THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN
CHAPTER 6:1-71
OPPOSITION IN THE GALILEE

"Every living thing that moves will be yours to eat, no less than the foliage of the plants.  I give you everything, with this exception: you must not eat flesh with life, that is to say blood, in it."
-Genesis 9:4

"If any member of the House of Israel or any resident alien consumes blood of any kind, I shall set my face against that individual who consumes blood and shall outlaw him from his people.  For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you for performing the rite of expiation on the altar for your lives, for blood is what expiates for a life."
Leviticus 17:10-11

"Concerning the broken bread: 'We give Thee thanks, Our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy Servant. To Thee be the glory for evermore.  As this broken bread was scattered over the hills and then, when gathered, became one, so may Thy Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom.' "

 –The Didache, 9: Eucharistic Prayer [written circa 50-120AD]. With the exception of St. Paul's Eucharistic Prayer in 1 Corinthians 11:23-27, this is the earliest know Eucharistic Prayer of the New Covenant Church.

"The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the over of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven." -St. Peter Chrysologus, Homilie 67

BOOK 3 – OPPOSITION TO THE SON OF GOD 5:1-12:50

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Jesus in the GALILEE  just before the Feast of  PASSOVER #2

 

              A.  SIGN #4 – Christ feeds 5,000 men

6:1-14

              B.  [private sign for the Apostles] – Christ walks on the water

6:15-21

              C.  The Bread of Life Discourse  - #1 "I AM the bread of life" (6:35, 41, 48, 51)

6:22-71

Chapter 5 ended very somberly with Jesus telling the crowd in verse 40 "...you refuse to come to me to have life" and in verse 47 "but if you will not believe what he [Moses] wrote, how can you believe what I say?" Jesus sees that the Jews have reached the point of conscious and deliberate refusal to believe. Jesus' comments about the prophet Moses will be the link between chapter 5 and chapter 6 where Jesus, the "new Moses" will bring the promise of the "new manna".

Please read John 6:1-15 – Jesus Feeds the Multitude

1 After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee or of Tiberias 2 and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he had done in curing the sick. 3  Jesus climbed the hillside and sat down there with his disciples.  4 The time of the Jewish Passover was near.  5 Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, 'Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?  6 He said this only to put Philip to the test; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do.  7 Philip answered, 'Two hundred denarii would not buy enough to give them a little piece each.'  8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said, 9 'Here is a small boy with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that among so many?'  10  Jesus said to them, 'Make the people sit down.'  There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down.  11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were sitting there; he then did the same with the fish, distributing as much as they wanted.  12 When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, 'Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing is wasted.'  13 So they picked them up and filled twelve large baskets with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves.  14 Seeing the sign that he had done, the people said, 'This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.'  15 Jesus, as he realized they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, fled back to the hills alone.

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the feeding of the multitude is the only miracle besides the Resurrection that is recorded in all four Gospels.  But, in John's account it is not only a miracle, it is a "sign" that serves as a preface to Jesus' teaching on the true Bread of Life and points to the greater miracle of the gift of Himself in the Eucharist. There are only two food miracles in John's Gospel: the miracle that involves bread in chapter 6 and the miracle involving wine in chapter 2.  Together they anticipate the Eucharistic liturgy where Jesus who is both the "new Moses" and the "new manna" gives Himself as food for the multitudes under the visible signs of bread and wine. [see CCC#1333-35].

John 6:1-2 After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee –or of Tiberias' and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he had done in curing the sick.

In the Gospels several names are used for the large northern lake through which the Jordan River flows.  Here John calls it the "Sea of Galilee" as well as referring to it by its Roman name, the "Sea of Tiberias."  In AD20 Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of the Galilee, built the city of Tiberias as the administrative capital of the region.  He named the city and re-named the lake in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar [reigned AD14-37].  This lake was also known as Lake Gennesaret [from the Hebrew Kinnesaret or Chinnereth], a name that also designated the land on the western shore.  We are told in verse 16 that this event takes place across the Sea of Galilee on the opposite shore from Caperanum.

Word is spreading about Jesus' miracles.  It is now almost impossible for Him to avoid crowds of people following Him in their desire to witness His miracles.  Although John highlights only 7 public signs/miracles performed by Jesus, here in verse 2 as well as in 20:30 and 21:25 John tells us that Jesus worked many miracles.  John chose these 7 public signs as representative of Jesus' many miracles and because they illustrate certain facets of the mystery of Jesus the Messiah.  The one private "sign" of His divinity that John relates was revealed only to His Apostles is the miracle of Jesus walking on the water of the Sea of Galilee in John 6:16-21.

John 3-4 Jesus climbed the hillside [mountain] and sat down there with his disciples.  The time of the Jewish Passover was near.

The word in the literal Greek translation is "mountain" and not "hillside."  Most modern translators change the wording of this passage because these elevated areas around the Galilee are not what we would call mountains.  However, the Gospel writers always refer to "the mountain" [including the article "the"] when Jesus ascends a height to teach or perform a miracle because "the mountain" is an important theological symbol which links the reader to Old Testament imagery and theological events that took place on mountains. 

 

Question: Can you think of some Old Testament events that took place on a mountain where God revealed Himself to His people?

Answer: [I did not include Mt. Ararat because, although God did place the redeemed family of Noah on that mountain, there was no visible manifestation of His presence or any single act signifying His presence].

  1. Eden: Man's first home in the Garden of Eden was on a mountain or mountain plateau: See Genesis 1:10 and Ezekiel 28:13-16.  The river that flowed out of Eden divided into 4 rivers that watered the earth.  Rivers flow down stream. Ezekiel 28:13 -14"You were in Eden the Garden of God.....I made you a living creature with outstretched wings, as guardian, you were on the holy mountain of God..." That Eden was the original "holy mountain" of God explains the significance of God's choice of mountains as sites for His redemptive acts and revelations.  Man's goal, since the Fall, has been to return to that perfect state of communion that our first parents enjoyed in God's presence.
  2. Mt. Moriah: Genesis 22:2 where Abram offered up Isaac; where David saw the Angel of the Lord standing with his sword in his hand ready to destroy Jerusalem until David built an altar there and made atonement through sacrifice [1Chronicles 21:15-17]; where Solomon built the Temple of the One True God [2Chronicles 3:1].
  3. Mt. Sinai /Horeb:  God's revelation of His presence to His covenant people [Exodus 19-24], where His Law was made and the Covenant with Israel ratified.  It was also at Sinai that God revealed His saving presence to His prophet Elijah and re-commissioned him as His messenger to the nations [1Kings 19].
  4. Mt. Carmel: Carmel is the Hebrew word for garden-land.  It was on Mt. Carmel that God gave the prophet Elijah victory over the false priests of Baal and through sacrifice brought His people back to Himself [1Kings 18].

Question: What events in the New Testament are significant "mountain events" where God manifests His redemptive acts and revelations?

Answer:

  1. The Mt. of Temptation: Where Jesus resisted the temptation of  Satan in Matthew 4:8-11
  2. Mt. of Beatitudes: Jesus' first sermon where He, as the mediator of the New Covenant, delivers the "law" from "a mountain" as the new Moses [Matthew 5].
  3. The Appointment of the 12: In Mark 3:13-19 Jesus takes the disciples up a mountain where He officially appoints the 12 as Apostles.
  4. Caesarea-Philippi: Where Jesus takes the Apostles up on a mountain and appoints Simon/Peter as the Prime Minister [Vicar] of His Kingdom and the keeper of the Keys [Matthew 16:16-19]
  5. Mt. of Transfiguration: Where Christ is transfigured before Peter, James, and John, revealing His glory [recalling the association with Mt. Sinai where Moses saw God's glory] in Matthew chapter 17.  Peter calls this "the holy mountain" in 2Peter 1:16-18.
  6. Mt. Moriah: Where Jesus cleansed the Temple [John 2:13-22 , Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:11, 15-19; Luke 19:45-46] and condemned the faithless and unbelieving representatives of the Old Covenant people [Matthew 23].
  7. Mt. of Olives: Where Jesus passes judgment on the Old Covenant people for their rejection of the Messiah and prophesizes the great tribulation that will fall on Jerusalem [Matthew 24].  Where Jesus, after the Last Supper, ascends the mountain with His disciples to pray [Matthew 26:30].  And where Jesus ascends to the Father 40 days after His resurrection [Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:11-19.

