensation of mercy, tar higher than the
miracles of Moses, which were oft inflictions of disease or death on Gentiles,
or offenders of
Saviour then went up to the mountain - probably
This scene may remind us of the feast of the seventy-two elders Horeb (Ex. 24.).
‘The Passover, the chief feast of the Jews, was near.’
Observe, Christians! Feasts are Jewish matters. John and Paul had left Judaism, and its feasts. Paul warns us against them. The Saviour’s absence makes this day to be no feast time. ‘Then shall they fast in those days’ - of the Bridegroom’s absence. The Christian's feast is to come.
again, the Lord’s resemblance to Moses appears.
It was about the time of the Passover, that
This note of the apostle in verses 1-4, is inserted to give us a clue to our Lord’s words in the discourse which follows.
5, 6. ‘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?” And this He said to prove him: for He Himself know what He would do.’
‘A great multitude was coming to Him.’ Perhaps, on
its way to
The Saviour’s mind was bent on feeding this great crowd and He would show that there was no human means of so doing. This point comes to light from the question to Philip, and his answer.
question we are told did not arise from Jesus’ ignorance, but was uttered to
put Philip to the proof. Moses, in like circumstances in the desert, was at his
wits’ end. Hence, the Lord appears on
His behalf to give
Philip’s reply shows the destitution of necessary means. It would require a far greater sum than they had, to give but a mouthful or two to so great a number. Here we see the grace of the new dispensation. Our Lord deals with His disciples as friends; and speaks to them of the circumstances in which they are found.
7-9. ‘Philip answered Him, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread are not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto Him, “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” ’
Philip looks only to ordinary means, and discerns not the supernatural resources of Christ.
It seems probable that the lad was a settler, or baker’s boy, who followed the multitude in the hope of selling his wares. The miracle was closely connected with the blessing of the provision.
in like circumstances, doubts even the power of God to fulfil His word (Num. 11: 17-22). Here our Lord
takes the place, not of Moses in unbelief, but of Jehovah; spreading the feast,
as of old, for
It was the necessity of the multitude that drew forth this miracle. ‘Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.’ When human means fail, we may look for the interference of God.
We see that the Saviour interests Himself and His Apostles even in the bodily necessities of men. And the desert the place of difficulty, is also the place of God’s glory.
How apt we are to limit ourselves in all cases by visible means, and how little we regard the infinite wisdom, power, and goodness of God! Philip looks at the want of money; Andrew at the lack of food. We look at means. When they fail what can we do? It becomes us to trace our daily food to God’s Land. Each creature is sanctified to us by the word of God and prayer.
In spite of the manifest want of provisions in the desert, infidels have supposed, in order to get rid of the miracle, that Jesus and the disciples shared what they had with the multitude. So that others, led by His example, did the same; and all were fed. This is all fancy. They forget to tell us, why then did the people think Him Messiah, and wish to make Him King?
In what follows our Lord is tacitly compared to Elisha (2 Kings 4: 42-44). A friend of the prophet brings him bread the firstfruits, twenty barley loaves and some ears of corn. But, says the steward, ‘What are they to set before a hundred men?’ The prophet replies, ‘Thus saith the Lord, “They shall and leave thereof.”’
In our Gospel, Andrew announces to our Lord the state of destitution in which this great assembly was found. There were, as far as they knew, only five barley cakes and two small fishes (making up together the perfect seven): but what were they among so many?
Out of these should spring the supply of their need - a lesson to us, to use what we have, however inadequate apparently the means.
But here a new difficulty arises - How shall the food be meted out? If the supply were to be given from Christ’s hand directly, what pushing and thrusting to get the food, and then to get outside of the multitude that was still hungry; with the danger of having the portion given snatched away, in the struggle to get out of the crowd. Here was a serious difficulty - but so simply, wisely, and effectually was it met, that most pass it by, and do not even notice it.
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.’
meets the emergency by bidding the guests to seat themselves. They were to be waited on by His servants,
the disciples, in place of having to seek their food. They are seated on the green grass, for it is
early spring. Later in the year, all
greenness is gone through the great heat.
We learn also, that there was order in the arrangements of the guests. They are seated, in ranks, by fifties in a
company. This rendered them easier to be
waited on: and quite easy was it to count the numbers. There were a hundred companies of fifty
each! Here again was a tacit reference
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.’
Our Lord, before serving the food, gives thanks in the presence of all the multitude. They can see Him, for He is on higher ground. He gives thanks, for He is Son of Man, and traces all the benefits He enjoys to God His Father. He does so to teach disciples to do the same. Without God’s blessing, there would not be food, or we might be unable to partake it, if we had it.
Then He distributes to the guests at His vast table. How the bread was multiplied, we know not. But the Saviour made the task of waiting on the multitude to devolve on His disciples. That was the higher lot; for, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Thus also He would leave us a lesson, instructing us to supply, as far as we may, the spiritual need of the people about us.
He gives ‘likewise of the fishes, as much as they desired.’
This point was very important in John’s day, and will be again. For Christians will have to contend against a system, professing to be more spiritual and gracious than Christianity, yet asserting principles destructive both of the Old Testament and the New.
‘Is it lawful to kill creatures for our food? It is bad enough to slay the herds and flocks which man feeds; but is it not much worse to go down to the waters, and thence attract by craft, or take by force, the harmless inhabitants of the waters? Is it not a proof of barbarism? Is it not an offence against the Creator? Did He make creatures for us to destroy? Does not this diet, not only spring from evil, but increase sin? If man fed on a vegetable diet alone, would He not be purer, and more healthfull, and more merciful? Does not this preying on living creatures make him crafty and bloodthirsty? Yes! If you wish to know God, ought you not to abstain from practices which may be permitted in a sense to the ignorant and common rabble?’
Thus will evil spirits, inspiring some of the sons of men, lead many in the latter day to abandon the word and doctrine of God. In the matter of food Satan deceived our first parents. On the same ground will he assault men again in the latter day, as his plans ripen; and will bring them into collision with their God and Saviour.
It becomes us then, to be aware of his devices, and to know the poisonous quality of this seemingly merciful and beautiful doctrine.
We must reply then in substance as follows. The use of animal food is indeed a sign of
the entry of sin. For only the vegetables of earth were at first given to man
as his food. But after sin had entered,
and after the judgment of the flood had (apparently) altered the system of the
world, and shortened human life, the Most High bestowed all the animal creation
on man to form part of his support (Gen. 9: 3).
Under the Law, God narrowed the kinds of animals allowed as sustenance to
The Son of God made flesh still continues His sanction to the use of animal food. He eats of animal food; He gives it to others. He bids Peter take a hook, and catch a fish. Even after His resurrection our Lord partakes of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. Thus again, He allows the bees to be killed by hundreds in order to get their honey. And His last miracle in this Gospels a miraculous draught of fishes, and a breakfast on them with His disciples.
Those, therefore, who call in question or deny the lawfulness of eating flesh, must break with both the Old Testament and the New. They cannot be disciples of Jesus, or even of Moses. And indeed to this destructive doctrine there belongs a farther reach of mischief than at first appears. If it be not lawful to slay and eat of animals, neither is it lawful to slay them in sacrifice. Under Moses the two things went together. Some of the sacrifices were in part consumed on the altar, as a sweet savour to God; part was eaten by the offerer and the priests. If then to slay living creatures be sinful, the whole religious system of Moses is sinful too. This will also be asserted. There will be a refusal of the Mosaic Law as bloody and cruel. There must then be a refusal of the God who gave it. Thus, then, the way of approach to God by blood, or the way of atonement common to both the Old Testament and the New, must be set aside. And then we have reached what Scripture speaks of as ‘the way of Cain.’ He would not offer sacrifices of blood. ‘It was impossible that a merciful God could take delight in the agonies and death of an innocent creature.’ He resisted therefore the true way of approach to Jehovah. Confident in his fleshly reasoning, he dared try his system in God’s presence, and was refused; but would not yield.
So it will be in the latter day (Jude 11). How does Cain’s example expose the hypocrisy of the doctrine! He who is so gentle as to refuse to shed blood at God’s command, is so exasperated at the Lord’s acceptance of his brother as to slay him! Thus does this system - while it refuses to own the Fall, the sin which dwells in man ever since, and the only way of approach to God the righteous - manifest in black colours the reality of what it denies (1 Tim. 3: 16; 4: 1).
The two things - the peculiarities of our present dispensation, and the falling away from them, are thus brought into contact in the context.
12, 13. ‘When they were filled, he said unto His disciples, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, remained over and above unto them that had eaten.’
the Saviour fed 5000. Thus our Lord fulfilled
His word – ‘Seek
Though the supply was miraculous, there is to be no waste. This is a principle of daily application, embodied in the saying – ‘Waste not, want not.’
Thus, too, the reality of the miracle was substantiated. Thus it was brought into contact and comparison with the miracle of Elisha. Something was to be left after the meal of a hundred men on twenty barley cakes, but how much we are not told.
Herein see the superiority of Jesus to Moses in the supply of manna. Then there was ‘nothing over,’ however much, or however little, a man gathered. Moreover, it would not keep till the next day, save for the Sabbath (Ex. 16: 16-20). To give is the way by which faith gains. ‘There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.’
Here while the whole provision could at first have been easily put into one basket, the remainder, after the repast of 5000, is twelve baskets full. In the twelve baskets is doubtless a tacit reference to God’s future supply of the twelve tribes, when, in the day of restoration, He shall take them again to their own land under the conduct and rule of the true Son of David; and to His feeding the fugitives of Israel in the desert during the days of Antichrist (Rev. 12: 6-14).
The effect on the multitudes is to lead them to Jewish thoughts and desires of the flesh. Such a leader would be an excellent one to follow; for He carried with Him a supply like Elijah’s; and who could withstand the onset of troops backed by miracle? The Saviour foresaw this danger, and refused to acquiesce in being so made king. With wisdom therefore, and simplicity, He disarranges their plans. He sends away the disciples, and Himself withdraws to the Mount.
14, 15. ‘Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said – “This is of a truth the Prophet, that is to come into the world.” When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him king, He departed again into the mountain Himself alone.’
They are more struck with this miracle, than with all the previous ones. It came home to every bosom; and the greatness of the multitude raised the general feeling of admiration. This was, then, the prophet like Moses; the prophet of whom Moses wrote. He could provide for them always, as did Moses, without labour on their part. Why not make Him their king and deliverer from the Romans? They do not see Him to be more than man; or greater than Moses. They go only as far as flesh and blood can (Matt. 16: 14-17). And Jesus is not content therewith.
They seem to have felt obscurely, that the doctrine of the Saviour, and His general bearing, were such, that He would not of His own will, and unless compelled, accept their proposal. But Christ’s kingly days were not to come till His priestly-sacrifice and work had been wrought. Christ is to be King in resurrection, and thus to be supreme above all former kings. But death - the death for sin, and through sin - is to precede.
Jesus perceives by divine intimation, their counsel; and would set it aside. He would not take the kingdom from Satan. Now He will not receive the honour from men - as He said. Their thoughts were fleshly and low, even as when the nation desired a king, in the days of Saul. Christ was to be God’s king. ‘Yet have I set my King, on My holy Mount of Zion.’ He would wait till His Father gave it Him. So are Christians to wait. To receive the world’s honours, and to reign now, is to be exalted out of due time (1 Cor, 4.). Was it not a wonderful corroboration of the wisdom of this proceeding of our Lord’s, and proof of the evil heart of man, that He is accused (like Joseph) of doing the very thing which He here, of set purpose, refuses! The Saviour then, disconcerts the plan. He sends away the apostles. They would, no doubt, have been glad to have helped on the scheme of the multitude. And He Himself then retreats to the solitude of the Mount, to pray. In God’s wisdom, the name of the Mount is not given us.
16-18. ‘Now when even was come, His
disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into the ship, and were going
over the sea towards
We have next the scene on the sea. The disciples, like men in general, are unable, effectually, to contend with the obstacles of wind and wave. They toil in rowing, against increasing winds and waves. Though the Saviour had given the order to cross the water, they meet only with difficulty. We must not judge by circumstances, when we have the guidance of God’s commands. It did not prove Judas to be right, that when he went to sell our Lord, he found the council sitting, and willing at once to agree to his terms.
19: 1 ‘So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they beheld Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship, and they were afraid.’
They were expecting our Lord; for He had given them (Mark 6: 45) the intimation, that after the departure of the multitude, He would return to them.
All night, till the fourth watch, they contend with small result against the increasing force. At length the Lord, who has beheld them from above (though they saw not Him), descends the Mount, and walks the sea. He is not detained, as they are. He draws near them, for He meant to come to them. They think it must be some apparition, and are affrighted, For how can man walk the waters? He may swim in calm water, but how deeply he is immersed!
