Just too much

Our reading today is from John 6, the whole of which is rightly called the Eucharistic Discourse, John’s reflection on the meaning of the Eucharist seeing that the other gospels had well recorded its institution at the Passover meal the night before his crucifixion. We are at the end of the discourse and it seems that there is a crisis among the disciples. They seemed to have reached a point with Jesus’ teaching that is just too much. Perhaps too much to have compared himself to Moses, too much to have referred to himself as the living bread come down from heaven, or just too much that can’t be reconciled with their preconceived idea of the role of the Messiah. Continue reading

The Word made flesh

In today’s gospel, we read from John 6 known as the Bread of Life discourse. And there is much that can be said about this central chapter of John’s gospel that speaks to John’s Eucharistic understanding and teaching. And today I have no doubt that there will be some excellent commentaries on this reading. I have also written about this section of Chapter 6 that you can read here. Continue reading


jesus-and-disciples47 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but 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.”

The expression “Amen, amen, I say to you” (v. 47) also signals the beginning of a new section in the discourse (as before in 5:19, 24–25; 6:32). Yet this section opens with a reprise of familiar Johannine themes: The believer receives eternal life (6:27, 40); Jesus is the bread of life (6:35). These themes provide the theological grounding for what follows. As in 5:19–30, here the Fourth Evangelist advances Jesus’ argument by placing what Jesus has said previously in a new context. The interweaving and overlapping of theological themes evident here and throughout Jesus’ discourses help to create a cohesiveness of theological perspective throughout the Fourth Gospel Continue reading

Coming to the Lord

jesus-and-disciples43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.

Jesus now addresses the crowd for a second time and tells then to stop their grumbling. Then he repeats the saying of v.37, but in a slightly stronger form. In v.37 the word “come” (hēxei) is future, active voice and means that the person (subject) will be in the process of “coming.” But in v.44 the subject is God who will helkysē (draw, haul by force – EDNT v.1:435) the person to him. Continue reading


jesus-and-disciples41 The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42 and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus’ words were not what the people wanted to hear. From the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 to the crowd’s references to mana in the desert, the context has been about bread they could eat. However, from v.35 onward, it is clear that Jesus’ meaning is about belief in himself, the one provides bread from heaven that last forever. The people are beginning to understand that they are not getting more bread and that this person before them is claiming to be someone greater than Moses. They rebel against the claims implied in what he said, feeling that they know very well who he is. In the face of this Jesus emphatically repeats his words. And the people grumble some more. Continue reading

Not losing anything

jesus-and-disciplesThis coming Sunday, the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we continue with the Gospel of John, chapter 6, the Bread of Life Discourse. This is the third of five Sundays from this important Johannine Eucharistic discourse. The sequence of Sunday gospels does leave out verses 6:35-41. The text from the 18th Sunday centers around Jesus challenging the people’s motivation for coming to Jesus. He tells them they only came to see more signs, eat their fill, but not really “work” for the bread that is eternal. The people not only do not understand Jesus’ point, but become bogged down in “what do I have to do to get it” as though they could accomplish this on their own talents and perseverance.  Continue reading

Metaphor? Sacramental?

John 6+crowd+feedingIs the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6), metaphor or sacramental? There are many commentaries and religious traditions that insist on a metaphorical interpretation of “eat” and “drink” and thus “eat” and “drink” as metaphors for belief.  There are some Catholic commentators (e.g. LaGrange) who insist there is no metaphor, that the entirety of Jesus’ discourse is sacramental/Eucharistic.  As Fr. Raymond Brown and Fr. Francis Moloney point out, the truly Catholic position is “both-and.”  What begins in John 6:22-50 as metaphor for belief, is ultimately answered in John 6:51-58 as Eucharist. With that in mind let us consider (a) a “big picture” view of this core question of John 6, but (b) fair warning: it does get a bit technical and dense in places. But give it a go!! Continue reading

Comes down from heaven

John 6+crowd+feedingWrapping up our look into the gospel for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time….

32 So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

At verses 12 and 27 (gathering the fragments after feeding the crowd and referencing perishable food), Jesus implicitly linked the feeding miracle with the manna story of Exodus 16. In v.32, he does so explicitly. For the second time in this chapter Jesus prefaces his remarks with the solemn, Amen, amen, I say to you. Continue reading

The challenge

John 6+crowd+feedingContinuing our look into the gospel for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time….

 30 So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? 31 Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Throughout vv. 27–31, Jesus and the crowd use the same words but with very different meanings, another instance of the Johannine literary technique of misunderstanding. The crowd’s questions in v. 30 repeat key words from vv. 26–29: “sign” (sēmeion, v. 26), “do” (poieō, v. 28), “see” (eidete, v. 26, idōmen, v. 30), “believe” (pisteuō, v. 29), “work” (ergazomai, vv. 27–28). They shift the burden of who is to work from themselves (vv. 27–29) to Jesus (v. 30). The crowd’s questions imply a contingency: They will do God’s work only if Jesus does God’s work first and performs a sign. Continue reading

For what are you working?

John 6+crowd+feedingContinuing our look into the gospel for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time….

 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 on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” 28 So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” Continue reading