This week the daily gospels from Monday (May 6) through Friday (May 10) are taken from John 6 – the great Eucharistic Discourse. Elsewhere I have posted commentaries on this remarkable chapter and will reprise the posts over the course of the week. There are two contexts for this week’s series of daily Gospels: (1) the miraculous as signs and (2) the people’s reaction to the sign. In other gospels the miraculous feeding presents the sign, here, there is a more expansive explanation of the sign by Jesus. The intent seems focused on explaining the theological and Christological significance of Jesus’ action. All of this is as you might expect for a gospel written some 20-30 years after St. Mark’s narrative.
John 6 marks the beginning of a new section in the Fourth Gospel narrative. In 2:1-5:47 there was a cycle which includes the revelation of Jesus’ glory and the rejection of that glory. These chapters contain miracles and discourses by Jesus that point to the authority of Jesus’ words and works—the wine miracle at Cana (2:1–11); the cleansing of the Temple (2:13–22); two healing miracles (4:46–54; 5:1–9); Jesus’ conversations with Nicodemus (3:1–21) and the Samaritan woman (4:4–42)—and so fulfill his promise to his disciples that they would see “greater things” (1:50). Yet this cycle also contains the first story of Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish authorities (5:9–47), a conflict that includes the decision to kill Jesus (5:18). This first cycle establishes the themes and tensions that characterize Jesus’ public ministry in John—from the manifestation of Jesus’ glory (2:1–11) to the rejection of that glory (5:9–47).
The second cycle of Jesus’ public ministry follows the same pattern as the first—it begins with a miracle in Galilee, the feeding of the five thousand (6:1–15), and concludes with hostility to Jesus and renewed intention to kill him (10:31–39). The difference between the two cycles is that the urgency of that question is highlighted as the hostility to Jesus increases. There are no new theological themes introduced, instead the same themes are replayed in a new context: Jesus’ authority and relationship to God, Jesus’ ability to give life and judge, the consequences of faith or unbelief. [O’Day, 519] And, as you might imagine, the antagonism in response to Jesus’ words and deeds only grows. The second cycle poses the same basic question as the first: Will people receive the revelation of God in Jesus?
Source: Gail R. O’Day, John in the New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 9, ed. Leander E. Keck (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996)