John 6

The Bread of Life[a]

Chapter 6

Signs of Salvation

Jesus Feeds the Crowds.[b] 1 After this, Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias, 2 and a large crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he performed on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down there with his disciples. 4 The Jewish feast of Passover was approaching.

5 When Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for them to eat?” 6 He said this to test him, because Jesus himself knew what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages[c] would not buy enough bread for each of them to have a small piece.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what help will they be among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was plenty of grass in that place, so the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to the people who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 When they all had eaten enough, he said to the disciples, “Gather up the fragments that are left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.

14 When the people saw the sign he had performed, they began to say, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Then Jesus realized that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, so he again withdrew to the mountain by himself.

16 Jesus Walks on the Water.[d] When evening came, the disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and set out across the sea to Capernaum. It was already dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. 18 The sea then became rough because a strong wind had started to blow.

19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I.[e] Do not be afraid!” 21 They were ready to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately reached the shore toward which they were heading.

Jesus, the Bread of Life for Believers[f]

Earthly Food and Heavenly Bread.[g] The next day, the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea realized that there had only been one boat there, and that Jesus had not gone along with his disciples; rather, the disciples had left by themselves. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

25 When the people found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them,

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
you came looking for me
not because you have seen signs
but because you ate the loaves
and your hunger was satisfied.
27 Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For it is on him
that God the Father has set his seal.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do if we are to carry out the works of God?” 29 Jesus replied,

“This is the work of God:
to believe in the one whom he has sent.”

30 They asked him further, “What sign can you give us that we can see and come to believe in you? What work will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert. As it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven[h] to eat.’ ” 32 Jesus replied,

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
it was not Moses
who gave you the bread from heaven.
It is my Father
who gives you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is
he who comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.”

34 The Bread of Life.[i]“Sir,” they begged him, “give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus answered them,

“I am[j] the bread of life.
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry,
and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me
and yet you do not believe.
37 All that the Father gives me
will come to me,
and anyone who comes to me
I will never turn away.
38 For I have come down from heaven
not to do my own will
but the will of him who sent me.
39 “And this is the will of him who sent me:
that I should lose nothing
of all that he has given me,
but that I should raise it up
on the last day.
40 This indeed is the will of my Father:
that all who see the Son
and believe in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise them up
on the last day.”

41 Faith, a Gift of God.[k] Then the Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? We know his father and mother. How can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop murmuring among yourselves!” Jesus said.

44 “No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise up that person on the last day.
45 It is written in the Prophets,
‘They will all be taught by God.’
Everyone who has listened to my Father
and learned from him comes to me.
46 Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
47 “Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.

My Flesh for the Life of the World[l]

48 “I am the bread of life.
49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness,
and yet they died.
50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that one may eat it and not die.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give
is my flesh, for the life of the world.”

52 Then the Jews started to argue among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 Jesus said to them,

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
54 Whoever feeds upon my flesh
and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him up on the last day.
55 For my flesh is real food,
and my blood is real drink.
56 “Whoever feeds upon my flesh and drinks my blood
dwells in me and I dwell in him.
57 Just as the living Father sent me
and I have life because of the Father,
so whoever feeds upon me will live because of me.
58 This is the bread that came down from heaven.
Unlike your ancestors who ate
and nevertheless died,
the one who feeds upon this bread
will live forever.”

59 The Holy One of God.[m] Jesus said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. 60 After hearing his words, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard saying. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware of the complaints of his disciples, Jesus said to them,

“Does this shock you?
62 What then if you were to behold the Son of Man
ascend to where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that gives life;
the flesh[n] can achieve nothing.
The words that I have spoken to you
are spirit and life.
64 But there are some among you
who do not believe.”

For from the very beginning Jesus knew who did not believe, and who would betray him. 65 He said,

“This is why I told you
that no one can come to me
unless it is granted to him by my Father.”

66 After this, many of his disciples turned away and no longer remained with him. 67 Then Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you also wish to leave?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

70 Jesus replied, “Did I not choose you twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” 71 He was speaking of Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Although he was one of the Twelve, he would be the one who would betray him.

