Exegesis of the Gospel: John 6:60-69
This week's Gospel focuses on the responses of different people in the Johannine community to what Jesus presented in his bread of life discourse. Overall the people were not impressed. Their responses include grumbling, disbelief, rejection, and betrayal. The Twelve, however, in the name of Peter make a confession of faith to Jesus and remain committed to following him.
1) Who can accept this? The difficulty most people had with Jesus' bread of life discourse was the high Christology unfolded in John 6:35–50. They could not grasp the intimate relationship Jesus claimed to have with the Father expressed in such language as, “I am the bread of life which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” The grumblers found this to be a hard saying. They cannot move beyond the surface meaning of what Jesus says.
2) Spirit and flesh. Jesus is not surprised by the negative responses to his presentation. Nevertheless, he does not back away from the points he has made. He challenges the people even further. Jesus declares that the words he has spoken to the people are spirit and life. The spirit embraces the supernatural while the flesh is limited to the natural. Those who have rejected Jesus never get beyond the natural (flesh). He knows who these people are and he even knows the person who will betray him into the hands of his opponents. Only those who are called by the Father will be able to understand and follow Jesus.
3) All of what Jesus says to the people is not convincing. He refuses to dumb down the message in order to get at most a superficial acceptance from the people. Even his disciples cease following him and return to their former ways of life. A hopeful moment happens when Jesus point-blank asks his handpicked 12 disciples if they also want to leave him. Peter speaks for the entire group. He responds with the words, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” They have faith in what Jesus has said even though they do not have a full understanding. They believe that he is the Holy One of God. The Twelve have been able to get below the surface of Jesus' words. They have been able to do this through faith in who Jesus is. He has the words of eternal life.