34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
In response to Jesus’ early claims (read sections on John 6), the Galilean representatives of the hoi Iudaioi who followed Jesus to Capernaum give their response “Sir, give us this bread always.” (John 6.34) This response is reminiscent of the Samaritan woman’s earlier response to Jesus’ words; “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”(John 4.15) There are a number of other similarities between the two stories. For now we can say, that in this chapter, the Samaritan woman’s faith, having only heard Jesus’ words, is compared and contrasted with the unbelief of those who actually witnessed Jesus’ miracles. Let me demonstrate this for you. It’s exciting to see this.
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
In the book of Deuteronomy, the book from which Jesus most often quoted, we read Moses’ reasons for God’s provision of manna to Israelites:
“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deut.8.3)
It is interesting that Jesus speaks of himself being the bread of life that satisfies the ultimate hunger and thirst of human existence. He said this in response to representatives of the hoi Ioudaioi’s demand that he show them a sign. Just like Moses before him, he proved that he could be trusted. “Moses gave manna,” they argued. “What do you give?”
What is striking, however, is that we remember Jesus said almost exactly the same words he had previously said to the Samaritan woman. Let’s compare it.
Jesus to the hoi Ioudaioi – “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6.35)
Jesus to the Samaritan woman – “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4.13-14)”
36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.
As was previously noted, John wants the hearer and the reader of his Gospel to make a thematic connection between this encounter and Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. (Remember John’s likely audience.) The literary similarities that John highlights are also meant to bring out significant differences between the two responses. Let us briefly consider this:
The response of hoi Iudaioi – “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.” (John 6.36)
The response of Samaritan woman and the Samaritan villagers – “So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, ‘Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?’ They went out of the town and were coming to him.” (John 4.28-30)
To summarize this unexpected connection and comparison: the hoi Iudaioi (Jewish Israelites) who saw the miracles were not able to see them as signs (Read here) and therefore, they did not believe (John 6.36); while the Samaritans (Samaritan Israelites), who did not see a single miracle of Jesus – “believed in him because of the woman’s testimony…” and “many more believed because of his (Jesus’) word.” (John 4.38-41)
Miracles were not enough for one group. God’s words were enough for the other group. Perhaps, this is the reason that in another Gospel tradition, Jesus quotes Deut. 9.3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt.4.4) The implication is clear, especially in John. Jesus is God’s word. Humanity will live by God’s word, which means it will live by Jesus himself.
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