26 Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.
27 "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." NAU
Jesus delivered (John 6:22-59) His Bread of Life Discourse at Capernaum. The purpose of the discourse is to exalt Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world. As Erdman (p. 64) states:
Throughout the discourse, as in the previous chapter, testimony is borne to the divine Person of Christ; yet, by way of contrast, the stress is laid upon the necessity for faith in him, and the results of true belief and trust. The character of this faith in Christ is expressed in the strongest imaginable terms, as being a true eating of his flesh and a drinking of his blood, by which is meant a complete identification with him, and an absolute dependence upon him, as a crucified, risen, living, divine Lord.
At Tiberias (John 6:1-14), on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus had taken five barley loaves and two fish and miraculously fed about five thousand men. There were twelve baskets of fragments left over from the barley loaves. When the meal was over, the disciples set sail for Capernaum without Jesus. During their journey, Jesus walked on the water and joined with the disciples. They landed at Capernaum.
Many people sailed from Tiberias to Capernaum to find Jesus. When they found Him, they said (verse 25): "'Rabbi, when did You get here?'" Jesus did not answer the question, but rather said (verse 26), "'Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.'"
According to Lenski (p. 450), "'Not because you saw signs' means that these people only saw wonders and never saw signs at all, i.e. signs full of great meaning." He further explains, "These people failed to see what was so gloriously pictured to them, the divinity of Jesus, his ability to feed their souls as he had fed their bodies, his Savior qualities as the Messiah sent of God."
A similar view is held by Keener. Giving us some of the cultural background, Keener (Gospel, p. 676), writes that
they ignore the miracles' value as "signs" pointing to Jesus' identity, wanting instead free food (6:26). That many poor people might respond in such a manner fits what we know of ancient life; Roman emperors and other politicians kept the Roman people pacified with free food. Like Roman clients, the crowds join Jesus' "entourage" just for "a handout of food"; clients in return ought to advance their patron's political ambitions (which makes sense of 6:15).
In contrast to natural food, the Son of Man will give them food which endures to eternal life. The food that He will give is the Bread of Life which will not perish. He alone is able to give this food.
The Father's Seal
During His discourse, Jesus declares (John 6:27) that the Father has set His seal upon Him. Although the Spirit is not mentioned in this declaration, it is a key verse with regard to the Holy Spirit and sealing. Therefore, we will examine some key questions with regard to the seal.
First, who is the sealer? This is clearly stated. Jesus said (v. 27) "'for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.'" NAU God the Father sets His seal upon the Son. This stand in contrast to John 3:33 where John states: "He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true." In this verse the believer sets his seal that God is true. Ultimately, it is God Himself who sets His seal upon Christ, but in a lesser sense believers also set their seal.
Second, who is sealed? As already stated, the seal is set by the Father upon His Son. Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man. It is the entire Person of Christ that is sealed, but by using this title, Jesus highlights His humanity. Jesus is both the Son of God and the Son of Man. As Robertson (p. 32) says, "God and man meet in Christ."
Third, when was Jesus sealed? Some commentators hold that Jesus was sealed by the miracles He performed. These miracles were performed by the power of the Spirit. Others point to the experience of Jesus at Jordan. These commentators highlight either water baptism or the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus.
The verb translated "has set" is an aorist. Morris (p. 359) states: "If the aorist points to a particular act it will probably be Jesus' baptism. It is worth noting that in the early church the baptism of Christians was often described as a seal." Robertson (p. 104) says, "It was done at his baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon him and the Father spoke to him." The use of the aorist, however, does not necessarily limit the sealing to a single act.
This question is very much interrelated with our next question which is about the purpose of the seal. Therefore, under the subject of purpose, we will discuss further the timing of the seal.
Fourth, what is the purpose of the seal? The term seal is very flexible and has a variety of meanings. Ardnt and Gingrich (p. 804) list three figurative meanings: (1) to seal up something in order to keep it secret, (2) to mark with a seal as a means of identification, and (3) to attest, certify, or acknowledge.
In John 6:27 God's endorsement of His Son is evident. Many terms are used to state this common idea. These terms include (1) authentication, (2) attestation, (3) approval, (4) confirmation, (5) certification, and (6) accreditation. The key point is that God pus His approval upon Jesus. Jesus is identified as the authenticated Son of God and Son of Man. The question remains as to just how this was done.
Many hold that the seal refers to the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus. Gordon (p.77) maintains, "This sealing must evidently refer back to his reception of the Spirit at Jordan. . . . Behold the Lamb of God presenting himself for inspection at the Jordan! . . . he [the Father] puts the Holy Ghost upon him, the testimony to his sonship, the seal of his separation unto sacrifice and service."
Similarly, Dunn (p. 184) declares that the seal "must refer to God's attestation of the Son by the anointing with the Spirit at Jordan." This anointing, as it says in Acts 10:38, equipped Jesus for his Messianic ministry of healing and teaching. With regard to John 6:27, Arndt and Gingrich (p. 804) say that the term seal means more than to just provide with a mark of identification. Rather, it equals "endue with power from heaven."
According to Rea (p. 129), "This divine certification [the seal] and approval referred to the Holy Spirit who had descended upon Jesus at His baptism and to the accompanying voice from heaven, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'" Thus, Rea includes the voice from heaven in the seal.
Other authors maintain that the seal was the miracles Jesus performed. Jesus had just fed about 5,000 men and had walked on water. According to Lenski (p. 453), "The seal he [God] affixed to Jesus these people had seen on the previous day in the miracles he wrought, especially in that of the bread." The miracles should have revealed to the multitude that Jesus was the Christ. They should have had this "sign" value.
Holding a similar view, Keener (pp. 677-678) writes: "In view of the aorist tense, Jesus ‘sealing' by the Father may refer to a particular act, in which case it would probably point back to the Spirit descending on Jesus in 1:32-33. In this context, however, the Father's sealing of Jesus probably refers to the signs by which God has attested him (6:2, 26; cf. 5:36)."
God set His seal upon His Son. In a broad sense all that God does through Christ is His seal upon Him. God certifies that this is His son, the Savior of the world. At Jordan God particularly showed His approval. Not only did the Spirit descend upon Christ, but God spoke His approval. Moreover, the Spirit endued Christ for His work. From that time He performed many mighty things in the power of the Spirit. Each manifestation of the Spirit was further evidence of God's approval.
George M. Flattery
For Further Study
Arndt, William F. and Gingrich, F. Wilbur. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Cambridge: The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Bickersteth, Edward Henry. The Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1959.
Biederwolf, William E. A Help to the Study of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974.
Burge, Gary M. The Anointed Community: The Holy Spirit in the Johannine Tradition. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.
Carter, Charles W. The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974.
Dunn, James D. G. Baptism in the Holy Spirit. London: SCM Press Ltd. 1970.
Gordon, A. J. The Ministry of the Spirit. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, 1964.
Hendriksen, William. NewTestament Commentary: Exposition of The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961.
Keener, Craig. S. The Gospel of John, Vol. 1. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003.
Lampe, G. W. H. The Seal of the Spirit. London: SPCK, 1967.
Lenski, R. C. H. St. John's Gospel. Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1942.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1971.
Rea, John. Bible Handbook on the Holy Spirit. Orlando: Creation House, 1998.
Robertson, A. T. Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vols. 1-6. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1930.
Wescott, B. F. The Gospel According to St. John. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971.
© Copyright 2004. GMF.