John 6

The Word Made Fresh

1After this, Jesus went to the other side of the Sea Galilee (which is also known as the Sea of Tiberias). 2A large crowd was always following him because they saw the things he was doing for those who were ill. 3Then Jesus went up into the mountains and sat down with his disciples. 4The Jewish Passover festival was near. 5Jesus looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him. He said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread for all these people to eat?” 6He said this to test him; he already knew what he was going to do.

7Philip answered, “Two hundred days’ wages couldn’t buy enough food for them all.”

8Then another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, 9“There is a lad here who has five loaves of barley bread and two fish, but what is that for all these people?”

10Jesus said, “Tell the people to sit.” They were in a grassy place, so they sat down. There were about five thousand of them. 11Then Jesus took the loaves of bread, gave thanks, and shared them with all those who were seated. They also were given the fish, and all received as much as they wanted.

12When they had eaten, he told his disciples to gather up what was left so that nothing would be lost. 13They gathered twelve baskets full of the barley loaves the people had left after they had eaten. 14When they saw this, they began to say, “Surely, this is the prophet who is to come into the world.”

15Jesus realized they were about to take him by force and make him their king, and he slipped away alone to the mountain.

16When it was evening, his disciples went down to the seashore. 17They got into a boat and started across to Capernaum. Jesus had not yet returned, and it had gotten dark. 18A strong wind was blowing and the sea was rough. 19When they had rowed several miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming toward them, and they were frightened. 20But he called out, “It is I – don’t be afraid!” 21Then they wanted to take him aboard, and the boat immediately arrived at the land toward which they were headed.

22The next day the crowd they had left on the other side of the lake saw that there had only been one boat there, and that Jesus had not gotten into the boat with his disciples, but they had gone away without him. 23Some boats from Tiberius came near the place where the Lord had given thanks over the bread they had eaten. 24When they realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats themselves and went to Capernaum to look for Jesus.

25When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”

26Jesus said, “The truth is that you are looking for me because you ate your fill of the bread, not because you saw miracles. 27Don’t strive for the kind of food that will spoil, but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. It is to him that the Father’s seal has been given.”

28Then they asked, “What must we do to be able to perform God’s works?”

29Jesus answered, “It is the work of God for you to believe in the one God has sent.”

30They said, “What kind of sign will you give us, so that we can see it and believe you? What works can you perform? 31Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, as it is written, ‘God gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32Then Jesus told them, “The truth is that Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven. But my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33The bread of God comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34They said, “Sir, give us this bread always!”

35Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger again and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty again. 36But I told you that even though you have seen me, you still don’t believe.37Everything the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never send away, 38because I have come down from heaven not to do what I wish, but to do the will of the One who sent me. 39And the will of the One who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that has been given to me; it will all be revealed on the last day. 40This is what my Father wants – that all who see the Son and believe in him will have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

41The Jews began to complain about him because he had said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They thought, “Isn’t this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he say that he has come down from heaven?”

43Jesus told them, “Don’t argue with one another. 44No one can come to me unless invited by the Father who sent me, and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45The prophets have written, ‘They shall be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard from and learned from the Father comes to me. 46No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God. He has seen the Father. 47I tell you truthfully, whoever believes will have eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, but they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so if you eat it you will not die. 51I am the living bread come down from heaven, and whoever eats of this bread will live forever. The bread I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52The Jews began to argue among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53Jesus told them, “The truth is that unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, there is no life in you. 54But those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have life eternal, and I will raise them up on the last day. 55My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56And those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me and I in them. 57Just as the Father who lives sent me, and I live because of the Father, whoever eats of me will live because of me. 58This is the bread from heaven. It is not like the bread your ancestors ate; they died. But whoever eats this bread will live forever.” 59He spoke these words while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

60When his disciples heard it, many of them said, “This is a difficult lesson. Who can accept it?”

61Jesus was aware of their complaint, and said to them, “Are you offended by this? 62Then what if you see the Son of Man rising to where he was before? 63The spirit gives life; the flesh is of no account. The words I’ve spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some among you who don’t believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning which of them did not believe, and which one would betray him. 65So he said, “This is the reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless the Father allows it.”

