All four gospels report that Jesus fed a crowd of people near the Sea of Galilee by multiplying a few loaves of bread and some fish. It’s one of his most important miracles. God fed his people with manna in the desert; “I am the living bread,” Jesus now says.
We read John’s account in the Easter season when the Lord appears to his disciples in the breaking of the bread because, more than the other gospels, John dwells on this miracle in the entire 6th chapter of his gospel and sees it, not just as a sign of Jesus’ power, but as a test of faith.
Jesus’ followers were tested then when the bread was broken. “How are we to buy bread so that these people can eat?” Jesus asks Philip as crowds arrive at a mountain on the other side of the sea. We haven’t enough money, Philip answers, a typical reason to do nothing.
The crowds want to make Jesus their king after eating a plentiful meal; they’re looking for a continual supply of food more than “the true bread come down from heaven.”
The Sacrament of the Eucharist is always a testing ground for faith. “Because of it many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.” (John 6,66) Besides this radical step, others seem to have little appreciation for this great sign, John’s gospel indicates.
Though a test of faith, the Eucharist is also a powerful source of grace enabling us to recognize the Risen Christ and believe in him.
We enter a school of faith in the Easter season. The Risen Christ abides with us in signs like water, bread and wine, words that promise a world beyond ours. With the apostle Peter we say: “Where shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.”