The Saviour reassures them. ‘It is I: fear not!’ How often that which we much feared, has brought us much of blessing! ‘All things are working together for good’ to those who are God’s. The Lord is in the troubles with us. But this applies to those alone who are Christ’s.
Then they are most willing to receive Him into the ship,* as before they wore willing to get out of His way. And as soon as He touches the ship, it has arrived at its port. Here is a new miracle. They had advanced but half-way across, with all their striving; but as soon as the Saviour joins them, at once the goal is reached. The bark receives more from Christ than Christ receives from the bark.
* Here is the answer to those who would make John at variance with the other three gospels. [The Greek word …] refers to the point of Jesus’ entry on the vessel. so that [the other Greek word …] means what the Evangelist supposes.
In this incident, the Saviour is tacitly compared with some of the great of old.
1. With Aaron. Moses bids him and the seventy elders stay on the top of the Mount, till he comes back. But Aaron’s faith and patience fail. He goes down the Mount, and there he is made the tool of the unbelieving multitude, and becomes the priest of an idol. His first unbelief prepares for his last crime, beneath which he had perished but for the prayer of the Mediator. But our Lord goes up the Mount, and, in converse with His God; escapes the pressure of unbelief from the ignorant crowd below.
2. With Moses. We have noticed it concerning the manna. But there is a further comparison. Moses and his people are shut in by the sea in front, and the host of foes is behind. Then on God’s command taking and lifting his rod, the waters part by a strong wind, the sea-floor is dried, and the people pass through, while the enemy is drowned; after the Lord has, in the morning watch, looked out on the foe, and troubled them.
Our Lord, un-possessed of Moses’ rod, does not open the waters for others to pass through, but Himself walked on them. This was a greater miracle than opening them. Job (9: 8) speaks of this walking the waves as the act of God alone. Jesus proves, by Peter’s example, His power of communicating this miraculous ability to others. But as yet He does not try thus the disciples’ faith. It is in the morning watch that He comes, not to destroy foes, but comfort struggling friends. It is the day of grace.
Moses does not bring
3. We should compare our Lord also with Jonah. He flees from the command of the Most High, for his mission will not be to his own glorification. Then comes the storm, as a judgment sent on his account; and in it he is swallowed up. Here the storm comes, rages only while Jesus is away, and ceases at His word. He does not flee from doing the Lord’s will as Jonah did, but self-denyingly performs it. He is not swallowed up by the storm, but rules both wave and wind. He leads the mariners to their desired haven.
The mariners of old were obliged to cast Jonah out of the ship against their desire. The disciples, their fear once assuaged, wish to receive Christ into the ship, and His presence stills the storm, and brings them to land. Thus the Saviour puts forth the attributes of the Godhead. His power over sea and wave is attested by Psalm 107: 23-31. But few perceive who it is that does so, though Matthew tells us, that on this occasion the ship’s crew worshipped Him, saying‑ ‘Truly Thou art the Son of God,’ Matt. 14: 33.
This scene is also typical. The Saviour
and His disciples separated at last at the
We are now introduced to the perplexity of the multitude left behind. What had become of Jesus? They do not find Him on the mountain. He had not crossed in the boat in which the disciples left, they knew. Where then could He be? The sea stretched between Him and His Apostles, and without a boat they esteem it impossible for any to traverse the sea. What were they to do?
They at length made up their minds to take the same route which the Apostles had done. As the Master would doubtless rejoin His disciples, in finding them they would find Him. To further this design, there came boats the next morning from Tiberias, on the western side of the lake, and these vessels came to the spot where the multitude had been fed. If they would seek Jesus therefore, they had better cross the lake in these vessels, than travel on foot all the way round the lake by land. After, apparently, a further search round the spot where they were, they embark, cross the lake, and find to their surprise the Saviour at the further side already!
They express that surprise, but Jesus does not unfold to them the history of the preceding night. He sought not glory of men. He was about to state truths, which instead of leading them to Him, would drive them away. Thus was fulfilled Psalm 77: 19, ‘Thy way is in the sea, and Thy path in the great waters, and Thy footsteps were not known.’
But how could 5,000 be transported across in a few small boats?
This supposes what is untrue and unlikely, that they all stayed at the spot in spite of Jesus’ dismissing them. It was only some of the most hardy and most bent on carrying out their plans who stayed there. The vessels from Tiberias carried probably those who hoped to find Jesus on the eastern side of the lake. But when they learned He was there no longer, they were at once ready to depart, and to take others back with them. The limitation supposed in this answer to the difficulty raised, is actually given by John. ‘When the multitude that was standing on the other side of the sea.’ They are opposed to those who at evening went away. The others stayed, because they hoped for our Lord’s return. The motives for their tarrying are first given, and then we are told why and how they departed, on their expectation being defeated. It is noticed that the Saviour’s blessing had created the abundance. The reference is to Prov. 10: 22, ‘The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it.’ Here also He is called ‘the Lord.’
circumstances are the groundwork of the discourse in
On finding that our Lord had crossed the sea in a way which they could not comprehend, they asked for an explanation of the time and manner in which He had effected it. But He would not gratify their curiosity.
The Saviour, in the discourse which follows, is bent on removing from the minds of the people who were following Him, the low motives which were actuating them in so doing, and these He points out. It was right to follow Him, if they did so on the higher and spiritual motives which centred in Himself. They call Him, ‘Rabbi.’ They see in Him only the Teacher; the Scripture calls Him ‘Lord’ (verse 23).
26, 27. ‘Jesus answered them and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are seeking Me, not because ye see signs, but because ye ate of the loaves and were filled. Work not for the food which perishes, but for the food which abides unto eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give you: for Him God the Father hath sealed.” ’
1. Jesus is not flattered by their seeking Him. He discerns the low motive. He judged not by the sight of His eyes. He saw that they came to Him, not from motives which He could approve; but for reasons, which when removed, they would leave Him entirely. He did not desire these worldly followers, and would test them. God is a searcher of the motives of the heart. He would show to the sinner himself, if by any means He might bring men off from trusting themselves.
They were seeking Him, not even because He was the worker of signs; but because they wished to live a life of ease, without labour, and without pay. But this miracle was only a sign - it was the witness to something greater, which it signified. The Jews were resting in the sign, not regarding the further truth it signified, nay, and the Person whom it was designed to magnify as the leader and feeder of God’s people. They had no hunger of soul; felt no need of such a Spiritual Saviour as our Lord. Provided they had the bread of earth, they cared not for that of heaven. We, too, are in like danger of overlooking the Giver in His gifts. Jesus is now the feeder of a spiritual people to whom earth is a wilderness.
Is it not true still, that many are led to Church and Chapel for the sake of worldly advantages, not spiritual food? God is the weigher of motives, the searcher of hearts. This seeking Christ that He might fill their stomachs anew, was not pleasing to Him. He did not intend continually so to feed them. But if the worldly food was worthy of such diligent search and labour, how much more the spiritual food!
This last nutriment Jesus came down from heaven on purpose to give. For this food would abide for ever. It was with a view to their seeking the spiritual, that the material feast had been presented. And they wholly missed His mind, and His Father’s, if they did not seek and find it. Jesus had power, not only on the food which feeds the body, but on that which feeds the soul; yea, the reception of which for the first time, gives eternal life. This He would give, in accordance with the Prophet’s word (Is. 55: 1); and in opposition to the world, which only sells its food. And yet the given food is immeasurably Superior to the bought food.
They were not wrong in coming to Him directly, and not through the mediation of His Apostles. They came to the right Person, but not for the right thing. They might daily feed on loaves made by miracle, and yet perish eternally. They could not perish for ever, if they fed of the true bread. It would abide in them ever. Jesus does not forbid their labouring to gain their daily bread. He came not to repeal the original sentence of the garden on sinners. The New Testament as well as the Old commands to labour. ‘Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour,’ Eph. 4: 28. Paul set the example (1 Cor. 4: 12) when he might have been maintained by others (1 Thess. 2: 9; 4: 11; 2 Thess. 3: 8-12).
The Giver was ‘the Son of Man.’ The Spirit in John keeps in view the great object of this Gospel, which is, as He tells us, to prove in various ways that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,’ 20: 31.
On Gnostic principles our Lord should have said-, ‘What the Christ the Son of God shall give you.’ For they divided Jesus Christ into two persons; affirming that to be true of the one Person, which was not of the other. Their ‘Christ’ never became really man. He came as a spirit upon the man Jesus. But the Christ of their theory was never really ‘Son of Man.’ He came upon a man after his birth, and left him before his death, thus undoing the great scheme of God in atonement, wrecking all Christian hopes, and giving a new and false view of the character of God. To overthrow this error the Evangelist says generally through this Gospel – ‘Jesus’ said or did this or that. Yet by that title He shows that He means the Lord the Son of God.
‘The Father hath sealed Him (I mean) God.’ The
miracles Jesus wrought, and the way in which He wrought them, so different from
that of Moses and the prophets, were intended to fix attention on His Person,
as superior to all others; and to commend Him to their notice, as Son of
God. The Father commended Him to
displayed Himself to
28, 29. ‘They said, therefore, to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said unto them, “This is work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He sent.”
The men of the Law understand Jesus literally. To them Moses’ Law was a system of labour by which eternal life was to be won. Moses commanded one set of works, and they expected Jesus to set up some new line of ceremonies, to be observed by those who wished to know and to please God. ‘The works of God’ are the works acceptable to, and commanded by God; just as the works of men are those commanded by, and acceptable to men. ‘Salvation is by our works and deservings,’ was the imagination of the men of Law; in spite of John Baptist’s teaching, both by word and by rite, the contrary. The men of nature and of Law cannot comprehend, and will not receive, grace. They fix their eyes on what they are to do for God as the price of salvation. They do not look to what He has done for them, which only waits their acceptance.
Saviour then with strong words seeks to disabuse them of their error. There was one thing which they were being
called on to accept, and until they had done so, none of their works wore aught
but dead works, unacceptable to the living God.
The great test was before them: would they accept Jesus as the Son of
God, the sent One, foretold by Moses and the Prophets? All turned on that, and all turns on that
now. No ceremonies or deeds that
Is faith then a ‘work’? No! It is in contrast to works. But our Lord uses it by way of allusion to their question. Instead of the many works taught by Moses, Jesus commands faith in Himself. Till He is accepted for what He presents Himself, no work acceptable to the Most High can be wrought. The Gospel of God, providing righteousness for the unrighteous, has come in. It has taken the place of man’s righteousness as measured by Law. This text is by the apostle Paul expanded, to teach us that we are called not to work out our own righteousness, but to accept Christ’s; not to build an ark, but to enter into an ark already built. Have you received Christ, reader, as the worker of an accepted work, to which you can add nothing, which you are called on to receive? This is the Son’s call on unbelievers – ‘Believe!’ This is the one great duty, until which all working is vain and displeasing, as the result of unbelief.
‘Must not the Most High be pleased with those embroidered dresses, and gold and jewels, and flowers and fruits, set on His altar in His house?’
No! Is it wrought by unbelievers, it is a dead work, hateful to the living God. It is a vain busying themselves, by those who overlook or refuse the Son of God. If wrought by believers, it is vain worship displeasing to God, a turning back to the shadows of Law, from which the Gospel was designed to set men free (Gal. 4.).
Of course this is not meant to stay those who already believe, from working for God. That is their duty and their privilege. Jesus Himself delighted to do the Father’s will. It was Paul’s privilege to work for Christ. ‘Faith without works is idler [dead]’. This shows the vast gulf which lies between the men of
unbelief, and the men of faith. This must be the line evermore drawn, and
kept strong and deep. It is one which
the Most High Himself draws. Those on
the side of unbelief are enemies of God on their way to perdition. Those on the side of faith are His saved
ones, His sons, who can now, as alive, as cleansed, as accepted through
Christ, begin to serve Him. Belief in
Moses was the testing point of Israel in
30, 31. ‘They said then – “What sign showest Tnou therefore? What dost Thou work? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, Bread out of the heaven gave He them to eat.” ’
This was an evident comparison of our Lord with Moses, and to His disadvantage. Jesus had given them only one meal of common earthly food. Moses had given their nation heavenly food for forty years! If He wished to be equal with Moses, and to be obeyed as their ancient leader was, He had much to do yet.
32, 33. ‘Jesus said therefore to them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, not Moses gave you the bread out of the heaven; but My Father is giving you the true bread out of the heaven. For the bread of God is that which cometh down out of the heaven, and giveth life to the world.”’
Jesus’ reply admits in part, in part refuses their statement. (1) It was not Moses that gave the manna, but God. (2) It was not the true bread out of the heaven of heavens from the Father. It did not meet the entire necessities of man, as a being possessed of spirit as well as soul, and destined to endless life. (3) God was now manifesting Himself, not as Jehovah, the God of Israel: but as the Father, as displayed in the Son. (4) The mission of Moses was but to one people, and only to show man’s condemnation under Law. Now God was about to give life to those unable to earn aught but death. And therefore the salvation of Jesus was for the wide world. All are alike guilty, and unable to save themselves; all alike are met now by the exhibition of His Saviour.
