6. Bread of Life

Jesus feeds over five thousand with five barley loaves and a few fish. When the left over fragments are picked up they fill twelve baskets (6:1-15).

After this Jesus went across over to the other side of Lake Galilee (sometimes called Lake Tiberias). A large crowd of people followed him because they had seen the miraculous power of God at work through him when he healed the sick. Jesus went up into the hill country and sat there with us, his disciples, gathered around him. (It was shortly before the Jewish Festival of Passover.)

When Jesus looked around and saw the large crowd that was gathering, he turned to Philip and asked, "Where can we buy enough food to feed all these people?" (Jesus knew what he intended to do, but he said this to test Philip.)

Philip answered, "It would take more than six months wages to buy enough food for everyone, and even then, each person would get only a little."

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to Jesus, "There is a boy here who has five loaves of barley bread and a couple of fish, but what good would that be for so many?

"Tell the people to sit down," said Jesus. There was plenty of grass there.

So the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks to God for them. Then he passed the loaves to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, until everyone had as much to eat as they wanted.

When the people had finished eating, Jesus said to us, "Now gather up the leftovers, so that nothing will go to waste." We gathered up the pieces of barley bread and filled twelve basket with what was left over from the five loaves.

When the people saw this miracle that Jesus had done, they began to say, "This must be the prophet we've been waiting for!" Jesus realized that they were about to take him by force and make him their king, so he withdrew to the hill country to be alone.

Jesus appears to his disciples walking on Lake Galilee. Although terrified at first, they want him in the boat when he tells them who is (6:16-21)

When evening came, we went down to the lake, got into a boat, and started across to Capernaum. The sun had already gone down and Jesus had not yet joined us. Soon a strong wind started to blow and the lake became very rough.

When we had rowed some three or four miles, we saw Jesus walking on the water. As he kept coming closer to the boat we became terrified. "It is I, Jesus," he said. "There's no reason to be afraid." Then we were eager to take him aboard, and in no time at all the boat reached the shore where we were headed

Lake Galilee

In a fairly lengthy discussion Jesus explains to the crowds that have followed him to Capernaum that he is the bread of life. The bread (i.e., the manna) that their ancestors had eaten in the desert did not keep them from dying but the true bread (Jesus' own life) gives eternal life to those who will eat it. Like much of Jesus' teaching in John, this is to be understood on two levels – the figures are material but the meaning is spiritual (6:22-59).


The next morning, back across the lake, the crowds discovered that Jesus was no longer with them. They knew that he had not gone with us in the one boat that was there. Fortunately, some boats from Tiberias had drifted ashore near the place where they had eaten bread after the Lord had given thanks for it. They got into these boats and went across the lake to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found us there on the other side of the lake, they asked Jesus, "Rabbi, when did you get here?

"I tell you the truth," replied Jesus, "you've been trying to find me, not because you saw the miracles I did, but because I gave you all you wanted to eat. Do not work for the food that is here today and gone tomorrow, but for the food that produces eternal life. The Son of Man will give you this food, because he is the one authorized by God the Father."

"What should we be doing," they asked, "in order to do what God requires?"

Jesus answered, "What God requires is that you believe in me, the one he has sent."

Traditional site of the Sermon on the Mount

They asked, "What miraculous sign are you going to do so that when we see it we will believe in you? What will it be? For example, our ancestors were given manna to eat in the desert. As Scripture says, 'Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

"I tell you the truth," said Jesus, "it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven; it is my Father who is giving you the true bread from heaven. The bread of God is the one who came down from heaven and gives life to the world."

The people said, "Sir, give us this bread now and never stop!"

"I am the bread of life," said Jesus. "No one who comes to me will ever be hungry. No one who believes in me will ever be thirsty. As I told you before, although you have seen me, you still do not believe. Everyone the Father has given me will come to me, and I won't reject any of them.

"I came down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of the one who sent me. His will is that not a single one of those he gave me will be lost, but that on the last day every one of them will be raised to eternal life. He wants everyone who sees the Son to believe in him and have eternal life. Then on the last day I will raise them up."

Then the crowd began to grumble because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." They asked, "But isn't this Jesus, one of Joseph's sons? Don't we know his father and mother? So how can he say that he came down from heaven?"

Northern Galilee

Jesus replied, "Stop grumbling among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father draws him. And whoever does come, I will raise to eternal life on the last day. One of the prophets wrote, 'They will all be taught by God.' So everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him will come to me.

"Of course, the only one who has seen the Father is the one who came from his presence. He alone has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, everyone who believes in me has eternal life.

"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate manna in the desert, yet in time they all died. But now the true bread has come down from heaven, and whoever eats it will never die. I am the living bread, come down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh that I give to bring life to the world."

These words led to a heated argument among the crowd. "How is it possible for this man to give us his flesh to eat?" they asked.

"I tell you the truth," said Jesus, "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have eternal life. But if you do eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have eternal life, and I will raise you up on the last day. My flesh is the real food and my blood is the real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood sustains a personal relationship with me, and I with him.

"The Father of life sent me and I have life because of him. In the same way, the one who eats my body will have life because of me. The bread that came down from heaven is not like that which your ancestors ate. They died, but whoever eats this bread will live forever."

Jesus taught all these things in the synagogue at Capernaum.

Many of Jesus' followers turn their backs on him because his teaching has offended them. Peter acknowledges that Jesus is the Holy One of God (6:60-71).

Many of his followers who had been listening said, "This teaching is offensive; who can accept it?"

Jesus knew that these people were grumbling about it, so he said, "Does this shock you? Then what would you think if you were to see me, the Son of Man, return to heaven where I came from? It is the Spirit who gives life; human nature is of no help. The words that I have spoken to you are from that life-giving Spirit. But some of you do not believe." (From the beginning Jesus knew who would not believe in him. He also knew who would betray him.)

Jesus added, "That is the reason I told you, 'No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.'"

As a result, many of Jesus' followers turned their backs on him and no longer followed him. So Jesus turned to us, his twelve disciples, and asked, "You aren't going to leave me like the others, are you?" Simon Peter answered, "Lord, to whom would we go? You are the one whose words give eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Jesus replied, "Did I not choose all twelve of you? Yet one of you is a devil." He was talking about Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Although Judas was one of the Twelve, before long he would betray Jesus.