Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Theophylact
Whoever comes to me will never be hungry;
whoever believes in me will never thirst.
“Our ancestors ate manna in the desert; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Wishing to persuade Christ to perform the kind of miracle that would provide them with bodily nourishment, the people in their insatiable greed called to mind the manna.
What was the reply of our Lord Jesus, the infinite wisdom of God? “It was not Moses who gave you bread.” In other words, “Moses did not give you the true bread. On the contrary, everything that happened in his time was a prefiguration of what is happening now.”
“Moses represented God, the real leader of the spiritual Israelites, while that bread typified myself, who have come down from heaven and who am the true bread which gives genuine nourishment.”
Our Lord refers to himself as the true bread not because the manna was something illusory, but because it was only a type and a shadow, and not the reality it signified.
This bread, being the Son of the living Father, is life by its very nature, and accordingly gives life to all. Just as earthly bread sustains the frail substance of the flesh and prevents it from falling into decay, so Christ quickens the soul through the power of the Spirit, and also preserves even the body for immortality. Through Christ resurrection from the dead and bodily immortality have been gratuitously bestowed upon the human race.
Jesus said to the people: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” He did not say “the bread of bodily nourishment,” but “the bread of life.”
For when everything had been reduced to a condition of spiritual death, the Lord gave us life through himself, who is bread because, as we believe, the leaven in the dough of our humanity was baked through and through by the fire of his divinity.
He is the bread not of this ordinary life, but of a very different kind of life which death will never cut short.
Whoever believes in this bread will never hunger, will never be famished for want of hearing the Word of God; not will such a person be parched by spiritual thirst through lack of the waters of baptism and the consecration imparted by the Spirit.
The unbaptized, deprived of the refreshment afforded by the sacred water, suffer thirst and great aridity. The baptized, on the other hand, being possessed of the Spirit, enjoy its continual consolation
Commentary on John’s Gospel: PG 123, 1297.1301
Theophylact (c. 1050-1109), theologian and language scholar, studied at Constantinople. He taught rhetoric and was tutor to the imperial heir presumptive: hence his treatise on the Education of Monarchs. In 1078 he became archbishop of Ochrida in Bulgarian territory. While diffusing Byzantine culture among the Slavs, he allowed the use of Slavonic texts. He wrote commentaries on several books of the Old Testament and all of the New except Revelation. He especially stressed practical morality, as did Chrysostom, his model.
**From Saint Louis University