Reflecting on John for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

From The Gospel of John, by Francis Martin and William Wright, commenting on John 6:60-69


Some of Jesus’ disciples refuse his words about his body and blood. They describe his saying as hard, as unacceptable. Now they are murmuring like the Israelites in the wilderness and the Jews who objected to Jesus’ teaching (6:41–42).

Instead of watering down his teaching, Jesus challenges them: Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? Jesus, the Son of Man and bread of life, has come down from heaven and will offer his flesh and blood as eternal food. If these disciples cannot accept that Jesus came down from heaven, took flesh, and commands his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood, how will they accept his returning to the Father by means of his death on the cross and resurrection?

Jesus must offer his flesh for the world’s salvation on the cross, displaying his love for the Father and the Father’s love for the world (14:31; 3:16). After being gloriously transformed in the resurrection, Jesus’ flesh will be apt for heavenly existence and having ascended to glory, become spiritual food for believers.

The remedy for these disciples is to be more spiritual—that is, to believe with a deep faith, born of the Spirit: It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail (compare 3:6). These disciples should not make Jesus conform to their human standards (“the flesh”) but should conform themselves to his Spirit-filled, life-giving teachings: the words of spirit and life.

As St. Cyril of Alexandria comments: “It is not the nature of the flesh that renders the Spirit life-giving, but the might of the Spirit that makes the body life-giving. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit, that is, both spiritual and of the Spirit, and they are life.”


© 2015 Francis Martin, William M. Wright IV, and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.


  1. Peter Williamson says:

    Very rich!