In this gospel passage, Jesus presents himself as the bread to attain eternal life. Even before he established the Holy Eucharist at the last supper, he predicted the offering of his body and blood for the forgiveness of our original sin. Jesus contrasted his life-giving bread from heaven to the bread that God gave to the ancestors when they wandered in the desert for 40 years. Those who ate manna in the desert could survive temporarily and then they died. Manna did not guarantee them eternal life because it was for their physical survival. The body of Jesus gives us eternal life because he assures to raise us after our death. Jesus ensured his communion with us when we receive his body and blood. Let us remain faithful to Jesus and his church so we continue to receive the Holy Eucharist during the Holy Mass and thus enjoy the privileges that Jesus offers.
BIBLE TEXT(JOHN 6:47-59)
(John 6:47) 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.” (52) The Jews quarreled 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 eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. (55) For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. (56) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (57) Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. (58) This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (59) These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Jesus fed a multitude of 5,000 men and an equivalent number of women and children with the miraculous multiplication of five loaves of barley bread and two fish. Because of this, people considered Jesus as a prophet and wanted to make him king. However, he withdrew from there (Jn 6:1-15). The same crowd sought and found Jesus on the next day. He told them: “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because of the signs you saw, but because you ate bread to your satisfaction. You must work, not for perishable food, but for the lasting food which gives eternal life. This is the food that the Son of Man will give you, for the Father’s seal has been put on him” (Jn 6: 26-27). Thus, Jesus introduced his body and blood for our spiritual nourishment, comparing it with the physical food that he served through the multiplication of the bread, and the manna that God gave the Israelites during their 40-year wanderings in the desert.
(John 6:47) Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.
Amen means acceptance or affirmation. The Israelites used it at the end of a prayer, blessing, curse, or a statement expressing their endorsement of what was said. For example, when Ezra opened the scroll and blessed the LORD, all the people raised their hands high and pronounced, “Amen, amen!” (Nehemiah 8:5-6). In Deuteronomy 27:14-26 the Israelites were asked to answer “amen” to the 12 curses pronounced by the Levites at Mount Ebal. By that, they accepted the courses that would fall on them if they would violate the laws that God gave them through Moses.
Since amen stands for truth, Bible uses it as a title of God such as “The God of Amen” or God of Truth (Isaiah 65:16). Revelation 3:14 presents Jesus as: “The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God’s creation.” St. John concludes the Holy Bible with “Amen” (Rev. 22:20-21).
Jesus used the Hebrew word, “Amen” at the beginning of a statement, or even twice as “Amen, Amen, I say to you” (John 3:3). The meaning is “truly, truly, I say to you” or “I solemnly tell you the truth.” By these words, Jesus affirmed the truthfulness of what he was about to say. In John’s gospel, Jesus used this doubled “Amen, amen” 25 times, followed by important messages. Repetition of the word “amen” or “truly” emphasized authenticity of the truth compared to ordinary statements. Jesus was the only one who knew all the truth because he came down from heaven and he was one with the Father. He is the “Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).
I say to you
Unlike the scribes and the prophets of the pre-Christian era, Jesus was speaking with authority, amazing his listeners (Mt 9:8). Jesus, the Son of God, has the authority to teach by himself rather than quoting from another. Whatever he taught was also from the Father, because he said, “What I say, I say as the Father told me” (Jn 10:50). “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30). As disciples of Jesus, we also must be one with Jesus and must teach what we learn from him.
whoever believes has eternal life.
Jesus emphasized what he had said before, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day” (Jn 6:4). So, faith in the Son of God is the condition to attain everlasting life. Faith in Jesus involves accepting him as the Messiah, listen to his teachings, and put that into practice following him as a role model. Jesus summarized the Law and prophets, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37-39). Jesus expressed this in his life through his fidelity to the Father and his service and self-sacrifice for humanity.
The epistle of James gives us an example of how we should express our faith in action. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
At Jesus’ second coming in glory to judge the living and dead, the criteria for reward or punishment are based on our faith in action. To the righteous he will say, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (Mt 25:35-36). “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt 25:34). Are we living in such a way as to hear such blessed words from Jesus Christ?
(48) I am the bread of life.
“I am” is God’s name that He revealed to Moses when he asked for God’s name at Mount Sinai (Ex 3:13-14). John the Evangelist presents Jesus, the “I am” incarnate, using the same name seven times clarifying who “I am” is.
