The Crisis in Galilee
[This chapter is based on John 6:22-71.]
When Christ forbade the people to declare Him king, He knew that a
turning point in His history was reached. Multitudes who desired to
exalt Him to the throne today would turn from Him tomorrow. The
disappointment of their selfish ambition would turn their love to
hatred, and their praise to curses. Yet knowing this, He took no
measures to avert the crisis. From the first He had held out to His
followers no hope of earthly rewards. To one who came desiring to become
His disciple He had said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of
the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His
head." Matt. 8:20. If men could have had the world with Christ,
multitudes would have proffered Him their allegiance; but such service
He could not accept. Of those now connected with Him there were many who
had been attracted by the hope of a worldly kingdom. These must be
undeceived. The deep spiritual teaching in the miracle of the loaves had
not been comprehended. This was to be made plain. And this new
revelation would bring with it a closer test.
The miracle of the loaves was reported far and near, and very early
next morning the people flocked to Bethsaida to see Jesus. They came in
great numbers, by land and sea. Those who had left Him the preceding
night returned, expecting to find Him still there; for there had been no
boat by which He could pass to the other side. But their search was
fruitless, and many repaired to Capernaum, still seeking Him.
Meanwhile He had arrived at Gennesaret, after an absence of but one
day. As soon as it was known that He had landed, the people "ran
through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds
those that were sick, where they heard He was." Mark 6:55.
After a time He went to the synagogue, and there those who had come
from Bethsaida found Him. They learned from His disciples how He had
crossed the sea. The fury of the storm, and the many hours of fruitless
rowing against adverse winds, the appearance of Christ walking upon the
water, the fears thus aroused, His reassuring words, the adventure of
Peter and its result, with the sudden stilling of the tempest and
landing of the boat, were all faithfully recounted to the wondering
crowd. Not content with this, however, many gathered about Jesus,
questioning, "Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?" They hoped to
receive from His own lips a further account of the miracle.
Jesus did not gratify their curiosity. He sadly said, "Ye seek
Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the
loaves, and were filled." They did not seek Him from any worthy
motive; but as they had been fed with the loaves, they hoped still to
receive temporal benefit by attaching themselves to Him. The Saviour
bade them, "Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that
meat which endureth unto everlasting life." Seek not merely for
material benefit. Let it not be the chief effort to provide for the life
that now is, but seek for spiritual food, even that wisdom which will
endure unto everlasting life. This the Son of God alone can give;
"for Him hath God the Father sealed."
For the moment the interest of the hearers was awakened. They
exclaimed, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of
God?" They had been performing many and burdensome works in order
to recommend themselves to God; and they were ready to hear of any new
observance by which they could secure greater merit. Their question
meant, What shall we do that we may deserve heaven? What is the price we
are required to pay in order to obtain the life to come?
"Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God,
that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." The price of heaven is
Jesus. The way to heaven is through faith in "the Lamb of God,
which taketh away the sin of the world." John 1:29.
But the people did not choose to receive this statement of divine
truth. Jesus had done the very work which prophecy had foretold that the
Messiah would do; but they had not witnessed what their selfish hopes
had pictured as His work. Christ had indeed once fed the multitude with
barley loaves; but in the days of Moses Israel had been fed with manna
forty years, and far greater blessings were expected from the Messiah.
Their dissatisfied hearts queried why, if Jesus could perform so many
wondrous works as they had witnessed, could He not give health,
strength, and riches to all His people, free them from their oppressors,
and exalt them to power and honor? The fact that He claimed to be the
Sent of God, and yet refused to be Israel's king, was a mystery which
they could not fathom. His refusal was misinterpreted. Many concluded
that He dared not assert His claims because He Himself doubted as to the
divine character of His mission. Thus they opened their hearts to
unbelief, and the seed which Satan had sown bore fruit of its kind, in
misunderstanding and defection.
Now, half mockingly, a rabbi questioned, "What sign showest 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."
