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Jamieson Commentary on John 6:35-51

From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871) on John 6:35-41

35. I am the bread of life—Henceforth the discourse is all in the first person, "I," "Me," which occur in one form or other, as Stier reckons, thirty-five times.

he that cometh to me—to obtain what the soul craves, and as the only all-sufficient and ordained source of supply.

hunger … thirst—shall have conscious and abiding satisfaction.

36. But … ye have seen me, and believe not—seen Him not in His mere bodily presence, but in all the majesty of His life, His teaching, His works.

37-40. All that, &c.—This comprehensive and very grand passage is expressed with a peculiar artistic precision. The opening general statement (Joh 6:37) consists of two members: (1) "All that the Father Giveth me shall come to me"—that is, "Though ye, as I told you, have no faith in Me, My errand into the world shall in no wise be defeated; for all that the Father giveth Me shall infallibly come to Me." Observe, what is given Him by the Father is expressed in the singular number and neuter gender—literally, "everything"; while those who come to Him are put in the masculine gender and singular number—"every one." The whole mass, so to speak, is gifted by the Father to the Son as a unity, which the Son evolves, one by one, in the execution of His trust. So Joh 17:2, "that He should give eternal life to all that which Thou hast given Him" [Bengel]. This "shall" expresses the glorious certainty of it, the Father being pledged to see to it that the gift be no empty mockery. (2) "And him that cometh to me I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT." As the former was the divine, this is just the human side of the same thing. True, the "coming" ones of the second clause are just the "given" ones of the first. But had our Lord merely said, "When those that have been given Me of My Father shall come to Me, I will receive them"—besides being very flat, the impression conveyed would have been quite different, sounding as if there were no other laws in operation, in the movement of sinners to Christ, but such as are wholly divine and inscrutable to us; whereas, though He does speak of it as a sublime certainty which men's refusals cannot frustrate, He speaks of that certainty as taking effect only by men's voluntary advances to Him and acceptance of Him—"Him that cometh to Me," "whosoever will," throwing the door wide open. Only it is not the simply willing, but the actually coming, whom He will not cast out; for the word here employed usually denotes arrival, as distinguished from the ordinary word, which rather expresses the act of coming (see Joh 8:42, Greek), [Webster and Wilkinson]. "In no wise" is an emphatic negative, to meet the fears of the timid (as in Re 21:27, to meet the presumption of the hardened). These, then, being the two members of the general opening statement, what follows is meant to take in both,

38. For I came down from heaven not to do Mine own will—to play an independent part.

but—in respect to both the foregoing things, the divine and the human side of salvation.

the will of Him that sent Me—What this twofold will of Him that sent Him is, we are next sublimely told (Joh 6:39, 40):

39. And this—in the first place.

is the will of Him that sent me, that of all—everything.

which He hath given Me—(taking up the identical words of Joh 6:37).

I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day—The meaning is not, of course, that He is charged to keep the objects entrusted to Him as He received them, so as they should merely suffer nothing in His hands. For as they were just "perishing" sinners of Adam's family, to let "nothing" of such "be lost," but "raise them up at the last day," must involve, first, giving His flesh for them (Joh 6:51), that they "might not perish, but have everlasting life"; and then, after "keeping them from falling," raising their sleeping dust in incorruption and glory, and presenting them, body and soul, perfect and entire, wanting nothing, to Him who gave them to Him, saying, "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me." So much for the first will of Him that sent Him, the divine side of man's salvation, whose every stage and movement is inscrutable to us, but infallibly certain.

40. And this—in the second place.

is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son and believeth on Him—seeing the Son believeth on Him.

may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day—This is the human side of the same thing as in the foregoing verse, and answering to "Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out"; that is, I have it expressly in charge that everyone that so "beholdeth" (so vieweth) the Son as to believe on Him shall have everlasting life; and, that none of Him be lost, "I will raise him up at the last day." (See on Joh 6:54).

41-46. Jews murmured—muttered, not in our Lord's hearing, but He knew it (Joh 6:43; Joh 2:25).

he said, I am the bread, &c.—Missing the sense and glory of this, and having no relish for such sublimities, they harp upon the "Bread from heaven." "What can this mean? Do we not know all about Him—where, when, and of whom He was born? And yet He says He came down from heaven!"

43, 44. Murmur not … No man—that is, Be not either startled or stumbled at these sayings; for it needs divine teaching to understand them, divine drawing to submit to them.

44. can come to me—in the sense of Joh 6:35.

except the Father which hath sent me—that is, the Father as the Sender of Me and to carry out the design of My mission.

draw him—by an internal and efficacious operation; though by all the means of rational conviction, and in a way altogether consonant to their moral nature (So 1:4; Jer 31:3; Ho 11:3, 4).

raise him up, &c.—(See on Joh 6:54).

45. written in the prophets—in Isa 54:13; Jer 31:33, 34; other similar passages may also have been in view. Our Lord thus falls back upon Scripture authority for this seemingly hard saying.

all taught of God—not by external revelation merely, but by internal illumination, corresponding to the "drawing" of Joh 6:44.

Every man therefore, &c.—that is, who hath been thus efficaciously taught of Him.

cometh unto me—with absolute certainty, yet in the sense above given of "drawing"; that is, "As none can come to Me but as divinely drawn, so none thus drawn shall fail to come."

46. Not that any man hath seen, &c.—Lest they should confound that "hearing and learning of the Father," to which believers are admitted by divine teaching, with His own immediate access to Him, He here throws in a parenthetical explanation; stating, as explicitly as words could do it, how totally different the two cases were, and that only He who is "from God" hath this naked, immediate access to the Father. (See Joh 1:18).

