John 6 Study Notes
6:1-71 The feeding of the crowds (cp. Mt 14:13-23; Mk 6:30-44; Lk 9:10-17) is yet another of Jesus’s messianic “signs” (see note at Jn 2:11), aligning Jesus with God’s provision of manna to wilderness Israel through Moses (6:30-31). In response to the people’s demand that he perform a sign greater than Moses’s signs at the exodus, Jesus claimed to be the “bread of life” that provides spiritual nourishment for all who believe in him (eat and drink of him). This controversial statement proved to be a watershed moment in Jesus’s ministry, because many of his followers abandoned him at this point (vv. 60-66). But the Twelve, through Peter their spokesman, reaffirmed their allegiance (vv. 68-69).
6:1 After this again indicates the passing of an indefinite period of time (5:1). Half a year may have passed since the previous event. Sea of Tiberias (cp. 21:1) was an alternate name for the Sea of Galilee. Herod Antipas founded Tiberias, the largest city on the Sea of Galilee, in honor of his patron, the Roman emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37). The name gained currency toward the end of the first century.
6:2 Generally, John portrays the crowds as following primarily on account of his miracles, and as mired in confusion and ignorance.
6:3 Mountain may not refer to a specific mountain. It could designate the hill country east of the lake, known today as the Golan Heights (Mt 14:23; Mk 6:46). Like other rabbis, Jesus sat down to teach (Mt 5:1; Mk 4:1; 9:35; Lk 4:20), although teaching is not mentioned here.
6:4 This is the second of three Passovers mentioned by John, and the only one Jesus spent in Galilee (see note at 2:13).
6:5-6 The huge crowd apparently walked several miles around the north side of the lake and caught up with Jesus and the disciples. Philip would be the natural choice for Jesus’s question since he, like Andrew (v. 8) and Peter, was a native of nearby Bethsaida (see note at 1:44). Jesus’s question echoes Moses’s query in the wilderness: “Where can I get meat to give all these people?” (Nm 11:13). Other parallels between Jn 6 and Nm 11 are the people’s grumbling (Nm 11:1; Jn 6:41,43); the description of the manna (Nm 11:7-9; Jn 6:31); the reference to the eating of meat/Jesus’s “flesh” (Nm 11:13; Jn 6:51); and the overabundance of the provision (Nm 11:22; Jn 6:7-9).
6:7 Two hundred denarii was roughly eight months’ wages, since one denarius was about one day’s pay for a common laborer (12:5; Mt 20:2).
6:8-9 Boy may refer to a child, a teenager, or even someone in his early twenties. The same word is used in the Septuagint (an ancient Gk translation of the OT, abbreviated LXX) to refer to young Joseph in Gn 37:30 and Daniel and his friends in Dn 1. Barley was common food for the poor (the well-to-do preferred wheat bread); the fish were probably dried or preserved, perhaps pickled. In a similar account, Elisha fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves (2Kg 4:42-44).
6:10 The men numbered about five thousand, plus women and children (Mt 14:21), totaling perhaps as many as fifteen thousand people. Plenty of grass may allude to the messianic age (10:9-10; Ps 23:2). Mark (Mk 6:39-40) mentioned that the grass was green, which points to springtime.
6:11 A common Jewish thanksgiving prayer was, “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.”
6:12 Jesus’s words echo Ru 2:14: “She ate and was satisfied and had some left over.” Jesus took the same care in providing for those whom the Father gave him (Jn 10:28-29; 17:11-12,15).
6:13 The number of baskets may allude to Jesus’s symbolic restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel.
6:14 The reference to the Prophet who is to come into the world alludes to Dt 18:15,18 (see notes at Jn 1:19-21; 7:40-41).
6:15 On Jesus’s withdrawal to the mountain, see note at v. 3.
6:16-24 Jesus’s walking across the Sea of Galilee may echo Job 9:8 (LXX) where God is said to walk on the water.
6:16-17 The disciples were on the eastern side of the lake, and they ventured to row the six or seven miles back across the sea to Capernaum on the western side.
6:19 They had rowed about three or four miles. If the feeding of the crowd occurred on the eastern shore, the shortest distance to Capernaum would have been five to six miles.
6:20 It is I may have overtones of epiphany (cp. Ex 3:14; see note at Jn 6:35,48). The statement may allude to Ps 77:16,19, describing God’s manifestation to Israel during the exodus.
6:21 The reference to the boat reaching the shore at once may allude to Ps 107:23-32 (esp. vv. 29-30).
6:23-24 Tiberias was and is the chief city on the western side of the lake (see note at v. 1). Whereas Capernaum was located on the northwestern edge of the lake, Tiberias is several miles to the south.
6:25 On the other side of the sea refers to the area in or around Capernaum (see note at vv. 23-24; cp. v. 59).
6:26 Jesus charged them with caring only about having full stomachs rather than about the significance of the signs.
6:27-29 People misunderstood Jesus’s statement and asked about the works God required. Jesus said the only “work” required by God is faith in Messiah. On seal of approval, see note at 3:33.