[also see the Chart on Mountains of God in Scripture in the Charts section].

In Hebrews 12:22 the inspired writer tells us that just as Moses brought the Children of Israel to God's Holy Mountain, Sinai, now Christ has brought New Covenant people to God's Holy Mountain: But what you have come to is Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival, with the whole Church of first-born sons, enrolled as citizens of heaven.  The Church is God's Holy Mountain, just as Mt. Moriah had been for the Old Covenant people as the site of the Temple.  Isaiah 2:2: In the last days, the mountain of the House of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it....  The promise is the day will come when God's Kingdom, His "Holy Mountain", will "fill the whole earth" just as God's original dominion filled the whole earth before the Fall.  The New Adam has restored God's full dominion. The establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth in the New Covenant Church is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the final 5th Kingdom of the prophet Daniel 2:34-35, and 44-45: [some parts of those passages:]...And the stone that had struck the statue grew into a great mountain, filling the whole world."   ...the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race:[....].   [...] just as you saw a stone, untouched by hand, break away from the mountain and reduce [crush] iron, bronze, earthenware, silver and gold to powder.

John 6:4: The time of the Jewish Passover was near.  It is the spring of 29AD, a year before His Passion, and pilgrims from the Galilee and Jewish communities to the north in Roman occupied Syria are traveling south to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread in Jerusalem.  In Jesus' time the week long feast was known by both names [Matthew 26:2, 17, & 19; Mark 14:1 & 12; Luke 22:1, 7, 15] but John only refers to the week long feast as the Passover; he never uses the name "Unleavened Bread" for this feast.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread is designated by the Law as one of the "pilgrim feasts", which required that every man of the Covenant must present himself before God in the Temple in Jerusalem [Exodus 23:14; 34:18, 23; Deuteronomy 16:16].  This feast was so important that those who could not make the trip because of illness or misfortune could celebrate a month later [Numbers 9:1-14].  God ordained the sacrifice of this feast in Exodus chapter 12 as a perpetual commemoration and reenactment of Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt. 

Question: Do you see a connection between the commemoration and reenactment of the sacrifice of this Exodus Passover event and sacrificial meal and the practice of your Catholic faith?

Answer: The sacrifice of the Mass is the commemoration and reenactment of Christ's sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection. Since His sacrifice was complete and sufficient it does not have to be repeated as the imperfect sacrifice of the lambs and kids in the Passover festival and in the other sacrifices in the Temple. Jesus' sacrifice was complete and perfect in every way but His sacrifice is ongoing because sin and redemption is ongoing and is represented, commemorated  sacramentaly, and applied in the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass.  Just as in the celebration of the Passover Feast and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the faithful did not have to be present at the actually event of the sacrifice of the victim at the Temple on the 14th of Nisan but they did have to be present at the reenactment of the sacrificial meal at the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  We do not have to be present at the sacrifice 2,000 years ago to receive the grace which flows from the event of Christ's self-sacrifice but we do have to be present at the sacrificial meal in which His one perfect sacrifice is represented, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to the faithful.

For more on the sacrifice of the Mass please see the document: Is the Mass a True Sacrifice? in the Documents section of the website.

Central to the feast was the representation of the sacrifice of the lambs and kids from the first Passover.  Each family or group of 10 - 12 people was required to sacrifice a lamb or kid at the Temple on the 14th day of Nisan [Abib] in a great liturgical service and that night, which at sundown became the 15th and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, to eat a sacramental and liturgical meal in which the story of the Exodus was retold and the sacrificed victim and other symbolic foods were eaten. 

Question: Why does John mention this feast and what is its connection to Jesus and His mission?

Answer: Jesus will give new and greater meaning to the Passover.  Jesus is the true "Lamb of God" [John 1:29] which the Passover lambs only foreshadowed.  It is Christ's redeeming work that will accomplish a new deliverance from slavery, the slavery of sin [John 8:31-36] in a sacramental and liturgical meal we call the Eucharist [John 6:53-58; 1Corinthians 5:7-8].

John 6: 5-7 Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, 'Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?'  He said this only to put Philip to the test; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do.  Philip answered, 'Two hundred denarii would not buy enough to give them a little piece each.'

Question: Why did Jesus test Philip and what was the test?

Answer: In 1:45 Philip identified Jesus as "the one that Moses and the prophets wrote about," the Prophet/Messiah, but Jesus' question is to test Philip to help him to fully understand the dimensions of Philip's first revelation of Jesus' true identity.  All Philip has to do is to petition Jesus to feed the crowd. 

Philip should have realized this by the way Jesus framed the question.  He should have been reminded of the miraculous feeding of the multitude in Exodus chapter 16 in the feeding of the manna and the quails.  But with the way Jesus framed His question there was another passage that should have come to mind for Philip.

Question: What Old Testament passage concerning Moses should have occurred to Philip?  Hint: see Numbers 11:1-32; especially notice verse 13.

Answer: In Numbers 11:13 Moses asks Yahweh a question very similar to the one Jesus asks: "Where am I to find meat to give all these people....?" In this event Yahweh accepts Moses' question as a petition and provides food for the Children of Israel.  Philip should have understood that the Messiah has the power to do the same miracle.

Question: Besides the miraculous feeding of the multitude what other similarities do you see between Numbers 11 and John 6:1-63?

Answer:

  1. people grumbling [Numbers 11:1 and John 6:41, 43]
  2. description of the manna coming from above –heaven [Numbers 11:7-9 and John 6:31ff]
  3. Who will give us meat to eat  [Numbers 11:5 and John 6:52ff; although Numbers uses the word 'meat' instead of 'flesh'= sarx is the Greek word for flesh, as in the John passage].
  4. Where am I to find meat to give all these people..? Numbers 11:13 and John 6:5
  5. If all the fish in the sea were collected, would that be enough for them? [Numbers 11:22 and John 6:9].

Philip should have realized that just as God saw to the needs of the Children of Israel in ancient times so too could He meet their needs that day. Instead of petitioning Jesus to feed the crowds Philip thoughts are too earth bound and he comments on the vast amount of money it would take the feed this crowd.  Two hundred denarii is a great sum when you consider that 1denarii is equal to one day's wage [Matthew 20:2].

Question: Do you recall another miraculous feed of a multitude in the Old Testament that the disciples might have remembered? Hint see 2Kings 4:41-44

Answer: The prophet Elisha also took barley loaves and fed a multitude with some bread left over.

Question: At what time of the year did God work this miracle through Elisha? See 2Kings 4:42

Answer: It was the Feast of Firstfruits of the barley harvest which was celebrated the day after the Sabbath during the week long Feast of Unleavened Bread, the day after the Jewish Sabbath was a Sunday, the first day of the week.

John 6: 8-10 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said, 'Here is a small boy with five barley loaves [bread] and two fish; but what is that among so many?'  Jesus said to them, 'Make the people sit down.'  There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down.

Question: Do you remember the connection between Andrew and Philip in chapter 1?

Answer: Andrew went to find Philip and brought him to Jesus. Once again they are linked.

Now Simon-Peter's brother, Andrew, perhaps remembering Elisha's miracle, offers Jesus the barley loaves and fish that will become the meal that will be multiplied to feed the great multitude of men, women and children.  Wheat bread was more desirable than barley bread, and since barley bread was cheaper it was the food of the poor.  Luke 11:5 seems to indicate that the loaves were small and that 3 loaves were an adequate meal for 1 person.  The Greek word used for "fish," opsarion [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance # 3795], indicates that the two fish were salted and dried.  That there were 5 loaves may indicate 5 as the number of grace and that there were 2 fish may indicate division between those who will believe and those who will not come to belief even with this sign.  Two is the number of division in the Old Covenant and the number of Christ in His humanity and divinity as the Son of God in the New Covenant.  Together the number of loaves and fish yield the number 7, which is the number that symbolizes fullness and spiritual perfection.  It may also be important that a fish was a sign of the Church in the Old Covenant and will become the sign of the Church in the New Covenant. Here we have the Old, which will become the nucleus of the New Covenant in Christ: the two transformed into one covenant–one Church in Christ.

