Jesus is not only the source of life; he is also its substance. As the Bread of Life, Jesus offers himself as the satisfying gift of God.
Unlike the Synoptics, John does not give an account of the Lord’s Supper. This pericope, however, is a clear reference to the Eucharist that itself was prefigured in Manna.
The narrator returns to the crowd. The crowd is aware that Jesus departed and they are convinced Jesus did it separately and without a boat. The reader knows what happened (6:16–21), but the crowd does not.
The verse seems to explain how the crowd, that cannot walk on the waters, was able to cross the lake to Capernaum. Some boats from Tiberias came to provide the needed transport.
Apparently, the crowd was searching for Jesus, but unable to find him or his disciples at the former place, they went to search for him in Capernaum.
These three verses prepare the reader for what is going to happen. The crowd are searching for Jesus but with wrong motives. They wanted to make him a king (6:15) and it seems their search is still motivated by that desire. But, Jesus will reveal their motivation and he will also reveal his true identity.
After founding Jesus, the crowd is curious: how and when he got across the lake. So they ask, using the honorific title “Rabbi” (cf. 1:38, 49). But, will they be able to realise that Jesus is more than a rabbi?
Jesus does not satisfy their curiosity, but tells them that their motive in seeking him out is an unworthy one: materialism is placed over spirituality.
The crowd want a king that would satisfy their physical needs, and not someone who would condemn their sinfulness and announce the plan of God!!!
In 6:14, they saw the “sign”. In this verse it is implied that they failed to see the true meaning of that sign. In Mark 6:52, even the disciples “did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (cf. 8:14–21).
Now, the Evangelist proceeds to bring the hidden meaning into light, by recording Jesus’ discourse about the bread of life, delivered in the synagogue at Capernaum (6:59).
Some scholars divide the discourse into three parts:
What the crowd did not understand from the sign in John 6:1–15 was the distinction between the temporal and the eternal - the distinction between the Jesus they wanted and his true status as the Son of Man, sent by the Father.
The contrast between perishable and spiritual food is similar to the contrast between material and spiritual water in John 4:10–14. Only Jesus can give that water which springs up into eternal life, and only Jesus can give food that endure to eternal life.
The Father placed a seal upon “the Son of Man”. Some suggest that it took place at Jesus’ baptism. Others say, that it refers to his whole person and activity.
The Son of Man is appointed by God as his certified and authorised ‘agent’ for the bestowal of this life-giving food. But it also mean that he is directly connected with the Father who ‘sealed’ Him.
The language of sealing designates ownership, and the NT often describes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as a sealing, impressing a permanent mark (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30; cf. John 1:32).
“Work”. They know how to work to earn their daily food. But how can one work for food that endures to eternal life?
The basic requirements is faith in Jesus. There is a hidden criticism here - apparently they do not believe in him. Notice also the change from “works” (pl) to “work” (sing). The singular work of Christian is faith in the Son who was sent by the Father.
But the people wanted further confirmation that he is the one sent by the Father. Perhaps, Jesus’ talk about “the food that endures” let them to ask for another sign besides the multiplication of bread they witnessed - the bread they ate in John 6:10–12 was already over.
Jesus told them about the “work”, now they are asking him: “what will you perform/ work?”
It seems that already in the first century, the rabbis taught that the new age would be marked by the restoration of the gift of manna (cf. Rev 2:17).
The people are referring to Ex 16:13–15, Ps 78:24; Ps 105:40; Neh 9:15.
The loaves and fish that Jesus gave were still earthly food, not bread from heaven.
But if Jesus could give them bread from heaven he would definitely be the prophet like Moses.
As with the Samaritan woman (4:20–21), Jesus redirects the crowd’s attention from their ancestral past to the present moment.
Jesus reminds them that it was actually not Moses, but God who gave their forefathers the manna in the wilderness. Moreover, the manna in those days, like the bread and fish with which Jesus fed them were all material food.
Now God provides them with true Bread from heaven that sustains the inmost and most lasting life of men and women; this Bread is not of perishable or material nature, because the Bread is His own Son!
The expression “the bread of God” is used occasionally in OT of the ‘showbread’ (cf. Lev 21:6, 8, 17, 21,22; 22:25). The manna is called “bread of the mighty” or “bread of the angels” in Ps 78:25.
But here “the bread of God” also given by God and coming from heaven gives eternal life to all humankind - not just to the people of Israel but to “the world”.
See John 4:15. They do not understand the deep meaning of Jesus’ words. They are still operating on material level.
Some commentators actually suggest that the crowd actually challenges Jesus.