66After this, many of his followers turned back and no longer accompanied him. 67So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to leave?”

68Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom could we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe, and we know that you are the Holy One of God.”

70Jesus answered, “I chose the twelve of you, didn’t I? But one of you is a devil.” 71He was referring to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. He was one of the twelve, but he would betray Jesus.


1-15: All four gospels tell stories of Jesus feeding a huge crowd with scant fare. John’s account is different only in the details, but the similarities are remarkable. Compare this paragraph with Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, and Luke 9:12-17. John differs mostly in his mention of the young lad, and the concluding verse that has the crowd clamoring to crown him king. We note that the crowd’s reaction is exactly the opposite from that of the Jewish leaders (5:18).

16-21: The incident of Jesus walking on the water is recorded in three of the four gospels (Matthew 14:22-27, Mark 6:47-52 and here at John 6:16-21). Matthew includes the bit about Peter trying to duplicate the feat, otherwise they are remarkably alike.

22-24: In John’s gospel we get the impression that much of Jesus’ time in Galilee was spent trying to find some peace and quiet!

25-34: The crowds find Jesus in Capernaum. Jesus tells them they have followed him because he fed them, but that they should instead be expending their energy to obtain eternal life — there’s that theme again! There is some discussion and misunderstanding among the crowd about what he means by the bread from heaven. In John’s gospel, Jesus is presented as speaking in these riddles, and is seldom clear about anything. You may have noticed that there are no parables in John’s gospel.

35-40: When they say, “Give us this bread always,” Jesus responds with one of the “I am” sayings so distinctive in John’s gospel. Actually, John has been playing with identity statements from the very first chapter. First, there were the “I am not” statements of John the baptizer: “I am not the Messiah” (1:20); “I am not Elijah” (1:21); “I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal” (1:27); “I am not the Messiah” (3:28). Jesus, however, said to the woman at the well, “I am he” (4:26) when she spoke of the Messiah. Here he identifies himself as “the bread of life.” He has fed them with bread (and fish), a miracle that has drawn them to him. Taking that miracle as a starting point he begins to teach them that he himself is the “bread of life,” and that all who believe in him “may have eternal life,” sounding again what is perhaps the major theme of the gospel. The phrase “eternal life” occurs three times in Matthew, twice in Mark, three times in Luke, and 17 times in John!

41-51: The crowd is turned off, not by his claiming to be the bread of life, but by his claim to have come down from heaven. Jesus tells them again that he has been sent by the Father. He introduces the imagery of the manna in the wilderness that was sent down by God, and declares that partaking of that manna only provided temporary nourishment, but that partaking of him (learning from and believing in him) will result in eternal life. When he says, “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” we understand that he is speaking of the crucifixion and using the imagery of bread to represent his body.

52-59: The “Jews” enter the picture, and being literalists, they cannot hear Jesus allegorically. A literal interpretation of his words leads them to the conclusion that he is talking about cannibalism. Jesus responds by enhancing the imagery of bread=flesh and making it sound even more repulsive by adding blood to the mix. We, of course, read the words and immediately see a reference to Holy Communion.

60-65: His disciples aren’t sure what to make of this language. Jesus explains that he is using the words “flesh” and “blood” to refer to “spirit” and “life.” Some of them, however, do not believe, including the one who will betray him, and we know who that will be.

66-71: Jesus has gathered a large following, but now many of them, turned off by his talk of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, abandon him. In the other gospels Jesus handpicks the twelve, but in John the twelve are all that remain after he talks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. In other words, “The Twelve” are not who he picks, but rather those who stick around. Actually, John’s gospel only refers to “the twelve” four times, and three of them are in this paragraph which speaks of the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. It is interesting that the only other occurrence of the term in reference to the disciples is the post-resurrection appearance in which Thomas’ doubt is confronted. It is as if the term “the twelve” is John’s way of identifying those who only tentatively believe in Jesus.


Following Jesus means surrendering ourselves to his control. It is difficult – nearly impossible truly – to do it completely, but total surrender is the goal of every true believer.