World Wide Study Bible

Study

a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary

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


Select a resource above

41. The Jews therefore murmured concerning him. The Evangelist explains the cause of the murmuring to have been, that the Jews were offended at the mean condition of Christ’s human nature, 150150     “De la petitesse de Christ, et de sa humaine condition;” — “at the meanness of Christ, and of his human condition.” and did not perceive in him any thing Divine or heavenly. Yet he shows that they had a twofold obstruction. One they had framed for themselves out of a false opinion, when they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? Another arose from a wicked sentiment, that they did not think that Christ was the Son of God, because he came down to men clothed with our flesh. 151151     “Prenant nostre chair.” But we are guilty of excessive malignity, if we despise the Lord of glory because on our account

he emptied himself, and took upon him the form of a servant,
(Philippians 2:7;)

for this was rather an illustrious proof of his boundless love towards us, and of his wonderful grace. Besides, the Divine majesty of Christ was not so concealed under the mean and contemptible appearance of the flesh, as not to give out the rays of his brightness in a variety of ways; but those gross and stupid men wanted eyes to see his conspicuous glory.

We, too, sin daily in both of these ways. First, it is a great hinderance to us, that it is only with carnal eyes that we behold Christ; and this is the reason why we perceive in him nothing magnificent, for by our sinful views we pervert all that belongs to him and to his doctrine, so unskilful are we to profit by them, or to view them in the proper light. 152152     “Tant nous sommes mal adroits a faire nostre profit des choses, et les prendre de la sorte qu’il faut.” Secondly, not satisfied with this, we adopt many false imaginations, which produce a contempt of the Gospel. Nay, there are even many who frame for themselves monsters, that they may make them a pretense for hating the Gospel. In this manner the world deliberately drives away the grace of God. Now the Evangelist expressly names the Jews, in order to inform us that the murmuring proceeded from those who gloried in the title of faith and of the Church, that we may all learn to receive Christ with reverence, when he comes down to us, and that, in proportion as he comes nearer to us, we may more cheerfully approach to him, that he may raise us to his heavenly glory.

43. Murmur not among yourselves. He throws back on them the blame of the murmuring, as if he had said, “My doctrine contains no ground of offense, but because you are reprobate, it irritates your envenomed breasts, and the reason why you do not relish it is, that you have a vitiated taste.”

44. No man can come to me, unless the Father, who hath sent me, draw him. He does not merely accuse them of wickedness, but likewise reminds them, that it is a peculiar gift of God to embrace the doctrine which is exhibited by him; which he does, that their unbelief may not disturb weak minds. For many are so foolish that, in the things of God, they depend on the opinions of men; in consequence of which, they entertain suspicions about the Gospel, as soon as they see that it is not received by the world. Unbelievers, on the other hand, flattering themselves in their obstinacy, have the hardihood to condemn the Gospel because it does not please them. On the contrary, therefore, Christ declares that the doctrine of the Gospel, though it is preached to all without exception, cannot be embraced by all, but that a new understanding and a new perception are requisite; and, therefore, that faith does not depend on the will of men, but that it is God who gives it.

Unless the Father draw him. To come to Christ being here used metaphorically for believing, the Evangelist, in order to carry out the metaphor in the apposite clause, says that those persons are drawn whose understandings God enlightens, and whose hearts he bends and forms to the obedience of Christ. The statement amounts to this, that we ought not to wonder if many refuse to embrace the Gospel; because no man will ever of himself be able to come to Christ, but God must first approach him by his Spirit; and hence it follows that all are not drawn, but that God bestows this grace on those whom he has elected. True, indeed, as to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant. It is a false and profane assertion, therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, 153153     “Que nuls ne sont tirez sinon ceux qui le veulent estre.” as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from himself, who has formed their hearts to obey him.

45. It is written in the Prophets. Christ confirms by the testimony of Isaiah what he said, that no man can come to him, unless he be drawn by the Father He uses the word prophets in the plural number, because all their prophecies had been collected into one volume, so that all the prophets might justly be accounted one book. The passage which is here quoted is to be found in Isaiah 54:13, where, speaking of the restoration of the Church, he promises to her, sons taught by the instruction of God Hence it may easily be inferred, that the Church cannot be restored in any other way than by God undertaking the office of a Teacher, and bringing believers to himself. The way of teaching, of which the prophet speaks, does not consist merely in the external voice, but likewise in the secret operation of the Holy Spirit. In short, this teaching of God is the inward illumination of the heart.

