2 May
Jn 6:30-35

The crowd said to Jesus, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus 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.”

They said, “What sign are you going to give us then?”  But he had just given them a sign! – a sign that impressed them so much that they wanted to make him king (verse 15).  How are we to understand this?

When you look at the original you notice that the verbs are in the present tense, not in the future as this and other translations have it.  So the people do not seem to be asking for another sign, but rather for the meaning of the sign he had just given: “What is this sign you are giving us…?  Explain what you are doing!”  They themselves are comparing his sign with that of Moses, who likewise produced food in the wilderness.  Some Jews saw Moses as a king, so these are suggesting that Jesus should allow them to make him king (verse 15). 

Jesus replied, “I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.”  Again the question of tenses: in this case Jesus shifts their statement about Moses from the past to the present tense.  The real provider of bread in the desert was God, and it is the same God (“my Father”) who in the present moment is providing bread for his people.  But Jesus is more than a provider of bread like Moses; he is himself the bread that the Father is providing. 

Like the Samaritan woman (chapter 4), they misinterpreted his statement, thinking he was talking about bread in the ordinary sense, just as she thought he was talking only about well-water.  Later on, when they realised he was referring to himself, and not to bread, they were rather disappointed: “They began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’" (verse 41). 

Including this instance, Jesus uses the phrase “I am…” seven times in John’s gospel: I am the bread of life (6:35); I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5); I am the gate (10:7, 9); I am the Good Shepherd (10:11, 14); I am the resurrection and the life (11:25); I am the way, the truth and the life (14:6); I am the true vine (15:1, 5).  It has an echo of God’s ‘I am’ in Exodus 3:14. Jesus himself is God’s present tense, God’s ‘I am’. 


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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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