'make the people sit down'......five thousand men sat down.  Jesus organizes the crowd.  Luke's Gospel tells us that He organized them into groups of about 50 people [Luke 9:14].  Notice only the men are counted; there were also women and children so Jesus will miraculously feed well over 5,000 people.  So why mention only 5,000?  5 is a symbolic number and multiples of symbolic numbers indicates abundance.  Five is the number of grace; therefore in this "sign" there is a super abundance of grace, which prefigures the super abundance of the Eucharistic meal that spiritually feeds the multitudes of all races for all generations until the return of the King.

John 6:11-13: Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were sitting there; he then did the same with the fish, distributing as much as they wanted.  When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, 'Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing is wasted.'  So they picked them up and filled twelve large baskets with the scraps [scrap] left over from the meal of five barley loaves.

 "gave thanks" in this passage is the Greek word eucharistein from the verb eucharisteo.  It is from this word that the English word "Eucharist" is derived. This word is the same in both common and classical Greek = eucharistia / eucharistein = bless / blessing [the New Testament is written in common, koine, Greek; see Strong's #2168; 2169].  It cannot be missed that there is a relationship here to the most holy Eucharist, which is an act of thanksgiving. It was the custom of Jews and Israelites to bless the meal before eating.  This act of Jesus in giving thanks reflects the Jewish use of barak/ berakah "to bless/ blessing" [Strong's #s 1288; 1293], but more than a simple Jewish blessing His words foreshadow the institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist first received at the Last Supper.  His blessing also looks beyond the Last Supper to the blessing of the Eucharistic prayer that prepares the New Covenant Body of Christ to receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity at every Mass.  You will see this connection as we continue studying chapter 6.

The word translated "scraps" in verse 13 [also translated as "fragments" in other translations]

is an extremely interesting word.  In the literal Greek translation this word, klasma [Strong's #2801], is not plural but is expressed in the singular form = "scrap (or fragment) left over" indicating one whole.  Notice that John emphasizes the identity of the fragment(s) with the original loaves left over from the meal of the five barley loaves.  The unique meaning of this passage was obvious to the early Church as is indicated in the Eucharistic Prayer found in the early Church document known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, or more simply as The Didache [Teaching]. Concerning the broken bread: 'We give Thee thanks, Our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy Servant. To Thee be the glory for evermore. As this broken bread was scattered over the hills and then, when gathered, became one, so may Thy Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom.'  –The Didache, 9: Eucharistic Prayer [written circa 50-120AD].

Since the Didache speaks of the bread as having been first scattered over the hills [literally mountains] many scholars believe that this Eucharistic prayer originated in the Holy Land.

The idea of Israel being 'scattered' and then 'gathered' was familiar to the Jews and Israelites [see Deuteronomy 28:25; Jeremiah 34:17; Judith 5:23; Psalms 146:2 etc].  St. Cyprian beautifully develops this idea to illustrate the unity of Christ and the Church which is 'gathered' to Him [see Epistle 63.13; 69.5]. Also notice the plural "We give Thee thanks", which survives from this ancient prayer in the Ordinary of the Mass today and exemplifies St. Peter's characterization of the entire Church as "a holy priesthood" [1Peter 2:5].

John 6: 14-15: Seeing the sign that he had done, the people said, 'This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.'  Jesus, as he realized that they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, fled back to the hills alone.

Question: When the people declare 'This is indeed the prophet..' what do they mean?

Answer: That He is the one promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-20; the "new Moses", the One who is to be the Messiah and the Davidic king of Israel promised in 2Samuel 7:11-17.  The people were looking for the Messiah who would overthrow the Roman oppressors and reestablish their national independence.

Question: Why did Jesus not allow them to proclaim Him the Messiah?

Answer: The crowd's desire for a national, political Messiah was not Jesus' aspiration.  His kingdom is heavenly and spiritual and will have spiritual dominion over the entire earth, and the "hour" had not yet come in the plan that God had made.  [CCC# 439]

Please read John 6:16-21 Jesus walks on the waters

16 That evening the disciples went down to the shore of the sea 17 and got into a boat to make for Caperanum on the other side of the sea.  It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them.  18 The wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough.  19 They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming towards the boat.  They were afraid, 20 but he said, 'It's me [literally =  "I am"].  Don't be afraid.' 21 They were ready to take him into the boat, and immediately it reached the shore at the place they were making for.

This is a revelation of Jesus' divinity and a connection to Moses through whom God worked several "water" miracles [the parting of the Red Sea and water from the Rock in Exodus 17].  Jesus restored order and harmony to nature and calmed the sea.  Only God can control the natural world.

Question: Jesus reassures the disciples by calling out "I am", but these words are also a self-revelation.  Why?

Answer: Jesus' words, "I AM" recall the holy name that Yahweh revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14

Question: How does Jesus further establish His claim to divinity inherent in this holy name?

Answer: By exhibiting His power over the laws of nature [John 6:19; Job 9:8].  Jesus will use the words "I am" 23 times in John's Gospel; in 7 metaphors [i.e., "I am the Bread of Life"], and five times in the claim of the divine name for Himself [ 6:20; 8:24; 8:58; 13:19; 18:6].

This miracle is Jesus' private "sign" to His Apostles.  There are 7 public signs of His divinity.

The Public Seven Signs of Jesus in St. John's Gospel

#1  2:1-11   The sign of water turned to wine at the wedding at Cana
#2  4:46-54   The healing of the official's son
#3  5:1-9   The healing of the paralytic
#4  6:1-14   The multiplication of the loaves to feed the 5,000
#5  9:1-41   The healing of the man who was born blind
#6  11:17-44   The raising of Lazarus from the dead
#7  2:18-20*   The Resurrection of Jesus that will be fulfilled in 20:1-10

*this sign is prophesized by Jesus in 2:18-20 but not fulfilled until chapter 20.

The miracle when Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee and calms the storm is a private revelation for the Apostles which again identifies Jesus as the prophet "greater than Moses" [Deuteronomy 18:18].  During the Synagogue Sabbath liturgy the next day the congregation will sing the Song of Victory which commemorates Moses' miracle at the Sea of Reeds [Red Sea; see Exodus 15:1-21].  One can imagine how singing this hymn affected the Apostles who had witnessed Jesus' "sea miracle" the night before the Sabbath worship.  In Scripture 7 is the number of perfection, especially "spiritual perfection" but 8 is the number of rebirth, regeneration, and redemption.  The total number of "signs" in John's Gospel is 8 and the 8th miracle, public and private, is on the 8th day of the week [with Sunday being day one in the Jewish week as well as the day after the 7th day of the Sabbath, which would make it a consecutive count of 8], and 8 is the number which symbolizes resurrection.  This is why all Byzantine era Christian Churches had 8 sides].

Please read John 6:22-40, Jesus in the Synagogue at Caperanum: The Bread of Life Discourse part I:  The Invitation to Faith

22 Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves.  23 Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten.  24 When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus.  25 When they found him on the other side, they said to him, 'Rabbi, when did you come here?'  26 Jesus answered: 'In all truth [literally = Amen, amen] I tell you, you are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.  27 Do not work for food that goes bad, but work for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of man will give you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.'  28 Then they said to him, 'What must we do if we are to carry out God's work?'  29 Jesus gave them this answer, 'This is carrying out God's work: you must believe in the one he has sent.'  30 So they said, 'What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you?  What work will you do?  31 Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as Scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'  32  Jesus answered them: 'In all truth [literally= Amen, amen] I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; 33 for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.'  34 'Sir,' they said, 'give us that bread always.'  35 Jesus answered them: 'I am the bread of life.  No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.  36 But, as I have told you, you can see me and still you do not believe.  37 Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me; I will certainly not reject anyone who comes to me, 38 because I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me.  39 Now the will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me, but that I should raise it up on the last day.  40  It is my Father's will that whoever sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise that person up on the last day.'

