BREAD OF LIFE DISCOURSE (The Fourth Cup & Lamb of God)
Now at this point, Jesus is feeding the people. Well, let me tell you, times were tough back then, and anybody who’s feeding crowds of people bread and fish, without them having to work for it, you can bet he had a lot of friends. There were a lot of people hanging around, just following Him around. So, Jesus tells the crowd that they’re just looking for food. Jesus says to them, "Amen, Amen." Now when Jesus begins a sentence with “Amen, Amen,” keep in mind, He is using a word that we would normally finish a prayer with, or a sentence. He’s saying this is very significant. What I’m telling you is very important. Now some translations of the Bible may have, ‘Truly, truly,’ or ‘Verily, verily.’ So, “Jesus answered them and said, "Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” (John 6:26) So He accuses them of just hanging around because they got their bellies full. And He tells them, “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." (John 6:27) Jesus does give them this food at the Last Supper, but not right now. So they say to Jesus, "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?” (John 6:30) And they say to Him, “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” (John 6:31) Now when they say, “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert,” we normally don’t connect the feeding of the 5000 and the feeding of the 4000 with the bread that the Israelites ate in the desert. But the Jews that are talking to Jesus look at Him and say You did a bread miracle, Moses did a bread miracle. We can see that the Jews understand what just happened when they say, “Our ancestors ate manna in the desert”. (John 6:31) We can see that they clearly connect the two bread miracles. Then they turn to Jesus and ask Him to do a miracle and He says 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. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven.” Now, underline, “comes down from heaven” or circle it. “For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. So they said to him, 'Sir, give us this bread always.’ 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.” (John 6:32-35) So Jesus tells them, “For the bread of God is that which comes down from Heaven.” Do you hear the reference to the ‘manna’ in here? He is saying the manna fell from heaven; I am the true bread that comes down from Heaven and gives life to the world, like the manna.
Well the Jews murmured about Him because He said I am the bread that came down from Heaven, 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'?" (John 6:41-42) ---like the manna? What they’re saying is we don’t believe You, Jesus. We know who Your mother is; we know who Your father is. We watched You grow up. We don’t believe what You’re telling us. So Jesus says to them, ”Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 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." (John 6:47-51)
What is the bread? It’s His flesh. His flesh! Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:51) Well, “The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?" 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. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:52-56)
I think it’s important for us to realize the teaching of Moses from many years ago on drinking blood. This was the law given from God to Moses: “ And if anyone, whether of the house of Israel or of the aliens residing among them, partakes of any blood, I will set myself against that one who partakes of blood and will cut him off from among his people. Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement. That is why I have told the Israelites: No one among you, not even a resident alien, may partake of blood.” (Leviticus 17:10-12) You’ll find this in Leviticus 17, and they practiced this for many years.
Are we taught that we can drink a person’s blood? No, of course not. Even back in the time of Moses, they knew that the life was in the blood. So, the Israelites were taught that it was not good to co-mingle a person’s or an animal’s blood into your body. Now Jesus is telling them, if we comingle ourselves with His blood, we receive eternal life and He will raise us on the last day. But, they don’t accept Him as God or for who He really is. They don’t yet understand that they are being taught by God Himself! Jesus, the Son of God, is greater than Moses and able to command them to drink His blood and eat His flesh. He has the authority to require them to do this and He can change the law, but they don’t know Him yet. The Jews were taught not to drink human blood or eat human flesh. So this is why the Jews think wait a minute, we don’t want to do this. Moses taught us not to do this. So Jesus tells them, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:53) So then, “many of his disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’” (John 6:60)
”Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him.” (John 6:61-64)
Now listen to what He is saying here. Let’s make sense of this. The Jews were murmuring about Him, about eating His flesh and about drinking His blood. And He is telling them, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:51) “Does this shock you?” (John 6:61) He’s saying does this shock you that I came down from heaven. He knows they don’t believe Him, so He says, “What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (John 6:62) What He’s saying is: you don’t believe I came down from Heaven? I’ll prove it to you! I’ll go back up. What if you see Me go back up? Will you believe Me then? What if you see Me ascend? And does He ascend? Yes! After the resurrection He goes to Bethany and several people watch Him ascend into Heaven into a cloud, and they’re just standing there waiting and an angel tells them go on, go back to Jerusalem. And they witnessed this. I imagine these people who didn’t believe Him at first, understood what He meant and later on received Him. So Jesus is talking to them and He says, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.” (John 6:65-66) Now, this was not the original twelve. This was a group of disciples, a large group, that were going out and spreading His teachings and witnessing to people. And these people had left their families and changed their lives to follow Jesus. And when He told them they had to drink His blood and eat His flesh, they went back to their former way of life and no longer accompanied Him. They did not recognize Him as being God. So Jesus says to them hey guys, wait, don’t leave. I’m just using symbols. I was just teaching something as a metaphor. I’m a teacher. I have lofty thoughts and ideas. Don’t leave. Don’t run off. I’m going to change the way that I’m explaining this—No! Of course He doesn’t say that. He lets them all walk away. He allowed them to walk away. And “Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6:67-69) Now, Peter is asking, “To whom shall we go?” You know, we’re going to stay, but where else would we go? Peter is not real sure, but he stays by faith. And he says, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
The book of John was written in the Greek Language. And when the author recorded things down – when he said you must eat my flesh – he used the Greek word “trogo.” Now in the Greek language, many words can be used for “eat”. However, the word “trogo” was chosen; it’s a very special word because it cannot be taken symbolically. When that word was chosen - when you trogo something, you actually gnaw on it. The definition is to aggressively or loudly munching, gnawing and chewing, as an animal would eat. This cannot be taken symbolically, and the author chooses this word so that later on when people read this – it’s not a soft word – it’s meant to actually gnaw and to eat. It’s very important; it cannot to be taken symbolically.
As I was studying more on this bread of life discourse, a relative suggested that I listen to a study on the Gospel of John, by Dr. Brant Pitre. He is a professor of Scripture and Theology at Our Lady of Holy Cross College in New Orleans, Louisiana. I have also enjoyed the privilege of hearing him teach in person, and I would like to encourage you to visit his website at www.brantpitre.com. He has devoted much of his time and energy to teaching and recording CDs and DVDs that help to bring the understanding of the Bible and teachings of the Church into the privacy of your own home. His knowledge on ancient Judaism is tremendous, and his ability to bring deep Catholic theology down to my level has been a great help on my faith journey and increased my understanding of the Bible. Thank you Dr. Pitre.
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