Jesus now tells them plainly what he means. It is one of the most famous declaration of our Lord in the Gospel. The crowd also gets their request. Jesus offers himself!
To come to Jesus is to believe in him. Being the source of life and the sustenance of life, Jesus alone can satisfy hunger and thirst (cf. 4:14). By satisfying hunger and thirst Jesus becomes the Food for the human heart/ soul (see Is 48:21; 49:10; 55:1–3, 6–7, 10).
“I am the bread of life” is the first of seven formal “I am” statements in the Gospel, each containing “I am” and a predicate. The others are:
“I am the light of the world” (8:12);
I am the gate“ (10:7,9);
I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14);
I am the resurrection and the life“ (11:25);
I am the way and the truth and the life” (14:6);
I am the true vine" (15:1,6).
These “I am” statements are rooted in the OT (for example see Ex 3:6, 14; 20:2) and they communicate the self-revelation of God.
These seven “I am” statements describe the person and ministry of Jesus and together form a detailed picture of Jesus Christ.
John also employs a number of other “I am” statements without a predicate (8:58).
The “I am bread of life” declaration serves to convey the absolute necessity of Christ by linking the most basic and foundational needs of human life to his person and work. In Jesus there is an eternal sufficiency, for someone who find him, there is no want (cf Ps 23:1).
In 5:36–38 Jesus addressed the people in Jerusalem, here those in Galilee. They have seen and yet do not believe.
“All that the Father gives me”. Although they do not believe, there will be others who will believe. Here, we have a clear indication that faith is grace. The Father works on people’s heart and moves them to faith in Jesus - in this way he ‘gives’ people to Jesus (6:44).
But why those who see Jesus’ sign did not believe? It remains a mystery that St. Paul tried to solve in Romans (see Rom 9–11).
Those who receive this grace come to Jesus and they are welcomed by him - Jesus does not cast them out. The Greek word used here means “to throw out” and so we see here allusion to Gen 3:24 LXX - “ekballo” - where we read that Adam and Eve were thrown out of the garden of Eden.
This subtle hint anticipates another allusion to Eden when Jesus talks about food that gives eternal life (6:51 - the tree of life). Jesus opens the way to paradise and offers the food that gives immortality (cf. Gen 3:22–23).
This allusion to Eden signal that what was lost by Adam and Eve’s sin will be restored by Jesus.
See John 4:34 - the doing of the Father’s will is the purpose of Jesus’ coming.
The Father’s will is the salvation of all through Jesus. The work of salvation, which includes a share in the end-time resurrection (see 5:28, 28; 1 Cor 15:20–23), is the revelation of the Father’s love.
The aim is - “not losing” even one of all (cf. 6:12) but raising each individual member of the community on the last day.
The ‘last day’ is the time indicated in John 5:28–29.
Here, The “one who sent me” (6:38–39) is named as “my Father”. And those “given” by the Father and kept secure by the Son are those “who see the Son and believe in him”.
Here, the seeing of the Son is much more than seeing in 6:36. There, the seeing was without faith. Here, it means to see the glory of God in the Word become flesh.
The possession of eternal life and the hope of resurrection ‘at the last day’ are two things which God has joined together for those who have come to Christ in faith.
There is a sudden change from “the crowd” to the “Jews”. On this occasion ‘the Jews’ must be the congregation in the synagogue in Capernaum. They were offended.
In 5:18, the leaders in Jerusalem were furious by the way he spoke about the Father. In Jerusalem, he was a ‘visitor’, a ‘pilgrim’, but in Galilee he was a resident. How could a man with whose family they were well acquainted make such a claim as he did? How could he provide and even be the food of immortality? How could he be the bond between heaven and earth?
Here, as in John 1:45, Jesus is known as “the son of Joseph”, but in Mark 6:3 in Nazareth, he is known as “the son of Mary”. Apparently, both groups - those in Nazareth and those in Capernaum had no inclinations as to the mystery surrounding his birth. But, the reader knows the truth (1:1–2, 14, 18, and Mt 1–2; Luke 1–2).
The change from “the crowd” to “the Jews” is related to their attitude of “grumbling” which points us to the past, when the Israelites “were grumbling” against Moses and Aaron, their representative before God (Ex 16:2). The Jews here, like their forefathers, were rejecting God’s agent and therefore were rejecting God himself. By their grumbling "they preserve the genuine succession of unbelief.
Jesus does not regard this as innocent questioning but as “grumbling”. See Ex 16:7–8. This time, however, God, not Moses confronts the grumbling Jews directly.