6:30 Again, the people misunderstood. They demanded a sign as evidence of Jesus’s claims (cp. 1Co 1:22). Jesus pointed to the significance of the “sign” he had just performed—the feeding of the crowd (cp. 2:18). This revealed people’s stubbornness, which led many of Jesus’s disciples to leave (6:60-66) and prompted John to indict the Jews for unbelief at the close of Jesus’s public ministry (12:37-40).
6:31 This verse links exodus and Passover motifs with Jesus as the prophet like Moses and the expectation that God would again provide manna in the messianic age. The OT reference seems to involve several passages, with Ps 78:23-24 being most prominent (Ex 16:4,15; Neh 9:15; Ps 105:40).
6:32-34 The manna in the wilderness was pointing to the true bread from heaven, which is Jesus.
6:35,48 I am the bread of life is the first of Jesus’s seven “I am” sayings in John. Subsequently he said he is “the light of the world” (8:12; 9:5); “the gate” of the sheep (10:7,9); the “good shepherd” (10:11,14); “the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6); and “the true vine” (15:1). Apart from these sayings, there are statements where Jesus referred to himself as “I am” (6:20 textual note; 8:24,28,58; 18:5), a clear allusion to God’s identification as “I AM” (Ex 3:14).
6:36 The earthly thinking of Jesus’s audience resulted from their unbelief.
6:37,44 Jesus affirmed the twin themes of election and perseverance of the saints, prominent topics in John’s Gospel. Those predestined by God will come to Jesus, and Jesus will preserve his own. No one can come to Jesus apart from the Father’s drawing him. These themes continue in the good shepherd discourse (10:28-29) and Jesus’s final prayer (17:6,9,11-12).
6:38-39 The believer’s security is founded on the Son’s faithfulness in doing the Father’s will.
6:40 On Jesus’s promise of eternal life, see note at 3:16-18.
6:41,43 The references to the complaining of the Jews highlights the parallel between Jews of Jesus’s day and wilderness Israel (cp. Ex 16:2,8-9; Nm 11:4-23; see note at Jn 6:5-6). The Israelites complained about the first giver of bread, Moses. Now they griped against the second giver, Jesus.
6:42 People showed no awareness of Jesus’s virginal conception (Mt 1:18-25). They objected to Jesus’s claim of descent from heaven since he was clearly human and was, they believed, conceived in the standard way (4:44).
6:44 On the “raising up” ministry of Jesus, see note at 12:32.
6:45 Citing Is 54:13, Jesus affirmed that, while his ministry fulfilled the prophetic vision that one day all people would be taught by God, this applied only to those who were drawn by the Father and who came to believe in Jesus as Messiah.
6:46 Learning from the Father and seeing him are different. Only Jesus has seen the Father—not even Moses has seen him, which makes Jesus’s revelation greater than Moses’s.
6:47-52 Jesus contrasted the manna in the wilderness and the bread from heaven. Only the latter can provide eternal life. Jesus’s flesh refers to his body on the cross, given for sin. Such talk raised questions from his audience.
|Greek pronunciation||[pihss TYEW oh]|
|Uses in John’s Gospel||98|
|Uses in the NT||241|
|Focus passage||John 6:29-47|
The Greek word pisteuo means to believe, trust, rely upon, and its related noun is pistis (faith). In his Gospel, John never uses the words repent, repentance, or faith to describe the way people are saved. Instead, he used believe since this term included all these ideas. John preferred the verb form to emphasize the act that is necessary for someone to be saved—total dependence on the work of another. John does indicate, however, that believing can be superficial; that is, it can be merely intellectual without resulting in true salvation (Jn 2:23-24; 12:42-43; see Jms 2:19). But John’s main point is that complete reliance upon Jesus, the Christ and Son of God (20:31), for salvation gives eternal life to the person who believes (3:16; 6:47). Jesus used a wordplay when he said that people must do “the work of God” for salvation, for his point was that we must not try to work for it at all. We must simply “believe in the one he has sent” (6:29).
6:53-59 Jesus meant for his words to be taken neither in a literal nor in a sacramental sense. The Hebrew idiom “flesh and blood” refers to the total person. Nowhere is Jesus’s teaching more shocking than here. Eternal life comes from eating his flesh and drinking his blood—that is, from believing in him.
6:60-63 Even Jesus’s disciples were offended by such talk. But Jesus explained that he was talking spiritually. Unaided by the Spirit, human reason cannot discern spiritual truth. The Jews wrongly believed study of Scripture (see note at 5:39) and doing “works of God” (see note at 6:27-29) were sufficient for spiritual understanding.
6:64-66 Many of Jesus’s disciples turned from him at this point, which is a watershed in John’s Gospel. But Jesus was not surprised by the defection.
6:67-68 To whom will we go? may refer to transferring allegiance to another rabbi (cp. 1:35-37).
6:69 Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Holy One of God anticipates later references to Jesus being set apart for God (10:36; 17:19). In the OT, God was called the “Holy One of Israel” (Ps 71:22; Is 43:3; 54:5). See similar confessions of Jesus in Mt 16:16; Mk 8:29; Lk 9:20.
6:70 This is the first reference to the Twelve in John’s Gospel. Their existence and appointment are assumed from the testimony in the Synoptic Gospels. See notes at 1:43; 15:16.
6:71 Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, likely was the only non-Galilean among the Twelve.