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It hath been before related, that after CHRIST had fed the multitude in the desert, he dismissed them ; but though they dispersed at his command, they did not return to their habitations: for, perceiving that the disciples were sent to the other side of the lake, and that JESUS stayed behind, they probably concluded, that they were sent to provide necessaries for their master's assuming the kingdom ; though he had modestly declined that high dignity in the evening, they were encouraged to hope, that he would accept of it the ensuing day. This expectation, it may be supposed, induced them to lodge in the solitary wildermess, and shelter themselves in caverns of the rocks and mountains, though they were very much incommoded by the raging of the storm.
When morning arrived, the multitude left the places of their retreat, and searched for our Redeemer in every part of the desert mountain: they saw him ascend to the summit the foregoing evening, and were very much surprised that he could not be found; but having wearied themselves in an unsuccessful search, they probably concluded that he had departed in some boat which belonged to the sea of Tiberius, that had been forced by the storm to take shelter in some creek, at the foot of the mountain. With this expectation, they departed to Capernaum, where they found him in the Synagogue, teaching the people; and, with a mixture of joy and surprise, asked him, Rabbi, when comest thou hither 2 To this question our great Redeemer answered, that they did not follow him because they were convinced by his miracles of the truth of his divinity, but because they had been miracuously fed : Verily, verily, I say unto you, said he, ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Hereby our great Redeemer intimated that their views in following him were low, selfish, and sordid, and far below what might be expected from the Messiah's kingdom. Food for the body is of small consequence, when compared
with those blessings which promote the welfare of the immortal soul. It was not mere animal food which the Son of God came down from heaven to bestow, but that divine wisdom and grace which would lead the immortal mind in the paths of eternal happiness ; and therefore, he exhorted them not to follow him for com... mon food, but for that meat which endureth to everlasting life. Labour not, said he, 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. *
The Jews, if they had attentively considered the writings of their prophets, where divine wisdom and knowledge are frequently held forth, under the metephors of meat and drink, might easily have understood what our Saviour meant by the meat which endureth unto everlasting life. But their popular notions of a temporal dominion, led them into the idea of some coporeal food, which the Messiah would give them to enable them to pursue the designs, and establish the glories of his kingdom. It is, therefore, no wonder that they asked him, what they should do to erect the Messiah's kingdom, and obtain that wonderful bread, which, he said, God had commissioned him to beStow. -
The minds of the Jews were filled with vast conceptions of the splendour and glory of the Messiah's reign ; as they expected that CHRIST was about to establish his great empire, doubtless they imagined he would have given proper directions for their rising against, and opposing the Roman power, as the first step towards raising that dominion which had been so long promised to their nation. But our great Redeemer, to convince them of their mistake, and inform them what God really required of them, in order to erect the Messiah's kingdom, told them, that the way to obtain favour of the God of Israel, was to believe in the person whom he had sent. The Jews
were exceedingly offended at this unexpected answer, and seemed determined not to receive CHRIST as their Messiah, because he declined all means of establishing a temporal kingdom ; as, therefore, he ap
peared in a character so contrary to their expectations
of the manifestation of the Messiah, they required him to produce some signs, which might demonstrate that he was greater than Moses, or any of the old prophets. As to the miracle of feeding the multitude, they supposed, that such a pre-eminency could not be gathered from thence, because Moses had fed their whole nation with manna in the wilderness, which they insinuated, was a greater miracle than CHRIST's feeding ten thousand persons in the wilderness. What sign sheweth thou then, said they unto him, that tee may see, and believe thee *. What dost thou work 2 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert ; as if is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. To this objection, our Lord replied, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven ; but my Father gave you the true bread from heaven.
The manna which sustained the Israelites in the wilderness, was not the production of Moses but the gift of God; it was not sent as an evidence of Moses, being a great prophet, but was intended to carry on the designs of divine providence, in the support of that peculiar people, and to be an emblem, or representation of that true spiritual, heavenly bread, which God hath given for the spiritual life of all who believe in his Son.
Some of the audience, who had listened with great pleasure, to the description which our Lord had given of the coelestial bread, were possessed with an earnest desire to be partakers of so great a blessing: and im: mediately cried out, Lord, evermore give us this bread. To which the divine Instructor replied, I am the bread of life : he that cometh to me, shall never hunger 5 and he that believeth on me, shall never thirst. But,
* continued our great Redeemer, as I have often said, your nation obstinately and resolutely resists the light, and continues in unbelief, notwithstanding the manifest and glaring evidences of divine power, which you have seen, and the glorious fruits which would follow on your believing ; but think not that your unbelief will prevent the rising glories of my spiritual kingdom ; for many there are which my fa-" ther hath given me, these shall be induced by the power of his spirit to come unto me, and him that cometh, 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, that, of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up 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 1ast day.
As the greatest part of the Jews were desirous only of temporal privileges and advantages from the Messiah's kingdom, it is no wonder they should be offended at this doctrine ; they could not bear the thought, that a man who declined all earthly honours, should be supposed to be the Messiah: nor could they tell what he meant by calling himself the bread of life, and asserting that he came down from heaven. With murmuring and discontent, therefore, they hastily exclaimed, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and Mother we know * How is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? To these degrading expressions, our Lord thought fit to reply, that no objections arising from the meanness of his birth and education, could invalidate the testimony of the miracles which he wrought, or excuse their obstinacy and unbelief. But it was not strange, that they should oppose and resist the truth, for it required the agency of divine power to teach
them to understand what he meant by declaring himself the bread of life : and also it must be the mighty power of God, which enabled them to receive him, and live upon him as such. A believing in the Son of God, as the only Saviour of sinners, and resting upon him for life and salvation, and thereby partaking of the divine nature, and receiving spiritual nourishment from him, as the body does from corporeal bread, was not within the reach of the natural abilities of the unbelieving Jews, nor any of the human race, without divine assistance; and, therefore, our Lord told them, No man can come to me, ercept the Father which hath sent me, draw him. And he further proceeded to inform them, that it was related in their o the kingdom of the Messiah, that all the subjects of that kingdom should be taught of God, Every man, therefore, that hath heard and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. But, continued our great Redeemer, you are not to suppose, that men will be so favoured as to see God with their corporeal eyes: for him none hath seen, or can see : but the happiness and glory of that kingdom will consist on believing on me, in such a manner as to receive me as the true bread of life: by this the believer will obtain a vital union with me, and draw spiritual nourishment from me; and, by that means, grow up to everlasting life.
Our Lord, having thus declared himself to be the bread of life, which came down from heaven, and shewn the way in which it is to be obtained, proceedcd to examine the cömparison between himself, considered as the bread from heaven, and the manna, which, in the time of Moses, the Israelites eat in the wilderness. Four fathers, said he, 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. I am the living bread which came down Jrom heaven : if any man eat of this bread, he shall tive for ever ; and the bread that I will give, is my Z'esh, which I will give for the life of the world.