Jesus touched further on Psalm
78., there was much in it to confirm His saying. For the Psalmist declares that these ancient
God, My Father, ‘is giving,’ in opposition to the past bestowal of the manna on their fathers. The bread of heaven now is open to us. Let us seek the manna daily!
Ver. 33 shows that the greater gift is connected with a more excellent name of God than was known to Moses. It is the gift of ‘the Father,’ for (1) it comes down out of the real heaven, and (2) bestows life. Here we have presented to us its superior (1) origin, and its superior (2) effect. Ordinary food comes out of the earth, and is perishable in itself, and in its effects on the frame. This is not so. The working for this better food is the coming diligently to Him who gives. How many work for this? How many are using their best efforts, only in order to earthly bread! How unsatisfactory is such a life, soon quenched in death, and leaving only sins and judgment behind it. Earthly bread can only continue mortal life. Heavenly bread gives a life which is eternal. Much is it needed, for the world is under sin and death.
Probably it should be translated ‘that came down,’ and not ‘he.’ It is the ambiguity of the expression which led the Jews to say what they did in the next verse. Not till the 35th verse does the Saviour say it was Himself. Our Lord is silently carrying out a comparison with the manna of the Old Testament of which they made their boast, and is showing the superiority of the new bread to the old.
bread was not, in the highest sense, ‘the bread of life.’ It did indeed, as ordinary bread does, sustain life already existing. But it did not, as the true bread, impart life.
For none can accept Christ by faith without receiving spiritual
life. It ‘gives life to the world.’ For the world is dead. Here, though the Jew saw it not,
34. ‘Then said they unto Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.”’
Jews then ask for this heavenly bread, not perceiving our Lord’s meaning. The case is parallel with that of the woman of
The manna came down out of the lower heaven: Christ out of the heaven of heavens, the Father’s abode. Till Jesus left the heaven and became man, this bread was not visible, tangible, or eatable by us. And after Christ is come to us, we must come to Him in heart.
35. ‘Jesus said unto them, “I am the bread of life: He that cometh to Me shall not hunger, and He that believeth on Me shall not thirst.”’
true antitype of the manna is a Divine Person.
But he who would experience His power to save must accept Him. Here is a reference to the manna. Vainly did it fall around the camp, if
The reception of Christ takes away that restless seeking after some good on which our souls may rest; which all the unconverted feel. Nothing will satisfy the desires of men but the filling the soul with God; and God is only known in His Son. The powerlessness of earthly things to satisfy is proved at large by Solomon in Ecclesiastes.
Here is a reference to the passage Is. 49: 10.
Jesus was then present visibly and bodily, yet He has to say to those even who sought and came to Him bodily, that they had not yet come to Him in spirit.
36. ‘But I told you that ye have even seen Me, and believe not.’
They said – ‘What sign showest Thou then that we may see and believe Thee?’ (ver. 30). Jesus assures them that the two were far apart. They had seen, but without faith.
The manna was wilderness food. It ceased when they entered the land. So Christ would let us know Himself as our support through our journey to the Father’s house.
was not thus with
then reproaches the men of that day, that even when He was set before them,
visibly and tangibly, they would not accept Him.
We who believe, may rejoice at the contrast between ourselves and the Jews. We are blessed, for we have not seen, yet do believe. We believe in Jesus as the Anointed One of God, our salvation.
Many think that if they had seen Christ and His miracles, and heard from His own lips what we do now, they would have believed. They are mistaken. If they will not credit the good and sufficient evidence presented to us, neither would they have believed then. It is the distrustful heart of enmity which is at fault.
‘Ye believe not.’ Here was their sin. Here the ground of just reproach then, and of eternal perdition hereafter. The Lord of wisdom traces their sin up to their evil will, and there leaves it. Here is the ground of damnation. Hyper-Calvinists speak in terms of scorn of all calling on the non-elect to believe. They have even coined a term of ridicule. With them it is ‘duty faith,’ which is demanded of the world in general.
Let us then look a moment at the matter. Faith is due to God, or nothing is. He is the True Witness; and ought not a true witness to be believed? He speaks the truth with sufficient evidence. And ought not the truth manifested in its evidence to be received? Is it not an offence to man to refuse to believe him, when he is true in character, and in a special instance speaks the truth? Much more is it an offence against God, and He feels it to be an insult, when men will not accept His testimony. If we receive the testimony of men, how much more that of God? (John 10: 25).
Moreover, God puts in His claim for faith. He commands all men to believe and to show the repentance which follows on faith. Let me then offer a few texts on three points closely connected with the subject.
1. Our Lord calls for faith, and reproaches for unbelief those who do not render it and accept His testimony – ‘Repent ye, and believe the Gospel,’ Mark 1: 15; ‘0 faithless and perverse generation,’ Matt. 17: 17. Also in Acts 17.; Matt. 21: 32; Luke 22: 67. This call applies both to the entire unbelief of the unconverted, and to the partial unbelief of the converted (Luke 8: 25; Mark 26: 14-16; Heb. 3: 12). ‘He that believeth not, hath made God a liar, because he believed not the record that God gave of His Son,’ 1 John 5: 10.
2. Our Lord pronounces unbelief the chief of sins (John 16: 9). Those who believe not are guilty, and already condemned because of it (John 3: 18-36; 12: 37-48).
3. It will be the just reason of eternal damnation (John 8: 24). ‘He that believeth not shall be damned,’ Mark 16: 16. It is part of the statement of the Gospel. See also Luke 12: 46; Acts 13: 41; Rom. 11: 20; Rev. 21: 8. God is so displeased at this unbelief, that power is given to Satan at last to deceive to perdition those who refuse to believe (2 Thess. 2: 9-13.)
Faith then is really a duty to be urged on all men, without which they will perish in their sins.
‘But then the Scripture says also of the non-elect, that they “cannot believe.” Why then do you urge a man to do what he cannot do?’
The answer is very important, and though it has been given before, I repeat it; there are two ‘cannots.’
One of the two is a good and sufficient excuse; and the other is no valid excuse at all. It is for want of distinguishing these two ‘cannots,’ that the minds of most are in a perpetual fog on this great question.
‘Where the will is wrong,’ (John 5: 44), there is no excuse. Even thus it is with the refusal of the unbeliever to credit God. What hinders is a perverse will, and for this he will be lost. It is his sin: here lies the reason for his damnation. If this want of inclination were a good excuse, the devil would be the most excusable of all sinners; for ‘he cannot cease sinning;’ that is, his soul is so evil, that despite all God’s claims, calls, threats, he is fully bent on transgressing. If this were an excuse, the more unbelieving and disobedient any becomes, the less he ought to be blamed by men, or punished by God.
We, however, joyfully own, that beyond God’s claim on men for faith, there is a gift-faith which is possessed by the elect, the called according to His purpose (Acts xiii. 48).
37. 38. ‘Everything that the Father giveth Me shall reach Me, and him that cometh to Me, I will not cast out. For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.’
But though they would not come to Jesus, He would not be left destitute of saved ones. The Father, who has absolute control over all His creatures, who changes evil natures to good at His pleasure, has determined to give some to Christ, and that from eternity, as the reward of His great work. These shall not fail to come to Christ. Here the word used is a different one from what follows in the next clause. It is stronger. It means, that they shall not only start on their way to Him, but shall arrive at Himself.
The expression used is singular. ‘Everything’ - both here, and in ver. 39. May we not say that the saved are here looked at as a mass? Is there not a reference in these words to Noah and that wondrous day, when the saved of all the creation travelled to the deliverer, reached him, and entered his ark? There was a secret action of the Creator there on the will of the creature, and they answered that drawing and were saved.
God disposes of all things according to His own will. He elected from all eternity whom He would; not on foreseen grace, but according to His own counsels of renewing the souls of whom He would.
The Jews thought to prove an utter contrariety between Jesus and God. He affirms, on the contrary, the entire unanimity between Himself and the Father. He was waiting on the Father’s will concerning those who would believe, and come to Him; and those who would not.
Verse 37 gives us the success of Christ’s work. Despite all the ignorance and enmity of men and devils, God is supreme. He renews the nature, and then the will is won. The Jews gloried in their independence. It would be their ruin.
God has given His elect to Christ: in due time He calls them. He attracts them to the Son, He teaches them. He leaves them not, while any part of them is in captivity to evil. His ships, despite pirates and rocks, quicksands and storms, shall make the port of everlasting life.
Here is absolute election. God’s chosen, given to Christ before the ages, shall not fail of eternal salvation. The Most High intends the end, uses the means, and changes the perverse nature to obedience. God makes willing the saved. Here Jesus abases their proud thoughts. Their disdain of Him was the result of their not being God’s chosen.
‘I will not cast out.’ As the king does the unworthy guest in the parable of the Wedding-feast. The Father and the Son are of one mind concerning the preciousness of these jewels of salvation, and Christ will take care they shall not be lost. From the moment they come to Christ He sustains them, as being Himself the bread of life; and will not cease to care for them, till He has rescued them eternally, and inducted them into bodies of resurrection glory.
All others choose the way of death against every call, motive, threat. Any who will come to Christ shall be saved. But all, save the elect, prefer to remain away. While the perdition of the lost is of their own choice, the salvation of the saved is the result of God’s gift. The rolling stone once in motion goes down to the bottom with still increasing speed. But if you would lift it to the top of the hill, you must first stop it; and then, against the force of its natural tendency, roll it upward.
not casting out whoever comes, is a word of comfort to
the sinner who draws near with trembling to Christ. He has perplexed himself with the vain
question – ‘Am I one of God’s elect?’ which he
cannot solve himself, or anyone for him.
So he ventures to come ‘just as he is.’ Then his coming proves Him (1) elect of the
Father, and (2) accepted of the Son. All
are called to come to Christ, are commanded, and bound to come (Acts 17: 30). They will
perish if they do not. Past sin, in
place of being a barrier against coming to Christ, is the warrant to go to Him. What would you think of one ill with fever who
should say- ‘I wish to go to the doctor, but will he
receive me? For I
am so ill!’ To be sure!
What are doctors for? Are you
first to cure yourself? and then to go for the
doctor’s help when you don’t want it? What was the warrant for
Indeed the Saviour’s will in this matter was subordinate. He was the servant and agent of the Father. What then was that will?
39, 40. ‘Now this is the will of Him that sent Me, that of everything which He bath given Me I should lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholdeth the Son and believeth on Him, have eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day.’
We can in some measure understand how this discourse fretted and threw off the Jews from Christ. They did not hear from Him what they wished; they did hear what displeased them. They were ready to welcome a new Moses and Joshua combined; one that would enact new political and ceremonial laws, that would feed them by miracle, embody them as an army, and lead them forth to victory over the Gentiles.
But for the preparatory work, which must lay the foundation of all their hopes, they were quite unready. At the deeper truths, about man universally and the new aspect of God which the Gospel and its atonement brings, they recoiled.
The divine greatness of Him who appeared in so lowly a form as far as regarded the world, they were unwilling to credit. And yet there was such divine power put forth, as kept them in suspense.
‘Hath given me.’ From eternity. Here is a reference to Is. 8: 18, ‘Behold, I, and the children whom the Lord hath given me.’ The drawing, on the other hand, takes place in time.
The Saviour spoke before of the raising of all the dead. ‘Now He speaks of the resurrection of the believers of this dispensation; therefore, He adds, ‘at the last day.’
The Saviour is clothed with sufficient power to carry to a complete and eternal deliverance, the elect of the Father.
‘Every one which beholdeth the Son, and believeth on Him.’
The Jews saw Christ and believed not. The saved must contemplate Christ, and believe. Eternal life is already begun in the soul. It will come to completion, at the rising up of the body. Christ consoles Himself amidst the cavilling unbelief of Israel, that it was because they were not the chosen of God, but only seed of the fallen Adam, and of the old serpent; and thus they gainsayed Him.
He so greatly values the Father’s gift, that He can but receive and welcome every one that comes to Him.
This putting off the hopes of His followers to another day beyond this present life, was another stumbling-block. The rewards of obedience to Moses were here and now in this earth, and during this life. In these words of our Lord it is supposed that death was to intervene, and that He was to raise from the dead His followers by millions; a thing which neither Moses nor Joshua in a single instance did.
‘I will raise him up.’
It appears, then, that for the disciple to abide in the spirit-state [i.e., the disembodied-state of the soul in the underworld], would be a loss to him, and to Christ. Christ’s work is to restore the whole man - body and soul - out of the hand of death. The Father acts in this matter, as the Great Originator; the Son, as the Executor of the Father’s counsels. Divine power is needed for this promised resurrection. Who but one of Almighty power and universal knowledge, could recognize the millions that are His, and by a word raise them?