Notice the interesting juxtaposition of these three events: the feeding of the multitude; Jesus' water miracle; and the "Bread of Life" discourse.  The key to these 3 seemingly unrelated events is John's statement in 6:4 that it was near the time of the Passover Feast.  The holy feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits celebrated the liberation of the Exodus experience when Moses led his people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea to freedom.  The "baptism" of the children of Israel in the Red Sea [Sea of Reeds] was another creation story.  In Creation the division of the waters created land but in Moses' Red Sea miracle the divided waters create a nation as Israel emerges for the waters of chaos no longer as slaves but as a free people.  In celebration of this great liberation and miracle of the waters Moses and the Israelites sing a song in Yahweh's honor, the Song of Victory found in Exodus 15:1-18.  As Moses leads the people of God across the wilderness God continues to care for His people by miraculously feeding them manna, bread from heaven.  Moses' Song of Victory was always sung in the liturgy of the Covenant people, in the Temple and in the Synagogue on the Sabbath.  Within these 3 events in John chapter 6, during the time just preceding the Passover, John shows us Jesus miraculously feeding a multitude, like Moses; making a water miracle, like Moses, and now in the Synagogue in Capernaum those who witnessed the miracle of the feeding of the multitude the day before, have just sung Moses' Song of Victory.  John is presenting Jesus as the new Moses who will lead the new Exodus.  He will lead His people out bondage to sin and death.  Jesus is the promised prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18-19 when God promised Moses a future redeemer: " From their own brothers I shall raise up a prophet like yourself; I shall put my words into his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him.  Anyone who refuses to listen to my words, spoken by him in my name, will have to render an account to me."

John 6: 22-25, Next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side saw that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that the disciples had set off by themselves.  Other boats, however, had put in from Tiberias, near the place where the bread had been eaten.  When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into those boats and crossed to Caperanum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, 'Rabbi, when did you come here? 

The city of Tiberias is located on the western shore of the Sea about 2/3rds of the way down.  Caperanum is on the northwestern side of the Sea.

Question: Why do they ask Jesus this question?

Answer: They had been watching for Him ever since the multiplication of the loaves miracle when they wanted to make Him king.  They realize He had somehow, perhaps by another miracle, eluded them.

John 6:25-27, Jesus answered: 'In all truth [amen, amen] I tell you, you are looking for me not because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.  Do not work for food that goes bad, but work for food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of man will give you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.'

This is the 8th use of the double "amen".   Jesus is combining a teaching about "works" and "faith" which cannot be separated.  James, Bishop of Jerusalem taught in James 2:26: As a body without a spirit is dead, so is faith without deeds [works].

Question: Why does Jesus tell the crowd not to "work" for ordinary, earthly "food"?  What does He mean?

Answer: He is using "food" as a metaphor for earthly, material wealth.  All earthly "works" will perish.  Even though earthly food is necessary to sustain earthly life it's use is limited because it is perishable and therefore is not able to safeguard us beyond its earthly limitations...it cannot safeguard against death [6:49].  Even the manna that came down from heaven in Exodus 16:20 was perishable.  Only Christ can give the food that satisfies eternally, sustains our spiritual hunger, and gives eternal life.  He offers what Isaiah prophesized in Isaiah 55:2-3Why spend money on what cannot nourish and your wages on what fails to satisfy?  Listen carefully to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy.  Pay attention, come to me; listen, and you will live.

Question: What is this supernatural food which Christ promised and Isaiah prophesized?

Answer: It is His very own Body and Blood = the Sacrament of Eucharist.  This teaching will become clearer as the narrative continues [6:50-58].

Question: Why does Jesus use the title the "Son of man" for Himself?

Answer: It is to remind His listeners of the passage in Daniel 7:13 of the glorious figure who was to receive from God the eschatological kingdom and eternal rule. Jesus will use this title for Himself 10 times in John's Gospel.  Up to this passage Jesus has referred to Himself as the "Son of man" in John 1:51; 3:13; 3:14; 5:27; 6:27. He will also use this title in 6:53; 6:62; 8:28; 12:23; and 13:31.  With the exception of Acts 7:56; Revelation 1:13; and Revelation 14:14 the title "Son of man" appears only in the Gospels. In all the Gospel accounts this is Jesus' favorite title for Himself, only He uses it and it is always used in a Messianic reference linking Jesus to Daniel's prophecy of the divine Messiah in Daniel 7:13-14

Question: What is the "seal" that God has set on the Son? Hint: see Matthew 3:16 & John 1:32-34; 5:27; and Daniel 7:13-14.

Answer: It is the seal Jesus received at His baptism; that is, God the Holy Spirit.  It is the third Person of the Most Holy Trinity who is the power of God operative in Jesus' signs [see Matthew 12:28; Acts 10:38; 1Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; and 4:30].  Verse 27 also refers us back to John 5:27 where Jesus tells the people that God the Father has given the Son authority to execute judgment because He is the "Son of Man", the great mystical term from Daniel 7:13 identifying Jesus as the divine conquering Messiah [Daniel 7:14] who has the power from the Father to rule the nations of man: On his was conferred rule, honor and kingship, and all peoples, nations and languages became his servants.  His rule is an everlasting rule which will never pass away and his kingship will never come to an end.

There may also be a connection to the seal placed on baked bread by the baker.  The Greek word used for "seal," the Greek word sphraagizo, means "to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation (literally or figuratively); by implication to keep secret, to attest" [Strong's #4972], and also means "baker's mark".  It was the assurance that the bread was "sealed" by the baker who made the bread just as Christ, the true bread has been "sealed" or marked by the Father [Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John, page 261].

John 6: 28-31 "Then they said to him, 'What must we do if we are to carry out God's work?  Jesus gave them this answer, 'This is carrying out God's work: you must believe in the one he has sent.  So they said, 'What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you?  What work will you do? Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

The Greek word for "do" or "doing" is used three times. The literal translation is "What must we be doing to be doing the doings of God?" [Interlineal Bible: Greek-English volume IV, New Testament; page 267].  The people still do not understand that it does not only depend on them.

Question: What does Jesus tell them they must do?

Answer: They must believe in Him and stop trying to do it all themselves.  If they continue to do everything under their own power they will miss the "doings" of God = Jesus the Messiah.

The "new Moses" is telling them what Moses told the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 8:3.  It is the same verse Jesus quoted Satan in the Temptation when Satan challenged Him to turn stones into bread.  Jesus said, "Human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."  Moses was telling the people it was not the manna that would continue to feed them but the 5 books of the Torah [connection to the 5 barley loaves in 6:9], the words of God.

Question: Why do they ask for a "sign."

Answer: Prophets work "signs" to signify their authority from God.

Question:  They are asking for "works" from Jesus but what is He asking of them?

Answer: Faith!  Their faith in Him will be the "sign" that He is God's representative.  Jesus is telling them that faith in itself is a "work" of God.  The "work" of God is to believe in Him. 

The people fail to understand what Jesus is telling them about "belief" [verse 29] so they ask again, implying that if they saw a really convincing sign, something even greater than anything they had yet witnesses [verses 2, 14, 26] they would believe Him, that is believe His words.

Father Brown notes there is a play in the Greek text on the word "works" in verse 28 which literally translates "to work the works." However, Brown points out, the word "work" in verse 28 does not mean, as it does in verse 27, "to work for" but means instead "to perform," as one performs the works that please God.  In verses 26-30 the word "work" or "works" is used 5 times [Interlineal Bible: Greek-English volume IV, New Testament page 267].

'Our fathers ate manna...'  The crowd already sees Jesus as the "new Moses".  His multiplication of the loaves and fishes links Him to Moses' greatest miracle, the feeding of the multitude with the heavenly manna, the bread from heaven [as does His walking on the water witnessed by the Apostles].  Therefore, they think that He is referring to manna and so they ask Him to provide the manna as Moses did as a "sign". Their challenge to Jesus is "What Moses gave us was bread from heaven, if you are the "new Moses" can you do the same?" In order to appreciate the significance of this request it is important to keep in mind that there was a general belief that the Messiah, when He came, would come as one "greater" than Moses the great national prophet-hero of Israel, in the signs that He would accomplish.  A Jewish commentary on Ecclesiastes [Midrash Koheleth, 73] states: The former redeemer caused manna to descend for them; in like manner shall our latter redeemer cause manna to come down, as it is written, 'there shall be a handful of grain in the earth.' [quoting from Psalms 72:16]."   What His questioners are looking for is a miracle greater than the miracle of the loaves and fishes from one who claims to be the Messiah!  The key to understanding this challenge is of course linked to the whole situation of the national expectation of the "prophet greater than Moses" promised in Deuteronomy 18:15-19.

