The first verse of today’s text, which contains the question that the “Jews” ask, is occasioned by the statement that Jesus makes in the previous verse. The agitation in their hearts is because Jesus has identified himself with the bread of life. Jesus replaces the manna that their ancestors ate.
Jesus addresses this protest in the verses that follow. The bread that is to be eaten is the flesh and blood of the Son of Man. Refusal to do this means death or non-life. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood results in life and resurrection on the last day. By not mentioning bread and wine and thus, not equating them with the flesh and blood of Jesus, John focuses on the corporeal and not only on the sacramental representations. He also wants to stress that Jesus gives his whole life to all who are willing to receive him. The flesh that Jesus gives is life giving and so is his blood. It is real food and drink that will end all hunger and thirst.
Eating of the flesh and blood of Jesus leads to a mutual indwelling. The one who eats and drinks abides in Jesus and Jesus abides in that person. This relationship is an extension of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Just as Jesus lives the Father’s life, so all who eat and drink will live Jesus’ life. The penultimate verse concludes the Bread of Life Discourse and repeats a theme that has been prevalent throughout. The bread which Jesus gives has indeed come from heaven and will give life forever and give it permanently, unlike the manna which could offer only temporary life.
The reference to the synagogue in Capernaum is to highlight the difference between Jesus’ teaching and that of the Jewish teachers and the difference between the manna eaten by their forefathers and the Bread of Life that Jesus gives.
It is not always easy to accept ideas which challenge our old way of thinking. Often our first reaction is rejection of that idea. We refuse to think outside the box, and are content with stereotypes with which we are comfortable. We are comfortable with them because they do not threaten us or call on us to change. We prefer that our boats not be rocked. However, Jesus continues to rock the boat and challenge our ways of thinking and being. He continues to wake us from our stupor and keeps inviting us to see more and be more.