Observe the marks of being given by the Father to the Son. The first, and supreme point is, the beholding in Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, coequal with the Father. Here the Jews failed. They saw the Lord with their bodily eyes, but though evidences of His dignity were given in various ways, they would not accept the testimony. As Isaiah says, ‘They saw, but understood not.’ They owned Jesus as the man, but as ‘the Son’ in His own sense, and in the sense of the Father, they refused.
did not believe on Him. As if Israel,
when Moses came to them, had agreed to confess him, as the son of Pharaoh’s
daughter; but refused to own him as one sent by Jehovah from the burning bush
to deliver them out of Pharaoh’s hand.
God would have regarded
They perceived that He claimed an origin beyond that of other men. They ask no explanation; they undertake no investigation, but condemn at once, on the first aspect of the matter. ‘Why then did not our Lord, knowing their ideas, and the contrary truth, not expound it to them?’ Because they were not sincere enquirers, and would have stumbled yet the more at His disclosures. We are not to throw our pearls before swine.
This resurrection at the last day then is the result of eating the true manna, that is of believing on Jesus as the Son of God. Four times over in this chapter is it brought before us. Now eternal life is only to be enjoyed in its fulness in resurrection.
‘But (some one may say) does not this resurrection on the last day imply, that all believers will enjoy ‘the thousand years’?’
If so, these passages would be in contradiction with John 3: 3-5, and other texts of the other Gospels. All believers will indeed be raised by Christ at His Coming; but whether they enjoy the thousand years or no depends, not on their faith, but on their works.
All believers and others, will be raised at the end of the last day, even if they have no resurrection at the beginning of it.
41, 42. ‘The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, I am the bread came down from heaven. 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?” ’
We see how the Jews stumbled at these assertions of our Lord. They judged according to the flesh and the world; therefore they made one truth to beat down another. This is constantly done now as then. When two truths are seemingly opposed to one another, one party seizes on one side, one on the other. The cannons of the same battery are turned against one another.
This is the first occasion on which our Lord’s opponents are called ‘the Jews.’
Jesus was to them the mere man, born as any other. How then could He speak of His pre-existence, and of His dwelling in heaven ere He descended to earth? See how easily an error slips under the cloak of a truth! They knew His mother, they knew not His Father. Jesus does not enlighten them on His supernatural birth. In their then state of mind it would have only called forth scoffs and blasphemy.
They understood our Lord’s words, but disliked them, and therefore set themselves against Him. That His glory as the Son of God should rise so loftily above themselves, that He exceeded in glory Moses, the Patriarchs, and Prophets, and that they must come to Him, and depend on Him as possessed of Godhead equal with the Father, whom they called ‘their God,’ was to them insufferable. The Saviour shows that their condemnation of Him disquieted Him not. It only proved their own foretold blindness, and near perdition.
Thus the truth is stated both positively and negatively. (1) All God’s elect will come to Christ. (2) None - not so elected - will come, despite all the moral means brought to bear on them. As the prophet said – ‘They only who were taught of God would be His,’ but of all such He would not lose one.
43, 44. ‘Jesus answered and said unto them – “Murmur not among yourselves. None can come to Me, except the Father which sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” ’
They thought that, in their thus judging, they were condemning Christ as either impious, or arrogantly and falsely setting Himself up. But He assures them that these doubts and objections were really condemning themselves, were proving themselves untaught of God, and judging themselves to be unworthy of eternal [age-lasting] life. They were murmurers, like their fathers in the wilderness against God and Moses. So great is the enmity of the human heart against the Most High, that each one now refuses this new discovery of God, and none ever overcomes that enmity, unless divine grace renew the evil will. This is the sense of ‘can’ in this place. Does Jesus mean to say that however much the Jews were willing to receive His testimony, there was a power outside themselves which would prevent their accepting Him? as when a prisoner earnestly desires to escape out of prison, but is detained by force from without; by chains and cell, by prison and sentinels? Certainly not!
does he mean that this ‘cannot’ excused them, and would be their righteous defence against
punishment in the judgment day? By no
means! He tells them that if they
believed not, they would die in their sins. Their doom would be severer than
Thus both statements are true. (1) A man’s damnation is entirely from himself, due to his evil heart, and his own sins, and unbelief. (2) His salvation, his turning to God are in all cases due to God’s gracious actings in renewing his nature, and turning his will.
45. ‘It is written in the prophets, “And they shall be all taught of God.” Everyone therefore that hath heard from the Father and learned, cometh to Me.” ’
This 45th verse explains more fully the drawing of God. It is His teaching. He engages not the feelings alone, but the understanding also, by the exhibition of truth. This hearing of truth from God, and accepting it, makes a man a true disciple.
‘The Prophets.’ The Saviour quotes them as inspired by God His Father. Thus He opposes the Gnostic blasphemy about them, as though they were inspired by a spirit not of God. These words comes from Is. 54: 13; the sequel to the prophetic description of the Lord’s sufferings (Is. 53.). ‘Great shall be the peace of Thy children,’ as the result of this teaching.
He who commissioned the Christ to come as Saviour, designated also the souls that were to be saved, as the result of His sending. Blessedness or perdition rests on receiving or refusing the Son, the sent of the Father.
If Jesus thus rests on the Scripture, so should we. If He so oft proves His words by quotation from it, how much more should uninspired preachers? It is the Word of God. Have you, my reader, been a murmurer against the Word of God? Now uphold it, and give thanks for it, and pray to understand it!
The caviller will perish. How strange that guilty culprits should rise up against their Judge, as if they would judge Him! They will learn their folly one day, and too late.
Faith is called for by Christ, the greater than Moses, and the effect is eternal life, the gift of God; in contrast with the offer of life, as the result of obedience to Law- ‘Do and live!’
Jehovah was beginning that work on the souls of some in
Here, reader, is the turning point for life and death. Have you come to the Son for the forgiveness of sins?
46. ‘Not that any hath seen the Father, save He that is from God. He hath seen the Father.’
It might be imagined from the former verse, that seeing the Father and hearing Him, was a privilege enjoyed by all believers and sons of God, in the same sense and to the same extent as by Christ Himself. This mistake is therefore here corrected. In the sense here implied by the Saviour, none has ever seen God the Father. As Paul says, He dwells ‘in light unapproachable, whom none hath seen or can see.’ Did the Saviour mean to say, that the Father made such a personal revelation of Himself as He is, and so directly spake to each believer, as to render unnecessary the teaching of the Son? Far from it!
‘He who is from God.’ (See Greek), This refers to Jesus’ pre-existent glory. ‘The Word was with God’. The first preposition denotes the Saviour’s motion away from His former place.
47-50. ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, “He that believeth on Me, hath eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers used to eat in the wilderness the manna and died. This is the bread that cometh down out of the heaven, that a man eat thereof, and die not.” ’
How strange must that word have sounded – ‘Your fathers!’ That was to sever Himself from them. ‘Are you no Jew then? Were not our fathers your fathers also?’ Apostles said, ‘our fathers.’
The Saviour has still to enforce on them the greatness of His Person. Accepted, He is life eternal; rejected, the man must perish in his sins. This eternal life begins at once on faith.
now exhibits the superiority of Himself, as the broad of heaven over the manna
of Moses, to which they had made appeal, as the proof of the superiority of
Moses above Himself. Moses had to
receive the bread of heaven for himself, and for
51. ‘I am the living bread that came down out of the heaven, if any eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.’
Jesus is bread possessed of life in itself, which communicates life eternal to the eaters. This living nature is peculiarly characteristic of God. Our God is the living God, and Christ is, as His Son, possessed of life essential.
descent from heaven was vastly superior to the mere falling of the manna from
the sky. It was on His part of set
choice; the choice of grace, and the counsel of the Father. Here His previous existence comes again into
view. As the manna was in the heaven
before it fell from it, so Jesus lived above with His Father before He made His
appearance on earth, as the Son of Man.
It was great grace to give to man the bread of angels; greater far to
give Christ, to be to us spiritual and eternal life. But vainly did the manna fall around the
51. ‘And the bread which I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.’
Here the oneness of the Person of Christ is seen. The old errorists and some modern ones divided Jesus from the Christ. They were two persons, as John Wroe, a Southeotite, taught. ‘The Christ gave the life of Jesus to save men.’
Instead of saying – ‘The bread which I will give is Myself,’ He says ‘is My flesh.’ When this word is objected to, He (as in the parallel case with Nicodemus) expands ‘flesh’ into ‘flesh and blood.’ He here presents, too, His atoning death, as in the word to Nicodemus. ‘The flesh’ was then His living body. But He would allow the blood to be drained away from it, thus setting the flesh and blood apart in death.
we not here a further reference to the scene of the manna?
Jesus at that moment was the unbroken loaf. To be our support, the loaf must be broken, in order to be eaten.
Many in our day are resting on the Incarnation, as if that was everything. So they can talk about Christ being ‘joined to universal humanity.’ But the Saviour stops not short of His death for sin. It is not – ‘My flesh which I have assumed for you.’ But ‘My flesh, which I will give.’
Evangelist has noted in ver.
4, that the passover, the old feast of the Law, was near. Jesus then at this point passes beyond His
previous consideration of Himself as answering to, and going beyond, the manna of the desert; and now He presents
What relation then do these words bear to the Supper of the Lord? Great difference of opinion obtains here.
myself, I doubt not, that the Supper was instituted to bear witness to the
Church of the same truth which is here presented. It is this.
The paschal-lamb was doubly
This testimony then was repulsive to Jesus’ hearers. They comprehend its depths; nor did they desire to do so. It ran counter to all their plans and hopes.
52. ‘The Jews therefore were contending among themselves, saying: “How can this man give us His fesh to eat?”’
Only in and after death! And they refused a suffering and Messiah. The Apostles themselves were stunned at Jesus’ death; and had well nigh given up hope. They saw not the depth of human sin, or the strict severity of Infinite Justice. The words staggered them therefore. Jesus was to them uttering hard sayings, which matter-of-fact men like themselves could not accept.
The ‘How’ of unbelief again rises into view, as in the word of Nicodemus about the regeneration and new birth.
The murmurs produced by the Saviour’s former words, now, by the new fuel added, burst out into a flame of quarrel.
53. 55. ‘Jesus said therefore to them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood true drink.”
The Saviour now in answer to their objection expands our view of Himself as the true Paschal-Lamb, which goes very much deeper than the manna. He now first speaks of the blood from the flesh. Living man is in this life a compound of flesh and blood. Now Jesus speaks of the blood as being severed from the flesh. This of course supposes His death.
The drinking of the victim’s blood was something quite unknown to the Law, and forbidden by it (Gen. 9: 4; Lev. 7: 14; Deut. 12: 23). The blood, which is the life, belongs to God. It is given on the altar to atone for souls. That was its constant destination, according to the Law. But now atonement is so completely made, that we are possessed of, and drink of, the life of the Mediator, who has brought us near. We are no longer children of death, whose lives are forfeit. Whoever partakes not of a Christ slain, dies in his own sins, and must abide under death.
Jesus foretells His voluntary death, and His violent death. Most deaths occur without the breaking of the flesh, and the pouring out of the blood in consequence.
Flesh and blood ordinarily are united together in the living. But in order that blood may be drank and flesh eaten, the blood must be drawn off, leaving the flesh bloodless; and that supposes death. So then the Saviour is to deliver us, and to be our spiritual support, only as one Who has passed through death for us, giving His blood as the ransom-price. But if so, two most decisive consequences follow: (1) God is just, for if Christ would deliver us, though the Beloved and perfect One, He must die the violent death demanded by Law. (2) God is gracious, for here He gives to us that which is to Him the most precious of all things. Also it follows with regard to man (1) that he is sinful, and (2) unable to deliver himself, whether found under Law, as the Jews; or without Law, as the Gentiles.
The eating His slain flesh implies faith in Jesus as Messiah slain for sin; slain for our sin.
The Saviour while living could not save us from wrath, could not be our spiritual sustenance. Alive, He was the righteous Jew, severed from the Gentile. It was only by His death in our stead, and His resurrection into another life beyond death, that He can be to us the Saviour. This is strongly brought out in John 12: 24. There we see that Jesus came to bring us, not the extension of life in a body of flesh and blood, but life in resurrection, after death is vanquished, and ourselves are knit to Him, the Son of Man raised from the dead.
The blood is now spoken of apart from the flesh. We drink Christ’s blood, or the blood of the Son of Man, when we accept cordially and rejoice in Christ’s blood as shed to atone to God for our sins, and Himself given to be the spirit of our life.
