August 22, 2009


21st Sunday - B
John 6:60-69

The Words of Jesus - do I find them shocking or life-giving?

In chapter 6 of the Gospel according to John, there are three groups of people who hear Jesus' words: the crowd, the Jews, and the disciples.

The crowd listens to Jesus mostly out of curiosity and self-interest, as Jesus observes their motivation, “you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled” (v. 26).

Then, suddenly, the crowd seems to disappear and the Jews become the main audience. They have a hard time accepting Jesus’ words. First, they think they know his origin, so they question his authority, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" (v. 42) Later, they quarrel among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (v. 52) As a result, they could not accept his teaching.

Next comes another sudden shift when the disciples of Jesus take the front stage again. [1] (They have disappeared after the crossing of the sea in verses 16-21).

Earlier, the disciples witnessed firsthand the power of Jesus’ words when he multiplied the loaves and the fish (vs. 5-13) and when he calmed their fears at the stormy sea. Most significantly, during the crossing of the sea, it was the disciples alone, and not the crowd, who had the privilege of witnessing the divine authority of Jesus as he revealed himself to them. In fact, Jesus showed his divine power over the sea just as Yahweh did in the Old Testament. Moreover, his words “It is I” (v.20) resembled God’s self-revelation to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3:14 and elsewhere.[2]

Many of these very disciples now find Jesus’ words “hard” and challenging – “who can accept it?”

To all the disciples, Jesus asks, “Does this shock you?” Some of them find his words so shocking that they leave him. Thankfully, Simon Peter and the Twelve answer him, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

Jesus might be asking me the same question today. What would be my answer?


[1] Francis J. Moloney, SDB. This is the Gospel of the Lord, Year B. Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul, 1993; p. 176.

[2] Francis J. Moloney, SDB. The Gospel of John. Sacra Pagina Series (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 203-204; and The New American Bible, footnotes on John 6:20 and Mark 6:50, available on

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