The key verb “draw” implies that “the object being moved is incapable of propelling itself or in the case of persons is unwilling (unable) to do so voluntarily”.
The statement clearly depicts the inability of a person to “come” to Jesus “unless” the Father directly acts in an intervening manner. In John 12:32, it is Christ who, by being ‘lifted up from the earth’, draws all without distinction to himself.
Here, Jesus presents God as the primary agent of salvation (6:37–40).
Can such “drawing” be refused or resisted (cf. 5:18)?
Then, Jesus for the third time speaks about the resurrection of the believer.
See Is 54:13. The new age - the kingdom of God - to which the words of Isaiah pointed has now dawned with the coming of Jesus.
God “draws” and “teaches”. St. Augustine said: “The Son spoke, but the Father taught”.
Jesus is “the teaching God” instructing his people directly.
The second part of Is 54:13 speaks about “great peace”. Those who do not accept Jesus’ teaching cannot find peace. Those who come to him receive his peace, which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7).
Jesus is clarifying that the teaching of God is not in isolation from His Son. Only Jesus is the Mediator between God and humanity; Only Jesus is the teaching presence of God, the ultimate spokesperson for God.
The reason for this statement is clear: only he is “from God” and only “he has seen God” (cf. 1:18).
Thus, there is no option: the one who thinks that he rejects Jesus in favour of God, actually rejects God; for to reject Jesus is to reject God (cf. 12:45; 14:9).
“Every one who heard, and learned from the Father comes to me” - see Mt 16:17 and John 6:68–69. St. Peter learned from the Father.
In 6:40 - the Father’s will is that every one who believes in the Son should have eternal life and be raised at the last day.
Here he makes it plain that every one who believes in the Son has eternal life here and now, without waiting for the last day (John 3:36a). Only God can speak like that.
In a movement from eternal God to eternal life, the person who believes in Christ is already receiving everything that has been announced: hearing, learning, and seeing the Father through Christ.
Believing is now referred with no mention of “in me” or “in God” by Jesus. Why? Belief in God is belief in the one he sent, Jesus Christ, and belief in Christ is belief in God.
Jesus is the life-giving bread, delivering those who receive him from the power of death, which even the manna could not achieve for those who ate it. For all its wonderful properties (see Ps 78:24–25), the manna could not impart ‘eternal life’.
The true heavenly bread - the Son of God - bestows life that cannot be destroyed by death to those who “eat” of him.
The food that gives immortality is an allusion to the tree of life in the garden of Eden - its fruit could give immortality (Gen 3:22–23).
Jesus is the living bread in person. He is to give his flesh for the life of the world - referening to the cross. We have here a sacrificial language (cf. John 1:29). Jesus’ death is (1) voluntary “I will give” and (2) vicarious “for the life of the world”.
We can immediately think about the servant of the Lord in Is 52:13–53:12. The servant’s death was to bring blessing to “the many” (Is 53:11–12) - to Israel and the Gentiles alike (cf. Is 49:6).
The worldwide scope of Jesus’ saving work was already indicated in John 3:17 and the Samaritans recognised in him “the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). But, the hearers in Capernaum were far from grasping that truth.
“The bread of life” and “the living bread”. The first phrase indicates the power to bestow life, the second reflects the presence and permanence of life.
This bread is given that a person may ‘eat’ this bread. It is through eating this bread that a person will have eternal life. The Church has understood this statement as a reference to the Eucharist.
Once crucified and transformed by the resurrection, Jesus’ human flesh becomes the source of eternal life for the whole world.
Jesus’ shocking statement in 6:51 led to a heating dispute among the Jews - probably it means that their “grumbling” was intensified (cf. Ex 17:2).
Jesus does not answer their question ‘how’. He shocks them even more.
“Amen, amen” indicates that what Jesus says is extremely important. It is followed by a shocking statement of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man.
If eating flesh was shocking, drinking blood was outright offensive and especially abhorrent to Jews who were explicitly forbidden to partake of blood (cf. Gen 9:4 - notice that this commandment actually is given to all humanity of which Noah is a representative).
“Blood” can refer to both life (cf. Lev 17:11, 14; Deut 12:23) and death. In this case, since both “flesh” and “blood” are mentioned together, it indicates the death of Jesus on the cross.
The only possible explanation of this statement is the sacramental language and the mystery of the Eucharist.
Jesus restates the same message, though this time positively and with clear first-person reference: “my flesh” and “my blood”.
There is the continuing reference to Christ’s raising the believer on the last day (cf. 6:39, 40, 44).
