Journey Through John – Ch 6

I. Fish Frying (1-15)

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 

  • This is the only sign recorded in all four Gospels.
  • See: Luke 9: 10-17; Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44
  • “After this” John, as usual, is not very specific in his chronology (remember, he’s more worried about theology), however, we learn from Mark that this event follows the disciples being sent out to minister and the death of John the Baptist. We’re probably 6 months after the events of chapter 5.
  • “to the other side of the Sea of Galilee” – apparently Jesus attempts to withdraw with his disciples for rest, yet the crowd persistently followed. Luke tells us the location is near Bethsadia, on the northern side of the sea.
  • Just before the feeding of the 5000, Matthew tells us that Jesus was moved with compassion and had healed a number of the crowd (Matt. 14:14), Luke ads that Jesus had been also teaching them concerning the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:11).
  • Verses 5-7 present the problem to the reader. It’s supper time, it’s getting dark, and the crowd needs to be dispersed in order to find food. Some of the gospels state that this conversation began when the disciples asked Jesus to dismiss the crowd. John points out that this event was orchestrated by Christ to provide another teaching moment for the disciples and the crowd.
  • Jesus’ directs his question to Philip, perhaps because he is from this area, and he may know of places to secure food. Philip responds with the more pressing issue. It doesn’t matter if we could even find the resources, we don’t have the money!
  • “200 denarii” – 8 months of your salary.
  • Verse 9 sounds almost comical compared to the number of people present.
  • Verse 10 – Even having the people sit down in groups of 50 had to be quite the task.
  • “5,000” – we have commonly referred to this story as “The feeding of the 5000”, but this number is far too small. Matthew notes that there were 5,000 men plus women and children. Reasonable estimates place the crowd around 12,000-15,000 strong.
  • The confession of verse 13 seems short-lived by the time we end the chapter. It contains a great warning of “easy believism”.

II. Water Walking (16-21)

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. 

  • Verse 16, brings us back to the initial reason the disciples traveled to Bethsaidia, rest.
  • The Sea of Galilee is about 600 feet below sea level and strong winds are apt to blow from the west.
  • Matthew and Mark state that Jesus told them to leave and apparently go to a prearranged meeting place.
  • verse 19 – The total distance across the sea is circa 5 miles. The disciples had managed to make it about 3/4 of the way across.
  • “It is I; do not be afraid”. Mark tells us that Jesus had been watching their struggle and intended on passing by them unnoticed, yet when he was spotted, He seeks to bring a sense of comfort and peace.
  • APP: As believers, Jesus’ presence should always bring us comfort and peace.
  • “immediately the boat was at the land” – The struggling was over.

III. Bread You Can Believe In (22-59)

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 

  • The crowd proves itself to be full of problem solving skills and persistence.

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 

  • Verse 25, the persistent crowd wants to know “when” he crossed the sea. They knew he stayed behind when the disciples left.
  • Jesus answers their question with a peek into their motives for looking.
  • QUES: What does Jesus mean in verse 26?
  • “signs” – The meaning of “sign” in this Gospel is that it points beyond the physical, concrete reality to the reality of revelation. It provides insight into who Jesus is. Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 262.
  • In verse 27, Jesus confronts the misplaced priorities. “work” – to engage in an activity involving considerable expenditure of effort—‘to work, to labor.’
  • “the Father has set his seal” – Jesus identifies himself as the real sign.
  • Verse 28 – The question implies the thought of what works must we be doing to have a secure acceptance before God?
  • In verse 29 the key subject for the remainder of the chapter enters the dialogue for the first time – belief.
  • “The interplay between working and believing is crucial to the concept of salvation in John. On the one hand, a person cannot earn acceptability with God by working for it. On the other hand, acceptability with God cannot be on the basis of “belief” in a mere theological formulation about God. Thus the noun “faith” (pistis) does not occur in John’s Gospel. He chose instead to use only the verb “believe” (pisteuein), and he almost equated it with “obey” (cf. 3:36). Acceptability with God is a relationship God gives (6:27), therefore, and both believing and obeying are parallel ways one acknowledges dependence on God. As the Son always responded appropriately to the Father, people are to respond to the Son, who was sent by the Father (6:29). That is precisely the way John understood the call of Jesus to the Jews here.” Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 262–263.
  • We might call John”s use of belief, “authentic belief” or “knowing God, not just knowing about God”.
  • “So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?” (v. 30) – The crowd attempts to manipulate the situation into another meal. Unbeknown to them, they have just proved Jesus’ earlier point from verses 26-27.
  • Verse 31 – They bait Jesus further by saying Moses was a prophet and gave bread from heaven, if you’re a prophet, then you’ll do the same.
  • Verses 32-34 – Just as Jesus has done with Nicodemus (birth) and the woman at the well (water), He now does with the metaphor of bread.
  • QUES: What can we learn about Jesus from God’s giving the Israelites bread in the wilderness? (Numbers 16)

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

  • QUES: What Jesus says in verse 36 is key to understanding much of the rest of what he is saying. So, what’s he saying?
  • The works of Jesus make it clearly evident who he is, yet they do not accept him for who he is.
  • Notice Jesus’ train of thought in verses 37-40.
  1. The Father gives (37)
  2. Jesus does not reject what the father gives (37)
  3. Jesus has come from heaven to do God’s will (38)
  4. God’s will? Jesus securely keeps for eternity all that God the Father gives to him. (39)
  5. God’s will? Everyone who has authentic faith in Christ as God’s Son will be given eternal life (3.16) and experience future resurrection.

