Author Flannery O’Connor wrote stories set in the South about odd characters facing spiritual choices. “I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe,” she said. Today’s passage appears to be a disagreement about bread, but it is really about the difficult choice between belief and disbelief.
To both His disciples and to the crowd in the synagogue, Jesus claimed to be the living “bread that came down from heaven” (v. 58). This conversation clearly reveals the confused state of mind of His followers. First, they were looking for a direct solution to their physical needs. They wanted Him to be the bread that satisfied their physical cravings. Notice how they compared him to manna (v. 31). They even phrased it as a demand: “Always give us this bread” (v. 34).
They did not understand that Jesus Himself was the only bread that would satisfy their deepest spiritual longings. They wanted Jesus for what He could give them—physical healing, miraculous provisions, or political freedom. They saw a man whose parents they knew, and they resisted His claim of divinity (v. 42).
Jesus redirected the conversation to His identity as the Son of God. He referred back to the Scriptures and attempted to explain to them that He is the “bread of life” (v. 48). But even after several lengthy explanations, they continued to misunderstand His message: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (v. 52).
The religious skeptics were not the only ones confused. Even His disciples struggled to believe. In fact, many turned away from Jesus and quit following at this point. This was the fork in the road, the dividing point. Would they believe or would they walk away?
Each of us comes to a crossroads where we must either choose to believe or walk away. What is your choice? Do you believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the bread of life? Do you trust His claims rather than demand that He conform to your own expectations? Through Jesus we can find life, but only if we follow Him.