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Christ had miraculously multiplied five loaves and a few small fishes, so that they sufficed for five thousand persons; the multitude thereupon pursued Him, in order to take Him by force, and make Him a King. He reproved and exposed their motive in so earnestly pursuing Him. “Ye seek Me,” He says, “not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled. Labour (or work) not for the meat which perisheth.” The people catch at the word labour (or work), and ask, in the same low spirit, “What shall we do that we may work the works of God?” (verso 28). To this our Lord replies, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”
After this our Lord assures them that God can give them more precious bread than that which their great lawgiver Moses gave them, and from heaven also: “Moses gave you not that bread from heaven, but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. " For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world."
Still apparently unable to apprehend any higher meaning, they ask, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” Jesus then directs them plainly to Himself: “I am the bread of life. He that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst."
And then He proceeds to say some hard things respecting the cause of their unbelief. “ Ye have seen Me and believe not. All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me.” And again, " This is the Father's will which sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing."
Again, we are told, the Jews murmur; and I would ask the reader to mark well at what sayings of Christ they stumble and fall; for this reveals to us what was at the
root of their unbelief respecting the life-giving narare of Christ's Flesh; and their unbelief is the type of similar unbelief among ourselves.
The Jews are offended, not because Christ asserts God's sovereignty in such words as—"All that the Father giveth to Me shall come to Mo ;" not because He asserts Salvation through faith in Himself, saying that mon must believe in Him and come to Him; but because he says, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” They stumbled at His Incarnation, for they ask_“Is not this Jesus, whose father and mother we know? How is it, then, that He saith, I came down from heaven ?" 1 They saw in Jesus a man of flesh and blood like their own. was not as yet given to them to know that this flesh of His was LIFE, because the Word, who “ was with God”
was God,” and “in whom was life,” was " made · Let the reader here particularly note that the objection taken to the Sacramental interpretation of this discourse, on the ground that our Lord would not have alluded to any benefit to be received in an ordinance not yet instituted (and which, consequently, His hearers could not then receive or understand), lies equally against any allusion to His Atonement by a sacrifice of Himself which He had not yet offered—for how could the men to whom He spake in any sense apprehend His Atonement when they would not believe that He had come down from heaven?
His Atonement entirely depends on His having come down from heaven, i.e., upon IIis Incarnațion.
Even His Apostles, who recognised Him as the Christ, could hardly have realised His Atonement when they refused to entertain the thought of His death on the Cross, which constituted that Atonement. (Matt. xvi. 21, 22; xvii. 23 : Mark ix. 31.)
So that, if in this discourse our Lord alluded to any realising by faith of the atoning sacrifice not yet offered by Him, Ho uttered words which were, at that time, as much above the apprehension of all His hearers as if He had alluded to benefits to be received in an Eucharist not yet ordained by Him, but to be ordained on the very night before He was sacrificed.
flesh.” That flesh they saw, and they judged of it as they did of any other flesh.
After assuring them that none can come to Him except they are drawn of God (at which deep truth, again reiterated, they do not stumble), our Lord repeats what He had said (in verses 29, 33, and 35)—“He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life” (v. 47). Why? Becauso (the Saviour proceeds to say), “I am that bread of life;" implying, of course, by this, that he who believes on Him hath everlasting life, because his belief will lead him to feed on the food whereby he can live for ever.
As a man cannot have temporal life without eating bread suitable to the support of that life, so a man cannot have eternal life without eating bread suitable to the support of that eternal life.
And he that truly believes in Christ as the “ Bread of Life” will, as the consequence of such belief, feed on Him in every way in which He offers Himself to be fed upon, just as He who believes that the bread which perishes is needful to sustain animal life will, as a natural consequence of such belief, feed upon it. But how, and in what way, are we to feed upon
Christ? In a way far above that in which the fathers of these Jews ate manna, for our Lord immediately proceeds to say, “ Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die."
They who would eat, and not die, must prepare their hearts. They must hunger in their souls. They must eat worthily. (1 Cor. xi. 27.) They must eat discerning what they eat. (1 Cor. xi. 29.) They must examino themselves as to their belief in all that Christ says about Himself — His Body -- His Blood - His Church-Hiş Sacraments,
Upon this the Saviour comes more particularly to specify how He is to be eaten.
And here we arrive at the great turning-point in this wonderful discourse—for we come to a remarkable change of language and the introduction of a new element of thought altogether; for the Saviour at this point fixes attention on a part of Himself rather than on Himself. Ho begins the verse with asserting that He is the living bread which came down from heaven, and that if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever; and He ends the verse with defining the bread which He gives to be His flesh—“The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
This change of expression was, of course, instantly caught up by His adversaries. The Jews strove among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat ?" 1
As long as He spoke about Himself being the “ Bread of Life,” they stumbled not at the idea of eating Him. What they previously stumbled at was His saying that He came down from heaven; but as soon as He proceeded to narrow this eating to the eating of His flesh, then they ask, “ How can this man give us His flesh to eat ?"
1 " As this secret power to bestow life, of which He has spoken, might be referred to His Divine essence, He now comes down to the second step, and shows that this life is placed in His flesh, that it may be drawn out of it. . . . But an objection is brought, that the flesh of Christ cannot give life, because it was liable to death, and because even now it is not immortal in itself; and next, that it does not at all belong to the nature of flesh to quicken souls. I reply, that though this power comes from another source than from the flesh, still this is no reason why the designation may not accurately apply to it; for as the Eternal Word of God is the fountain of life (John i. 4), so His flesh as a channel conveys to us that life which dwells intrinsically, as we say, in His Divinity.”CALVIN on John vi. 51.
Let us now humbly and prayerfully consider the meaning of this remarkable change of language.
The modern popular, or Zuinglian, explanation of these words of Christ is, that eating Christ's Body, or Flesh, means inwardly realising the doctrine of His Atonement. If this be the true meaning of Christ's language here, then this change of expression was made apparently for no purpose.
It cannot be accounted for. The low rationalising view which prevails among us discards all idea of mystery ; but on such an hypothesis it would be perfectly inconceivable that our Lord, at this stage of His discourse, should have added to the difficulty of all that He had been saying, by defining the bread to be His Flesh.
Other plain and simple words would have at once mado His meaning clear; dissipated all mystery; given occasion to no carnal views of any sort; and made superstition, so far as the Lord's Supper is concerned, impossible. All would have been clear if our Lord had said, “The bread that I will give is my doctrine,” or “The bread that I will give is the Bible," or "The bread that I will give is My enlightening Spirit,” or “ The bread that I will give is a sense of My love, or of pardon, or of acceptance."
If the eating of His flesh be, after all, the mentally feeding upon His Atonement, or upon any truth respecting Himself, no reason can be assigned why He
1 "The participation of His flesh and blood must designate more than merely spiritual operations of Christ upon believers. The entire discourse relates to His glorified corporeality, the reality of which, St. John, according to his main design, was compelled to defend against gnosticising Doceticism, just as now it has become needful maintain in opposition to idealistic gnoşiş.”QLSHAUSEN in loco,