And they shall be all taught by God. As to the word all, it must be limited to the elect, who alone are the true children of the Church. Now it is not difficult to see in what manner Christ applies this prediction to the present subject. Isaiah shows that then only is the Church truly edified, when she has her children taught by God Christ, therefore, justly concludes that men have not eyes to behold the light of life, until God has opened them. But at the same time, he fastens on the general phrase, all; because he argues from it, that all who are taught by God are effectually drawn, so as to come; and to this relates what he immediately adds,

Whosoever therefore hath heard my Father. The amount of what is said is, that all who do not believe are reprobate and doomed to destruction; because all the sons of the Church and heirs of life are made by God to be his obedient disciples. Hence it follows, that there is not one of all the elect of God who shall not be a partaker of faith in Christ. 154154     “Qu’il n’y en a pas un de tous les eleus de Dieu qui ne viene a estre participant de la foy.” Again, as Christ formerly affirmed that men are not fitted for believing, until they have been drawn, so he now declares that the grace of Christ, by which they are drawn, is efficacious, so that they necessarily believe.

These two clauses utterly overturn the whole power of free will, of which the Papists dream. For if it be only when the Father has drawn us that we begin to come to Christ, there is not in us any commencement of faith, or any preparation for it. On the other hand, if all come whom the Father hath taught, He gives to them not only the choice of believing, but faith itself. When, therefore, we willingly yield to the guidance of the Spirit, this is a part, and, as it were, a sealing of grace; because God would not draw us, if He were only to stretch out his hand, and leave our will in a state of suspense. But in strict propriety of language He is said to draw us, when He extends the power of his Spirit to the full effect of faith. They are said to hear God, who willingly assent to God speaking to them within, because the Holy Spirit reigns in their hearts.

Cometh to me. He shows the inseparable connection that exists between him and the Father. For the meaning is, that it is impossible that any who are God’s disciples shall not obey Christ, and that they who reject Christ refuse to be taught by God; because the only wisdom that all the elect learn in the school of God is, to come to Christ; for the Father, who sent him, cannot deny himself.

46. Not that any man hath seen the Father. As he has hitherto magnified the grace of his Father, so now he earnestly directs believers to himself alone. For both must be joined together; that no knowledge of Christ can be obtained, until the Father enlighten by his Spirit those who are by nature blind; and yet that it is in vain to seek God, unless Christ go before; for the majesty of God is so lofty, that the senses of men cannot reach him. Nay, more, all that knowledge of God which men may think that they have attained out of Christ will be a deadly abyss. When he says that he alone hath known the Father, he means that it is an office which belongs peculiarly to himself, to manifest God to men, who would otherwise have been concealed.

47. He who believeth in me. This is an explanation of the former statement. For we are taught by these words that it is when we believe in Christ that God is made known to us; for then do we begin to see, as in a mirror, or as in a bright and lively image, God who was formerly invisible. Accursed then be every thing that is declared to us concerning God, if it do not lead us to Christ. What it is to believe in Christ I have already explained; for we must not imagine a confused and empty faith, which deprives Christ of his power, as the Papists do, who believe in Christ just as far as they think fit. For the reason why we obtain life by faith is, that we know that all the parts of our life are contained in Christ.

The inference which some draw from this passage — that to believe in Christ is the same thing as to eat Christ, or his flesh — is not well founded. For these two things differ from each other as former and latter; and in like manner, to come to Christ and to drink him, for coming to him is first in order. I acknowledge that Christ is not eaten but by faith; but the reason is, because we receive him by faith, that he may dwell in us, and that we may be made partakers of him, and thus may be one with him. To eat him, therefore, is an effect or work of faith.

48. I am the bread of life Besides what he formerly said, that he is the life-giving bread, by which our souls are nourished, in order to explain it more fully, he likewise repeats the contrast between this bread and the ancient manna, together with a comparison of the men.

49. Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and are dead. He says that the manna was a perishing food to their fathers, for it did not free them from death. It follows, therefore, that souls do not find anywhere else than in him that food by which they are fed to spiritual life. Besides, we must keep in remembrance what I formerly stated, that what is here said does not relate to the manna, so far as it was a secret figure of Christ; for in that respect Paul calls it spiritual food, (1 Corinthians 10:3.) But we have said that Christ here accommodates his discourse to the hearers, who, caring only about feeding the belly, looked for nothing higher in the manna. Justly, therefore does he declare that their fathers are dead, that is, those who in the same manner, were devoted to the belly, or, in other words, who thought of nothing higher than this world. 155155     “C’est a dire, ne pensoyent plus haut que ce monde.” And yet he invites them to eat, when he says that he has come, that any man may eat; for this mode of expression has the same meaning as if he said, that he is ready to give himself to all, provided that they are only willing to believe. That not one of those who have once eaten Christ shall die — must be understood to mean, that the life which he bestows on us is never extinguished, as we stated under the Fifth Chapter.

51. I am the living bread. He often repeats the same thing, because nothing is more necessary to be known; and every one feels in himself with what difficulty we are brought to believe it, and how easily and quickly it passes away and is forgotten. 156156     “Il nous escoule et vient a estre mis en oubli.” We all desire life, but in seeking it, we foolishly and improperly wander about in circuitous roads; and when it is offered, the greater part disdainfully reject it. For who is there that does not contrive for himself life out of Christ? And how few are there who are satisfied with Christ alone! It is not a superfluous repetition, therefore, when Christ asserts so frequently that he alone is sufficient to give life. For he claims for himself the designation of bread, in order to tear from our hearts all fallacious hopes of living. Having formerly called himself the bread of life, he now calls himself the living bread, but in the same sense, namely, life-giving bread. — Which have come down from heaven He frequently mentions his coming down from heaven, because spiritual and incorruptible life will not be found in this world, the fashion of which passes away and vanishes, but only in the heavenly kingdom of God.

If any man eat of this bread. Whenever he uses the word eat, he exhorts us to faith, which alone enables us to enjoy this bread, so as to derive life from it. 157157     “Laquelle seule fait que nous tirons vie de ce pain.” Nor is it without good reason that he does so, for there are few who deign to stretch out their hand to put this bread to their mouth; and even when the Lord puts it into their mouth, there are few who relish it, but some are filled with wind, and others — like Tantalus — are dying of hunger through their own folly, while the food is close beside them.

The bread which I shall give is my flesh. 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. It is, undoubtedly, a wonderful purpose of God that he has exhibited life to us in that flesh, where formerly there was nothing but the cause of death. And thus he provides for our weakness, when he does not call us above the clouds to enjoy life, but displays it on earth, in the same manner as if he were exalting us to the secrets of his kingdom. And yet, while he corrects the pride of our mind, he tries the humility and obedience of our faith, when he enjoins those who would seek life to place reliance on his flesh, which is contemptible in its appearance.

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, 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 1:4,) so his flesh, as a channel, conveys to us that life which dwells intrinsically, as we say, in his Divinity. And in this sense it is called life-giving, because it conveys to us that life which it borrows for us from another quarter. This will not be difficult to understand, if we consider what is the cause of life, namely, righteousness. And though righteousness flows from God alone, still we shall not attain the full manifestation of it any where else than in the flesh of Christ; for in it was accomplished the redemption of man, in it a sacrifice was offered to atone for sins, and an obedience yielded to God, to reconcile him to us; it was also filled with the sanctification of the Spirit, and at length, having vanquished death, it was received into the heavenly glory. It follows, therefore that all the parts of life have been placed in it, that no man may have reason to complain that he is deprived of life, as if it were placed in concealment, or at a distance.

Which I shall give for the life of the world. The word give is used in various senses. The first giving, of which he has formerly spoken, is made daily, whenever Christ offers himself to us. Secondly, it denotes that singular giving which was done on the cross, when he offered himself as a sacrifice to his Father; for then he delivered himself up to death for the life of men, and now he invites us to enjoy the fruit of his death. For it would be of no avail to us that that sacrifice was once offered, if we did not now feast on that sacred banquet. It ought also to be observed, that Christ claims for himself the office of sacrificing his flesh. Hence it appears with what wicked sacrilege the Papists pollute themselves, when they take upon themselves, in the mass, what belonged exclusively to that one High Priest.




Advertisements