Some commentators point to the change of words describing “eating” - from (φάγητε) to (τρώγειν). They are similar but the second term is more aggressive - explained as “munch”. Perhaps, the change is to present with stronger force the reality of eating Jesus’ flesh.
Commenting on this passage, St. Augustine understands it as the Eucharist - “the sacrament of unity of the body and blood of Christ” that “is prepared on the Lord’s table in some places daily, in some places at certain intervals of days, and from the Lord’s table it is taken, by some to life, by some to destruction” (cf. 1 Cor 11:27–29).
The same flesh and blood offered by Christ to the Father on the cross and then resurrected to glory is given to us in the Eucharist. By consuming Christ’s glorified flesh and blood in the Eucharist, we receive eternal life and will also share in his resurrection.
The word “real” stands out here. The word can refer both to the true reality of incarnation and the cross - Jesus was a real human of flesh and blood and really died on the cross. They can also stress the true reality of the Eucharist, or as we put it - the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
The manna of Moses or any other food that humanity might yet still discover cannot compare with this food.
See 1 John 2:24.
The term “remain” is one of the central terms in John’s Gospel. The Father “remains” in the Son (14:10), the Spirit “remains” upon Jesus (1:32–33), and believers “remain” in Christ and he in them (15:4).
The term points to an intimate relationship (cf. Gal 2:20; John 8:31–32; 14:20; 15:4–10; 17:21–23).
When we consume Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, he dwells within us, and we in turn share in his divine life. The Eucharist is truly “holy communion”. As St. Paul writes to the Corinthians: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16).
Just as Jesus is “the living bread” (6:51), so also the Father is described as the “living Father”.
In 5:26, Jesus spoke of his own possession of the divine life, which is the Father’s eternal gift to the Son. The Son has an authority to impart that life to those who believe in him, with this distinction: what the Son receives is “life in himself”; what they receive is life in him - in the Son.
The unity of the Father and the Son is reproduced in the unity of Christ and believers.
This verse serves as a summary of the entire dialogue. Jesus one more time stressed the difference between “this bread” and the manna.
The Jews got all their questions answered (cf. 6:42, 52). It is now time for them to respond. Will they eat this bread and live?
The dialogue comes to a close. The reader was told that everything took place in Capernaum (6:24), but now a new detailed is given that it took place in the synagogue there. On that day, in that synagogue God came to speak to the Jews. What a miracle and mystery indeed.
With the dialogue concluded, the narrator now turns to the relation of those present. There is a transition from the “crowd/Jews” to “many of his disciples”, and finally to the Twelve.
“Many of his disciples”. This large circle of disciples - who considered him as their rabbi and they were all positively disposed to him - were no less offended then the Jews. They call Jesus’ message “offensive” (σκληρός) - something hard.
“Who can listen to it?”
The mystery of Jesus’ death and connected with it the mystery of the Eucharist becomes a scandal for his own disciples.
The disciples now “murmur” like the Israelites in the wilderness and like the Jews who object to Jesus’ teaching (6:41–42). And Jesus was aware of their thoughts. The phrase servers to highlight the supernatural awareness of Jesus (cf. 1:47–48; 2:24–25; 4:18; 6:43).
“Does this offend you?” - It refers to the eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood. But, Jesus’ entire message was “hard” to take by many - and so it is today.
Jesus offers another question. What would they think if one day they saw the Son of Man ascending back to heaven? (Cf. Acts 1:9; 7:55–60). Would that provide a confirmation to his message or shocked them even more?
But, the way to the place where the Son of Man was before leads through the cross (John 3:14–15; cf. Is 52:13). The ‘place’ where the Son of Man was before points to John 1:2 and to the Christian proclamation of Jesus’ ascending at the right hand of the Father (Mk 16:19).
This statement goes hand in hand with Jesus’ teaching about the “descending” of the Son, the bread of life (cf. 6:33, 38, 41:42, 50–51, 58).
Thus, by not accepting Jesus’ message, they reject Jesus as the Son of God.
“Flesh” and “spirit” are different spheres of reality. “Flesh” cannot give/make life, only “spirit” can. Here “spirit” can only be the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor 3:6). “Flesh” is helpless in this aspect - “cannot provide/achieve anything”.
This verse has many similarities to what Jesus said to Nicodemus (3:6). But one distinction has to be made: between the “flesh” in general and the “flesh” of Jesus Christ that needs to be eaten to have eternal life.
The flesh in general is “useless”, but the living flesh of Jesus, the flesh of the Bread of life - the flesh of the crucified and risen Christ - provides eternal life.