This truth then is set forth to us in emblem in the
Lord’s Supper. There we are shown to be
the men of faith accepting (in perfect contrast to
He is now Son of Man, and Son of God, having passed beyond Moses to a point at which we can meet Him.
But if Messiah was to be slain as the Passover-lamb,
it follows that He regarded all the world, and
but the paschal lamb brought
This truth is exhibited to our eye purposely in the
Lord’s Supper. We feed upon a DEAD Christ; a Christ slain according to the
Father’s counsels, and the Son’s voluntary offering of
Himself to death. By this we are not only
delivered from the sword of Divine justice which has fallen on Him in our
stead, but we also take Jesus as our strength to march through this world. Thus we are severed from the Egyptians, the
men of the world, the men of unbelief, who regard not God’s threats, and are
not under the provided shelter. Thus,
too, we begin our march out of
This was designed as God’s testimony against the false theories then and since afloat, which make void the Gospel, which deny the justice of God, and the sinfulness and powerlessness of man. All salvation turns on the Person of Jesus Christ, as Son of God and Son of Man, and His work in obedience and atonement. Refuse that, and you have no life within spiritually, but lie under death; no life judicially, being under sentence of Law as a transgressor.
These words are part of God’s testimony to the Unity of the Son of Man, and Son of God. Those who severed Jesus from the Christ undid His victory over the world. They spoke of the Christ as leaving Jesus, after He had by His words, and His deeds exasperated the Jews into putting Him to death. If so, there was no victory over the world; but injustice, and cowardice vanquished by the fear of death. Accordingly, those who held such views, in time of persecution escaped death at any cost, and could plead in favour of it the example of their Christ. How could they be expected to dare terrors from which a Divine Being had fled?
This truth then as the central fact of the Gospel, the death of the Christ for sin, and our salvation only through that, Jesus, far from retracting, redoubles. Here was the point at which Christ designed that the men of faith in Himself should break off from the men of Law. The sacrifices of Moses, and the Passover in especial, were designed to prepare the way for the true Sacrifice, and true Paschal-Lamb. And what Moses thus predicted in type, the prophets foretold in express words. And John, the Forerunner, testified that Jesus was the Lamb of God’s providing.
Thus the men of Moses were by God’s grace forewarned of the Gospel, and of the Son of God then before them. Jesus then takes up and carries out more forcibly still the truth hinted by John. Till the atoning death of the Son of Man was complete, Jewish hopes of the Kingdom could not be realised.
This then was the testing point of these men of Law. Would they own themselves sinners, destitute of all hope by their own obedience, needing an atoning sacrifice greater than Moses could afford? Would they confess that the hopes to which Moses and the Prophets pointed them were all personally present in the Person before them? Would they confess that the hopes which turned on grace were come? and that He who stood before them was Messiah, come to suffer ere He reigned?
This test was refused by the men of Law and of self-righteousness. They turned away in pride and unbelief. This is the first truth accepted by the Christian. Here the road forks.
Here we behold the Person of Christ - true man, possessed of a real body of flesh and blood, and deigning voluntarily to give up that body and blood for us. Here also is One greater than man, in His claims to be possessed of Life in Himself, His statements of sojourning with God, of possessing the power to raise the dead, backed by facts of miracle wrought in His own name; as the feeding of the multitudes, and walking the waters.
Here again He shows the unity of His person. The man who stood before them, who would give His flesh and blood, was also the Living Bread that came down from heaven (ver. 51). Thus then the Spirit, through John, gives a new refutation to that deceit which made Jesus the mere man, and Christ another person.
As then this is the decisive doctrine which severs between the Law and the Gospel, so God in His wisdom has appointed the rite of the Supper to present it to our eye, and to keep it in the memory of our heart; making the Supper, which celebrates Christ’s atoning death, our time of visibly drawing nearer to Him than at any other period.
Our Lord speaks of flesh and blood; the one to be eaten, and the other to be drank by His disciples. So then answerably the Supper presents us with two objects, (1) the flesh represented by the bread, (2) the blood represented by the wine. And at the Institution of the Supper (which replaces to us the Old Passover), He says – ‘Take, eat, this is My body.’ And again – ‘Drink ye all of this, for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is being shed for many unto the remission of sins.’ Who can doubt the designed likeness of these words? For John is following after the other Gospels, and is taking for granted the knowledge of their previous words. And while he does not mention the institution of either Baptism or the Lord’s Supper as rites commanded by Christ, nevertheless he does drop some words concerning the doctrinal signification of each, which are of much import as showing that these rites were not sudden and hasty thoughts of the moment on Christ’s part, but had their roots long before manifested in our Lord’s previous discourses. ‘How can a man be born when old?’ says Nicodemus. Jesus points to the rite of Baptism as both a death and a birth, which might be experienced even by the old. ‘How can this man give us flesh to eat?’ This Jesus answers by pointing to the rite of the Supper. These two rites of the Water and the Lord’s Supper, are designed to prove that Jesus Christ went through the ‘water’ in baptism; and through ‘blood’ on the cross. These were God’s witnesses against Satan’s deceits which have been previously named.
The slain ‘Son of Man’ is also the Son of Man of Psalm 8. and of Dan. 7., Who is coming again to reign. So far the Jews’ thoughts were true; for He is King of kings coming to rule over them, and men, and angels. They were wrong in point of time, for the Christ must first suffer ere He enter on His glory.
Thus, too, we see the oneness of the God of the Old Testament and of the New. The Old Testament bears witness to the Deliverer’s suffering unto death, as well as to His reigning; though they to whom the Old Testament was given, refused one of these truths in their predicted blindness. And with what great case and beauty the Saviour knits together the old rite and the new? The Passover He celebrates, and testifies to Israelites the deliverance of which it speaks as yet to come to pass in His Kingdom. And out of that rite, and at the same table He raises up another people, who behold in the bread His broken body, and in the wine His blood shed.
Verse 53 then, of this chapter testifies, that all who refuse a Christ slain for sin are dead of soul, and must perish in their trespasses at the hands of the God of Law. They must be condemned for their acts by God as the Righteous Governor, and refused an abode with Himself the Holy, because their souls are dead in unbelief.
But verse 54 - how are we to understand that? ‘Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’
‘Does it mean that every one - who receives the Lord’s Supper is saved? Do we mean that no one can partake of Christ save in the Supper?’
no means! The hearers at
Those who trust in Jesus slain have already eternal life begun, and that life will be perfected in resurrection.
Many receive the Lord’s Supper, who, though they eat the bread and drink the wine, do not feed by faith on a Saviour slain. These then have not eternal life.
But all who accept Christ as the Passover-Lamb have eternal life begun, and Jesus will complete it to the sleepers by raising them from the dead ‘at the last day.’ What is meant by that? The Great Day of 1000 years, of which God has given us the promise.
Verse 55 gives the reason for the two previous statements. ‘For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.’ First for the negative one of verse 53. As one who never has eaten or drank has no life, so he who has never accepted Christ as the Saviour, Son of God slain for sin, has no spiritual life. Then positively (ver. 54), ‘He who does eat and drink of this true spiritual food has eternal life’ at once begun in his soul, and it shall hereafter be realised in that other part of him - the body also.
Thus Jesus as the food of faith is more truly food than any which earth can produce. Earthly food only sustains natural life; this imparts eternal life; and its fruits are to be shown at a future day. Food is designed to satisfy hunger; drink to remove thirst. Now all ordinary food and drink effect these results but imperfectly for the lower part of man only, and for a very brief time. But faith in Christ slain satiates spiritual hunger, and satisfies the soul’s thirst. Moreover, it communicates and sustains a life which is to last for ever, recalling the body itself from death. Life is not complete till it has penetrated eternally the body, as well as the soul. Here again behold God’s protest against deniers of resurrection.
It will conduce to our understanding this passage, if we take a view of human life and its means of support from the beginning.
1. God set Adam in the Garden of Eden with life bestowed, and the means of its support without end. But there was the threatening of death on disobedience. The loss of life Adam incurred. The life he had was sentenced to extinction, and His body was then to return to its original - the dust. The support of his life was to be taken from the herb of the field wrung by toil out of the ground cursed for his sake. Now that food could not satisfy the soul, or spirit of man, nor could it do more than prolong awhile a sentenced or respited life, a life continually dwindling from nearly a thousand years to seventy.
Then came Moses, leading a people out from
3. Now Jesus the Son of God and Son of Man has come, with greater grace on God’s part for those who accept Him. He gives the lost life of the spirit. He, too, is the support of that spiritual life once bestowed. He satisfies both the soul and spirit. With faith in Him true life spiritual begins. And the extending and strengthening of this life is dependent on further resting on Christ. To accept Himself in His gracious offices and work for us, to receive and obey His precepts, to be guided by His commands, His principles, to be led by the Holy Spirit, to imitate His example; these are various ways in which we live on Christ, and find Himself true food for the soul, and the satisfaction of a spirit, which can really be satisfied with God alone.
56. ‘He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood abideth in Me, and I in him.’
The acceptance continually of the slain Saviour, both God and man, by daily faith, is daily support for the new life begun by the Spirit of God. The animal food that we take becomes a part of ourselves, of our flesh and blood. But the lamb of earth on which we feed does not abide in us, nor do we abide in it. It has no risen life, no life beyond that which we have taken away, on purpose that it may supply us with support of our life.
Nor do we drink its blood.
But while the death of Christ ministers to us deliverance from death, and gives us peace of soul towards God, and within us, He is also risen from the dead, and abides in that risen life evermore. So then not only does a dead Christ give us life, but a Risen Christ gives us Himself in whom to abide. There is to be entire fellowship between the Risen Christ and ourselves. He in us, and we in Him!
Here we come upon the subject of the believer’s abiding in Christ, on which John insists so much in his epistles. There he teaches that it requires faith in that doctrine of the Father and the Son, from which the deceivers of his and other days sought to draw off the soul (1 John 2: 24). Keeping the Saviour’s commands is another feature of the matter (1 John 2: 6). To this add faith in Jesus’ death for sin, together with His sinlessness. The true practice is to be raised on a true foundation of doctrine. Thus John explains for us in part these words.
Hengsteliberg says well - God in the Garden said to Adam, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt die.” And on that footing, the act once committed, there is no recovery of life. But now God in the Second Adam is saying - “In the day thou eatest of this Tree of Life, thou shalt live.” And that life is eternal.
‘The soul of the flesh is in the blood,’ says Moses. So we, by accepting Christ fully, drink of His spirit. We are to abide in Christ. Christ is to abide in us.
In these words Jesus characterizes the Father as ‘the living’ - the source of life. The Saviour as the Perfect Son sent from above, has immediate access to God as the source of life. By supplies continually flowing in from the Father, He lived as the Mediator. We have no such direct supply of life. It comes to us only through the Son become incarnate for us, slain and raised again. But all who come to the Son as the source of life, and strength, and grace, derive it from Him. Joseph had direct approach to Pharaoh’s throne, and accomplished the monarch’s will. But if any Egyptian needed corn, he must go to Joseph. How much more is this necessary, where what separates us naturally from the throne of Divine Majesty, is not merely inferiority of nature and station, but sin!
This eating of Christ is an adieu to Moses. Under Moses I am to find all sufficiency in myself for every duty, and to fulfil every command. But if I come to Christ to abide in Him, and to own Him, I bid adieu to my own old life, and power; and repose on what Christ is for me. Then His graces flow into me, as the sap into the vine‑branch, and bear fruit.
It is only through the spiritual acceptance of Jesus, as given and sent by the Father, that we are united to the Son, as the Son is to the Father. Christ become man, slain and risen, is for us men who believe, the principle of life and strength.
57. ‘As the living Father sent Me, and I live by means of the Father, so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.’
Jesus in these words declares that the relation which He occupies as the Son sent by the Father and from His side, is that also which obtains with regard to the believer.
The Father sent the Son. The Son sends believers to be His witnesses to the world. Jesus then existed before His appearance as man. As the Son of Man, He was ever dependent on the Father, and was subordinate; gladly doing all the Father’s will. It is only because the Son has become Man, and has by His death removed the obstacles to our life, and by life in resurrection supplies our various needs, that we can have the blessing of which the Saviour speaks. As Son of God, there was a great gulf between us in the infiniteness of the perfect holiness of the Godhead. But His becoming Man, dying in that manhood, and in it rising again, have opened and produced the most perfect channel of supply and communion for all those who receive Him as so revealed. The Father evermore upheld the life of His Son; the Son evermore upholds the soul that abides in Him as His Wisdom, His Righteousness, His Sanctification, and Redemption.
Here the Saviour drops the two different views of His sustaining grace, before mentioned as ‘flesh and blood,’ and now says ‘He that eateth Me, he shall live through Me.’
The Father - the source of life - has sent the Son, and thus guarantees the perfect success of His mission; giving Him life and force to overcome death and every obstacle. The Son, on His part, perfectly applies Himself to meet the Father’s will.