All the above seven attributes give a glimpse of who Jesus is for us. Here we are focusing on the first of the above, “I am the living bread.”
the bread of life
The bread is necessary for us to sustain our lives. However, we have souls that also need nourishment. Jesus came down from heaven as a spiritual bread to nourish the souls. We cannot attain eternal glory without this life-giving bread.
People make bread from plants or trees using their leaves, stems, roots, seeds, or nuts and also consume their fruits. We also cook fish and meat of animals or birds. The food production involves a partial or full sacrifice of the life of plants, animals, or birds. Likewise, our spiritual food requires the sacrifice and death of Jesus. By his self-sacrifice, Jesus became our living and life-giving bread for our souls.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That bread is not just the physical bread that we make, or buy from market, but also the supernatural bread, the Holy Eucharist. God fed Israelites with manna daily in the desert for 40 years for their physical survival until they reached the Promised Land. Jesus is nourishing Christians with another supernatural bread, his body and blood, until we reach heaven, which is the perfect Promised Land.
(49) Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
Jesus reminded the providence of God in the history of Israel during the 40 years of wandering in the desert before their entry into the promised land. If God had not provided that food, called manna, the whole Israelites would have perished in the desert. Though manna saved their lives, it was only a temporary rescue because all the ancestors died afterwards. Jesus presented this to contrast it with another par excellent food Jesus would provide to save us from sinful death and gain us eternal life.
Why Jesus used “your ancestors” rather than our ancestors? Though Jesus shares the same ancestry for his human origin, he is different because he also has a divine origin as the Son of God. While the crowd was talking about the earthly food, Jesus was dealing with the heavenly bread. So, he distinguished between him and the people who questioned him, referring to the ancestors as theirs (Jn 6:31).
(50) this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.
Jesus pointed to himself as the bread from heaven. Unlike the bread that God sent from heaven in the desert, this one will preserve life for eternity.
(51) I am the living bread which has come down from heaven; whoever eats of this bread will live forever. The bread I shall give is my own flesh and I will give it for the life of the world.
I am the living bread
No human can be bread for others to consume. But Jesus offers himself to us as bread for our spiritual nourishment. Unlike ordinary bread, this has life in it.
Bread that came down from heaven
The listeners of Jesus knew the bread from heaven, the manna God supplied daily from above for 40 years in the desert. God told Moses: “Now I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you” (Ex 16:4). “In the evening quails came up and covered the camp. And in the morning, all the place around the camp was wet with dew. When the dew lifted, there was on the surface of the desert a thin crust like hoarfrost. The people of Israel on seeing it said to one another, ‘What is it?’ for they did not know what it was. Moses told them, ‘It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat’” (Ex 16:13-15).
Jesus is the new bread that came down from heaven to sustain our spiritual life, and he continues nourishing us with the Holy Eucharist, which is his own body and blood. As per God’s instruction, Moses asked Aaron to put a full omer (measure) of manna in a jar and place it in front of the Lord’s covenant in the tabernacle (Ex 16:33-34). Thus, the Israelites kept manna in a jar close to the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies. In its place, we keep the new manna, the Holy Eucharist, in a tabernacle in the church sanctuary.
Whoever eats this bread will live forever
Eternal life requires consuming the living bread, which is the body and the blood of Jesus. The physical food can keep our life only until death. Whereas the bread that Jesus gives is for the nourishment of our eternal soul. The following verses emphasize this.
The bread I shall give is my own flesh and I will give it for the life of the world
Jesus fulfilled his promise of giving his flesh as bread and blood as drink for us at the last supper, followed by his sacrifice on the cross. “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’” (1 Cor 11:23-25). The next day, Jesus physically did his one and only sacrifice (Heb 10:14) where he let his enemies rip his flesh and shed his blood. That was for the remission of the original sin and for our sanctification. Thus, God fulfilled his promise of a Saviour made to Adam and the chosen people of his descendants. This sacrifice was to regain eternal life for all people who will accept Jesus’ call. “He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
(52) The Jews started arguing among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
The Jews, who could not understand what Jesus meant, argued, asking how he could give his flesh to eat while he was alive. It was beyond human reasoning. The Jewish groups differed in their opinions on what Jesus said. That led them to quarrel among themselves. Eating the flesh of a human or of any live creature was unlawful for Jews. Some might have taken it in a literal and others in a metaphorical sense. But they got confused about what Jesus meant by this strange statement.