Footnotes

  1. John 6:1 The Jewish Passover is near at hand, and with it the days on which unleavened bread is eaten as a sign of renewal; the action also recalls the manna that fed the Hebrews in the wilderness. It is in this context that the evangelist places Jesus’ act of feeding the hungry crowd. The whole action is a sign and foreshadowing of a new Passover and a true life-giving food. Jesus himself, in his person, is the bread of life that God offers to humanity. In order to receive this bread that makes a person live forever, one must believe in the Word.
  2. John 6:1 This is one of the rare passages in which all four Gospels are clearly parallel. At this point, John introduces the discourse on the bread of life. The sign of the loaves is seen as a symbol of the food given to mankind in the Word of God and especially in the Eucharist.
  3. John 6:7 Two hundred days’ wages: literally: two hundred denarii. A denarius was the average wage for a day’s work (see Mt 20:2).
  4. John 6:16 This account is connected with the preceding passage in the oldest tradition. Like the miracle of the loaves, it shows the absolute mastery Jesus exercises over creatures. For the disciples it is an invitation to believe without reserve: with Jesus present, they will lack nothing, and nothing can put them in peril.
  5. John 6:20 It is I: literally, “I AM,” the formula that reveals the name of the Lord in the Old Testament (see Ex 3:14; Isa 41:4, 10, 14; 43:1-3, 10, 13). Hence, the evangelist is alluding to Jesus as the Son of God. See note on Jn 4:26.
  6. John 6:22 Jesus’ gestures and actions are always signs of God; in them is expressed something of the mystery of Christ. Thus, the fourth evangelist places on the lips of Jesus a discourse that unveils the mystery. Here, then, is the deep meaning of the miracle of the loaves: Jesus is the Messenger of God, the true Bread handed over to gain life with God for the whole world.

    22
    Thus, it is announced that the words of Jesus are food for people, and that the life of Jesus is given on the cross for the salvation of all. But the Christian addressees of the fourth Gospel could not read this discourse without interpreting it as already announcing the rite inaugurated at the Last Supper (Mt 26:26), the Eucharist, memorial of the body handed over, of the blood shed, of the sacrifice of the cross.
    Therefore, this discourse can be read on two levels. The author of the Gospel certainly wanted it so read: the word of God instructs one in the ways of God and the word of God is the bread of life that nourishes the spiritual hunger of God’s people.

  7. John 6:22 There is a hunger for everlasting life, a hunger for God! And there is a bread of God, a food that gives everlasting life to those who believe in Jesus. The miracle of the manna was a symbol of this food (Ex 16:4, 13-15).
  8. John 6:31 Bread from heaven: see Ex 16:4, 15, 32-34; Ps 78:24. There was a belief that the manna had been hidden by Jeremiah (see 2 Mac 2:5-8) and would reappear at Passover in Messianic times.
  9. John 6:34 Jesus makes an astonishing affirmation: there is a Bread of God for us, and it is a person. Jesus himself fulfills his Father’s plan for us; in Jesus, God is present so that we may have true life. To receive God’s Bread is to believe in Jesus and accept him as the Son of God to receive through him the life his Father intends for us. What an astonishing gift! Jesus does not allow himself to be worshiped as a god or a hero; he says of himself that he came to satisfy the hunger of people and to fulfill our life. Every other food is only a diversion for our essential hunger. Jesus is the Bread that satisfies this hunger.
  10. John 6:35 I am . . . : this is the first of seven self-descriptions of Jesus introduced by “I am” (see Jn 8:12; and 9:5; 10:7, 9; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5). These echo Ex 3:14 (see notes on Jn 4:26 and 6:20).
  11. John 6:41 During the period in the wilderness, the Hebrews doubted the Lord and “grumbled” against him; the memory of this had remained as a warning for all time (see Ex 16; Num 11; Ps 106:25).
    When the fourth Gospel speaks of “the Jews,” the reference is to this mentality, this attitude of rejection, rather than to people as a whole or even to their leaders.
  12. John 6:48 In what sense does Jesus do the Father’s will? By giving his life. He does not use the word “sacrifice,” but the terms “flesh” and “blood” express that idea in a very realistic way. In this gift, the life of the Father is given to human beings and becomes their everlasting life. That is a strong statement, and yet the objection of the Jews, who take it in the most material sense, does not lead to any toning down of it. On the contrary!
  13. John 6:59 After the success of the multiplication of loaves, scandal arises. The “flesh” (v. 63)—that is, people with their petty desires and thoughts—could not but be shocked by a revelation as absolute as the one they have just heard (that Jesus is the living Bread come down from heaven). Many of his disciples as well as some other people stopped following him, and Judas was already thinking of handing him over.
    Only the Spirit gives people the will to believe that the Father speaks in Jesus. It is the Spirit who inspires Peter’s profession of faith (see Mt 16:16; Mk 8:29; Lk 9:20). But the Spirit would not be given in fullness until after Jesus’ Resurrection (see Jn 7:39).
    In regard to Jesus, there is a division among the people. This division and Peter’s profession of faith mark a parting of the ways in the life of Jesus. The time of revelation to the disciples has begun and from now on the conflict with the official religion will develop irreconcilably.
  14. John 6:63 Flesh: the human being with its desires and thoughts.

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