The Gospels are the Good News. They tell of the story of the coming of the Messiah, and that the Messiah is the fully human and fully divine Son of God. The story is a love story, the ultimate love story. Our God loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us so that we could reunite with Him. But this is just the beginning. It’s so much better.

Jesus, the Son of God, humbled Himself to the point of giving His body and blood to us for food. This is beyond comprehension. Jesus wants to unite with us to so intimately that He wants to be a part of us, inside us and united inseparably from us.

In the Gospels, Jesus teaches about the Eucharist, most notably in the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6). He prepares His apostles for this gift. He also performs signs pointing to the Eucharist. Below are some passages listing either teachings or signs.

The Marriage at Cana

Scripture passages listed below:

  • Wedding at Cana
    • John 2:1-10
  • The Lord’s Prayer
    • Matthew 6:9-13
  • Feeding the 5,000
    • Matthew 14:15-21
    • Mark 6:32-44
    • Luke 9:11-17
    • John 6:1-13
  • Feeding the 4,000
    • Matthew 15:32-39
    • Mark 8:1-9
  • Bread of Life Discourse
    • John 6:25-69

The Wedding at Cana

John 2:1-10

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.  Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.  When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.”  (And) Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings, each holding twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus told them, “Fill the jars with water.” So they filled them to the brim.  Then he told them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it.  And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing where it came from (although the servers who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
The Wedding at Cana starts with John writing that it was the third day. John begins his Gospel similar to the story of creation, recounting each day. Prior to this passage, he lists four days. This means the wedding occurs on the seventh day, the Sabbath.
Mary points out to her Son that they have no wine. It is the groom’s responsibility to provide the wine at the wedding. Mary’s request of her Son to provide wine is essentially asking Him to assume the role of groom. If He is going to be the groom, who is the bride? We are. Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride.
Jesus responds that His hour has not yet come. He intends to provide the wine at His wedding, but it is not yet time for that. This wedding will begin at the Last Supper and end in the Resurrection.
Jesus refers to His mother as woman. This may sound dismissive, but is actually a great honor afforded to Mary. Jesus is using the title Eve held in creation. By calling Mary woman, Jesus is setting her apart as the new Eve.
The jars Jesus uses are for ceremonial washing after a person comes in contact with a corpse. This contact rendered the person unclean, and they had to undergo ritual washing to purify them. In effect, the water and ashes in the jars would be used to wash death from the person. Jesus uses the ceremonial jars to turn water into wine. This points to the Eucharist, where the blood of Christ cleanses the death of sin from us.
The headwaiter refers to the wine as the good wine. The Eucharist is truly the good wine, it is the blood of Christ given for our salvation.
The third sign God gave to Moses pointing to His identity was turning water into blood. That was a sign pointing to the Eucharist. Jesus repeats this in two parts. His first sign is turning water into wine at the wedding. His last sign is turning wine into His blood at the Last Supper. Together, they fulfill the sign given to Moses.
The last words of Mary recorded in the Bible are “Do whatever He tells you.” It is fitting that this is the last thing we hear from Mary. She did the will of God, and we should listen to her and do the same.
The Marriage at Cana

The Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13

This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.
Jesus’ disciples ask Him to teach them how to pray, and His answer is the Our Father. It is a radical prayer. We often take for granted calling God our Father, but at the time, this would have been shocking. It is truly amazing that God would humble Himself and raise us to the level where we can be considered His children.

The prayer has a number of petitions focused on the spiritual. Then, in the middle, we have the phrase, “give us today our daily bread.” This seems out of place, asking for material support. Certainly, the phrase can be considered as asking for our bodily well-being, but this is not the primary meaning. It has a much deeper spiritual meaning.

The request is primarily for the Eucharist. Jesus says we must eat His flesh and drink His blood to have life within us. We must consume the bread of life that came down from heaven. Jesus’ prayer includes a request for Him under the appearance of bread. Without this bread, we have no life within us. We need the Eucharist. The original Greek points to this. The word we translate as “daily bread” is used

The original Greek points to this. The word we translate as “daily” (epiousion) is used nowhere else in ancient Greek writings. It is unique to the Lord’s Prayer. Everywhere else in the Gospels, another form of the word daily is used, and that form is not used in this prayer. Another translation of the word is “super-substantial.” St. Jerome used both versions in the Vulgate. In Matthew, Jerome translated it at super-substantial, and in Luke as daily. He likely did this to highlight the dual meaning of the word. We should remember this petition is not just a request for a material needs but also a request to receive the Eucharist.

Feeding the 5,000

The feeding of the 5,000 is a sign pointing to the Eucharist and appears in all four Gospels. Jesus offers bread to feed the bodies of the people, but He intends to give His body in the Eucharist to feed our souls. The sign is offered in abundance with twelve baskets left over. This symbolizes that He will provide the Eucharist to all of Israel with plenty left over.
The Marriage at Cana

Feeding the 4,000

The feeding of the 4,000 is recorded in two of the Gospels and has many similarities to the previous multiplication of loaves. There are a couple of significant differences. First, the sign occurs outside of Judah in a gentile land. This indicates that the Eucharist will be for all and not just the Jews. Second, there are seven baskets of leftovers. In the first multiplication, there were twelve baskets left over, indicating the Eucharist would be more than enough for Israel. Seven represents completeness, and the seven baskets indicate that the Eucharist will be provided in abundance to the entire world. Everyone can partake of the Eucharist and God’s gift will not run out.
Feeding the 5,000

Bread of Life Discourse

John 6:25-29

And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”
In John 6, Jesus first performs the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. This miracle points to the Eucharist and sets up His teaching on teaching. The crowd, having been fed the prior day, seek Him out. He knows they are focused on worldly food when He wants to share a gift that is much greater.

