Summary: This message is the fourth in a series that deals with some of the difficult sayings of Jesus. This message examines the meaning behind Jesus saying to eat His flesh and drink His blood.
The majority of us are grossed out by what this statement suggests. These are the actions that are usually confined to a horror movie. Cannibals eat flesh and vampires drink blood. These are not things that normal people do. If Jesus is meaning this literally, we would all say, “That’s a little bit too far out there for me.” Those of us who have grown up in the church have an advantage over those who have not. We understand the symbolic nature of this saying because we know to look back and see what would unfold later on. However, do those on the outside of the church understand the symbolic nature of those words?” Our text and other historical documents seem to suggest that those in Jesus’ day didn’t. In fact, during the first and second centuries Christians were viewed as a peculiar people with very strange worship rituals. The main rumor that was spreading throughout the Roman Empire was that Christians were participating in cannibalism during their worship gatherings. This was fueled by the fact that Christians met in secret due to the extreme persecution they were facing. I admit that we have less difficulty with this saying then Jesus’ first century listeners had. But I have to wonder do we fully understand the significance of this saying? Do we really understand the implications of what Jesus is saying? Do we really take it to heart? Today we are going to try to accomplish two things as we examine this text. First gain a better understanding of this saying and second try to understand how this would be difficult for someone outside of the church to understand.
I. A saying that goes against all the cultural norms of Jesus’ day.
A. The crowd could not believe that Jesus was actually making this statement.
1. The Jews had many forbidden foods. In fact God gave the people explicit instructions not to eat anything with blood still in it.
2. Cannibalism was a practice that was seen as gross and immoral throughout the entire Greco-Roman world.
3. It is understandable why there was a lot of confusion in the crowd in regard to this teaching.
4. What Jesus is suggesting in a literal sense is not only taboo but against the law.
5. The people begin arguing among themselves in regard to exactly what Jesus means.
6. The Greek word that is translated argue is machomai which means to participate in a heated exchange.
B. The disciples completely missed what Jesus was trying to communicate.
1. The disciples are going to struggle with this teaching on the basis of their Jewish heritage. So it’s little wonder that this begins to thin the ranks of those following Jesus.
2. We need to remember that this teaching takes place shortly after Jesus fed the 5,000 plus people.
3. God stressed the value of a human life in the Law. In fact, human sacrifice was one of the things God pointed out as being detestable as He was warning the Israelites about the pagan religions in the land of Canaan.
4. Jesus’ opponents and many others just could not comprehend what Jesus was saying. Not only did they view this statement as improper but as impossible.
5. This statement draws a line in the sand as it begins to separate the true believers from the unbelievers.
6. The disciples admit that this was a tough teaching. In fact one could translate verse 60, “This is a tough teaching, who could stomach it?”
II. Unpacking the meaning of a theologically loaded statement.
A. What is Jesus trying to accomplish with this teaching?
1. There was no way the people in the crowd would be able to relate this to the Lord’s Supper because it was not yet instituted.
2. There was no way the people would accept it as a literal teaching because it was quite detestable in their minds.
3. Jesus is emphasizing the fact that sins could not be forgiven and eternal life given unless someone offered their own life and shed their own blood.
4. Jesus wants people to see the significance and necessity of His death. If Jesus doesn’t willing make this sacrifice eternal life will still be beyond man’s reach.
5. Jesus is not expecting His listeners to understand, He is issuing a call for them to believe in Him.
6. Jesus is stressing the importance of trusting Him. Because only in Him will this eternal life be found.
B. The teaching sets the stage for the acceptance of the necessity of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
1. Although, Isaiah had painted a vivid picture of the sacrifice that the Messiah would make for the people the disciples just could not see it.
2. This teaching is revealing Jesus’ identity as the Messiah to the people and presenting the reward that will be given to those who choose to believe in Him.