John Chapters 5 to 8, Part 3
by Karl Kemp
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We continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 5-8 here in Part 3, starting with the first verse of chapter 6.
"After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias [cf. John 21:1]). [John didn't mention Jesus' (and His disciples') return to Galilee after the events that took place in Jerusalem mentioned in chapter 5. The feeding of the five thousand men (plus women and children) that is discussed here in John 6:1-13 is also discussed in Matt. 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; and Luke 9:10-17. Apparently Jesus crossed over to the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee, by the Golan Heights. ((I had a footnote: I'll quote a sentence from what J. Carl Laney says here ("John" [Moody Press, 1992], page 119), "The location of the miracle is described in the synoptic gospels as in a deserted place (Mark 6:35 ) near Bethsaida (Luke 9:10), a reference to Bethsaida-Julia located on the northeast shore of the sea (cf. John 1:44 [and John 12:21]).")]] (2) A large crowd followed Him [They followed Him "to the other side of the Sea of Galilee."], because they saw the signs ["or attesting miracles" (margin of NASB); cf., e.g., John 2:11, 23; 3:2; 6:14, 30; 11:47; 12:18, 37; and 20:30, 31] which He was performing on those who were sick. [[Some (many) of the people who followed Jesus as He ministered in Galilee (and elsewhere) didn't really see signs, signs that pointed them to the fact that they needed to repent and submit (in faith) to Jesus, the Messiah, the only Savior, who could save them from their sins; they just saw miracles that could meet their physical needs (cf., e.g., John 6:26). ((I had a footnote: The context in which the chief priest and Pharisees used the Greek noun ("semenion") translated "signs" in John 11:47 shows that they were using the word in the sense of miracle. They certainly didn't believe that the miracles Jesus performed were signs that should cause men to look to Him as being sent from God; they didn't believe in Jesus; some of them claimed that He worked miracles by the power of Satan.))]] (3) Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples [cf. John 6:15]. (4) Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. [This is the second of three Passovers mentioned in the Gospel of John; the other two are mentioned in John 2:13, 23 and in 11:55; 12:1; 13:1; and 18:28. (See under John 2:13 in my paper on John 1:19-4:54 on this Christian article site.] (5) Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him [cf. John 6:2], said to Philip [Philip was one of the twelve apostles (cf. John 1:43-48; 6:7; 12:21, 22; 14:8, 9; and Matt. 10:3).], 'Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?' [Matt. 14:14, 15; Mark 6:34, 35 show that Jesus had been teaching and healing the people for many hours before He brought up the topic of feeding them.] (6) This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. (7) Philip answered Him, 'Two hundred denarii [cf. Mark 6:37; "The denarius was equivalent to a day's wages" (margin of NASB)] worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.' [Verse 10 shows that the number of men was about five thousand; Matt. 14:21 confirms that women and children were to be added to this number; the total number of people could have been ten to twenty thousand.] (8) One of His disciples, Andrew [cf. John 1:35-42; Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; and Luke 5:2-11], Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, (9) 'There is a lad here who has five barley loaves [John's account was the only one that mentioned that the loaves were made of barley.] and two fish [cf. Matt. 14:17, 19; Mark 6:38, 41; and Luke 9:13, 16], but what are these for so many people?' (10) Jesus said, 'Have the people sit down.' Now there was much grass in the place [cf. Mark 6:39]. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. (11) Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. (12) When they were filled, He said to His disciples, 'Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.' (13) So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. (14) Therefore when the people saw the sign [On "the sign," see under verse 2] which He had performed, they said, 'This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world [cf. John 1:19-25; 7:40-42; and Deut. 18:15-19; the first two references cited demonstrate that "the Prophet" wasn't always equated with the Messiah.].' (15) So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain [cf. John 6:3] by Himself alone [cf. verses 16-21]. [[It is clear that Jesus didn't appreciate the misdirected, fleshly zeal of the people. They were going to take matters into their own hands, take Him by force, and make Him king. Most of them were probably looking for Him to deliver them from the Romans; they were not looking for a King to call them to repentance and save them from their sin(s). Verses 26-30, for example, show that most of the people didn't really believe in (have faith in) Jesus. His kingdom is not of this world (cf., e.g., John 18:36), but He will return as King to save and glorify His own and to judge this world and its god.]] (16) [Compare Matt. 14:22-34 (this account in Matthew includes Peter's walking on the water); Mark 6:45-53.] Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, (17) and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. [[Compare John 6:24. Matthew 14:34 and Mark 6:53 mention that they landed at Gennesaret. I'll quote two sentences from what W. W. Buehler says under "Genneseret, Land of" ("International Standard Bible Encyclopedia," fully revised, Vol. 2 (Eerdmans, 1982), page 443). "Genneseret is a coastal plain about 5 km. (3 mi.) long and 1.5 km. (1 mi.) wide, extending from Magdala [which was south of Capernaum] to just S of Capernaum. Sheltered from the wind by mountains and lying 210 m. (682 ft.) below sea level, it consists of well-watered alluvial soil and enjoys a subtropical climate."]] It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. (18) The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. (19) Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles ["Lit. 25 or 30 stadia" (margin of NASB). I'll quote two sentences from what F. F. Bruce says here ("Gospel of John," page 148), "A 'furlong' (Greek "stadion") was rather less than our modern furlong; they had rowed about three miles. From the neighborhood of Bethsaida across the lake to Capernaum would be about five miles."], they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. (20) But He said to them, 'It is I; do not be afraid ["Or, stop being afraid" (margin of NASB); cf. Matt. 14:26, 27; Mark 6:49, 50].' (21) So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. [John is the only Gospel writer who mentioned the apparent miracle that "immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going."] (22) The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea [referring to the crowd that had seen the miraculous multiplication of food; they were still at the location where Jesus had worked the miracle] saw that there was no other small boat there, except one [[the boat in which Jesus and His disciples had crossed to the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee to begin with (cf. Matt. 14:13; Mark 6:32; and John 6:1) and in which the disciples had left to cross over to Capernaum, which was on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee (cf. John 6:16, 17).]], and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. (23) There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks [cf. John 6:11]. [[I'll quote two sentences from what J. Carl Laney says here ("John," page 126), "By the time the crowds realized that Jesus was gone, some boatmen had arrived from Tiberias, the capital of Galilee, from which Herod Antipas ruled. Tiberius was located along the southwest shore of the lake, about a seven-mile boat ride from Capernaum."]] (24) So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum [cf. John 6:17] seeking Jesus. [Undoubtedly a large number of the people who had followed Jesus to the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee went back the same way they had come, by walking.] (25) When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, 'Rabbi, when did You get here?' (26) Jesus answered them and said [Jesus didn't answer their question as to when (or how) He had gotten to Capernaum.], 'Truly [Amen], truly [amen], I say to you, you seek Me [In verse 24 it says they were seeking Jesus.], not because you saw signs [[They had seen miracles, but not signs that pointed them to their need to repent and submit (in faith) to Christ Jesus, the only One who could save them and give them eternal life. On signs, see verses 2, 14, 30; see under verse 2 (including the footnote) and under verse 30.
I'll quote part of what F. Godet says here ("Commentary on the Gospel of John" [Zondervan, 1969 reprint], page 18), "The multitudes interpreted the multiplication of the loaves [and fish] as the beginning of a series of wonders of the same nature, the inauguration of an era of miracles more and more brilliant and satisfying to the flesh. 'Instead of seeing,' as Lange says, 'in the bread the sign, they had seen in the sign only the bread.' This gross want of understanding is what gives to their search for Jesus a false, earthly, sensual, animal character. This tendency it is which Jesus points out to them from the very first word of the conversation, and particularly by the expression which betrays a sort of disgust: and because you were filled. What a difference between these people, who come with their gross aspirations, their earthly appetites, and the spiritual Israel which the Old Testament was intended to prepare and which cries out: 'My soul thirsts after thee, oh living God!' This Israel would say to Him who multiplied the loaves: Give us more still! Do today for our hearts what thou didst yesterday for our bodies!"]], but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. (27) Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food [spiritual, heavenly food] which endures to eternal life [cf., e.g., Isa. 55:1-5; Matt. 6:33; John 3:15-17, 36; 4:10-15; 6:40, 47-58, 63; 10:28; and 17:2, 3], which the Son of Man [see under John 5:27] will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal [[To say the Father has "set His seal" on the Lord Jesus Christ is to say that He has testified to His genuineness (cf., e.g., John 5:31-47); His seal guarantees the authenticity of Christ Jesus.].' [In a way that is typical for the Gospel of John, Jesus exhorts His hearers to repent, to find out who He is (God the Son, the Messiah, the Lamb of God), and to submit (in faith) to Him, to the One who sent Him (and the One who testifies of Him and has set His seal on Him), and to the gospel of salvation.]] (28) Therefore they said to Him, 'What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?' (29) Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe [I had a footnote: The present tense of the verb believe used here confirms what we should have known anyway, that we must continue to believe in Christ.] in [Greek preposition "eis"] Him whom He has sent.' [[Compare 1 John 3:23. First we must (repent and) believe in (submit in faith to) the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe in Him includes believing in the One who sent Him and believing all that is revealed about Him and the plan of salvation that centers in Him. Any works that are done while refusing to submit (from the heart in faith) to the One sent by the Father cannot be acceptable works, and such works can never bring about the new birth, which provides the power to overcome sin.