The Jews honored Moses as the giver of the manna, ascribing praise to
the instrument, and losing sight of Him by whom the work had been
accomplished. Their fathers had murmured against Moses, and had doubted
and denied his divine mission. Now in the same spirit the children
rejected the One who bore the message of God to themselves. "Then
said Jesus unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not
that bread from heaven." The giver of the manna was standing among
them. It was Christ Himself who had led the Hebrews through the
wilderness, and had daily fed them with the bread from heaven. That food
was a type of the real bread from heaven. The life-giving Spirit,
flowing from the infinite fullness of God, is the true manna. Jesus
said, "The bread of God is that which cometh down out of heaven,
and giveth life unto the world." John 6:33, R. V.
Still thinking that it was temporal food to which Jesus referred,
some of His hearers exclaimed, "Lord, evermore give us this
bread." Jesus then spoke plainly: "I am the bread of
The figure which Christ used was a familiar one to the Jews. Moses,
by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had said, "Man doth not live
by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the
Lord." And the prophet Jeremiah had written, "Thy words were
found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and
rejoicing of mine heart." Deut. 8:3; Jer. 15:16. The rabbis
themselves had a saying, that the eating of bread, in its spiritual
significance, was the study of the law and the practice of good works;
and it was often said that at the Messiah's coming all Israel would be
fed. The teaching of the prophets made plain the deep spiritual lesson
in the miracle of the loaves. This lesson Christ was seeking to open to
His hearers in the synagogue. Had they understood the Scriptures, they
would have understood His words when He said, "I am the bread of
life." Only the day before, the great multitude, when faint and
weary, had been fed by the bread which He had given. As from that bread
they had received physical strength and refreshment, so from Christ they
might receive spiritual strength unto eternal life. "He that cometh
to Me," He said, "shall never hunger; and he that believeth on
Me shall never thirst." But He added, "Ye also have seen Me,
and believe not."
They had seen Christ by the witness of the Holy Spirit, by the
revelation of God to their souls. The living evidences of His power had
been before them day after day, yet they asked for still another sign.
Had this been given, they would have remained as unbelieving as before.
If they were not convinced by what they had seen and heard, it was
useless to show them more marvelous works. Unbelief will ever find
excuse for doubt, and will reason away the most positive proof.
Again Christ appealed to those stubborn hearts. "Him that cometh
to Me I will in nowise cast out." All who received Him in faith, He
said, should have eternal life. Not one could be lost. No need for
Pharisees and Sadducees to dispute concerning the future life. No longer
need men mourn in hopeless grief over their dead. "This is the will
of Him that sent Me, that everyone which seeth the Son, and believeth on
Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last
But the leaders of the people were offended, "and they said, 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?" They tried to
arouse prejudice by referring scornfully to the lowly origin of Jesus.
They contemptuously alluded to His life as a Galilean laborer, and to
His family as being poor and lowly. The claims of this uneducated
carpenter, they said, were unworthy of their attention. And on account
of His mysterious birth they insinuated that He was of doubtful
parentage, thus representing the human circumstances of His birth as a
blot upon His history.
Jesus did not attempt to explain the mystery of His birth. He made no
answer to the questionings in regard to His having come down from
heaven, as He had made none to the questions concerning His crossing the
sea. He did not call attention to the miracles that marked His life.
Voluntarily He had made Himself of no reputation, and taken upon Him the
form of a servant. But His words and works revealed His character. All
whose hearts were open to divine illumination would recognize in Him
"the Only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
The prejudice of the Pharisees lay deeper than their questions would
indicate; it had its root in the perversity of their hearts. Every word
and act of Jesus aroused antagonism in them; for the spirit which they
cherished could find in Him no answering chord.
"No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me
draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the
prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that
hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me." None
will ever come to Christ, save those who respond to the drawing of the
Father's love. But God is drawing all hearts unto Him, and only those
who resist His drawing will refuse to come to Christ.
In the words, "They shall be all taught of God," Jesus
referred to the prophecy of Isaiah: "All thy children shall be
taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children."