(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”
Amen, amen, I say to you
Here again, Jesus uses amen twice to affirm the truth of what he was about to say. He repeats, “I say to you” to declare his authoritative teaching. Since he came from the Father, and no other humans know the truth, only he could officially teach the truth.
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
While the Jews were disputing on what Jesus meant by eating his flesh, he emphasized his statement using “amen, amen” and “unless you eat.” This reminds us of the first Passover meal that the Israelites ate in Egypt. During that Passover, they slaughtered a lamb, collected its blood in a basin, and applied the blood to the lintel and two doorposts using a bunch of hyssops (Ex 12:22). Though they did not drink the blood of the Passover lamb, they ate the meat of the Lamb. When the Israelites obeyed God by slaughtering the lamb, applied the blood to mark their doorposts, and ate its meat, God saved their first born from death and liberated all of them from the Egyptian slavery. Jesus came as the new lamb of God for slaughter to save all who believe in him and obey his commands. So, eating his body is the new Passover for our liberation from the bondage of sin and Satan.
When the Jews brought animals for communion sacrifice in the Tabernacle, and later in the Temple, only a portion of the animals were burned. “Those who perform the temple services eat [what] belongs to the temple, and those who minister at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?” (1 Cor 9:13). The worshippers ate the rest at the temple premises with devotion. Since they ate the flesh God had accepted and blessed, they leave the Temple as God-filled. Jesus presented a similar concept, except that instead of animals, he was the sacrificial lamb.
The Jews celebrated Passover like the communion sacrifice. After the offering the Passover lamb in the Temple, they ate the roasted meat of the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Ex 12:8). Jesus is the new Passover lamb and Holy Qurbana (Mass) is our Passover celebration where we join the sacrifice of Jesus and consume his body, the Holy Eucharist. That heavenly meal is necessary for our spiritual life and nourishment for our heavenly journey.
The flesh of the Son of Man
The Bible uses the “Son of man” and “Son of God” only for Jesus. Since Jesus is God and man, both apply for him. The difference is that the Son of Man refers to his humanity. Jesus uses it here because he was referring to eating his flesh that is part of his human entity.
Drink his blood
From creation until the Great Flood, humans and animals were vegetarians (Gen 1:29-30). God changed the rule after the flood, allowing people to eat meat and vegetables (Gen 9:3). However, God restricted them, saying, “Only flesh with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat” (Gen 9:4). God told the Israelites, “For the blood of every creature contains its life and, therefore, I have said to the people of Israel: You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of all creatures is within its blood; whoever eats it shall be ostracized” (Lev 17:14). Priests offered the blood of the sacrificed animals to God in the Temple as a ransom for the lives of Israelites.
Since Torah prohibited the consumption of blood, the Israelites felt it scandalous when Jesus asked them to drink his blood. But Jesus had a different concept when he offered his blood to drink. Through his precious blood, Jesus offers his life to the humans. So, when we drink the blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, he makes his dwelling within us as the temple of God.
During the first Passover in Egypt, the Israelites applied the blood of the Passover lamb to the lintel and two doorposts (Ex 12:22). In the New Testament, Jesus applied his blood on the cross, which is the door or ladder to heaven.
Israelites used blood to make a covenant. At Mount Sinai, when God made a covenant with the Israelites, “Moses then took the blood and sprinkled it on the people saying, ‘Here is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Ex 24:8). At the Last Supper, Jesus took the cup and said, “Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:27-28). So, when we partake in the cup of Jesus during the Holy Mass, we are renewing our covenant with him.
… You do not have life within you
In the positive sense, when we eat the body of Jesus and drink his blood, we will have life within us. This life is the regaining of the spiritual life lost because of the original sin. If we refuse to take part in this new Passover meal and abandon our faith, we will miss the eternal glory that Jesus has gained for us.
(54) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.
Jesus noticed people’s lack of conviction about what he taught, and he observed the conflict among them. So, he kept repeating and confirming what he had said before. From a prior negative statement, he switched to his promise of eternal life to those who eat his flesh and drink his blood.
I will raise him on the last day.
