This passage occurs in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year B, most recently Summer of 2015.
John 6 is vital for understanding the ministry of Jesus and the church. First, Jesus' work builds on the Old Testament. With this story, Jesus revisits the Passover. Yet Jesus renews and redirects the OT tradition. In the case, Jesus presents himself as the one who provides the bread. The Gospel message is not found simply by making this academic comparison, but by driving it home toward proclamation: God provides, he becomes the Passover lamb, taking away the sin of the world, for you...even when all you felt like was a wasted fragment.
Links to Passover:
The key to this passage, I believe, is 6:4, where John says the Passover is near. Further links to the Passover:
*The last verse of chapter 5 also references Moses and people not listening to him (whole book of Exodus)
*Jesus and then others cross the sea because they have seen the deeds of power (Red sea crossing)
*Jesus feeds the people from basically nothing (manna in the wilderness)
*Jesus even uses the food from the smallest boy (akin to a passover!!)
*John refers to this meal of bread with the term Eucharist
χορτος ("hay" or "grass", 6:10): They are sitting on grass. They believe themselves in a forsaken place, but are surrounded by God's bounty!
συναγαγετε ("gather"; 6:12): It is interesting here because Jesus tells the disciples to gather the missing pieces. This is in the mission of the church, to gather the missing pieces. What intensifies this connection is the verb for gather, which is literally: synagate -- synagogue them! Lead them into the community centered on the Word!
κλασματα ("fragments"; 6:12): It seems strange the bread fragments are so valuable. Was Jesus a spend thrift?? It seems that Jesus has a spiritual meaning here. I think it is fair to say the fragments represent us, broken pieces, whom God has blessed, broken and then gathered into one.
ευχαριστω ("give thanks"; 6:23): While neither the words "Holy Communion" nor "Eucharist" appear in 1-14, the word Eucharist does appear in 6:23: "The place where they had eaten the bread after Jesus had given thanks [eucharisted]" Christians took up this word in a different manner -- Paul begins this in 1 Cor 10:16. They transformed the word for Thanksgiving and turned into a significant meal -- much like America's November holiday! In this case, Jesus is taking the world's oldest Thanksgiving meal and giving it new meaning. The full meaning of this meal will not be clear until Jesus forgives Peter on the beach -- with bread and wine again -- that our Eucharist meal is one of Thanksgiving for the work of Jesus Christ, his forgiveness and resurrection.
απολλυμι ("perish" or "lose"; 6:12): Fascinating here -- Jesus discusses the collecting the fragments, lest they get "lost". The word here for lost also means "perish" as in John 3:16 or John 18:9, "I did not lose a single one whom you gave me."
Two other tid bits:
6:9 The words for bread and fish here (krithinos and opsaria) denote
common bread and fish, almost like "cheap bread and fish tidbits"
The word σκοτια is darkness; that is what is occurring here; yet, John 1
said the darkness could not grasp/overcome the light!