35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39And 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 on the last day. 40This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.” 41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” 52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
Jesus is teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. There are ruins of a synagogue from the fifth century in Capernaum today, but that synagogue was built over the foundations of a first century synagogue – so, when I stood there on the stone flagging of those ruins, I knew that I was standing in the very place where Jesus taught. (Photo attached)
The author of the gospel of John does not include the institution of Communion at the Last Supper, but uses Jesus’ teaching about the bread of life as the institution of Holy Communion. “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.” and “The one who eats this bread will live forever.”
Once again, Jesus speaks figuratively, and the people take him literally. The people (crowd) are incensed! This is a man they know – how can he say he has come from heaven, from the Father? And what is he talking about when he says they should eat his flesh? Are they to become cannibals? They do not understand as Jesus speaks of the nourishment of the Spirit with the bread of grace.
“No one comes to me unless drawn by the Father” – this is grace, and all humankind receives it, “and they shall all be taught by God.” Jesus gives his body – on the cross – quite literally, and from that gift we receive the bread of life, spiritually and wholly. We eat his flesh and drink his blood spiritually, when we accept Holy Communion, and the grace we receive from his gift affects our entire being, now and into eternity.