The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; (howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when earnest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
In this somewhat lengthy section we have three distinct parts. In verses 22-25 the question is raised by the people as to how the Lord Jesus had conveyed Himself away from that part of the country where He fed the five thousand, and how He could be in Capernaum the following day. They knew, because it had been generally reported, that at the close of the day after He had fed that great multitude He had sent His disciples away, but He Himself had gone into a mountain to pray. They could not understand how He had traveled from that region to the place where they next found Him. “The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto his disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with his disciples into the boat, but that his disciples were gone away alone; (howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) when the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, [they got into some of these other boats and came] seeking for Jesus” (vv. 22-24).
Now this looks like a movement of real interest, but one cannot always depend upon outward appearances. It appeared encouraging to see a throng of people seeking after Jesus in this way, who were willing to go to the trouble of crossing the sea to locate Him. It seemed to indicate a real deep and abiding interest. But after all it was a very shallow kind of thing. They were not so interested in Christ Himself and had no sense of needing a Savior, though they may have hoped that He would prove to be the promised Messiah, for they thought of Him as one who could give them temporal blessings, could provide them with bread to satisfy their hunger.
So they came seeking for Jesus, and when they found Him they said, “Rabbi, when earnest thou hither?” (v. 25). They knew nothing about what had taken place during the night. That is, His prayer upon the mountain or the disciples tossing in the midst of the sea, the Lord interceding for them, then going to them on the water and being received by them into the ship, after which they soon reached their desired haven. All this was unknown to this throng who came seeking Jesus and asking, “Rabbi, when earnest thou hither?” But Jesus used this opportunity to strengthen His testimony and to explain the real reason for His coming to earth. He saw through this apparent interest. He knew what was really m their hearts. Very often people come, for instance, to a gospel meeting and will begin to talk very religiously. But it does not take long to find that what is really on their hearts is a temporal need—food or clothing—and somehow they feel that Christians ought to be interested in providing these things. And Christians are interested and are glad to minister to these needs, but their ability is often very small. When people come making a pretense of religion, it is putting things on a very low level indeed. It would be far better for them to be frank and say, “It is not my soul that I am interested in, but my empty stomach, or it is a coat I need.” Then one would know what to do for them to the very best of his ability. It should not be necessary for people to pretend an interest in religion in order to get temporal help. But that is what these people did. They pretended to a real interest in Christ, but He knew they were only thinking of loaves and fishes.
In the second section, verses 26-34, we have the answer of Jesus. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (v. 26). Not because the signs proved anything to them, but because they had a good meal! He provided what they needed yesterday, and they would like Him to do the same today. They hoped He would continue to meet their temporal needs, but He was concerned about their spiritual need, for after all, temporal need is for only a little while. But if men live and die without their spiritual need being met, their distress will continue throughout eternity. So He said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (v. 27).
What did He mean? Did He mean we are not to toil at our daily work to have the proper necessities of life? Not at all. Again and again we are urged to be diligent and careful about these things. Why, then, did He say, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth”? He meant that we are not to make it the supreme thing. The one great important thing to remember is that this life is but as a vapor and will soon be gone. “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat [that spiritual food] which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you, for him hath God the Father sealed” (v. 27).
Ungodly men of the world say sometimes, “Religion is just an opiate of the people to get them occupied with spiritual things and tell them about bread from heaven to satisfy their souls, so they will forget about the hunger of their bodies.” But that is a libel on Christianity. All through the centuries no one has been more concerned about ministering to the temporal needs of men than those who have truly known and loved the Lord Jesus Christ. They have ever been the ones who have been most interested in relieving the circumstances of their fellow men, and yet we would never want to put temporal relief before spiritual. We are to put first things first: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33)— these things that your heavenly Father knows you have need of. All of these things are important, tremendously important, in their place, but there is something of greater importance, and that is the “meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” And He declares that it is only the Son of Man who can give this satisfying food for the soul. That is what He came for, to seek and to save that which was lost. He came from heaven in lowly grace and became the Son of Man in order that He might meet the needs of lost sinners.
“Him hath God the Father sealed.” When He publicly dedicated Himself to give His life for us in His baptism in the Jordan, the Spirit of God was seen descending like a dove and abiding on Him, and the Father’s voice said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). That was His sealing.
He had spoken of not working simply for temporal things. Labor, He had commanded, for the food that endures unto everlasting life. They sought to parry this by inquiring, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” (John 6:28). They are thinking of the law that God gave at Sinai. They say, “Tell us what we must do in order that we may work the works of God, that we may obtain life eternal? What shall we do?” And Jesus answers, and opens up the truth of the grace of God. He answered and said unto them, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (v. 29). “Well,” you say, “believing is not working at all.” No, but it is evidence of divine work in the soul. That is why we are told, “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). What is the gift of God?—the salvation or the faith? We may include them both. We are told elsewhere that the gift of God is eternal life, but it is also perfectly clear that faith is the gift of God. No merely natural man has faith of himself. “All men have not faith” (2 Thess. 3:2).
But somebody says, “If faith is the gift of God and I, as a poor sinner, have no faith, how then can I believe?” Scripture says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17), or, “Faith cometh by a report, and the report by the Word of God.” In other words, God has sent a message to man, and we are to have faith in the One of whom that message speaks, and so Jesus said, “If you speak of work, this is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He has sent.” There is no use talking about working to please God until you have received the gift of God. That is why we are told that salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” But immediately the Holy Spirit adds, “Created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
And so there is no such thing as meriting salvation by work. There is no such possibility as earning eternal life by effort. “This is the work of God, that ye believe.” They were to take God at His word.
