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 this metaphorical interpretation the crowd had and gave “literal imagery” 3 TIMES before the crowd finally took him literally.
First Literal Imagery
Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you 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). “Lord, 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 not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now 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 fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. 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:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever. 53-58