Jesus expands his previous statement, assuring those who eat his body and drink his blood that he will raise them from the graves on the last day when he returns from heaven in glory to judge the living and the dead. That assures hope of life after death.
(55) For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Jesus answers to the question of Jews, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So, he asserts that his flesh is true food and blood true drink. Since this teaching was before the institution of the Holy Eucharist, even the disciples could not grasp it. Hence, after hearing this incomprehensible teaching, most of them dropped his discipleship, and no longer accompanied him (Jn 6:66).
(56) Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
When we eat the meat of animal, we do not identify with the animal. Whereas Jesus says if we eat his flesh and drink his blood, he will abide in us, and we will be in communion with him. When we consume his flesh and blood in the Eucharistic meal, our soul will fuse with Jesus’s spiritual presence. The Catholic Church teaches, “the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us” (CCC-1382).
Jesus taught the necessity of this communion with him. “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4-5). Besides, “Whoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God” (1 John 4:15). Again, “Those who keep his commandments remain in him, and he in them, and the way we know that he remains in us is from the Spirit that he gave us” (1 John 3:24).
(57) Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.
Just as the living Father sent me
While the pagan gods are creation like the sun and moon, or a natural phenomenon like fire and lightning, or lifeless statues, the God of Israel is an ever ling God. God revealed to Moses that he is a God of those who live even after death. “I am the God of your father, he continued, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:6). God revealed his name to Moses, “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14). This is an assertion of God’s self-existence. Jeremiah proclaimed, “The LORD is truly God, he is the living God, the eternal King” (Jer 10:10). Simon Peter confessed his faith in Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).
Just as the living Father sent me
Jesus came down from heaven because his Father sent him to the earth with a mission. “I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (Jn 6:38). “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17). So, the living Father sent His Son to regain eternal life for those who believe in him. Without him, we cannot regain this because we are born in original sin. “Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents” (CCC-390).
I have life because of the Father
While confirming the life in the Father, Jesus revealed the same life he shares with the Father. “For just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave to his Son the possession of life in himself” (Jn 5:26).
so also the one who feeds on me
After instituting the Holy Eucharist, Jesus commanded to do it in remembrance of him (1 Cor 11:24-25). Therefore, the church continues this every day. During the (Qurbana) Holy Mass, Jesus feeds us with the sharing of the Word of God in the Liturgy of the Word and with his precious body and blood at the communion service. “By this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body” (CCC-1331).
will have life because of me.
Though Jesus departed from the world as a human, he lives and provides eternal life for his believers. At his farewell speech, Jesus told his apostles, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you” (Jn 14:19-20). So, the life we gain is a communion with Jesus and his Father.
(58) “This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”
The ancestors of Jews ate manna that God provided from heaven. “Then the LORD said to Moses: I am going to rain down bread from heaven for you” (Ex 16:4).
The Bible speaks of three heavens that are to be distinguished from the context.
The quail and manna came by God’s intervention from the firmament (the first heaven) through the nature. “In the evening, quail came up and covered the camp. In the morning there was a layer of dew all about the camp, and when the layer of dew evaporated, fine flakes were on the surface of the wilderness, fine flakes like hoarfrost on the ground” (Ex 16:13-14). Jesus made a distinction of that food from heaven (firmament) with him, that is the bread that came from “the third heaven.” “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. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:32-33).
The bread that God gave to the ancestors in the desert was from the firmament for physical hunger. Jesus, from the heaven of heavens, is the bread that nourishes our souls and gives eternal life. Those who ate the quail and manna died. Though we, who consume the body and blood of Jesus, will die, God will raise us to inherit the eternal glory in heaven. Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live” (Jn 11:25).
(59) These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
The evangelist contextualizes the discourse by stating that it was held in the synagogue in Capernaum. So, it was a public teaching for all Jesus’ listeners, including his disciples. There were other instances where Jesus spoke only to his disciples.
Jesus made Capernaum as the center of his public ministry because it had some favorable conditions for him.
Jesus used to teach in the synagogues first (Jn 18:20), because he could pray there as well as address the Jews in the village who came for public worship. He also read and interpreted the scripture in the synagogues (Lk 4:16-21). He also taught on the Temple premises. When the crowd that came to see Jesus increased and objections from the Jewish elites increased, he moved to public places like the lake shore or mountain.