Thus the life of the Father is perfectly manifested on earth, in the person and agency of Christ. He was given, that we might receive Him and draw out of His fulness. Life and strength are accessible to men in Christ, and only in Him. Hence death is all around, and reigns over those who reject Him, whether openly or covertly, in doctrine or practically. As the food we eat becomes a part of us, so faith’s reception and resting in Christ makes His nature abide in us. In. accepting and trusting Him who lives by God, after having come out from God, we live on God as He does.
God’s gift to us of a living Christ’s obedience as our righteousness, is to be met by our glad acceptance arising out of a sense of our need of it, both internally, and before God as our Judge. God’s gift of a slain Christ to atone for our sin, to give life and to strengthen us in grace, is to be met by a glad acceptance arising out of a sense of sin’s destroying power. The flesh of Christ is God’s gift; our eating is our reception of the offer. Then come the effects - (1) Now, in our spirits: (2) hereafter, in our bodies also.
We understand what is meant when we say – ‘Man doth live by bread.’ We mean that the life which we have, is continued and strengthened by bread as its support.
can understand, too, what God in the Law of Moses said to
But this fresh trial only proved man’s inability to win for himself eternal life by his obedience. The Law, which proposed life on obedience, cut short life on disobedience; and did not even permit multitudes of the redeemed people to see the land of promise! They found that Law applied to the sinful brought death!
3. The Prophets offered life, upon repentance and turning from their idolatries and evil ways; for the courses of the nation were those of death (Ezek. 18: 11).
But the Gospel says - Man cannot deliver himself from the curse and death, which lie upon himself as the son of Adam under Law. He must be delivered from death by the curse smiting another in his stead. He must receive life spiritual as a gift, and the deliverance of the body in resurrection, from another. He must be indebted for daily strength in duty to another. ‘He that doeth My commands shall live in them, and by them’ - said the Law. ‘He that believeth in Me, the slain and risen Son of God and Son of Man, shall live in Me and by Me’ - says Christ. ‘For My life shall be in him divine life and strength.’
‘“This is the bread that came down out of the heaven,
not as the fathers used to eat, and died.
He that eateth this bread shall live for ever.” These things said He, as
He taught in the synagogue in
Of great moment it is to our natural life and body what we eat of, and what we drink; and all possessed of any consideration are persuaded of it. Some things eaten or drank will cut short life at once. Some will not kill, but will give insufficient nourishment. Some will raise terrible disorders dangerous to life.
Now in the preceding discourse, our Lord has stated in various ways, that He is the Son of God and Son of Man to be slain and raised for us. That this, His work, is to be to us redemption from death, and the support of our spiritual life. This redemption and support are received only by faith in His and the Father’s testimony. He who refuses belief, shuts out this nourishment; just as he who refuses to eat bread, can receive no support to his body there from.
There are, therefore, two great applications of this truth.
1. First, in regard to unbelievers in the truth touching the Saviour, as being the Son of God and Son of Man, pre-existent with the Father, as to His divine nature; and after His incarnation, slain for us. Those who reject this entirely, as did ‘the Men of Intelligence’ of that day, and the Unitarians, Spiritists, Swedenborgians, and Christadelphians of this day, are under death and the curse, afar from God; and, under greater wrath, because of their unbelief in the testimony of God. Nor can they, by any obedience of theirs, escape from death to life.
2. But what if one who once accepted these truths, and received life through Christ ‘eternal life’ - afterwards falls away from them; as was the case with some in John’s day, and with some in our day? Then the truth stated in John 15: 6, applies - withering of spiritual life in this day comes on; and in the day of God, the fire!
3. But there is a third view of much moment to us who are believers. As the breath of our bodies depends on the wholesomeness of the food we eat, and the drink we take, so does our spiritual breath depend on the moral food we are in the habit of taking. We have life in Christ. But what if our reading and our pursuits are of the earth, and of the flesh? Shall we say that the newspaper, with its crimes, its wars, and its politics, its engrossment with the earth and the flesh, is fitted to build up our spiritual life? Will it not assimilate the reader much more to the old Adam than to the new? What shall we say to the Christian, whose chosen reading is the worst? What do we say of the constant drinker of spirits? That that beverage unfits the stomach for wholesome food, takes away appetite for it, and engenders a craving for that which is destructive of life in the long run. Just so with the Christian reader of romances. He is not eating Christ, but something hostile to Christ; and spiritual energy, light, and grace must diminish continually. Thus the principle holds good throughout. The deniers of the Father and the Son (such as Unitarians, open and mystic) are in death spiritual, lie under the sentence of death from God the Judge; and in a future day they must dwell in the Second Death, for they refuse Christ as their life.
Let us then feed on Christ, and on the Scriptures, which present Him in His various offices, and glories, to meet our need. So shall we grow in light, and strength, and preparation for glory!
Christ is to be received by us as the Son of God incarnate, who came down out of the heaven to give us life.
Our Lord in verse 58 shows us the defects of the Law’s ‘bread of heaven.’ That could sustain a dying life of seventy years. But the true bread of God - the Saviour of the world - gives to the dead a life which lasts for ever, and sustains the renewed soul by a food which increases its health and force during this present scene. But it has also a further onlook. It has regard to the day of the Saviour’s coming, and the resurrection [out] from among the dead.
Spiritual life is begun in the soul of the believers; it may be continually increasing, and it will one day assert its life-giving power in the resurrection of the believer.
This note concerning the place of our Lord’s discourse is given probably to account for the falling away of many, in the city of His choice, from His side.
In their case we see an example of conduct contrary to the eating and drinking here taught. They refused Christ, considered as the antitype of the manna. For they would not believe in His former life in heaven before His appearing on earth. Much more did they refuse to accept Him as the Lamb of God - or Messiah slain to put away sin - without whom they were lost.
flesh and this blood were given of God to meet our sore need. Both then ought to be accepted, or the loss
is ours. The
60-62. ‘Many therefore of His disciples when they heard this said, “Hard is this saying; who can hear it?” Now Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples are murmuring about this, and said unto them, “Doth this stumble you? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending up where He was before?”’
These difficult sayings of our Lord about Himself as the bread of life coming clown from heaven, and of His flesh and blood to be given by Himself, and eaten by those who would live for over, stumbled many of those who up to that time had followed Him.
could not stay and listen to such words; so strange and impracticable were
they. The Saviour was aware of it,
without hearing their saying. They were
stumbled. This was quite contrary to all
their ideas of the Messiah. ‘A Messiah who comes down from heaven, and gives His flesh
and blood to be eaten and drank, without which there is no spiritual life in
any, even in God’s own people of
In these words our Lord points to His ascent, which was seen by some of His disciples then present. That ascent might help them to understand that part of His words in which He said, He came down from heaven. He had literally come down, but invisibly. He would go up again to the heaven of heavens whence He had come, visibly.
But that supposed His resurrection previously. For the Saviour had testified of His death, in His flesh rent, and His blood poured out. But after such death He should resume His body and take it up with Him to heaven. For it was as ‘the Son of Man,’ possessed therefore of a human body, that He would go up to heaven. But how could flesh ascend to heaven? Is it not by its native weight and earthliness tied here below? Yes! as possessed simply of mortal life in us, descendants of fallen Adam. But the predicted ascent would be true of this ‘Son of Man’ sinless, risen, who is also the Son of God!
Notice here the strongly marked unity of the person of Jesus Christ; for the opposite is one of the main errors which John had to oppose and defeat. ‘The Men of Intelligence’ set aside the flesh or body of Jesus Christ. ‘He had no body; He could take no flesh without defiling Himself, The Christ fled from Jesus before His death, and left Him the mere man.’ Here Jesus Christ calls Himself, after His death and resurrection, ‘the Son of Man.’ He speaks of Himself as having been in heaven before appearing on the earth. Although before His descent to earth He never had been man or ‘Son of Man,’ but only ‘Son of God,’ yet now the manhood is so a part of Himself, that the Saviour combines together as referring to one person, whom He calls ‘Son of Man,’ both His existence from eternity, and His life after His taking flesh. Thus Swedenborg stands refuted. According to him ‘the Lord’ (as He always calls Him) was continually putting off His manhood received from Mary, till at length on the cross the last remains of it were removed, and His body was God! There was therefore no ‘Son of Man’ who could ascend, nor indeed any ‘Son, of God:’ it was only the Father. Moreover, he denies that the Christ can ever visibly come again. Christ has put off His body. He will not visibly come to reign and to judge. Now this is by John in his Epistle declared to be one of the great characteristics of an Antichrist (2 John 7).
63. ‘The spirit is that which gives life, the flesh profiteth nothing; the words which I have spoken to you are spirit and life.’
Jesus then appears to say, that the flesh and blood of which He spoke to them as giving life, were not the flesh and blood of a mere man; neither was the eating and drinking them any literal eating of the flesh before them. For that would not impart to their spirits the eternal life of which He had been speaking. But Jesus’ flesh would be raised from the dead, and united to His spirit, and the Holy Spirit was on Him. These words then could only be accepted and realised by those whom the Holy Spirit has made alive to God. None but the men of faith can eat the flesh and drink the blood of a slain Messiah, or receive His Spirit. Our Lord, then, by referring to His ascension, gives them to understand that His immortal flesh (He omits mention of ‘the blood’ now) would be withdrawn from them into heaven, so as to be beyond any carnal eating of it.
It is usual to regard these words as if they should be taken in a general sense – ‘You stumble at the literal meaning of My words. They are not so to be taken, but in a spiritual sense.’ And this explanation, though refused by many, seems to me the best. There must be first the giving of life to the fallen by the Spirit of God, ere the meaning of Jesus’ mysterious words can be known. Jesus was peculiarly born of the Spirit; in Him then was fully realised the mysteriousness of His sayings. Now none but the believer is anything but flesh and blood; He is only spirit as begotten of the Spirit. Hence the unbeliever stumbles at our Lord’s words. Faith is the clue to understanding the words of Christ. ‘Flesh,’ or the un-renewed, revolt at His sayings.
64. ‘There are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who were they that believed not, and would betray Him.’
Their murmurings then were a proof of their unbelief. Otherwise they, as disciples, would have listened respectfully to their Master’s sayings, even when mysterious; backed as they were with power so divine. Their disbelief, then, in Himself as the Son of God, led to their stumbling at His mysterious words. And the root of their unbelief was that they accepted not with pleasure the tidings of a Saviour, the Son of God, come down from above; and a Saviour, the Son of Man, who was to give Himself to a violent death to redeem them. The scheme of God was not only strange, but humbling – ‘What! they, the people of God, to be destitute of spiritual life, and needing the visible poor man before them, to give them life by His violent death and that they were only thus to partake of it!’
In these words, John shows us - in opposition to the fancies of opponents - that the Saviour was well aware, both of His violent death at hand, and of His resurrection and ascent to God, long before it took place. Thus John also accounts to us, how it was that after the Saviour’s gaining so great a popularity, and drawing crowds to hear Him and see His miracles, His hearers left Him, and allowed Him to fall into the hands of enemies.
The facts concerning Judas seem to have been especially urged against our Lord’s foreknowledge. ‘What man would ever have chosen into the small number of His most trusted adherents and friends, one who would prove a traitor - had he been aware of the future?’ John then in His Gospel, adduces not a few words about Judas, and our Lord’s knowledge of his spirit, at a time when as yet there was no visible indication of it. For we are now dealing with One, who, though a man, is not a mere man; or to be tested by ordinary considerations. He came down to do, not as other men, His own will; but the Father’s.
65, 66. ‘And He said – “For this cause I said to you that none could come to Me, except it be given him by the Father.” From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.’”
As the Saviour’s own knowledge and action were governed by motives of heaven, and the will of the Father above, so in regard of the results of His testimony they were not left to chance, or the mere operation of ordinary human causes. Such is the native enmity of man to God, and to His manifestation of Himself in His Son, that it requires divine power to be put forth on the soul of man in renewal, ere he will accept the Sent One of God.
The effect of this discourse was to throw off from our Lord’s ministry and professed subjection to Him, the great body of His followers. They were morally disgusted with Him. They found not that which they sought: they found what they did not seek - sentiments too ethereal, spiritual, unworldly. They were like their fathers. They complained of the manna – ‘Our soul loatheth this light bread.’ Thus Jesus rejected the worldly element which had nearly wrought Him trouble in the attempt to make Him a king.
These words of mystery were a part of our Lord’s purpose – ‘The flesh profiteth nothing.’ Though it were circumcised flesh, the flesh of sons of Abraham the friend of God, it availed not to keep them to Christ. Their spirit was not alive to God, because not renewed by the Spirit of God.
