25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?"
26 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.
27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal."
28 Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?"
29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
30 So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform?
31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
32 Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.
33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world."
34 They said to him, "Lord, give us this bread always."
35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out.
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me;
39 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day.
40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven."
42 They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?"
43 Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves.
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.
46 Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father.
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"
53 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;
54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.
58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."
59 This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Caper'na-um.
60 Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?"
61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this?
62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before?
63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
64 But there are some of you that do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him.
65 And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.
67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"
68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;
69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."
70 Jesus answered them, "Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?"
71 He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.
Verses 26 and 63 frame the whole discourse with the crowd. The reason they do not believe the great teaching he is about to reveal is that their vision is too earthly: ``Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.'' (Philippians 3:18,19). In the words of St. Paul:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5)The crowd cannot see the divinity of Jesus because they are impure and seek their own gratification: ``Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'' (Matthew 5:8). In verse 40, he tells us that we must see the Son of man and have faith in him in order to gain eternal life. How is it that we modern-day disciples can see Jesus? Only through a pure act of faith: 'Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe' (Jn 20:29).
In verses 45-46, he as much as says that his authority is divine, as if to remind the crowd that though the teaching is difficult, the authority of the one who reveals it admits of no doubt. In verse 47 he says solemnly ``he who believes has eternal life''. But believes what? What is the content of this belief? It can only be the teaching that follows in verses 48-51: ``I am the bread of life.... if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.''
Notice that the crowds clearly understand him to say that to live they must eat his flesh (v. 52), and, although they understand him in a carnal way (not seeing that his flesh will be veiled under the appearance of bread and wine), they grasp the basic truth of his words. The proof is that he does not try to correct them as if they had misunderstood, but rather reiterates and amplifies what they have understood from his saying in verse 51. Notice with what solemnity (``Truly, truly...'') and how many times he reaffirms this teaching (vv. 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, and 58). Each of these verses is a categorical affirmation of the crowd's understanding of his words. There is no indication that Jesus is speaking figuratively here; we must humbly accept the words of our Lord, even though if it require a great leap of faith. We must not allow our predispositions or traditions or even the purely empirical knowledge of our own senses to restrict our full recognition of the truth given from the mouth of God made Man: ``Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.'' (John 20:29) We must humbly ask God for the faith to believe in this truth beyond all expectation, tradition and sense. ``Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.'' (Mark 10:16)
Some interpret verse 63 to mean that the flesh about which Jesus has just been speaking does not contribute to salvation. The problem with this interpretation is that it denies the role of the Incarnation in our salvation: if Jesus' flesh is not beneficial to our salvation, why did he become a man and sacrifice himself? The correct interpretation is, as we have already noted, that `flesh' refers to the senses and the mind enslaved to the senses. Jesus is saying, `Don't judge by your senses; judge by the Spirit: have faith in me!' Besides, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out, Jesus gives us in the Holy Eucharist not just his body, but also his blood, soul, and divinity; Jesus died only once and these can never be separated from his body again.
Significantly, St. John has told us that the events of the previous episode take place just under a year before Jesus institutes the Sacrament of his Love at the Last Supper: "Now, the Passover, the Feast of the Jews, was at hand." (verse 4, not shown above). The present episode occurs on the Passover, a year before Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
Verse 66 tells us that many of Jesus' disciples (not just an stray crowd, but his disciples) withdrew from following him because they understood his words literally and took offense. If Jesus had intended his words symbolically, he would have been morally obliged to clarify them for his misunderstanding disciples. But he does not do so.
Finally, notice that this is the first time St. John mentions that Judas is going to betray Jesus (v. 71), that it immediately follows many of Jesus's disciples falling away from him due to the apparent enormity of the idea of eating his flesh and drinking his blood (v. 60). In verse 64, St. John makes the connection between betrayal of Jesus and unbelief in what he has just taught. Here we learn that it was Judas' failure to believe the Lord in preference to sense evidence that started him on the road to perdition.