Declining an offer of hospitality is, in traditional cultures at least, an insult. Elijah, on the lam from Ahab and Jezebel, prefers to die under the shade of his broom tree, but he knows not to insult God’s messenger. In John’s gospel, however, “the Jews” (a troubling Johannine formulation – what was Jesus if not Jewish? – in light of later Christian anti-Semitism) stop short when Jesus offers himself as the Bread of Life.
Jesus tells his questioners to stop complaining (the wording echoes the “murmuring tradition” of the people of Israel in Exodus through Numbers), stating the difference between the bread he offers and the manna “your ancestors ate in the wilderness, and they died.” Read more