John 6:32-35,  Jesus answered them: 'In all truth [Amen, amen] I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' 'Sir', they said, give us that bread always.'  Jesus answered them: 'I am the bread of life.  No one who comes to me will ever hunger; no one who believes in me will ever thirst.'

Question: How does Jesus identify Himself in verse 35 and what does that particular choice of words recall?

Answer: "I am" in Greek, Ego ami, recalls the name that God revealed to Moses.  But here and elsewhere in John's Gospel it forms the prelude to the explanation of a parable.  In this case the parable is in action and not in words.  The gift of the manna and the multiplication of the loaves are explained by Jesus as parables of His gift of Himself, the true bread from heaven.  Also see John 8:24 [Jesus speaking] 'I have told you already: You will die in you sins.  Yes, if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.'

Question: What two-fold misapprehension on the part of His questioners does Jesus correct and how does Jesus emphasize the importance of the second statement?

Answer: First, with another solemn "amen, amen, He tells them it was not Moses who was the giver of the manna. Moses was only the instrument of God's action.  Secondly, Jesus tells the people that the manna, while it was in a sense "bread from heaven", was not the "true" Bread of God.

the true bread.... While all bread is the gift of God, the Bread which can be described as peculiarly of God is that bread with not just give bodily nourishment but gives a greater gift.

Question: What is that greater gift?

Answer: "Life!" What distinguishes the "true Bread" from the manna is that the Bread of God brings life, in the present tense [Brown, page 266] indicating that which is continually giving life, and it is offered to all men, not only to a particular nation or people.  It is the Bread of Life that is ever descending and "gives life to the world" [verse 33]. 

The expression in verse 33 which comes down from heaven  sometimes translated as who comes down from heaven  is repeated 7 times in this discourse [verses 33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51,58].

Question: What explicit announcement does Jesus make in verse 35?

Answer: "I AM the Bread of Life."

The crowd was quite prepared for the idea of uniquely heavenly bread, but they were not prepared for such a mystical statement as "I AM the Bread of Life" and the claim such a statement carried.  "The Bread of Life" means primarily bread that gives life but with Jesus' next statement this becomes Bread that is life itself!

Question: What 2-fold promise that was similar to the promise made to the woman of Samaria [John 4:14] does Jesus give in John 6:35?

Answer: No one who comes to Him will ever hunger; no one who believes in Him will ever thirst.

Jesus is going to take up Satan's challenge in Matthew 4:4.  The Living Word of God is going to transform "hearts of stone" by feeding them the Word, the true Bread which has come down from heaven! 

Father Raymond Brown in his commentary suggests that John may be picturing Jesus as Wisdom personified in the Old Testament book of Proverbs.  Just as Wisdom, personified in Proverbs 9:1-5, invites all people of all nations to her table, so does Jesus invite all to come to Him and be filled: Wisdom has built herself a house, she has hewn her seven pillars, she has slaughtered her beasts, drawn her wine, she has laid her table.  She has dispatched her maidservants and proclaimed from the heights above the city, 'Who is simple? Let him come this way.'  To the fool she says, 'Come and eat my bread, drink the wine which I have drawn!'  Jesus the Messiah is the Living Bread that in abundance supremely satisfies all who come to Him [John 6:35; Proverbs 9:1-6; Sirach 24:19-22].

John 6:36-40,  But, as I have told you, you can see me and still you do not believe.  Everyone whom the Father gives me will come to me; I will certainly not reject anyone who comes to me, because I have come from heaven, not to do my own will but to do the will of him who sent me.  Now the will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me, but there I should raise it up on the last day.  It is my Father's will that whoever sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and that I should raise that person up on the last day."

Question: Seeing is not enough; what must one do?

Answer: One must come to Christ''anyone who comes to me' [verse 37].  To come to Jesus in faith is accepted as belief in Him without any formal declaration [see Mark 2:5; 5:34, etc].  Jesus is speaking of those who have been "begotten by the Holy Spirit" as sons and daughters of God and who are now collectively "one" in Christ.

'I will not reject'; a more literal translation could be the very strong negation: "I shall surely not cast out" [Brown page 276]. 

Question: Cast out from where?

Answer: Heaven–eternal life.

Question: What three-part claim is Jesus making in John 6:37-40?

Answer:

  1. Everyone whom the Father gives to Him comes to Him (vs. 37)
  2.  He will not reject anyone who comes (vs. 37) because He came from heaven to do His Father's will (vs. 38)
  3. The Father's will is that none should perish of those whom He has given to the Son; they are in the safe keeping of the Son and will be given the gift of eternal life and will be resurrected in the final judgment (vs. 39).

John 6:38: 'not to do my own will but to do the will of him who sent me'.  The human will of Jesus and the divine will of the Father are in perfect accord without tension or competition between them [John 4:34; 8:29; Mark 14:36; CCC# 475, 2824].

Verse 39b: 'I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me, but there I should raise it up on the last day..'

Question: What is Jesus referring to when He speaks of "the last day"?  What will He "raise up"? Hint: see verses 40 & 44.  Three times in 5 verses He mentions the Last Day.

Answer: The Day of Yahweh's judgments in history.  The believers He will raise to eternal life.

It is what the prophet Amos describes in Amos 5:18-20: Disaster for you who long for the Day of Yahweh! What will the Day of Yahweh mean for you?  It will mean darkness, not light, as when someone runs away from a lion, only to meet a bear; he goes into his house and puts his hand on the wall, only for a snake to bite him.  Will not the Day of Yahweh be darkness, not light, totally dark, without a ray of light?  This is a day of retribution against people hardened in sin.  It must be remembered that in judgment God brings both salvation and wrath, darkness and light.  The Glory-Cloud of Exodus was light and salvation to the children of Israel but darkness and death to Egypt.  It was vindication and protection to the faithful and destruction to God's enemies.  In that sense, the Glory-Cloud of Exodus was the Day of Yahweh in action.  Down through history the Day of Yahweh comes upon unfaithful nations like Old Covenant Judah in 70 AD, to each of us when our faith journey is completed, and in a final and complete judgment at the end of time which is marked by the resurrection if the dead when some will be raised to eternal life and the others to eternal damnation.  Death and Hades were emptied of the dead that were in them; and every one was judged as his deeds deserved. Then Death and Hades were hurled into the burning lake.  This burning lake is the second death; and anybody whose name could not be found written in the book of life was hurled into the burning lake. Revelation 20:13-15.

Please read John 6:41-47: The Invitation to faith continued

41 Meanwhile the Jews were complaining to each other about him, because he had said, 'I am the bread that has come down from heaven.' 42 They were saying, 'Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know.  How can he now say, "I have come down from heaven"? ' 43 Jesus said in reply to them, 'Stop complaining to each other.  44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise that person up on the last day.  45 It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God: everyone who has listened to the Father, and learnt from him, comes to me.  46 Not that anybody has seen the Father, except him who has his being from God: he has seen the Father. 47  In all truth I tell you, everyone who believes has eternal life.'

John 6: 41-42 Meanwhile the Jews were complaining to each other about him, because he had said, 'I am the bread that has come down from heaven.'  They were saying, 'Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know.  How can he now say, "I have come down from heaven"? '

The crowd is thinking only of Jesus' earthly origins. They know His family.

Question: What is Jesus telling the crowd that so disturbs them with the statement 'I am the bread that has come down from heaven.'

Answer:  Jesus is expressing His divine origin.

The crowd has been given a revelation by the "new Moses" and if they accept Him as "the prophet like Moses" they are required by God to listen to Him.  See Deuteronomy: 18:19 I shall put my words into his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him.  Anyone who refuses to listen to my words, spoken by him in my name, will have to render an account to me. 

Question: What is the crowd's response and what does their response remind you of from the Exodus experience in the wilderness?

Answer: They are behaving just like their ancestors behaved in the desert by complaining and limiting what they believe God can do on their behalf: see Exodus 16:2, 17:2-3; Numbers 11:1; 14:27; and 1Corinthians 10:10.   