It is in the person of Jesus where our flesh, which he himself bore, becomes united with his life.
To believe Jesus’ words is to believe in Jesus and everything he has revealed about himself.
But apparently, this large group of the disciples could not accept it (cf. John 5:46–47; Heb 4:2).
Just as Jesus revealed himself to them, so now he also revealed to them their true selves (cf. 5:38; 6:36) - Jesus unmasked their unbelief.
The statement “some of you” indicates both hope and tragedy. On one hand, only “some” and not all are declared not believing in Jesus; on the other hand “some” is already too many.
The Evangelist once more emphasises Jesus’ insight into the human heart. The one who knows the nature of humanity (cf. 2:24–25) also knows the nature of these followers. Moreover, Jesus had known of these disbelievers “from the beginning”, a phrase that reminds us of John 1:1.
The Evangelist inserts here the future betrayal of Jesus by one of his disciples (cf. 6:70). Just as Jesus knew in the past - “from the beginning” - that some of his disciples would not believe in him in the present time, so he also knows in the present time that a certain disciple will reveal his unbelief in the future.
The allusion to Judas also serves as an allusion to the cross, the mystery that “some of” these disciples are rejecting.
Referring to 6:37–39, 44 - Jesus again declares that the primary agent of faith is the Father. Faith is a concrete gift of the Father upon which the Christian is utterly dependent. Then, for certain reason which we do not know the Father has not given them - those large group of disciples - this grace of faith in Jesus.
After Jesus said everything, those disciples left him.
Perhaps, they followed him hoping that he would become their king and lead them to a fight for independence. But, what they heard in the synagogue in Capernaum was simply too much for them. What they wanted, he would not give; what he offered, they would not receive.
By leaving Jesus and no longer walking with him, they indicated that they were not really true disciples. Perseverance till the end is the criterion of a true disciple.
From the wider circle of his disciples (6:60) Jesus turns to his more intimate disciples - the Twelve.
The question begins with a “negative”: “You don’t want to go away too, do you?” - which expect “no” for the answer.
The Twelve saw the others go. What about them?
Like in Mt 16:16, Peter speaks on behalf of the Twelve. He responds to Jesus’ question with a question: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” It is to be viewed in sharp contrast to the response of the other disciples who already left (6:66).
Peter grasp the true meaning of Jesus’ message. It was revealed to Peter by the Father that Jesus has “the words of eternal life” (6:63; cf. Mt 16:17).
The disciples from early days saw Jesus as the Messiah (cf. 1:41, 45, 49), but this confession of faith indicates something much more. “The Holy One of God” appears in Mark 1:24 - spoken by a demon-possessed person.
There is a version that has additional phrase - “the Christ, the Son of the living God” - probably under the influence of Mt 16:16.
This is a John’s counterpart to the Casearea Philippi incident in the Synoptic Gospels (Mk 8:27–30). It is a point of contact between the Synoptics and John in Jesus’ ministry. The turning-point in the Gospels is marked by a confession of faith by Peter that takes place not long after the miraculous feeding of the multitude.
Some were prepared to acknowledge Jesus as the second Moses who provides his people with food, but they were unwilling or unable to accept him as the Living Bread offered for the life of the world.
To Peter and his companions, however, it was revealed that Jesus was more than the prophet like Moses; He was the Holy One of God.
In the Scriptures, holiness is the attribute proper to God, “the Holy One” (Is 41:14). In John’s Gospel only the Father (17:11), the Son (here) and the Holy Spirit (1:33; 14:26; 20:22) are called “holy” - the revelation of the Holy Trinity.
By calling Jesus “the Holy One of God”, Peter professes Jesus’ divinity.
The Evangelist presumes that the reader knows about the election of the Twelve from the Synoptic gospels (Mk 3:13–19). Here we have a reference to that event which the author himself does not describe.
The future tragedy is already revealed here. Even in that inner circle of his disciples, there is one “adversary”. Judas, “the one”, will serve as a pawn for Satan. Satan operates behind failing humans in such a way that his malice becomes theirs. See also Mk 8:31–33.
Jesus’ foreknowledge of the traitor’s identity has been mentioned in 6:64. Now, his name is revealed. All of the four evangelists, when they mentioned Judas for the first time, they identify him as the one who was to turn traitor (Mt 10:4; Mk 3:19; Luke 6:16). John does the same thing here.
“Iscariot” is probably connected with a place - a Judean locality mentioned in Josh 15:25 - in that case he would be the only disciple of Jesus from Judea.