The New Testament makes it quite clear that works of righteousness must be manifested (and that we will be judged according to our works) - but first things first. First we must be forgiven and born again through (and in union with) Christ; then we can do the required works of righteousness (with the victory over sin) by His grace/Spirit through faith and for His glory. If the faith is real the works will be manifested in a righteous life that is lived in accordance with the will of God (cf., e.g., Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14; James 2:14-26; Rev. 2:5, 26; and 3:1-4). I'll quote a sentence from what J. H. Bernard says here ("Gospel According to John," Vol. 1 [T&T Clark, 1999 printing], page 192), "This mystical doctrine of union with Christ [by the Spirit] is the core of the Fourth Gospel; see, for earlier statements of it, 3:15, 36 and the notes there."
I'll quote a paragraph from what Gerald L. Borchert says under verses 27-29 ("John 1-11" [Broadman & Holman, 2002], pages 262, 263), "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. (Borshert has a footnote, "Note, however, the untypical use of pistis at 1 John 5:4.") [[The noun faith is an action noun; very often this noun (as it is used in the New Testament) is full of action. Having faith in God (the triune God) includes making Him, His word, His righteousness, His salvation, and His will top priority. Those who have faith in God trust Him, and they obey Him. They have the right priorities, attitudes, and motives. See the second to last sentence in the preceding paragraph, and see the use of this noun throughout Hebrews chapter 11 for many examples of the fact that faith is a noun full of action. In general there is no difference between believing in God and His Word and having faith in God and His Word.]] He chose instead to use only the verb 'believe' (pisteuein), and he almost equated it with 'obey' (cf. 3:36). ...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."]] (30) So they said to Him, 'What then do You do for a sign [cf., e.g., John 2:18; 6:2, 14, 26; Matt. 12:38-42; and 1 Cor. 1:22], so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? [[The apostle John makes it very clear in this Gospel that Jesus taught that saving faith must be based on more than signs. Jesus knew what was in the hearts of people (cf. John 2:23-25). (Faith is of the heart.) He knew, for one thing, that many would not become true believers no matter how many signs, or how great the signs He worked.
As His questioners continue in the next verse (verse 31), they remind Jesus that God gave the spectacular sign of manna from heaven when Moses led the people, heavenly bread that God provided throughout the years of the wilderness wanderings for the people of Israel on their way to the promised land. They are demanding a comparable (or greater) sign from Jesus before they submit to Him in faith. ((I had a footnote: I'll quote a few sentences from what Leon Morris says under verses 30-40 ("Gospel According to John," pages 361, 362). "This section of the discourse is to be understood against the background of a Jewish expectation that, when the Messiah came, He would renew the miracle of the manna. Comfortably filled with the loaves Jesus has provided [that was yesterday], the multitude challenge Him to give them a permanent supply of bread. Jesus turns their attention to 'the true bread' (32), 'the bread of God' (33), 'the bread of life' (35). Their thoughts are hopelessly earthbound. He seeks to raise them to heaven and to that eternal life which is inextricably linked with himself."))]] (31) Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness [cf. Ex. 16:1-36; Num. 11:1-9; and John 6:49]; as it is written, "HE [GOD] GAVE THEM BREAD [physical bread] OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT." ' [[Compare Ex. 16:4, 15; Neh. 9:15; Psalms 78:24; and 105:40. I'll quote two sentences from what Henry Alford says here ("New Testament for English Readers," Vol. 2 [Baker, 1983 reprint], page 518), "The manna was extolled by the Jews as the greatest miracle of Moses. Josephus calls it 'a divine and wondrous food,' see also Wisd. 16:20 ["By contrast, thy own people were given angels' food, and thou didst send them from heaven, without labour of their own, bread ready to eat, rich in delight of every kind and suited to every taste" (quoting Wisdom of Solomon 16:20 from the apocrypha section of the NEB)]."]] (32) Jesus then said to them, 'Truly [Amen], truly [amen], I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven [true, spiritual, heavenly bread], but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. [[I don't believe Jesus was making the point here that it was God, not Moses, who gave Israel the manna when Moses was leading the people of Israel. (I had a footnote: Most commentators believe Jesus was making that point here, but not Godet, Lenski, and others. I'll quote John 6:32 from "Today's English