But these people were not serious. They were not really interested in their eternal welfare. They were concerned about getting a good meal, such as the Lord had spread for them the day before. So they asked, “What sign shewest thou then? … what dost thou work?” (John 6:30). They knew already. They knew He was going about healing the sick, that He was delivering men and women from all kinds of dire maladies, that He was unstopping the ears of the deaf. Some of them heard that He had raised the dead. But they were thinking of temporal benefit for themselves, just as a lot of people today think of Christianity as a means of bettering their worldly or physical circumstances.
They said, “What sign do you work?” And then they added (and thought that He did not see through it), “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” They can quote Scripture, you see. “What sign dost thou work?” “Is there any manna around? We are looking for bread. Moses fed the people for forty years with bread from heaven. Can you do that? We heard that you did it yesterday. Could you do it today? Then we would believe that you are the Messiah. Is it not written of the Messiah that He will feed the people with bread? Well, here we are, give us bread from heaven.” But He answered them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven [in the sense of the true bread that is really worth while]; 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” (vv. 32-33). Jesus came down from heaven. The manna sustained Israel for forty years in the wilderness. Jesus is the Bread that sustains for time and eternity.
Consider the manna, how beautiful it was, like the falling snow. That speaks of Jesus, the Holy One, the pure One, the unblemished One, in whom was neither sin nor flaw of any kind. That manna fell upon the dew, which is a type of the Spirit of God, speaking of the day when God is going to pour out His Spirit upon Israel. He says, “I will be as the dew unto Israel” (Hos. 14:5). That is, the Spirit of God coming down in refreshing power upon them. The manna fell upon the dew, and Jesus came in the power of the Holy Spirit. He was born of the Holy Spirit, of a virgin mother. His life was lived in the power of the Spirit, and when at last He died, it was by the Eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God. And then—oh, notice this—the manna came not upon the high mountains where the people had to climb up to get it nor did it fall into some deep ravine where they had to go down hundreds of feet to find it, but it fell upon the ground all around them and covered the plain about the encampment of Israel, so that when an Israelite stepped out of his tent door in the morning he either had to trample upon the manna or stoop down and gather it as God’s good gift!
It illustrates the place that Jesus has taken in lowly grace. Have you trodden ruthlessly upon His love? Or have you received Him into your heart in faith as your own personal Savior? Rise and feed on Him, the Bread of God which came down from heaven. Which are you doing today? “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
And so Jesus puts to one side all their hinting about temporal food and bread to satisfy the natural man, and says, “There is something far more important than bread for the physical man, and that is bread for the spirit of man, the Bread of Life.” But they were so dull, as men and women are today, as we all were once, until our eyes were opened. They said to Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread” (6:34), but they were only thinking of temporal help. They had not understood that which He had spoken to them.
In the third section, from verses 35-40, He makes it even clearer and says, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (v. 35). What a tremendous proclamation! He has been fulfilling this promise for nineteen hundred years. Many have gone to Him, hungry, distressed, discouraged, and they have received Him in faith and have found heart satisfaction.
Note the simplicity of it—“I Myself am the Bread of life.” Salvation is in a person, our Lord Jesus Himself. Remember when Simeon was worshipping in the temple and Mary and Joseph entered with the little Baby, and Simeon said, “There is the salvation of God,” and He hastened to the Baby and took Him in his arms and he said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Yes, God’s salvation is in a person, and that person His own blessed Son. To receive Him is to be saved. To receive Him is to have life eternal. But sad it is that no matter how clearly the message is given, very few believe: “But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not” (v. 36).
Then He falls back on that great mystery of the divine sovereignty of God. He says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (v. 37). Thank God for such an assurance as that! God will never be defeated. His purpose will never fail of accomplishment. All that the Father gives to Jesus shall come to Him. You do not like that, perhaps. You say you do not believe in election or predestination. Then you will have to tear a number of pages out of your Bible, for there are many of them that magnify God’s sovereign electing grace. But do not misunderstand them. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that God has predetermined before man is born that he will be lost or saved, but Scripture says, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). Moody was right when he used to say that, “The ‘whosoever wills’ are the elect and the ‘whosoever won’ts,’ the nonelect.” But there it is, you cannot get around it, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
But we must not overlook our personal responsibility, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Let no man say, “Well, I am afraid I am not elected, and will not be saved.” The question is, Are you willing to come to Jesus? He will in no wise cast out. Whoever you are today, if you will come to Him, He will take you in. You do not have to settle any question of predestination before you come to Jesus. And when you come He receives you, and having come, you may know that you are one whom the Father gave to the Lord Jesus Christ.
In verse 38 He says, “I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” It was part of the Father’s will that Jesus should save eternally everybody who comes to Him. This is the Father’s will, that He should lose nothing of all which He has given Him. And so, how sure we may be, how certain, as to our full, final salvation, if we but receive Him, the blessed Bread from heaven! “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 40). “Every one.” Notice the individuality of this. Every man, every woman, for himself or herself, “that every one which seeth the Son”—you see Him by faith, by the Word as He is made manifest by the Spirit—“every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him [that is, puts his trust in Him’], may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
What is it, then, to feed upon the Bread of Life? It is to receive Christ Jesus in faith as your own Savior and then day by day to enjoy communion with Him. As you read this blessed Word, as it unfolds one blessed, marvelous truth after another, you are feeding on the living Bread as your soul makes these things your own. Are you still hungering, still thirsting? Do you want the living Bread? Well, then, receive Him now in faith, and if you will accept the testimony God has given, He will receive you. He promises to give you eternal life and to raise you up at the last day.