Isa. 54:13. This scripture the Jews appropriated to themselves. It was
their boast that God was their teacher. But Jesus showed how vain is
this claim; for He said, "Every man therefore that hath heard, and
hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me." Only through Christ
could they receive a knowledge of the Father. Humanity could not endure
the vision of His glory. Those who had learned of God had been listening
to the voice of His Son, and in Jesus of Nazareth they would recognize
Him who through nature and revelation has declared the Father.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath
everlasting life." Through the beloved John, who listened to these
words, the Holy Spirit declared to the churches, "This is the
record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His
Son. He that hath the Son hath life." 1 John 5:11, 12. And Jesus
said, "I will raise him up at the last day." Christ became one
flesh with us, in order that we might become one spirit with Him. It is
by virtue of this union that we are to come forth from the grave,--not
merely as a manifestation of the power of Christ, but because, through
faith, His life has become ours. Those who see Christ in His true
character, and receive Him into the heart, have everlasting life. It is
through the Spirit that Christ dwells in us; and the Spirit of God,
received into the heart by faith, is the beginning of the life eternal.
The people had referred Christ to the manna which their fathers ate
in the wilderness, as if the furnishing of that food was a greater
miracle than Jesus had performed; but He shows how meager was that gift
when compared with the blessings He had come to bestow. The manna could
sustain only this earthly existence; it did not prevent the approach of
death, nor insure immortality; but the bread of heaven would nourish the
soul unto everlasting life. The Saviour said, "I am that bread of
life. 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. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any
man eat of this bread, he shall live forever." To this figure
Christ now adds another. Only through dying could He impart life to men,
and in the words that follow He points to His death as the means of
salvation. He says, "The bread that I will give is My flesh, which
I will give for the life of the world."
The Jews were about to celebrate the Passover at Jerusalem, in
commemoration of the night of Israel's deliverance, when the destroying
angel smote the homes of Egypt. In the paschal lamb God desired them to
behold the Lamb of God, and through the symbol receive Him who gave
Himself for the life of the world. But the Jews had come to make the
symbol all-important, while its significance was unnoticed. They
discerned not the Lord's body. The same truth that was symbolized in the
paschal service was taught in the words of Christ. But it was still
Now the rabbis exclaimed angrily, "How can this Man give us His
flesh to eat?" They affected to understand His words in the same
literal sense as did Nicodemus when he asked, "How can a man be
born when he is old?" John 3:4. To some extent they comprehended
the meaning of Jesus, but they were not willing to acknowledge it. By
misconstruing His words, they hoped to prejudice the people against Him.
Christ did not soften down His symbolical representation. He
reiterated the truth in yet stronger language: "Verily, verily, I
say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His
blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My
blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For
My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He that eateth My
flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him."
To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ is to receive Him as a
personal Saviour, believing that He forgives our sins, and that we are
complete in Him. It is by beholding His love, by dwelling upon it, by
drinking it in, that we are to become partakers of His nature. What food
is to the body, Christ must be to the soul. Food cannot benefit us
unless we eat it, unless it becomes a part of our being. So Christ is of
no value to us if we do not know Him as a personal Saviour. A
theoretical knowledge will do us no good. We must feed upon Him, receive
Him into the heart, so that His life becomes our life. His love, His
grace, must be assimilated.
But even these figures fail to present the privilege of the
believer's relation to Christ. Jesus said, "As the living Father
hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he
shall live by Me." As the Son of God lived by faith in the Father,
so are we to live by faith in Christ. So fully was Jesus surrendered to
the will of God that the Father alone appeared in His life. Although
tempted in all points like as we are, He stood before the world
untainted by the evil that surrounded Him. Thus we also are to overcome
as Christ overcame.
Are you a follower of Christ? Then all that is written concerning the
spiritual life is written for you, and may be attained through uniting
yourself to Jesus. Is your zeal languishing? has your first love grown
cold? Accept again of the proffered love of Christ. Eat of His flesh,
drink of His blood, and you will become one with the Father and with the
The unbelieving Jews refused to see any except the most literal
meaning in the Saviour's words. By the ritual law they were forbidden to
taste blood, and they now construed Christ's language into a
sacrilegious speech, and disputed over it among themselves. Many even of
the disciples said, "This is an hard saying; who can hear it?"
The Saviour answered them: "Doth this offend you? What
and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? It is
the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that
I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
The life of Christ that gives life to the world is in His word. It
was by His word that Jesus healed disease and cast out demons; by His
word He stilled the sea, and raised the dead; and the people bore
witness that His word was with power. He spoke the word of God, as He
had spoken through all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament.
The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ, and the Saviour desired to
fix the faith of His followers on the word. When His visible presence
should be withdrawn, the word must be their source of power. Like their
Master, they were to live "by every word that proceedeth out of the
mouth of God." Matt. 4:4.
