Jesus’ disciples thought that His teaching was difficult when He said to them.
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said, therefore, unto him, ‘Sir, always give us this bread.’ Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. John 6:32-35
Later, in the same passage Jesus made an even more startling declaration:
John 6:51 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
John 6:54 “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
As a personal confession, I must admit that this has been a hard passage for me as well. While I understood that Jesus is speaking symbolically of Himself, the idea of eating His flesh and drinking His blood was difficult when I first read it.
The concept becomes much easier to understand when read in light of the knowledge of the Scriptures, however. Jesus knew, and those who were well educated (Scribes and Pharisees) knew, Exodus 25:30. Therefore they knew exactly what Jesus was saying to them.
And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly.* Exodus 25:30
Prior to Jesus coming to earth, this bread of the Presence was a part of Jewish history and something with which Jews were familiar. The bread represented the Presence of God caring for His people. Peter declared that from Jesus declaration that He was ‘the bread from Heaven’, the disciples had come to know that Jesus was the Holy One from God. Over the years, gentiles like myself, do not always get the significance of what Jesus was saying in these verses, but most Jews knew and I suspect that Jesus explained it to those who were less familiar with the finer points of the Torah.
* This bread of the Presence was set out each week. It was eaten in the Holy Place by Aaron and his sons who were on duty on the Sabbath day. Frankincense was to be placed with the bread of his Presence as a food offering to the LORD and as a covenant forever. Frankincense was later brought by the wise men who worshiped the Lord Jesus Christ.