If the Bread of Life Discourse teachings were metaphorical, why did the disciples stop following Jesus?

Was Jesus speaking metaphorically in the Bread of Life Discourse?

Initially, the crowd believed Jesus was speaking metaphorically. Jesus addressed these metaphorical interpretations the crowd had and gave “literal imagery” 3 TIMES before the crowd finally took him literally.

First Literal Imagery

“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.” 32-33

The crowd did not believe Jesus was referring himself to actual bread. They believed he was referring to literal bread, similar to what they ate the day before and were satisfied (multiplication of loaves). “Sir, give us this bread always.” 34

Second Literal Imagery

After the crowd did not understand, 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.” 35-38

The crowd still did not take him literally and disregarded the “bread of life” reference completely. They instead were shocked that he said he came down from heaven. “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’?” 42

Third Literal Imagery

Jesus addressed the crowd a third time. This time, he emphasized the literal imagery in such a way, making it unavoidable to disregard:

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.” 48-51

Now The Crowd Takes Him Literally

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 52

Jesus Intensified More Vivid Literal Imagery

After the Jews quarreled, Jesus hammered down again with more vivid literal imagery to get the point across that he is not speaking metaphorically, but literally:

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.” 53-58

And then they left him. Why?

The New American Bible, Revised Edition

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