John 6:43-47, Jesus said in reply to them, 'Stop complaining to each other.'  'No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God; everyone who has listened to the Father, and learnt from him comes to me.  Not that anybody has seen the Father, except him who has his being from God: he has seen the Father.  In all truth I tell you [amen, amen], everyone who believes has eternal life.'

Jesus is continuing the teaching of His divinity when He quotes Isaiah 54:13 where the prophet describes the promised "new Jerusalem": All your children will be taught by Yahweh and great will be your children's prosperity.  [14] In saving justice you will be made firm free from oppression....  This passage continues in chapter 55:1 with Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty –the promise of the Sacrament of Baptism and verse 55:2 "Listen carefully to me, [repeated in John 6:45] and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy.  Pay attention, come to me; listen and you will live." = the promise of the Sacrament of Eucharist [John 6:42, 48] and the promise of eternal life in John 6:44 & 47.

Please read John 6: 48-58 The Bread of Life Discourse part II: The Invitation to the Eucharist

48 I AM the bread of life.  49 Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; 50 but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die.  51 I AM the living bread which has come down from heaven.  Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.'  52 Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'  53 Jesus replied to them: 'In all truth [Amen, amen], I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  54 Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day.  55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.  57 As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me.  58 This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate; they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.'

John 6: 48-51 'I AM the bread of life.  Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die.  I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.  Anyone who eats this bread will love forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.'

This is the second statement [see verse 35] Jesus makes identifying Himself as the "Bread of Life."  The giving of Christ's flesh in sacrifice for the life of the world connects the Incarnation, "the Word made flesh" [John 1:14] and the Eucharist.  The identification of John 6:51 as a true Eucharistic formula was recognized in the earliest years of the Church.  Both the Old Latin and the Syriac liturgies contain this verse: This bread which I shall give is my body for the life of the world [Navarre Commentary, page 105] .  

Question: Notice the future tense in verse 51: the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.  To what does this future tense point?

Answer: To His sacrifice on the altar of the Cross and to the miracle of the Eucharist where Jesus' sacrifice becomes present for every generation, beginning at the Last Supper.

Jesus is the true bread not only because He is God's Word but also because He is the spotless victim whose flesh and blood is offered in sacrifice for the life of the world.  Ever since man's fall from grace sacrifices were offered for sin.  The animal offered in sacrifice died in the place of the sinner:

 The idea of a mystical, sacred meal was not foreign to believers of the Old Covenant.  In the Temple in Jerusalem the blood of the sacrificed animal was poured out on the altar and then the animal was skinned and its meat was roasted on the altar.  But, with the exception of the whole burnt offering, and the Tamid sacrifices, every sacrifice was eaten by the Priests or at the occasion of Passover or the Toda, "Thanksgiving" offering, by the people.  The sacrifice had to be eaten:

In the Old Covenant the sprinkling of the blood in the altar was a figure of justification, and the burning of the flesh of the animal was a figure of sanctification.  Therefore, the eating of the sacrifice was a symbol of redeemed man in a mystical union with Yahweh [see Offerings, Sacrifices, and Worship in the Old Testament page163]. All of the Old Covenant sacrificial system prefigured Christ's sacrifice and the sanctification and redemption of man.  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his book, Feast of Faith, especially sees the connection between the sacred meal offered by Christ of Himself in holy Eucharist and the Toda or "Thanksgiving Offering" of the Old Covenant sacrificial system in which a man or woman who had experienced some form of providential deliverance offered Yahweh a sacrifice in "thanksgiving" and ate it in a sacred meal within the Temple in the Holy Place along with his friends and family.  The word, thanksgiving, Toda, in Hebrew is rendered in Greek as Eucharistia.  The Toda offering was not restricted to a bloody sacrifice of flesh but also the unbloody offering of unleavened bread and wine which was consumed with the sacred meal.  Cardinal Ratzinger writes that in the New Covenant the Lord's Supper will become the Toda of Christ.  Cardinal Ratzinger also points out that it was part of Rabbinic tradition that when the Messiah came all sacrifices would end with the exception of the Toda: The Toda of Jesus vindicates the rabbinic dictum: 'In the coming (Messianic) time, all sacrifices will cease except the Toda Sacrifice.  This will never cease in all eternity.  All (religious) song will cease too, but the songs of Toda will never cease in all eternity' [Feast of Faith page 58].  For more information on the sacrificial system see the document The Levitical Sacrifices of the Old Covenant in the "Charts" section.

Animal sacrifice for sin ended with the Old Covenant and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70AD.  We have the sacrifice of the New Covenant, the blood of Christ.  But for that sacrifice to be effective and celebrated the Lamb of God must still be eaten, not just by the priests but by all of us because we have all been called by our High Priest, Jesus Christ, into a royal priesthood of believers, and we must still eat the sacrifice. 1Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen race, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation, a people to be a personal possession.... Also see 1Peter 2:5; Revelation 1:6; 5:1-10, and CCC#1546.

John 6: 52-58 Then the Jews started arguing among themselves, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'  Jesus replied to them: 'In truth [Amen, amen] I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood. You have no life in you.  Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.  As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me.   This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will love forever."

Jesus is speaking literally and sacramentaly, and He is using extremely strong language: His flesh ["sarx" in Greek] that must be eaten, and it is His blood that we must drink.  Father Brown points out that Jesus is not speaking in a Hebrew idiom as some scholars have suggested.  There were two Hebrew/Aramaic idioms.  One was much akin to our expression of "flesh and blood" meaning "life". We, for example, express family relationships as "they are my kin, my flesh and blood" or "flesh and blood" as a reference to the human condition.  The second, "to eat the flesh" or "drink the blood of the enemy" referred to the horrors of war.  If Jesus was using either of these idioms He would have to uses the words "flesh and blood" or "eat the flesh" together in one phrase but instead He very distinctly separates these word and phrases the statement in such a way that leaves no doubt as to His meaning: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person."  To eat His flesh and drink His blood is to consume "life" that is supernatural and in doing so we are elevated to become sharers in His divine nature. 

These are the words, from verse 51 to this passage, that the disciples will recognize when they receive Eucharist from the hands of Jesus in the Upper Room a year later at the meal of the Feast of Unleavened Bread [the Passover sacrifice is during the day and that night is the sacramental meal which is the beginning of the first day of Unleavened Bread]: Jesus said, 'The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world'[6:51]; and in the Upper Room the night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread: 'Take it and eat', he said, 'this is my body.'  ..... 'Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood..' [Matthew 26:27-28].  An important difference you will have noticed is that while Jesus speaks of his "flesh / sarx" in John's Gospel, the word "body-soma" is used in the Synoptic Gospel accounts of the Last Supper.  Fr. Raymond Brown points out in his commentary that there is really no Hebrew or Aramaic word for "body," as we understand the term; and many scholars maintain that at the Last Supper what Jesus actually said was the Aramaic equivalent of "This is my flesh" [see Brown page 284-85].  Proof of this theory may be found in the letters of St. Ignatius who was the third Bishop of Antioch, succeeding St. Evodius, the immediate successor of St. Peter after he left Antioch for Rome.  Bishop Ignatius was martyred by the Romans circa 107/10AD.  St. Ignatius uses "flesh" in numerous references to the Eucharist [Letter to the Romans 7.3; Letter to the Church at Philadelphia 4.1; Letter to the Church at Smyrna 7.1].  This terminology of Jesus' "flesh" is also found in the letter St. Justin the Martyr [circa 155AD] wrote to the pagan Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius explaining the Christian faith [see Apology I,66]. 

