The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

St Augustine’s Tractate on John 6:30-35

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 15, 2012

This is an excerpt from St Augstine’s 25th Tractate on the Gospel of St John, sections 12-14. This Tractate deals with John 6:15-44 and can be read in full here. The tractates as a whole can be accessed here.

“They said therefore unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” For He had said to them, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life.” “What shall we do?” they ask; by observing what, shall we be able to fulfill this precept? “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent.” This is then to eat the meat, not that which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life. To what purpose dost thou make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and thou hast eaten already. Faith is indeed distinguished from works, even as the apostle says, “that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law” (Rom 3:28): there are works which appear good, without faith in Christ; but they are not good, because they are not referred to that end in which works are good; “for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom 10:4).  For that reason, He willeth not to distinguish faith from work, but declared faith itself to be work. For it is that same faith that worketh by love (Gal 5:6).  Nor did He say, This is your work; but, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent;” so that he who glories, may glory in the Lord. And because He invited them to faith, they, on the other hand, were still asking for signs by which they might believe. See if the Jews do not ask for signs. “They said therefore rate Him, What sign doest thou, that we may see and believe thee? what dost thou work?” Was it a trifle that they were fed with five loaves? They knew this indeed, but they preferred manna from heaven to this food. But the Lord Jesus declared Himself to be such an one, that He was superior to Moses. For Moses dared not say of Himself that He gave, “not the meat which perisheth, but that which endureth to eternal life.” Jesus promised something greater than Moses gave. By Moses indeed was promised a kingdom, and a land flowing with milk and honey, temporal peace, abundance of children, health of body, and all other things, temporal goods indeed, yet in figure spiritual; because in the Old Testament they were promised to the old man. They considered therefore the things promised by Moses, and they considered the things promised by Christ. The former promised a full belly on the earth, but of the meat which perisheth; the latter promised, “not the meat which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life.” They gave attention to Him that promised the more, but just as if they did not yet see Him do greater things. They considered therefore what sort of works Moses had done, and they wished yet some greater works to be done by Him who promised them such great things. What, say they, doest thou, that we may believe thee? And that thou mayest know that they compared those former miracles with this and so judged these miracles which Jesus did as being less; “Our fathers,” say they, “did eat manna in the wilderness.” But what is manna? Perhaps ye despise it. “As it is written, He gave them manna to eat.” By Moses our fathers received bread from heaven, and Moses did not say to them, “Labor for the meat which perisheth not.” Thou promisest “meat which perisheth not, but which endureth to eternal life;” and yet thou workest not such works as Moses did. He gave, not barley loaves, but manna from heaven.

13. “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, not Moses gave you bread from heaven, but my Father gave you bread from heaven. For the true bread is He that cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.” The true bread then is He that giveth life to the world; and the same is the meat of which I have spoken a little before, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eernal life.” Therefore, both that manna signified this meat, and all those signs were signs of me. Ye have longed for signs of me; do ye despise Him that was signified? Not Moses then gave bread from heaven: God gives bread. But what bread? Manna, perhaps? No, but the bread which manna signified, namely, the Lord Jesus Himself. My Father giveth you the true bread. “For the bread of God is He that cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world Then said they unto Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.” Like that Samaritan woman, to whom it was said, “Whoso drinketh of this water shall never thirst.” She, immediately understanding it in reference to the body, and wishing to be rid of want, said, “Give me, O Lord, of this water;” in the same manner also these said, “O Lord, give us this bread;” which may refresh us, and yet not fail.

14. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” “He that cometh to me;” this is the same thing as “He that believeth on me;” and “shall never hunger” is to be understood to mean the same thing as “shall never thirst.” For by both is signified that eternal sufficiency in which there is no want. You desire bread from heaven; you have it before you, and yet you do not eat. “But I said unto you, that ye also have seen me, and ye believed not.” But I have not on that account lost my people. “For hath your unbelief made the faith of God of none effect?” (Rom 3:3)  For, see thou what follows: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will not cast out of doors.” What kind of within is that, whence there is no going out of doors? Noble interior, sweet retreat! O secret dwelling without weariness, without the bitterness of evil thoughts, without the solicitings of temptations and the interruptions of griefs! Is it not that secret dwelling whither shall enter that well-deserving servant, to whom the Lord will say, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord?” (Matt 25:23)

2 Responses to “St Augustine’s Tractate on John 6:30-35”

  1. […] St Augustine’s Tractate 25 on John 6:30-35. […]

  2. […] St Augustine’s Tractate 25 on John 6:30-35. […]

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