As our physical life is sustained by food, so our spiritual life is
sustained by the word of God. And every soul is to receive life from
God's word for himself. As we must eat for ourselves in order to receive
nourishment, so we must receive the word for ourselves. We are not to
obtain it merely through the medium of another's mind. We should
carefully study the Bible, asking God for the aid of the Holy Spirit,
that we may understand His word. We should take one verse, and
concentrate the mind on the task of ascertaining the thought which God
has put in that verse for us. We should dwell upon the thought until it
becomes our own, and we know "what saith the Lord."
In His promises and warnings, Jesus means me. God so loved the world,
that He gave His only-begotten Son, that I by believing in Him,
might not perish, but have everlasting life. The experiences related in
God's word are to be my experiences. Prayer and promise, precept
and warning, are mine. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I
live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live
in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me ,
and gave Himself for me." Gal. 2:20. As faith thus receives
and assimilates the principles of truth, they become a part of the being
and the motive power of the life. The word of God, received into the
soul, molds the thoughts, and enters into the development of character.
By looking constantly to Jesus with the eye of faith, we shall be
strengthened. God will make the most precious revelations to His
hungering, thirsting people. They will find that Christ is a personal
Saviour. As they feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and
life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new
life in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to the soul as a Comforter.
By the transforming agency of His grace, the image of God is reproduced
in the disciple; he becomes a new creature. Love takes the place of
hatred, and the heart receives the divine similitude. This is what it
means to live "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of
God." This is eating the Bread that comes down from heaven.
Christ had spoken a sacred, eternal truth regarding the relation
between Himself and His followers. He knew the character of those who
claimed to be His disciples, and His words tested their faith. He
declared that they were to believe and act upon His teaching. All who
received Him would partake of His nature, and be conformed to His
character. This involved the relinquishment of their cherished
ambitions. It required the complete surrender of themselves to Jesus.
They were called to become self-sacrificing, meek and lowly in heart.
They must walk in the narrow path traveled by the Man of Calvary, if
they would share in the gift of life and the glory of heaven.
The test was too great. The enthusiasm of those who had sought to
take Him by force and make Him king grew cold. This discourse in the
synagogue, they declared, had opened their eyes. Now they were
undeceived. In their minds His words were a direct confession that He
was not the Messiah, and that no earthly rewards were to be realized
from connection with Him. They had welcomed His miracle-working power;
they were eager to be freed from disease and suffering; but they would
not come into sympathy with His self-sacrificing life. They cared not
for the mysterious spiritual kingdom of which He spoke. The insincere,
the selfish, who had sought Him, no longer desired Him. If He would not
devote His power and influence to obtaining their freedom from the
Romans, they would have nothing to do with Him.
Jesus told them plainly, "There are some of you that believe
not;" adding, "Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come
unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father." He wished
them to understand that if they were not drawn to Him it was because
their hearts were not open to the Holy Spirit. "The natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness
unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually
discerned." 1 Cor. 2:14. It is by faith that the soul beholds the
glory of Jesus. This glory is hidden, until, through the Holy Spirit,
faith is kindled in the soul.
By the public rebuke of their unbelief these disciples were still
further alienated from Jesus. They were greatly displeased, and wishing
to wound the Saviour and gratify the malice of the Pharisees, they
turned their backs upon Him, and left Him with disdain. They had made
their choice,--had taken the form without the spirit, the husk without
the kernel. Their decision was never afterward reversed; for they walked
no more with Jesus.
"Whose fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His
floor, and gather His wheat into the garner." Matt. 3:12. This was
one of the times of purging. By the words of truth, the chaff was being
separated from the wheat. Because they were too vain and self-righteous
to receive reproof, too world-loving to accept a life of humility, many
turned away from Jesus. Many are still doing the same thing. Souls are
tested today as were those disciples in the synagogue at Capernaum. When
truth is brought home to the heart, they see that their lives are not in
accordance with the will of God. They see the need of an entire change
in themselves; but they are not willing to take up the self-denying
work. Therefore they are angry when their sins are discovered. They go
away offended, even as the disciples left Jesus, murmuring, "This
is an hard saying; who can hear it?"