What Jesus is teaching is not cannibalism [a charge for which Christians were executed in the 2nd century for insisting that they were indeed eating the flesh of Jesus the Christ]. The definition of cannibalism is the eating of a human who is dead.  Jesus is not dead; He is more alive than we are in His glorified flesh.  The restrictions under the Old Law were against consuming the flesh and blood on the natural level of a lower level of life; this was forbidden under the Old Covenant Law and a violation resulted in excommunication from the covenant people [Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-12; Deuteronomy 12:16 & 23].   To consume Christ does not pull us down to the level of animals but elevates us to life in Christ:

It is interesting to note the different verbs for "to eat" which are being used in the dialogue.  In the earlier part of the dialogue [verses 49-53] Jesus uses the normal Greek verbs for "eat or consume" = phago/ ephagos.  He continues using the normal word for "eat" until, becoming frustrated with their lack of understanding, He increases the intensity of His words [beginning in verse 54] and He abruptly changes the verb.  Now when He speaks about Himself in verses 54, 56, 57, and 58 He uses the verb whose Greek root trogo means to "chew or gnaw" .  This word is used in Greek literature to describe the feeding of animals such as mules, pigs, and cattle. It was not used in the 1st century to describe the eating habits of people.  In chapter 6 this verb is used four times in the second half of the Bread of Life discourse.  It is used 5 times in the Fourth Gospel [5th time is in John 13:18] and in every case it is used in connection with Christ. It is clear that the use of this verb marks a change of emphasis from ordinary eating to the necessity of faith in the consumption of the Eucharist.  The graphic and almost crude connotation of this verb adds even greater force to the repetition of Jesus' words as He demands we express our faith by eating in a real and physical way His body and by consuming in a real and physical way His blood in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

Here is a breakdown of the verbs used in the discourse:

Verse 49

"Your fathers ate [ephagon] manna in the desert and they died"

Verse 50

"... that a person may eat [phage] it and not die"

Verse 51

"Anyone who eats [phagon] this bread will live for ever..."

Verse 52

"How can this man give us his flesh to eat [phagein]?"

Verse 53

"If you do not eat [phagethe] the flesh of the Son of man..."

Verse 54

"Anyone who does eat [trogon] my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life.."

Verse 56

"Whoever eats [trogon] my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me..."

Verse 57

"whoever eats [trogon] me will also draw life from me.."

Verse 58

"..it is not like the bread our ancestors ate [ephagon].."
"but anyone who eats [trogon] this bread will live forever."

[see Logos Library System, Greek text translation John 6:49-58].

Another interesting Greek word is the verb menei/meno meaning "to remain or abide" [translated as "live" in the New Jerusalem translation] found in verses 56: Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives [menei] in me and I [live] in that person.  When one receives Christ in holy Eucharist He "remains"/ abides/ lives, in that person.  The Greek verb "meno" is one of the most important theological terms in John's Gospel.  The Father "menon" (remains-lives-abides) in the Son [John 14:10], the Spirit "emeinen" on Jesus [1:32], and believers "menei" in Jesus and He in them [6:56 and 15:4]. Just as Jesus has His life from the Father and the Father is in Him, so too believers who receive Christ in the Eucharist have life because Jesus remains/abides/lives in them.  It is His promise to us along with His promise to remain with us always, until the end of time [Matthew 27:20].  [Reference: The Interlinear Bible: Greek-English, volume IV: New Testament; The Gospel of John; Logos Library system].

CCC# 787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings.  Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: "Abide in me, and I in you...I am the vine, you are the branches."  And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

 

CCC# 789 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans.  He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit.  As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: "By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.

Please read John 6: 59-71: Conclusion

59 This is what he taught at Capernaum in the synagogue. 60 After hearing it, many of his followers said, 'This is intolerable language.  How could anyone accept it?'  61 Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, 'does this disturb you?  62 What if you should see the Son of man ascend to where he was before?  63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.  64 But there are some of you who do not believe.'  For Jesus knew from the outset who did not believe and who was to betray him.  65 He went on, 'This is why I told you that no one could come to me except by the gift of the Father.'  66 After this, many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more.  67 Then Jesus said to the Twelve, 'What about you, do you want to go away too?'  68 Simon Peter answered, 'Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the message of eternal life, 69 and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.'  70 Jesus replied to them, 'Did I not choose the Twelve of you?  Yet one of you is a devil.'  71 He meant Judas son of Simon Iscariot, since this was the man , one of the Twelve, who was to betray him.

Verses 59-62: This is what he taught at Caperanum in the synagogue. After hearing it many of his followers said, 'This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?  Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, 'Does this disturb you?  What if you should see the Son of man ascend to where he was before?'

Question: What was it about what Jesus was teaching that was intolerable to an orthodox Old Covenant Jew or Israelite?  Hint: read Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17; 7:26; 17:10-12; and Deuteronomy 12:16.

Answer: The people believed He was speaking literally and demanding cannibalism, which was forbidden, but there was more to their outrage than that.  Under the Noachide Law [Laws set down for all mankind after the flood] and the Law of the Sinai Covenant, no flesh or blood of any kind was to be consumed or the offender was to be completely cut off from the community: 

If any member of the House of Israel or any resident alien consumes blood of any kind, I shall set my face against that individual who consumes blood and shall outlaw him from his people.  For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you for performing the rite of expiation on the altar for your lives, for blood is what expiates for a life. Leviticus 17:10-11

To consume flesh and blood will cut them off from the Old Covenant community.  In the holy Eucharist, believers are eating Christ's glorified body and drinking His glorified blood; however, He absolutely does intend that New Covenant believers be cut-off from the Old Covenant.  After His Resurrection and Ascension the Old Covenant will be fulfilled and transformed. The purification and sacrificial rites will be fulfilled, the liturgy will be transformed and only the moral law will remain, but a moral law that is intensified and internalized and a covenant that is internationalized–offered to all nations on earth.

Question: What is Jesus suggesting when He asks what if you should see the Son of man ascend to where he was before?  Will they every see this site and would that event be proof enough?

Answer: Yes, at the Ascension, the fulfillment of the Old Covenant when He takes His place before God the Father offering Himself to the Father as the perfect sacrifice for man [see Revelation 5:3-10].  Jesus is referring once again to the Daniel 7:13 vision and is asking them if that would be enough proof for them to accept for His authority.

John 6:63 'It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.'

It is this passage that is the stumbling block to those who resist accepting the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Question: All life comes from one source.  Who is that source?

Answer: God.  It is the spirit that gives life; God is spirit: God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.. John 4:24.  Jesus does not reveal the mystery of God the Holy Spirit fully until He has been glorified through His death and resurrection.  As His ministry progresses He alludes more frequently to the Spirit:

But to His disciples He speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer and with the witness of Him that they will carry to the world [Luke 11:13].  When He tells us that "the spirit gives life" He is speaking of God the Holy Spirit who interacts with man to give the gift of our first human birth: Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end.  God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end....[CCC# 2258].

the flesh has nothing to offer. This is the crucial line that is often misinterpreted. 

Question: Whose "flesh" is Jesus referring to?

Answer: It cannot be His flesh or He would be contradicting what He has already taught in verses 50-53. Verse 53: In all truth [Amen, amen] I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  In verse 63 Jesus has just spoken of God the Holy Spirit giving man life.  Man is God's greatest creation and yet that creation has nothing to offer that can compare with what Jesus is offering. There is no salvation through that human flesh.  The "flesh" Jesus is referring to is the "flesh" of man = mankind.  Man cannot work out his own salvation.  It is through Jesus' glorified flesh and His glorified blood made present by the power of the Holy Spirit that our souls will be nourished and will receive life:  The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the over of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven.  St. Peter Chrysologus, Homilie 67: PL 52, 392

Even if you do not accept that Jesus is not referring to His own flesh, it must be conceded that it is not just His human Jewish flesh that gives us life.  When we receive Christ in the holy Eucharist we receive all of the glorified, resurrected Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity, which is effused without limit with God the Holy Spirit.  This is the "flesh" that gives life.

'The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.'  Jesus' teaching about the promise of eternal life through the gift of His body and blood, when He said: 'the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die' [in verses 50-53], reveals something divine which only God the Holy Spirit can supply.  It is from the Spirit that the source of life for all people of the world will come and it is only He who can provide the complete understanding of that gift. We cannot fully understand this miracle without the power of the Holy Spirit acting in our lives. Jesus will teach the disciples in John 14:26 the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, [He] will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you."  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches "The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and will glorify Christ.  He will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. [Also see CCC# 729 also 728].

Dr. Hahn in his Ignatius Catholic Study Bible commentary [page 31] points out that this is one of three "scandals" or stumbling blocks which prevents belief in the crowd of Passover pilgrims:

  1. The first was the expectation at the feeding of the multitude that Jesus was going to be a nationalistic military leader who would become their king and defeat the Romans. 
  2. The second was the refusal to accept His divine nature in verses 41-43. 
  3. The demand that we must consume Jesus as a sacrifice, body and blood is the third.