Jesus challenges them to seek the food that endures for eternal life. The crowd asks what they need to do. Jesus’ answer is to believe the One sent by God. It is easy to gloss over the significance of this statement. Of course, we need to believe in Jesus. The placement of this is critical. This command provides the introduction to Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist. The implication is clear. Yes, we must believe everything Jesus teaches, but to have eternal life, we especially need to believe in the teaching on the Eucharist.

John 6:30-42

So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do?  Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father 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.” So 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 hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen (me), you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it (on) the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day.” The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “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’?”
The crowd asks, “What sign can you do?” Jesus had just asked them to believe in Him, and the crowd ask for a sign, some proof that He is deserving of their faith. They reference the manna in the desert, probably hoping that Jesus will feed them again.

Jesus wants them to know how different He is from Moses. Moses did not perform any miracles under his own power. Everything done through Moses was done by God. Jesus is different. He does the will of God through His own power, and He will give the bread of heaven.

The crowd is still thinking with their stomachs. They ask for the bread. Jesus’ answer is shocking. He says He is the bread from heaven, the bread of life. This bread will give life to the world.

Jesus knows the Jews do not believe Him, and they start murmuring. The statement that Jesus is the bread of life is ambiguous. Is He speaking symbolically or is He really saying He is bread from heaven that people will eat?

John 6:43-51

Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Jesus hears the murmuring and rebukes them. He reiterates that He is from heaven and will provide eternal life. The boldness of His claims is clear. Jesus is saying He is the only one to have ever seen the Father, and to be from God.

Jesus states again that eternal life is contingent on believing Him, and the key belief is that He is the bread of life. This had to have been shocking language for a first century Jew. If we truly contemplate this, that God sent Jesus from heaven to be bread for us to eat, it is no less shocking.

Up to verse 50, we could get away with thinking that Jesus could be speaking metaphorically. We could see that His teaching feeds our souls like bread feeds our bodies. That is a possibility until verse 51. Jesus then removes all doubt. He is speaking literally. The bread that He gives is His flesh.

John 6:52-60

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?”  Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”
The claims that Jesus is from heaven and we must eat His flesh to have eternal life are too much for the Jews. They start quarreling. This is reminiscent of the Jews in the desert quarreling with Moses because they had no water. They failed to trust in God then, and now are failing to trust in Jesus.

It is truly shocking that Jesus is commanding that we eat His flesh. With the Jews quarreling, He has the opportunity to correct them, “Wait, you misunderstand me. I meant this symbolically.” That is what we would expect from a great teacher if He was misunderstood. Any teacher, especially the greatest teacher of all time, would correct the students if their understanding was wrong. That is what teachers do. They correct us until we arrive at truth.

But, Jesus was not misunderstood. He meant exactly what He said.

Jesus then steps up the command. He repeats that we must eat His flesh and adds that we must drink His blood. This would have been revolting to a first century Jew. Drinking blood was forbidden, and now Jesus is demanding His followers drink His blood.

Jesus then goes on to repeat this command three more times. Four times in a row He states we must eat His flesh and drink His blood. There can be no doubt about the meaning of His words. The Jews cannot accept it. It is a difficult saying.

John 6:61-69

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.” As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
Jesus’ followers cannot accept the teaching on the Eucharist. Jesus has the opportunity to change the teaching, but He doesn’t. Jesus states who He is. He came down from heaven. He is claiming to be God.

In verse 63, Jesus states that the spirit gives life and the flesh is of no avail. This seems to undermine everything that came before. Is He retracting His statements on eating His flesh?

No, Jesus is stating that He is spirit and life, He is divine from heaven, and He provides life. The flesh He mentions is not His flesh. Previously, every reference to the Eucharist is a command to eat “His” flesh, not a generic command to eat “the” flesh. The flesh He says is to no avail is the flesh of man, our flesh. Our bodies cannot save us. We can do nothing for our own salvation. We can only be saved when we have the life of God within us, and we receive that life through the body and blood of Jesus.

Jesus disciples choose to leave over this teaching. He watches them go. The teaching on the Eucharist is so important that He turns to the Apostles and challenges them to accept the teach or leave as well. The Eucharist is a deal breaker. You cannot share in the life of Jesus without the Eucharist.

Peter answers this challenge. He admits His reluctance, “To whom shall we go.” Peter and the others were troubled by this teaching, but they saw the signs and they knew Jesus was who He said He was, so they stayed. Jesus has the words of eternal life, and even though Peter may not have understood the teaching on the Eucharist, he trusted and stayed.

Images:

Unknown, The Marriage at Cana, illumination about 1190; written about 1490, Tempera colors and gold leaf on parchment, Leaf: 11.9 x 17 cm (4 11/16 x 6 11/16 in.), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Unknown, The Marriage at Cana, about 1460, Tempera colors, gold, and ink on parchment, Leaf: 17.1 x 12.1 cm (6 3/4 x 4 3/4 in.), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Unknown, The Feeding of the Five Thousand, about 1400 – 1410, Tempera colors, gold, silver paint, and ink on parchment, Leaf: 33.5 x 23.5 cm (13 3/16 x 9 1/4 in.), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Gospel Lectionary, The feeding of the five thousand, Walters Manuscript W.535, fol. 107r