Praise and flattery would be pleasing to their ears; but the truth is
unwelcome; they cannot hear it. When the crowds follow, and the
multitudes are fed, and the shouts of triumph are heard, their voices
are loud in praise; but when the searching of God's Spirit reveals their
sin, and bids them leave it, they turn their backs upon the truth, and
walk no more with Jesus.
As those disaffected disciples turned away from Christ, a different
spirit took control of them. They could see nothing attractive in Him
whom they had once found so interesting. They sought out His enemies,
for they were in harmony with their spirit and work. They misinterpreted
His words, falsified His statements, and impugned His motives. They
sustained their course by gathering up every item that could be turned
against Him; and such indignation was stirred up by these false reports
that His life was in danger.
The news spread swiftly that by His own confession Jesus of Nazareth
was not the Messiah. And thus in Galilee the current of popular feeling
was turned against Him, as, the year before, it had been in Judea. Alas
for Israel! They rejected their Saviour, because they longed for a
conqueror who would give them temporal power. They wanted the meat which
perishes, and not that which endures unto everlasting life.
With a yearning heart, Jesus saw those who had been His disciples
departing from Him, the Life and the Light of men. The consciousness
that His compassion was unappreciated, His love unrequited, His mercy
slighted, His salvation rejected, filled Him with sorrow that was
inexpressible. It was such developments as these that made Him a man of
sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
Without attempting to hinder those who were leaving Him, Jesus turned
to the twelve and said, "Will ye also go away?"
Peter replied by asking, "Lord, to whom shall we go?"
"Thou hast the words of eternal life," he added. "And we
believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living
"To whom shall we go?" The teachers of Israel were slaves
to formalism. The Pharisees and Sadducees were in constant contention.
To leave Jesus was to fall among sticklers for rites and ceremonies, and
ambitious men who sought their own glory. The disciples had found more
peace and joy since they had accepted Christ than in all their previous
lives. How could they go back to those who had scorned and persecuted
the Friend of sinners? They had long been looking for the Messiah; now
He had come, and they could not turn from His presence to those who were
hunting His life, and had persecuted them for becoming His followers.
"To whom shall we go?" Not from the teaching of Christ, His
lessons of love and mercy, to the darkness of unbelief, the wickedness
of the world. While the Saviour was forsaken by many who had witnessed
His wonderful works, Peter expressed the faith of the
disciples,--"Thou art that Christ." The very thought of losing
this anchor of their souls filled them with fear and pain. To be
destitute of a Saviour was to be adrift on a dark and stormy sea.
Many of the words and acts of Jesus appear mysterious to finite
minds, but every word and act had its definite purpose in the work for
our redemption; each was calculated to produce its own result. If we
were capable of understanding His purposes, all would appear important,
complete, and in harmony with His mission.
While we cannot now comprehend the works and ways of God, we can
discern His great love, which underlies all His dealings with men. He
who lives near to Jesus will understand much of the mystery of
godliness. He will recognize the mercy that administers reproof, that
tests the character, and brings to light the purpose of the heart.
When Jesus presented the testing truth that caused so many of His
disciples to turn back, He knew what would be the result of His words;
but He had a purpose of mercy to fulfill. He foresaw that in the hour of
temptation every one of His beloved disciples would be severely tested.
His agony in Gethsemane, His betrayal and crucifixion, would be to them
a most trying ordeal. Had no previous test been given, many who were
actuated by merely selfish motives would have been connected with them.
When their Lord was condemned in the judgment hall; when the multitude
who had hailed Him as their king hissed at Him and reviled Him; when the
jeering crowd cried, "Crucify Him!"--when their worldly
ambitions were disappointed, these self-seeking ones would, by
renouncing their allegiance to Jesus, have brought upon the disciples a
bitter, heart-burdening sorrow, in addition to their grief and
disappointment in the ruin of their fondest hopes. In that hour of
darkness, the example of those who turned from Him might have carried
others with them. But Jesus brought about this crisis while by His
personal presence He could still strengthen the faith of His true
Compassionate Redeemer, who in the full knowledge of the doom that
awaited Him, tenderly smoothed the way for the disciples, prepared them
for their crowning trial, and strengthened them for the final test!
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