Today’s Gospel reading is perhaps understood best in the context of the preceding chapters. John announces the Incarnation immediately, and then throughout his early chapters illustrates Jesus’ dual nature as both God and man. In John, Jesus announces that he is the Messiah, that he has come to save the world, and that we must be reborn of the spirit through him.
Since he is also Joseph the carpenter’s son and he breaks the Sabbath laws, his claim to be from God confuses most and threatens many. Jesus explains his dual nature with metaphorical language, as in the episode of the Samaritan woman at the well — his “I am the bread of life” statement and the “come and drink” invitation at the beginning of our passage.
Although many of his listeners are convinced, most understand only literal meanings of food and water. Explanations are thus futile, and forebodings of the Crucifixion are strong: Jesus’ “time is not yet come” (but will come), he will “go unto him that sent” him, and he is not taken seriously because “out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” In these chapters we may see then an announcement of our redemption from the Fall despite our inability to comprehend and accept Jesus’ sacrifice.
God’s righteous anger against the wicked of the Old Testament passages is transformed into the loving sacrifice of God incarnate for a humankind unwilling or unable to understand his message.