Today’s Gospel comes from near the middle of Chapter Six of the Gospel according to John. This chapter, with seventy-one verses, is the longest chapter in the New Testament. You and I, as great admirers of the Beloved Disciple’s gospel, can see how it breaks into four parts.
Part One of this Chapter Six of John’s Gospel gives us the story of Jesus feeding five thousand with five loaves.
Part Two previews Jesus coming to us at the hour of death. It told of how Jesus came walking over the stormy waves, saving the disciples who were perishing.
Today’s Gospel is Part Three of this wonderful chapter. The five thousand men, whom Jesus fed with the five loaves the day before, had been recalling how Moses had predicted that God would raise up a prophet like himself. Time had embroidered that prediction with the added feature that the new Moses would also bring down bread from heaven. So, when they caught up with Jesus, they asked him if he, like Moses, could bring down bread from heaven.
In answer, Jesus said that what Moses gave them was not real bread from heaven. He said, “I am the bread come down from heaven.”
In Part Four of this Chapter Six, Jesus would go on to speak of Holy Communion, with Jesus saying, “The bread that I will give you is my flesh for the life of the world. Unless you eat this bread you will not have life in you.”
But, we should go back to Part Three of this Gospel. There, Jesus spoke not of the Communion bread, but of his actual self and of his teaching, called them the bread of life. Just as our bodies need bread to keep alive, so our souls need Christ and his teaching as our constant nourishment.