Version," " 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus said, 'What Moses gave you was not the bread from heaven; it is my Father who gives you the real bread from heaven.' ") I don't believe Jesus needed to make that point: His hearers would have agreed that God gave Israel the manna. When Jesus spoke of "the bread out of heaven" here in John 6:32 (cf. John 6:33, 35, 41, 58), He was speaking of "the true bread out of heaven"; that is, He was speaking of Himself and the salvation He came to give to those who submit to Him in faith. His opponents did not agree that Jesus was the true bread out of heaven or that He had the right to call God "My Father" (cf. John 5:17, 18). Jesus goes on to speak of the true bread out of heaven in verses 33-58.]] (33) For the bread of God [true, spiritual, heavenly bread. "The bread of God is synonymous with the 'bread of heaven' [of verse 32] (cf. 'kingdom of heaven' in Matt., versus 'kingdom of God' in Mark and Luke)" (D. A. Carson, "Gospel According to John," page 287).] is that which comes down out of heaven [cf. John 6:32, 41, 50], and gives life to the world.' [[God the Son literally came down from/out of heaven (cf., e.g., John 1:14; 3:13, 31; 6:38, 42) to become the God-man, the Lamb of God, the Savior. He gives life to the world (see John 6:27). I'll quote John 6:48, 51, 58, "I am the bread of life." "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." "This is the bread that came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever." I'll quote a sentence from what C. K. Barrett says here ("Gospel According to St. John" [Westminster Press, 1978], page 291), "That Christ is the life-giving bread is constantly affirmed in this discourse; that Christ gives life to the world is the central thought of the gospel; 'bread', 'water', 'vine', 'birth', etc., are means by which it is conveyed."]] (34) Then they said to Him, 'Lord, always ["from now on" NIV] give us this bread.' [[Compare John 4:15. The fact that they called Him "Lord" here shows that they (at least many of them) were still showing Him some respect, but this term doesn't mean what we mean when we call Jesus Lord. The NIV translates "Sir." Their calling Him "Lord" here had nothing to do with acknowledging that He was God the Son and deity, or that He had come down out of heaven (cf., e.g., John 6:41, 42). Many (most) of them weren't even convinced that He was a man of God. They were asking Him to work a miracle mighty enough to convince them that He was who He claimed to be. Here in verse 34 (in context with verses 30-33), they were asking Jesus to provide something comparable with (or greater than) the daily supply of manna of Moses' day.]] (35) Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger ["will never go hungry" NIV. Jesus was speaking of coming to Him in faith (believing). There is no substantial difference between not hungering and not thirsting here in verse 35.], and he who believes in Me will never thirst [cf. John 4:14; 7:37-39]. [[This is not what they were expecting to hear. For most of them it sounded like blasphemous heresy. Verses 41-43 show that Jesus' saying He was the bread that came down out of heaven caused the Jews to grumble. Verse 60 shows that many of His "disciples" could not accept this teaching after Jesus elaborated on what He meant by these words.]] (36) But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe [cf., e.g., John 6:30]. (37) All that the Father gives Me [cf. John 6:39; 17:2, 24] will come to Me [[An important part of what Jesus was saying here was that He wasn't at all surprised that so many of the Jews were failing to believe in Him (to submit to Him in faith), because He knew that many of those Jews were not truly people of God the Father, not true believers (cf., e.g., John 2:23-25; 5:38-47; 6:44, 45; 8:19, 21, 24, 39-47, 54, 55), and that the Father had not given them to Him. Why would the Father lead unbelieving Jews to His Son? The exception to this rule - a very important exception, an exception that also applies to unbelieving, sinful Gentiles - is that the Father did lead many unbelieving Jews to His Son, knowing their hearts, and knowing that they would repent and become true believers, true believers in the Son and in the One who Sent Him. Even though they weren't true believers or living for God, He knew that they would become true believers and begin to live for Him in truth and righteousness by His grace/Spirit through Christ and new-covenant salvation.]], and the one who comes to Me [[There is a strong emphasis on the role of God (the sovereign God) in working out His plan of salvation in verses 37-51, but the fact that people have a free will (I had a footnote: After the fall the will of man is still free to some extent to respond to God and His grace) and that they must repent, learn of God's new-covenant plan of salvation, and submit to (appropriate and cooperate with) the grace of God in faith is also included.