67-69. ‘Therefore said Jesus to the twelve – “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered Him – “Lord, to whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and know that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”’
This defection, however, was sorrowful even to our Lord. Might not this turning away propagate itself even to the inner circle of the twelve? He will ask them therefore – ‘Will you follow the stream of the unbelievers? If they wished, He would not detain them against their will.’
Peter’s reply is ready and wise. Before we leave what we hold, we should see what better can replace it. Could, then, any of the Scribes and Pharisees afford them what they found in deeds, in wonders, and in doctrine in Jesus? Theirs were words about earth and its life. Jesus’ words touched life heavenly and eternal. Law promised prolonged earthly life to the obedient; but who, save Jesus, promised life eternal as the gift of God to faith?
then proceeds to testify his faith in the person of our Lord. For that was the stone of
stumbling to those who left; as the prophet foretold. The Christian religion rests on the wonderful
facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The
resurrection is the result of the Saviour’s wondrous person, as both Son of God and Son of
There is great variety of reading in Peter’s confession. The reading followed by our translators is the best sustained by manuscripts. Those manuscripts which read – ‘the Holy One of God’ - are less trustworthy. Jesus accepts this title thus directly presented to Him. He does not distinguish as would the Gnostics – ‘Jesus is the Man: I who speak am the Christ.’
70, 71. ‘Jesus answered them’ “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He was speaking of Judas Iscariot, son of Simon; for he was about to betray Him; being one of the twelve.’
The choosing of the twelve is not named before by John. His account supposes the three previous Gospels. In what sense is the word ‘chose’ here used? Not as meaning choice to eternal life; for that took place from all eternity, and was rather the Father’s choice than the Son’s. But it means a choice to be His near companions and missionaries (Luke 6: 13; Mark 3: 13, 14). The falling away and treachery of Judas is no proof of the insecurity of God’s elect who are chosen from all eternity to eternal life.
‘One of you is a devil!’ Here is Jesus’ terrible word about Judas, long ere he discovered himself. We should naturally conclude, from the occurrence of the words at this juncture, that he stumbled at the Saviour’s discoveries relative to His mission and His high claims. But while others went away and left, he continued with the Saviour. Jesus spoke these words apparently to alarm him. He would still seem to be a friend of Christ, while he was secretly His enemy, and would at length carry out the schemes of those enemies. Secret treachery then is the acting of a devil. Many seem to abhor the traitorousness of Judas, who are guilty in the like sort. They appear to think that the guilt of Judas never can belong to any now. And true it is that the person of the Son of God can no more be exposed to wickedness. But the same kind of offence may be committed now. Though Jesus the Risen Head is beyond the hands of a traitor, His members on earth are not. The false brethren of whom Paul speaks, who put His life in peril, were guilty of the very same offence. If, after Peter had been delivered out of prison, anyone of those assembled at the house of Mark, to which Peter went at once upon his escape, had gone to Herod or to the High Priests - had told them about it, and given information where to find him, that would have been just Judas’ sin over again! Beware then of helping the enemies of your brethren, specially by giving them intelligence enabling them to trouble and persecute. Beware! This is one of the characteristics of the men of the latter day - that they are ‘traitors’ (2 Tim. 3: 4). They seem your friends, appear to be your servants; but really use their knowledge and access to you against you for your enemies.
This awful word concerning Judas, who is said to have gone, after his suicide, to a special place in torment, and who is called ‘ the son of perdition’ - hints that his power for mischief is not ended. The word concerning him in Ps. 109: 6, 7 has not been fully accomplished; and if so, it must be one day fulfilled. He is then as I believe, one of the Three Great Chiefs in wickedness who lead men at last to their perdition - Judas being ‘the False Prophet’ of the Apocalypse, who draws men at last to the worship of the False Christ and of Satan; the contriver of the rebellion against God.
‘Iscariot.’ What is the
meaning of the word? It is a name, I
believe, taken from his birth-place. He
was a man of Kerioth, a city of
What a light does this case throw upon the exceeding wickedness of man! Judas, set by God in the fairest position for salvation, turned away to the blackest iniquity, and enhances his damnation by that which should have proved his deliverance! That he proved traitor was not due to any evil, or fault in Him whom he betrayed, for Jesus was perfect. But those who will not be led on to good, specially by companionship with the holy, are only the more thrown back upon sin. There is no standing still; and those who refuse truth and grace are soon sealed up for damnation. ‘One of the twelve’ - yet a devil! No sight of miracles, no listening to perfection of wisdom, no close observation of perfection of holiness availed to make him holy.
Some have attempted to defend in part his conduct, as if it were not so black as usually believed, because, as they think, it is probable that he was not aware of the extreme consequences of his treachery. He was (they say) probably under the impression that Jesus, when once He saw the force of the enemies come to take Him prisoner, would put forth His might to deliver Himself. Thus he (Judas) should get his money, and yet his Master would not be injured! Would He not be then compelled to declare Himself the ‘King of Israel’? Thus he may have thought that the utmost evil he should effect would be the bringing things to a crisis, sooner than the Lord intended.
Now it is very possible that such may have been some of his thoughts; although displeasure at the rebuke he received concerning the anointing at Bethany, seems to have been the decisive motive; but he could only entertain such views through unbelief of the Saviour’s words, who had several times assured His disciples that His going to Jerusalem was to end, not in His taking the kingdom, but in His seizure by His foes, and His putting to death. Moreover, it is frequently the case, nay, generally, that the extent of the mischief done by sin is not seen. Could our first parents have known the endless consequences of present trouble, and future damnation entailed on their posterity, they would, we are ready to think, have paused, ere they ate of the fruit. But we do not know. God is not pleased to show us the full consequences of any act of sin. It must be abstained from, not because we see its long and heavy train of evil consequences; but because it is forbidden by our God. ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ was a principle clear enough to show Judas the sinfulness of his career.
Chapter 7. gives
us an account of another visit of our Lord to
* * *
Romans 8: 18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
23 And not only this, but we also ourselves. Having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body:”
- (The New American Standard Bible).
* * *
It is to this sojourn of the saints in Hades that I would refer a very difficult passage in the 139th Psalm, which speaks of a body being curiously fashioned in “the lower parts of the earth.” Now, the saints are the body of Christ, Eph. 4: 12, 16; Col. 1: 18, &c., and in that body each has his place. But the saints, who are to form that body, are being gathered in the lower parts of the earth; and Hades is the womb from which they will be born at the resurrection. Understood thus, the passage presents no difficulty. It is Christ who speaks - “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lower parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book were all my members written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them,” Psalm 139: 15, 16. Now, there was a time when the saints existed as the elect in God’s purpose alone – “as yet there was none of them.” Yet they were made members of Christ, and so are now “in continuance being fashioned,” as time, and the purposes of God, bring each to their natural and supernatural birth. In God’s book also, are all “the members written.” That book is the book of life, as it is written – “rather rejoice because your names have been written in heaven,” Luke 10: 20. “Clement also, and other my fellow-labourers, whose names are written in the book of life,” Phil. 4: 3. “Whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire,” Rev. 20: 15.
In this respect
the building of the real
then, the Council of
- R. GOVETT.
* * *
“MY KINGDOM COMETH
NOT OUT OF THIS WORLD.”
John 18: 29-32. ‘Pilate therefore went out to them, and said – “What accusation bring ye against this man?” They answered and said unto him – “If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up to thee.” Pilate said therefore unto them – “Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your Law.” The Jews therefore said unto him – “It is not lawful for us to slay any man.” In order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spake, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.’
33, 34. ‘Pilate entered in therefore again into the Praetorium, and called Jesus, and said unto Him – “Thou art the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him – “Of thyself sayest thou this; or did others say it to thee about Me?” ’
35, 36. ‘Pilate answered – “Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee up to me: what hast Thou done?” Jesus answered – ‘My kingdom cometh not out of this world; if it were out of this world, then would have my servants have fought, in order that I should not be delivered up to the Jews, but now My kingdom is not from hence.’
The Following exposition - by Robert Govett - is from verses 35 and 36:-
first part of Pilate’s reply is a proud denial of his having any sympathy with
Jewish fables and superstitions. He
neither knew nor cared anything about Moses and the prophets. He was a servant of the fourth great empire
of Daniel, and believed nought about any greater empire of God, that should
dash to earth that of
tells Jesus, that the accusation was put into His mouth by the nation and
Saviour’s reply is one which is much quoted by anti-millenarians. To their eyes it demolishes all ideas of any
reign of Christ in person over
Then it is seen that our Lord’s reply is, ‘The source of MY kingdom is not out of this world. If it were, I should call on MY subjects to erect the kingdom by the usual means open to men - the sword of earth. Had it been so, I should have called on all My disciples to fight for me, against any arrest by the Jews, with design to deliver Me to death.’
words refer not only to the twelve and our Lord’s prohibition of the sword in
the Garden to them; but also to His refusal to attempt to set up the
How shall we take the ‘now’ in our Lord’s closing words?
1. Is it a particle of time? ‘For the present My kingdom is not from the world.’ No! For the source of the Lord’s kingdom would always abide the same; always would its source be heavenly. The Father’s will is to bestow it on the Son, and His decree is that it should be established, not by the armies of men, but by the host of angels from on high. (2) The last clause, ‘not from hence.’ establishes the rendering here given; and the sense - ‘Heaven, not earth, is the source of our Lord’s future kingdom.’
For the Saviour could not deny that His kingdom was
one day to rule over the
Lord does not answer the question,
‘What He had done?’ till His next reply. What is the Saviour’s kingdom? ‘A kingdom,’ most reply, ‘in the hearts of His people.’ Nay, the kingdom is to be seen when He is
beheld coming in the clouds, with power of His angels, casting His foes into
the furnace of fire, and rewarding His well-behaved and faithful servants (Matt. 24. [&] 25.) Says Pilate,
‘Thy people, 0 king, have themselves delivered Thee up to me, as an offender to
be slain!’ And Jesus, while owning
Himself ‘King of the Jews,’ as the Prophet had declared, must yet say, that on
worldly grounds His servants would have fought against the Jews, as against
enemies. ‘All the foundations are out of
course.’ That ‘Jesus is the King of
Israel’ had been declared at His birth (Matt. 2: 2). He had owned it in the mouth of Nathaniel (John 1: 49, 50).
He had presented Himself purposely as their King, in His entry into
37. ‘Pilate saith therefore unto Him, “Thou art a King then.” Jesus answered, “Thou sayest that I am a King. I was for this purpose born, and for this purpose came into the world, in order that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.” ’
Jesus had thrice spoken of ‘His kingdom.’ But if so, He owned Himself to be a King.
Jesus admits it. In what sense? Some pervert His words, as if the following sentiments of our Lord were descriptive of the nature of His kingdom. As though He had said, ‘I am King in a figurative sense. I reign spiritually in the hearts of My people. I am King: but My realm is that of grace and truth.’ Now if this were the only passage, there might be some appearance of truth in such a view. But when we bring in other passages, it is apparent that this is a mistake. The only shelter which the sentiment can find lies in this, that the present time is the time of the kingdom in mystery, and the present day is that of ‘the word of the kingdom.’
it must never be forgot, that both in the other Gospels and in this, Jesus was
asked whether He were ‘the King of the Jews.’ To that question Jesus answered in the affirmative. Therefore
it is certain, that Jesus’ kingdom is not only or chiefly a figurative one, but
a real and literal one, (1) over the nation of
The nature of the kingdom, then, is wholly misapprehended by those who make it something figurative and present. This is not truly the time of the Saviour’s kingdom. We are to pray for its coming; not for its extension. The kingdom, generally, means the kingdom in manifestation, not ‘the word of the kingdom’ only. It is to overturn the kingdoms of the earth when it comes; not as now, while in mystery: its adherents lying passive in the hands of the kings of the earth, and refusing to take power in, and over, the world.
was offered all the kingdoms of the world by Satan, and He might have taken the
This was ‘the good confession’ before Pilate, which cost our Lord His ‘life’ (1 Tim. 6: 13).
(1) In Daniel 7: 14-27, ‘the Son of Man’ as ‘Ancient of Days,’ puts down by force and justice the fourth empire, and its blaspheming King; while He gives the kingdom which He has taken away from the Blasphemer, to His fellow-kings. (2) So in the parable of the Pounds (Luke 19.) The nobleman is gone to heaven to obtain His kingdom. He does not exercise it while in heaven: it is only at His return, after the reception of His kingdom, that He exercises it. And how does He manifest it? By exalting His friends and faithful servants and by destroying His foes. That is, His kingdom never means an inward and invisible kingdom in the hearts of believers.
(3) While Paul proclaims Jesus as being now the ‘Priest after the order of Melchizedec,’ he speaks also of the day when the Kingly side of that title shall appear. For Melchizedec was both Priest and King, of which the history of Abraham gives us a typical glimpse. He brings blessing to Abraham and his sons, after their Gentile foes are cut off (Heb. 7: 1).