47-51. He that believeth, &c.—(See on Joh 3:36; Joh 5:24).

48. I am the bread of life—"As he that believeth in Me hath everlasting life, so I am Myself the everlasting Sustenance of that life." (Repeated from Joh 6:35).

49. Your fathers—of whom ye spake (Joh 6:31); not "ours," by which He would hint that He had a higher descent, of which they dreamt not [Bengel].

did eat manna … and are dead—recurring to their own point about the manna, as one of the noblest of the ordained preparatory illustrations of His own office: "Your fathers, ye say, ate manna in the wilderness; and ye say well, for so they did, but they are dead—even they whose carcasses fell in the wilderness did eat of that bread; the Bread whereof I speak cometh down from heaven, which the manna never did, that men, eating of it, may live for ever."

51. I am, &c.—Understand, it is of Myself I now speak as the Bread from heaven; of Meif a man eat he shall live for ever; and "THE Bread which i will give is my Flesh, which i will give for the life of the world." Here, for the first time in this high discourse, our Lord explicitly introduces His sacrificial death—for only rationalists can doubt this not only as that which constitutes Him the Bread of life to men, but as THAT very element IN Him which possesses the life-giving virtue.—"From this time we hear no more (in this discourse) of "Bread"; this figure is dropped, and the reality takes its place" [Stier]. The words "I will give" may be compared with the words of institution at the Supper, "This is My body which is given for you" (Lu 22:19), or in Paul's report of it, "broken for you" (1Co 11:24).

52. Jews strove among themselves—arguing the point together.

How can, &c.—that is, Give us His flesh to eat? Absurd.

53-58. Except ye eat the flesh … and drink the blood … no life, &c.—The harshest word He had yet uttered in their ears. They asked how it was possible to eat His flesh. He answers, with great solemnity, "It is indispensable." Yet even here a thoughtful hearer might find something to temper the harshness. He says they must not only "eat His flesh" but "drink His blood," which could not but suggest the idea of His death—implied in the separation of one's flesh from his blood. And as He had already hinted that it was to be something very different from a natural death, saying, "My flesh I will give for the life of the world" (Joh 6:51), it must have been pretty plain to candid hearers that He meant something above the gross idea which the bare terms expressed. And farther, when He added that they "had no life in them unless they thus ate and drank," it was impossible they should think He meant that the temporal life they were then living was dependent on their eating and drinking, in this gross sense, His flesh and blood. Yet the whole statement was certainly confounding, and beyond doubt was meant to be so. Our Lord had told them that in spite of all they had "seen" in Him, they "did not believe" (Joh 6:36). For their conviction therefore he does not here lay Himself out; but having the ear not only of them but of the more candid and thoughtful in the crowded synagogue, and the miracle of the loaves having led up to the most exalted of all views of His Person and Office, He takes advantage of their very difficulties and objections to announce, for all time, those most profound truths which are here expressed, regardless of the disgust of the unteachable, and the prejudices even of the most sincere, which His language would seem only designed to deepen. The truth really conveyed here is no other than that expressed in Joh 6:51, though in more emphatic terms—that He Himself, in the virtue of His sacrificial death, is the spiritual and eternal life of men; and that unless men voluntarily appropriate to themselves this death, in its sacrificial virtue, so as to become the very life and nourishment of their inner man, they have no spiritual and eternal life at all. Not as if His death were the only thing of value, but it is what gives all else in Christ's Incarnate Person, Life, and Office, their whole value to us sinners.

54. Whoso eateth … hath, &c.—The former verse said that unless they partook of Him they had no life; this adds, that whoever does so "hath eternal life."

and I will raise him up at the last day—For the fourth time this is repeated (see Joh 6:39, 40, 44)—showing most clearly that the "eternal life" which such a man "hath" cannot be the same with the future resurrection life from which it is carefully distinguished each time, but a life communicated here below immediately on believing (Joh 3:36; 5:24, 25); and giving to the resurrection of the body as that which consummates the redemption of the entire man, a prominence which in the current theology, it is to be feared, it has seldom had. (See Ro 8:23; 1Co 15:1-58, throughout).

56. He that eateth … dwelleth in me and I in him—As our food becomes incorporated with ourselves, so Christ and those who eat His flesh and drink His blood become spiritually one life, though personally distinct.

57. As the living Father hath sent me—to communicate His own life.

and I live by the Father—literally, "because of the Father"; My life and His being one, but Mine that of a Son, whose it is to be "of the Father." (See Joh 1:18; 5:26).

he that eateth me, … shall live by me—literally, "because of Me." So that though one spiritual life with Him, "the Head of every man is Christ, as the head of Christ is God" (1Co 11:3; 3:23).

58. This is that bread, &c.—a sort of summing up of the whole discourse, on which let this one further remark suffice—that as our Lord, instead of softening down His figurative sublimities, or even putting them in naked phraseology, leaves the great truths of His Person and Office, and our participation of Him and it, enshrined for all time in those glorious forms of speech, so when we attempt to strip the truth of these figures, figures though they be, it goes away from us, like water when the vessel is broken, and our wisdom lies in raising our own spirit, and attuning our own ear, to our Lord's chosen modes of expression. (It should be added that although this discourse has nothing to do with the Sacrament of the Supper, the Sacrament has everything to do with it, as the visible embodiment of these figures, and, to the believing partaker, a real, yea, and the most lively and affecting participation of His flesh and blood, and nourishment thereby of the spiritual and eternal life, here below).

59. These things said he in the synagogue—which seems to imply that what follows took place after the congregation had broken up.

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