Exegesis of the Gospel: John 6: 41-51
The bread of life discourse continues on in this week's Gospel. The misunderstanding on the part of those who reject Jesus plays a central part in what Jesus has to say. The dynamic is typical Johannine. A misunderstanding is used to allow Jesus to move his hearers below the literal surface of the issue at hand. Not everyone can make that move. The issue is the meaning of Jesus as the bread of life.
1) Murmuring. Jesus has declared that he is the bread of life that came down from heaven. This is in contrast to the manna that also came down from heaven (Ex 16). However, Jesus surpasses the manna. A misunderstanding develops as those who reject Jesus, referred to as Jews, cannot get below the surface of what Jesus has said. He cannot have come down from heaven because everyone knows where he lived and who his mother and father were. He came from “down the street” and not “down from heaven.” The point is that Jesus, not the manna is God's life-giving gift to the world.
2) The Father's initiative. Jesus continues on by indicating that it is God's initiative which draws people to Jesus who promises them resurrection on the last day. Relying on the foundation of the prophets Jesus proclaims that teaching, hearing, and learning have been employed by God to unfold the relationship between Jesus and God. But the crowd cannot grasp what Jesus is saying.
3) Whoever believes has eternal life. Jesus employs the “amen, amen” device to indicate that an important emphasis is about to be made. The emphasis is: “Whoever believes has eternal life.” In this case the belief is focused on Jesus being the bread of life. This same point was made with the Samaritan women regarding living water welling up to eternal life (Jn 4:15). While the manna provided nourishment for physical well-being it had no power to prevent death. Those who eat the real bread that comes down from heaven will not die. Again Jesus emphasized his identity as that living bread. Now he pushes even further. Jesus declares that this bread is his “flesh for the life of the world.” While this is not yet a full blown development of the Eucharist, it is moving quickly in that direction.