In the start of chapter six, John records the feeding of the five thousand. Carson points out that this is the only chapter of John which works with the Galillean ministry. The Synoptics spend a good deal of time on Galilee (Carson 1991, 267). Jesus’ moves from place to place suggest either a purposeful editorial arrangement or simply that Jesus was moving a good deal, though it was difficult (Carson 1991, 268). Carson thinks there is a strong theological reason for John to mention the Passover here. Jesus goes on to speak of the eating and of bread. The connection of ideas is hard to escape (Carson 1991, 268). The situation in 6:1-5 was such that Jesus’ hearers would not have food because they were learning from Jesus. The needed food would cost a great deal (Carson 1991, 269). The five thousand men plus others were all fed. They wished to make Jesus a king. Carson concludes they thought they had adequate force for revolution (Carson 1991, 270). Carson notes that Jesus did not use this as an occasion for revolution. He also notes that John omitted numerous actions which could make this passage seem more like the Eucharist (Carson 1991, 270). The emphasis is on the people having all they need. Jesus avoided the kingship issue. Carson observes it was not Jesus’ time (Carson 1991, 272).
Verses 16-20 show Jesus walking across the water to his disciples. Carson discusses various theories of the structure of the Gospel and the coordination of the sign accounts (Carson 1991, 274). When Jesus arrives, walking on the lake, the disciples are frightened. Carson is unsure that Jesus’ self-identification in verse 20 bears any theological weight. It is both a typical identifier and the way God introduced himself to Moses (Carson 1991, 275).
John 6:22-58 is the passage in which Jesus calls himself the bread of life (Carson 1991, 276). Carson discusses some issues of the passages’ unity, meaning, and the argument’s source. He concludes that the passage is cohesive and original. It has a strong sacramentarian feeling to it, which was recognized by early Christians (Carson 1991, 277). This is, however, not entirely decisive (Carson 1991, 278). Carson goes on to discuss the words “sacrament,” “mystery,” and “ordinances” as used for the Eucharist. He concludes that the terms “sacrament” and “ordinance” are both appropriate (Carson 1991, 281). A crowd has sought Jesus after his healing miracle across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus turns their attention in verse 26 to true bread from God (Carson 1991, 282). The speech itself seems to take place in a synagogue (v. 59) but there is no indication of a move indoors (Carson 1991, 283). Jesus identifies himself as the true giver of the true food which nourishes to eternal life (Carson 1991, 284). He is also the food, though Carson considers it uncertain whether that statement is meant to refer to Jesus at that time or some later manifestation (Carson 1991, 284). What God requires of His people is faith, not some sort of additional works (Carson 1991, 285). Jesus boldly says in verse 35 that he himself is the bread of life (Carson 1991, 288). Carson notes that the language is “essentially symbolic” (Carson 1991, 288) in that there is metaphor, that eating is referred to as coming to Jesus and that it is not drinking but believing which prevents thirst. Carson sees a strong predestinarian view in verse 37. Jesus calls people to him and will keep them (Carson 1991, 290). Carson affirmst that God’s sovereignty “is a major theme in the Fourth Gospel” (Carson 1991, 291). He sees the idea of irresistible grace as central here and in chapter 17. At the same time, though, John is clear that humans are responsible to have faith. The concept of God drawing people to himself is very clear, especially in verse 44 (Carson 1991, 293). Jesus makes a bold invitation to people. They must believe on him to have eternal life (vv. 47-4) (Carson 1991, 294). Jesus then speaks even more boldly in terms of eating his flesh. This i the way his people receive life (vv. 49ff). Though Jesus uses the term σάρξ rather than σώμα, which is regularly used in passages about the Eucharist, Carson does see strong references to communion (Carson 1991, 295). Jesus’ words are so offensive Carson does not think anyone could take them literally. However, he is not ready to say definitively how they were intended (pp. 295-296). He remains insistent that it cannot be a reference to truly eating and drinking the Lord’s body and blood in communion (Carson 1991, 297).
John chapter six concludes with many of Jesus’ disciples leaving him (Carson 1991, 300). Carson, commenting on verse 63, points out a rejection of a sacramental interpretation of the passage. If the “flesh counts for nothing” the entire passage is symbolic (Carson 1991, 301). Therefore, Carson reads the text as a call to believe, for which eating is a metaphor. Verses 66 and following show that in our responsibility to come to God in faith, the Lord is always active to draw us (Carson 1991, 303).
Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.
Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005.