John 6: 64-66 'But there are some of you who do not believe.'  For Jesus knew from the outset who did not believe and who was to betray him.  He went on, 'This is why I told you that no one could come to me except by the gift of the Father.'  After this, many of his disciples went away and accompanied him no more.

This is undoubtedly the crucial point of the text.  It is obvious that the crowd, including some of Jesus' disciples [meaning from the larger group of disciples not the Apostles] believed Jesus was speaking literally and not symbolically.  The crucial point is that when they walked away Jesus did not stop them!  If He was only speaking symbolically and then let them leave, He would be perpetuating a lie which is a sin.  Jesus is without sin.  They left and He let them leave because He was not speaking symbolically but literally.

John 6: 67-71, Then Jesus said to the Twelve, 'What about you, do you want to go away too?'  Simon Peter answered, 'Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we have come to know that you are the Holy One of God.'  Jesus replied to them, 'Did I not choose the Twelve of you?  Yet one of you is a devil.'  He meant Judas son of Simon Iscariot, since this was the man, one of the Twelve, who was to betray him."

"the Holy One" is one of the expressions which designates God Himself in the Old Testament [Isaiah 40:25; Hosea 11:9; Habakkuk 1:12; etc] and in the New Testament the divine Messiah [Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35; 4:34; Acts 2:27],  Peter is affirming his belief in the divinity of Jesus.

Peter's affirmation of faith is a lesson for us all.  When we become frustrated with the Church because we do not understand why certain abuses continue or when priests disappoint us in their pastoral missions, it is good to remember what Peter voiced in this passage.  Where would we go?  It would have been better, down through Church history if others had remembered those words.  The Church is the Body of Christ.  We are the Body because we consume the Body.  There can only be but One Body.  It is our duty to safeguard, reform when necessary, and protect that Body.  If you had known Judas, would you have walked away from Christ?

Question: This is the first mention of Judas' betrayal.  Why do you think it is mentioned in connection with this passage?

Answer: Perhaps because like the others who left, Judas also did not believe in the divinity of Christ but he didn't have the integrity to leave.  Also the message may be to warn us that there will always be "wolves among the sheep."

Question: What do we know from Scripture about Judas?  Hint: see Matthew 10:4; 26:14-16, 25, 47-49; 27:3-10; Mark 3:19; 14:10-11, 43-45; Luke 6:16; 22:3-6, 47, 48; John 12:4-6; 13:2, 21-30; 18:2, 3, 5; Acts 1:16 [Psalms 41:9]; 1:25.

Answer: Peter testifies that it was foretold that Judas would betray Jesus in Psalms 41:9 Even my trusted friend on whom I relied, who shared my table, takes advantage of me [literally = "lifts his heel against me"; see Genesis 3:15; John 13:18].  The more literal translation "lifts his heel" reminds us to the curse on the Serpent in Genesis 3:15 "It [she, he] will brush your head and you will strike its heel."  Matthew records that Judas betrayal was the fulfillment of a prophecy by Jeremiah "And they took the thirty silver pieces, the sum at which the precious One was priced by the children of Israel, and they gave them for the potter's field, just as the Lord directed me."[from Zechariah 11:12-13 & Jeremiah 32:6-15].  During the Last Supper Jesus will use this same Semitism "takes advantage of me", which in the literal Greek text is  "lifts his heel against me", meaning "doing violence to me."   

Judas was the treasurer of the Apostles in charge of giving donations to the poor but he was a thief and stole from the common fund [John 12:4-6; 13:29].  There is no evidence that he had committed his heart to Christ and Scriptural evidence does not support the theory that he did not really betray Jesus but was just trying to bring His kingdom about more quickly.  All of the Gospel writers identify him as a traitor and betrayer of the Savior [Matthew 10:4; 26:16, 25, 48-49; 27:3. Mark 3:19; 14:10-11, 44-45; Luke 6:16; 22:6, 47-48; John 6:71; 12:4; 13:2, 21-30; 18:2, 5.  In Luke 22:47-48 Jesus calls Judas a betrayer: Judas, are you betraying the Son of man with a kiss? and in John chapter 13 Jesus identifies his betrayer as  'It is the one to whom I give the piece of bread that I dip in the dish.'  And when he had dipped the piece of bread he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.  At that instant after Judas had taken the bread, Satan entered him. [13:26-27].   His inability to confess his sin and repent will lead to his suicide, unlike Simon Peter who believes in Christ, confesses his betrayal and is redeemed.  Notice that in this passage Jesus accuses Judas of belonging to the devil.

           

The Old Covenant of Mt. Sinai could instruct and prepare the Church for the coming of the Messiah but the old Law was imperfect because it was powerless to offer the gift of salvation [CCC# 1962-63].  Jesus, the new Moses, surpasses the miracle of the manna, which could only temporarily satisfy the physical body and could only temporarily sustain life.  Jesus gives life with a gift of food that sustains the soul eternally, Himself.  He has come to fulfill and to replace imperfect Old Covenant sacraments by giving us the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist which separates us from sin which brings death, and instead brings us the gift of eternal life by giving us Himself, body, blood, soul, and divinity. 

CCC# 1393 Holy Communion separates us from sin.  The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is "given up for us", and the blood we drink "shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins."  For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins: 'For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord.  If we proclaim the Lord's death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins.  If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.'" [the CCC is quoting St. Ambrose, The Sacraments 4,6,28; and 1 Corinthians 11:26].

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, in The Life of all Living, explains why Jesus' Flesh and Blood are meant to be consumed: "Communion is not something contrary to the workings of nature, but rather, the crowning glory of its orderly processes.  It is the law of all living things which have not perfect life within themselves.  If the chemical could speak, it would say to the plant, unless you eat me you shall not have life in you.  If the plant could speak, it would say to the animal, unless you eat me you shall not have life in you.  If the animal and plant and the air could speak, they would say to man, unless you eat me you shall not have life in you.  With the same logic, but only speaking above and not from below, because the soul is spiritual, Jesus Christ can and did actually say to the soul, 'Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you.'  Having called manna to a supernatural end, God gave the means to that end.  And among these means, the one we hear singled out, to show how it perfects nature, is the communion of Himself in the Eucharist. The Law of Transformation works consistently throughout the whole order of nature and supernature.  The lower transforms itself into the higher.  The plant transforms itself into the animal when taken into it as food.  But man is transformed by grace and love into Christ when he takes Christ into his soul as food, for it is the quality of love to transform itself into the object loved. In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Bread and the Wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  The word transubstantiation has been properly applied to that act.  It means that the substance of the bread becomes the substance of the Body, and the substance of the wine becomes the substance of the Blood.  But the outward appearances, taste, color, weight, shape, in a word, all of the sensible appearances, still remain."

For more information on why the Mass is a true sacrifice please see the document Is the Mass a True Sacrifice? in the Charts and Resources section.

References used in Chapter 6

  1. The Didache, James Kleist, translator. Ancient Christian Writers Series,  [Newman Press, New York, N.Y., 1948]
  2. The Navarre Bible Commentary – St. John
  3. The Anchor Bible Commentary: The Gospel According to John, Fr. Raymond Brown
  4. The Ignatius Study Bible – The Gospel of John
  5. Catechism of the Catholic Church
  6. Life is Worth Living, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
  7. The Gospel of John Study Guide, Dr. Scott Hahn
  8. Offerings, Sacrifices, and Worship in the Old Testament, J.H. Kurtz

  9. Feast of Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

  10. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Catechism references in chapter 6 [*= paraphrased]

6:ff

1338, 1393

6:53

1384

6:5-15

549*

6:54

994*, 1001, 1406, 1509*, 1524

6:26-58

2835*

6:56

787, 1391, 1407

6:27

698, 728*, 1296*

6:57

1391

6: 32

1094

6:58

1509*

6:33

423

6:60

1336

6:38

606, 2824*

6:61

473*

6:39-40

989*, 1001

6:62-63

728*

6:40

161*, 994*

6:62

440*

6:44

259*, 591*, 1001. 1428*

6:63

2766

6:46

151

6:67

1336

6:51

728*, 1355, 1406, 2837*

6:68

1336

6:53-56

2837*

6:69

438

 

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1998 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.