(4) His kingdom is to manifest itself in [or at the time of the First] resurrection, at His coming with the trumpet of heaven. It is to be based on the principle of righteousness; in opposition to that of mercy, now in force. Christ is to reign, not only spiritually over friends, but specially in the putting down by power and righteousness, all enemies. So says Paul, 1 Cor. 15: 24-28 - ‘Then cometh the end, when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put clown all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For He (God) hath put all things under His (Christ’s) feet. But when He saith, all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted, which did put all things under Him. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.’ (5) The same thing appears in Rev. 11: 15-18, when the seventh trump sounds; then the kingdoms of earth become, by the putting forth of God’s might, and the recalling of the power lent in Noah’s day to the sons of men – ‘the kingdoms of the Lord, and of His Christ.’ At that time the nations are not converted and obedient, but are angry with God, and God is angry with them, even to the cutting off of their armies by battle (Rev. 19: 11-21; Is. 34.). Then appears the other side of the matter - the kingdom comes, as the time of the reward prepared for God’s saints of previous dispensations. (6) Accordingly, the thing is shown in the Apocalypse in detail by Christ coming with His armies out of the sky; when, finding the hosts of earth arrayed against Him under two leaders of especial wickedness, He casts the two into the lake of fire, and slays the rest; his title then becoming openly ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS’ (Rev. 19: 16). (7) After that, and the imprisonment of Satan, the kingdom is fully manifested. Christ reigns, and His martyrs who suffered for, and served, Him, sit on thrones, and reign with Christ (Rev. 20: 4-6). They then exercise justice:- not, as now, suffer oppression patiently.
‘The kingdom,’ therefore is to be taken in its usual and literal sense.
(1) The future
But to return to our Lord’s words. Lest Pilate and others should imagine that His kingly aspect was the only one attaching to Him, He proceeds to assert at greater length that side of His mission, which John’s Gospel especially unfolds - His being a witness to the truth of God as the Only-begotten Son. This feature can only belong to His kingdom during the time of mystery. The receivers of the witness of Christ in this day are preparing to be fellow-kings (not merely ‘subjects,’ as is generally said) with Christ. ‘They lived and reigned with the Christ,’ who suffered with Him in the day of mystery (2 Tim. 2: 12; Rev. 20: 4-6).
Jesus, then, sets Himself forth in a new light, and that in a way adapted to lead to the salvation of Pilate as the man.
Jesus is The Witness. So Isaiah said He should be (Is. 55: 4), ‘Behold, I have given Him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.’ This is a passage taken from the general call of the prophet to the sons of men, to seek in the Son of God that satisfaction which can be found alone in Him. There also is, first, a reference to the millennium in the expression ‘the sure mercies of David’ - that is, the restoration of His kingdom for ever, as God promised. Then comes the notice of the Lord’s establishing Christ as a witness to the nations (Rev. 1: 5, 6).
Jesus was ‘born’ a king, and with an object before His own mind, as well as before His Father’s. He existed before He was ‘born.’ He came into the world, in pursuance of an object given Him of the Father.
The then present work of our Lord was that of the peaceful suffering witness, testifying to unpopular truth. This testimony is carried on still in Christ’s members; by the [Holy] Spirit given to testify to salvation now, and to the [millennial] kingdom to come. This attitude is something quite different from kingly rule and power. It is ‘the word of the kingdom’ now; the power of it comes only when Christ returns (Matt. 13: 19).
Jesus, then, in v. 37 is stating to Pilate, not the aim of His kingdom; but of His coming the first time in the flesh. It will be another thing by and bye, when He comes ‘the second time’ in His kingdom, of which the Transfiguration was a type (Matt. 16: 13; 17: 9).
‘To bear witness to the truth.’ Many in our days profess to be fond of the truth, and to be seeking it, but to be sceptical of finding it. Jesus came not to seek it; but, as having full possession of it before He was born, He came to dispense it to others by His testimony. ‘The truth’- means that it is a great body and One system; religious truth concerning God and man. Here was the answer to Pilate – ‘What hast thou done?’
‘Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice.’
was the appeal to Pilate that He might be saved. Jesus’ witness was delivered not to
‘Every one that is of the truth.’
This takes up the figure frequently found in John, of the truth being to us as a father. ‘Begotten of God.’ The men of the world are born ‘flesh of the flesh’ in enmity against God, living in falsehood, and by it turned away from God and His Son.
‘The truth’ is (1) a system of religion not to be discovered by the reason of fallen man; it must be brought to him from heaven as a testimony complete. (2) It must be sent from God through the Son of God, who is, as well as testifies, ‘the Truth.’ (3) For ‘the truth’ turns on the person, work, and witness of the Son. Thus John is carrying out the proof of Jesus’ first coming as the Only-begotten Son of God, ‘full of grace and truth;’ in opposition to Moses, the man of shadows and of Law.
If any, then, refuse Christ, it is because they belong to the old error, falsity, and enmity of fallen Adam. Hearts of unbelief cannot know, or by searching find out God. The un-renewed hate God, and the account of Him which is given by Christ. Nature cannot, however deeply studied, reveal God, as it is necessary for a sinner to know Him. If any, then, after hearing Christ and His testimony, refuse it, it is because they are still in darkness, and prefer it to the light.
38. ‘Pilate saith unto Him, “What is truth?” ‘And having said this, he again went out to the Jews, and saith to them – “I find no fault in Him.”
It is evident, that to Pilate ‘truth’ was only a dream, the philosopher’s everlasting wrangle, leading to no serious useful result. ‘He was a practical man, that had to deal with life and its realities; a man of action, to preside in power over a province of the chief of earth’s kingdoms. These philosophers who pretend to truth are all at variance one with another! Nothing settled, nothing demonstrated! ‘Now, it is true that the evidence of religious truth is not the same as the evidence, that - this is a house’ – and -, ‘yonder is a tree.’ Yet to those willing to learn, the assurance is as great as the perceptions of sense.
Truth as presented to us now is no dream of men, but the revelation of God; it is authoritative, marking out the course which is to be pursued and that to be avoided, as we would attain to His kingdom and glory, and avoid His displeasure. The acceptance of the truth of His testimony now is the way to His kingdom of power hereafter. Present and future happiness are bound up therewith.
Now, as Pilate possessed power, but not principle, he went ever dismally astray; led only by his instincts and his apparent worldly interests; ignorant of the God who would call him to account. Hence he vacillates; staggers to and fro. He will not accept Christ; he will not deny Him. Without principle firmly held, there can be no firmness of conduct.
To him, therefore, Christ is a singular spectacle. ‘To be resting on a kingdom in the clouds, and talking about that will-o’-the-wisp, “truth,” that no man has ever seized! ‘I can now understand how Thou art rejected by Thine own people!’ And so Pilate despises Christ, and despises His haters also. For him Christ is too high, and His enemies too low. Not all will accept a Christ offered.
To be a Christian, however, is to have found the truth incarnate in Christ; to have the Spirit of Truth as our teacher, and to read the Word of God as our store of truth.
is truth?’ A good question! But it was uttered to Pilate’s condemnation,
for he did not care to wait for an answer; deeply, eternally, has it affected
him. That showed His unbelief in Jesus, and of religious truth in general. It was just the attitude of most cultivated
Roman and Grecian minds of that day.
They saw enough to reject the foolish and wicked fables of their own
religion of idolatry. But in casting
away these, they had nothing better to supply in their place. The philosophers of
Wherever this is the case, the cry goes up- ‘Truth, indeed! There is no such thing! What one calls truth, another says is falsehood! Nothing is certain, but that no certainty is to be had! It is all illusion of the human mind. There is no stable external reality of truth. Man is the measure of all things.’*
* ‘O God, if there be a God, save my soul, if I have a soul,’ was the final expression of doubt.
Such persons can have no settled principles to control or guide them. They drift, as did Pilate, with circumstances.
But what says God? What says this Gospel?
It speaks of truth as being in its essence lodged in God. It is discovered to us here as abiding in two Divine Persons, and testified by them. 1. The first of these is the Son of God, who came, bringing from above the wondrous revelation of God and man, Himself being the Light, who by His life, death, resurrection, and word, makes known to us the Father; and, by contrast, man the fallen (John 1: 14; 14: 6).
2. The Second Person in this case is ‘THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH’ (14: 17; 15: 26; 16: 13). He searches all the truth of God, and possesses it. He testifies to the Son of God, who is ‘The Truth’ embodied. He turns men from the falsehood of the devil, and from enmity against God, into love and light.
3. THE SCRIPTURE is the written truth, put into our hands, specially the New Testament (John 1: 17, 18). In that is treasured the testimony concerning Christ, as our only way to the truth of God, indited by the wisdom of the Spirit of God. These three agree in one. They are the sinner’s way to the truth (1) about himself; his utter loss, his deep-seated evil, his blindness, his condemnation, his constant hatred of God, and eternal suffering of the wrath and justice of God, as being God’s eternal sentence against the everlasting sinner against the Most High! The Scriptures are the sinner’s way to the truth, (2) concerning God, How alone infinite justice can be reconciled to the unrighteous, how pardon can be dispensed to the guilty, and benefits heaped upon the unworthy, through Christ.
Pilate declares to the Jews, that their accusation was a false one. He had tested our Lord on the one point on
which alone he had a right to be jealous.
‘Was He one, who would by His seditious principles and practices as a
man on earth give trouble, if He had the opportunity, to Caesar’s
government?’ Hereupon he was quite
satisfied, that Jesus, if left at liberty, would no more disturb the government
of Rome over Israel than He had already done.
He had declared, that the source of the kingdom
He expected was not human swords. Had it been
so, the occasion which brought Him before Pilate would have been sure to have
manifested His intention to fight. And
as for any kingdom established by armies from Heaven, Pilate had no fear about that! Moreover, in the Saviour’s testimony
concerning truth, as the especial subject engaging His sojourn on earth, he
beheld in Jesus the harmless dreaming enthusiast, who might safely be left
alone to tread as He pleased the ways in
Thus ‘the Lamb of God,’ who was to bear the sin of the world, is examined by the Gentile, as well as the Jew; and both are constrained to own that it has no blemish. The ‘I’ is emphatic. It sets His testimony in designed contrast to theirs. ‘You accuse Him as the guilty conspirator against Caesar. I find no such fault in Him.’ But neither Pilate’s witness, nor that of Judas, cheeks the men of unbelief.
‘I find in Him no fault at all!’ Dismiss the charges against Him then! Put Him within the castle in safety from His foes, as did the Governor on Paul’s behalf. But no! The man who knows not what truth is, has no certain footing. He scourges the innocent!
39. ‘But ye have a custom that I release one unto you at the Passover will ye, therefore, that I release to you “the King of the Jews?” Therefore all again shouted, saying, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber!’
uses several expedients, with the view of releasing Jesus, and escaping the
enmity of the High Priests, on the one hand, and His own guilt in condemning
Him, on the other. He sends Him to
Herod, hoping that thus he might get rid of the burthen. He would get the Jews voluntarily to release
Him, as it was festival time. Had not
vast multitudes arrayed themselves in His favour, when He made His entry into
Now all this did not avail. (1) It was on Pilate’s part a tampering with his own duty, the first duty of a magistrate, to condemn the guilty only, and to protect the innocent. But he feared, Roman though he was, to do that. (2) God’s mind was behind it all. It was His pleasure, that through the condemnation of the Righteous One, and the liberation of the thrice guilty robber at the Passover, He should show to us the virtue of the true Paschal Lamb, in setting us, the guilty, free, by the sufferings of the Guiltless One.
But Unitarians say, ‘Then you make God unjust: He punishes the One not guilty’ I ask then, Against whom is the injustice committed?’ 1. Not against Jesus, for He willingly submitted to it, as the good pleasure of His Father. And the Law’s maxim is, ‘Volenti non fit injuria.’ ‘No injustice is committed, if you do only what the party wishes you to do.’ (2) It is the Father’s voluntary withdrawal from His just rights, that He may bring blessing to His foes! How wonderful! ‘That He might spare His enemies, He would not spare His Son!’ And that Son consented to it!
But the Jews will not act as Pilate would have them; and as he might naturally have expected. He had committed two faults herein. (1) He had treated Jesus as one guilty, who might nevertheless be in some way excused. (2) He ought not to have put such a question to their choice. It was for him to decide according to law and justice. Government is not to be carried on by the show of hands of a mob!
shout of the crowd goes up, ‘Not this man, but Barabbas!’ The Beloved
Son of God is the rejected of
the world; the accepted by
the world is a robber,
murderer, and seditious one, son of his
father, the devil! The cross of Christ
makes the world show itself. This tells
us, Christians, what the world’s choice concerning us would be, if we are
consistent. ‘The servant is not above
his lord, nor the disciple above his master.’
So with Paul at
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