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 

  • Verses 41-42, “The opening words of 6:41 serve as a powerful announcement: those who had been conversing with Jesus were not merely uncommitted people in general but in fact his opponents. They were “the Jews,” the designation used by John to mark out that particular group in the people of Israel. Moreover, they were for the evangelist the equivalent of the rebellious people in the wilderness wanderings, and so he identified these Jews with the grumblers in the desert (e.g., Exod 16:2, 7).  Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 267.
  • “How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven?” – Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of the manna associated with Moses when He claimed, “I am the bread that came down from heaven” and the Jews understood this.
  • Verse 44. A life changing verse for myself. The verse connects back to verses 37-39 and ties directly into authentic belief (look ahead to 64-65). So, what does it take to have authentic belief in Jesus, why have the Jews witnessed and participated in the feeding of the 5000 at yet do not believe? Short answer, the Father has not drawn them.
  • This should be understood to be more than a “wooing”. Jesus seems to speak with a sense of finality or completion about those that are drawn. Note: Those that are drawn “I will raise up on the last day.” and in the next verse, “everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me”
  • Verse 45 is a quote from Isaiah 54:13, where God is compassionately calling Israel even after their rebellion.
  • Verse 46 – a theological clarification expressing the divinity of Christ and also explaining how he “came from heaven”.
  • Verses 47-51 – QUES: How is Jesus different from the mana given by God during the Exodus?
  • That mana was incomplete. Those that ate it still died. However, those who believe/eats the bread of Jesus live eternally.
  • Verse 51, having the complete picture, we know this to be a reference to the believing in the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross. However, it throws the Jews into further confusion.

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

  • “Jesus’ response to their arguing was to formulate another double amēn (“I tell you the truth”) saying in this context. The saying actually extends for six verses and involves a number of word interplays that are both important and complex and that provide a fertile field for theological argument and misunderstanding. The interplay of eating flesh and drinking blood could easily have seemed to the Jews to be a cannibalistic statement. But it was no doubt for John a theological symbol referring to the acceptance of the death of Jesus, the Son of Man (6:53).” Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 271.

IV. Hard To Hear (60-71)

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) 65 And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” 

  • In this section it is important to distinguish between Jesus’ disciples as a whole and the 12.
  • “the text indicates that even though they “heard” (akouein) Jesus, they failed to “accept” (akouein) the word (logos) of Jesus. The wordplay here is important because it reminds the reader that the mere hearing of words is not enough. It is “obedience,” the implied meaning of akouein, that is important. Some people may be troubled by these verses because of presuppositions of what the Bible has to say, but our task as interpreters is to listen to the biblical message and apply its warnings as well as its assurance statements to our lives.” Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 274.
  • Verse 62 – probably a reference to Christ’s ascension.
  • Verse 63 – “The issue in biblical Christianity is regeneration—heart change produced by the Holy Spirit—not labels, not affiliations, not personal claims, not religious acts or pilgrimages, and certainly not the keeping of religious laws. And let us not miss in verse 60 that the teaching is hard to accept.” Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 131.
  • A “flesh dominated” look at Jesus’ words will not result in the correct conclusion. The Spirit of God must correct our vision.
  • And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Co 4:3–6.
  • verse 64 – Jesus knows who believes and who doesn’t.
  • Verse 65 – a restatement of verse 44. In the first instance, Jesus says “drawn” and in the second, “granted”. “granted” – an object given, usually of considerable value.
  • Authentic belief comes through understanding spiritual truth through the enabling of God.
  • “We are almost astonished to find Jesus turning again to the subject we have called “election” as an explanation for the unbelief and departure of false disciples. How does one participate in this heavenly bread? How does one come to the Bread of Life in order to receive eternal life? Only because the Father makes it possible.” Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 131.

V. An Example of Authentic Belief (66-71)

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray him. 

  • Verse 68 – Authentic belief is persevering belief. Having his eyes opened to who Christ was, Peter knew seeking God through any other means would be a disappointment and a failure. 
  • “come to know” – a statement of assurance from experiencing Christ personally.
  • The mention of Jesus “choosing” Judas must not be made the basis for a theology of reprobation (the theory that people are elected or determined to destruction by God). The text does not say that Jesus determined Judas to become a devil. This servant of the devil performed a task necessary in the opening of salvation to the world (cf. Luke 22:22). But great care must be taken lest God be blamed for the evil of Judas. The biblical message does not blame God for evil. The rebellious heart is to blame. Here Jesus chose Judas, but Judas was a willful devil (6:70). Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 276.