People must submit to God to hear from Him and be taught by Him (see verse 45 ["It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me"]). (I had a footnote: The words of verse 45b were especially applicable for the Jews of the generation that Jesus ministered to on the earth. Those who were true believers had been hearing and learning from the Father. It was easy for Him to lead such Jews to the Lord Jesus Christ [cf. Gal. 3:24].) They must believe/have faith in Christ (see verses 29, 47); they must appropriate/partake of/eat of the bread of life by faith (see verses 48-58). It is also understood that those who come to Him (by grace through faith) must remain with Him (by grace through faith) - we must continue in faith to the end to be saved.
It is very important for us to seek God for the balanced truth of what the Scriptures teach on God's role and our role in our salvation (and on every other topic, especially those topics that are the most important). I have discussed this topic, aiming for the balanced viewpoint in several papers. ((I had a two-paragraph footnote here: Start with the first footnote under Col. 3:12 in my paper that includes Col. 1:15-3:17. [[I'll include part of that footnote, which I will update here: See pages 20-24 and the relevant parts of the appendix I added to that paper, starting at the bottom of page 25 of my paper "Once Saved, Always Saved?" All of these papers are on my internet site. See my "A Paper on Faith" (much of the content of that paper is relevant to this topic; start with the Introduction). See under Eph. 1:3-14 and Rom. 8:28-30 and see the excerpts from Norman Geisler's "Chosen but Free: A Balanced View of Divine Election" in my paper that deals with Ephesians chapters 1 and 4 and Rom. 8:16-39. See under 2 Pet. 1:10 in my paper on 2 Peter. See the Introduction to my paper on Romans chapters 9-11, and most of the section of that paper that deals with Romans chapter 9 is relevant to this topic, and some of the sections dealing with Romans chapters 10 and 11 (especially see under Rom. 11:17-36).]] Some Christians overstate the sovereign role of God by denying that man has a role in salvation; some even deny that God's choice of individuals has anything to do with His foreknowledge of the individuals (since, according to their viewpoint, all are so totally depraved that they have no capacity to have faith or to cooperate with God's grace - this is the "U" of the Calvinistic TULIP, unconditional election). Other Christians understate God's sovereign role in our salvation and overstate our role. We desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. For one thing, we can unite around the balanced truth.
I'll quote a paragraph from what J. Carl Laney says under this verse ("John" [Moody Press, 1992], page 128). "Verse 37 presents a delicate balance between divine sovereignty and man's response with regard to salvation. Divine sovereignty is reflected in the first phrase, 'All that the Father gives Me will come to Me.' Believers are given to Christ by the Father's sovereign determination. Human response is reflected in the second phrase, 'Whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.' These statements strongly affirm the two great truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Believers, however, tend to embrace one to the neglect of the other, and theologians rarely embrace the seemingly contradictory concepts with equal enthusiasm." In my opinion there are no "contradictory concepts" if we take the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches on this topic. The Bible doesn't reveal exactly where the balance is between God's role and man's role, but it makes it clear that man has a definite role. We must emphasize God's role and give Him all the glory for our salvation, but we cannot eliminate man's role - we must do the things the sovereign God requires of us, which are comprehended in the words repentance and faith.]] I will certainly not cast out. [Jesus certainly will receive those who have been given to Him by God the Father, who come to Him in repentance and faith. For one thing, as the next two verses show, He came down from heaven to do the Father's will.]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 5-8 in Part 4, starting with John 6:38.
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