(3) The sequel of the signs .
The discussion which follows is closely linked with these two great miracles of power and love. It naturally arises out of them, and refers with great explicitness to the former of them and to its true meaning. The discussion does unquestionably alter its scope as it proceeds, and at John 6:41 and John 6:52 "the Jews" take up a controversy which had previously been conducted by a portion of the crowd who witnessed his mighty works. Jesus declared
(1) that he is himself the Bread of God—the Bread of life for a starving world; then
Before the evangelist proceeds to relate this great discourse, he portrays the historical platform, the audience to which it is addressed, and this in a sentence which is unusually involved and perplexed in its construction. The first clause with its verb, εἶδον ,, is not completed until two or three parenthetical ideas are introduced; and then in John 6:24 the sentence is taken up or recom-menced, after which the main affirmation follows, viz. ἐνέβησαν , etc. The whole sentence is intended to explain the regathering of the crowd on the seashore at Capernaum, and that excited state of baulked curiosity with which they encountered the Lord.
(a) An offer of himself as veritable bread .
Jesus therefore said to them, with the tones of special emphasis, Verily, verily, I say unto you, It was not Moses, of whom you are reasonably thinking with due reverence, who gave £ you the bread out of heaven. There are two assertions here. There is also an implication, which the hearers of Jesus were called on to make.
The nature of the gift from heaven.
The Jews demanded "a sign from heaven."
I. THEM DEMAND FOR A FRESH MIRACLE . "What sign then dost thou do, that we may see, and believe in thee? what dost thou work?"
1 . They thought they were entitled to demand a fresh miracle, much in advance of the miracle at Bethsaida Julius; because that was, after all, not so remarkable as the miracle of the manna in the wilderness. "Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He did give them bread from heaven to eat."
2 . They still evidently understood the higher benefit promised by our Lord as material, and not spiritual .
3 . They meant, by their seeing and believing in Christ . to reduce faith to a mere matter of sight— a mere belief of truth in the testimony of their senses. They were quite unspiritual in their conceptions.
II. OUR LORD 'S ANSWER TO THEIR DEMAND . He corrects their misapprehensions.
1 . He asserts that it was not Moses, but God, who fed the people with manna . "Moses gave you not the bread from heaven." It was a truly Divine work to feed two millions of people in the desert from day to day. Therefore there could be no comparison between Moses and Christ.
2 . He asserts that the Bread he speaks of is yet material, but spiritual . "But my Father giveth you the true Bread from heaven. For the Bread of God is he who cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world."
3 . It was continuous in its supply of man's wants . "It cometh down from heaven."
4 . It was not limited to one people, but offered to the whole race of man . The age of Jewish particularism was past.
The true Bread.
From any other than Jesus Christ this language would have been egotistical in the extreme. Coming from his lips, referring as it did to himself, this declaration is natural enough. For since he was the Son of God, no claim inferior to this would have been just. It is a marvellous metaphor, this, in which our Lord proclaims himself the true Bread, the Bread from heaven, the Bread of God, the Bread of life.
I. CONSIDER THE HUNGER OF THE SOUL WHICH IS PRESUMED . The body is dependent upon food for life, health, and strength; and the appetite of hunger prompts to the seeking and partaking of food. There is a correspondence between the hunger that craves and the bread that satisfies; an adaptation of the supply to the necessity. There is a parallel arrangement in the spiritual realm. Man is a weak, dependent, craving being, with an ineradicable desire for the highest good—a desire not to be appeased by earthly provisions. It is a spiritual appetite, which in many is deadened by carnal indulgence, by sinful habit, yet which ever and anon recurs. What a revelation of soul yearning would there be, could the inner nature and experience of any congregation be exposed to an observer's view!
II. CONSIDER THE BREAD OF THE SOUL WHICH IS PROVIDED .
1 . Christ, as the true Bread, is the gift of the Father. All the family are dependent upon the liberality and thoughtfulness of the great Father and Benefactor. If "he openeth his hand, and satisfieth the desire of every living thing," it is not to be believed that, providing for the lower wants, he will neglect the higher. And, as a matter of fact, he has not done so.
2 . Christ is the Bread "from heaven." As such he was prefigured by the manna of the wilderness. This gift is bestowed from the sphere of the spiritual and supernatural, which is thus brought near to our souls.
3 . He is the true, the real Bread. There is no hollow pretence in this gift. God is not a Father who, if his son ask bread of him, will give him a stone. He who made the soul of man knows how that soul's wants can be fully and forever met.
III. CONSIDER THE SATISFACTION OF THE SOUL WHICH IS SECURED .
1 . Christ is partaken, not by physical eating, but by communion of the spirit with the Saviour. Faith is the means of appropriating the Divine provision. Jesus in this conversation especially warned his disciples of the error into which some of them afterwards fell—the error of confounding carnal with spiritual participation of his body and blood.
2 . The result of feeding by faith upon the Bread of life is—satisfaction and gladness, health and vigour of soul, and a life which is immortal. "If a man eat this Bread, he shall live forever." As the hunger of the Israelites was appeased by the manna, as the hunger of the multitude was appeased by the miraculous multiplication of loaves in the wilderness, so have myriads in every age partaken of the true and spiritual Bread, and have borne witness to its efficacy to satisfy their deepest cravings, and to nourish their spiritual life.—T.
2. Christ declares himself to be the Sustainer and Protector of the life of which he is the Source .