Summary: Jesus made eternal life dependent upon what we eat!
Let’s open our Bibles to John chapter 6. One time there was a rich young man that came to Jesus and asked “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” In other words, “what must I do to live forever?”
And I hope you agree that this is the most important question we could ever ask, too. I had a friend in Iowa whose niece died last week, she was hit by a drunk driver, who just happened to be a fellow classmate of hers. How do we live forever? Is it keeping God’s law? It is measuring up to a certain standard? Is it being good, or believing in God, or being a member of a certain church, or what is it?
Well it just may surprise us to discover that Jesus Christ teaches that our eternal life is dependent upon what we eat. You can see that in John 6:53-55: 53 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. John 6:53-55 (NIV)
So eternal life is dependent upon eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking the blood of Jesus. My sermon title today is “Eternal life is Feeding on the Cross.”
Now really, anybody who hears this today has to think, “this is just really weird.” What, are Christians a bunch of cannibals? I mean this is a hard teaching any way you look at it. And that’s what the Jews said, notice verse 60: On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" John 6:60 (NIV)
In other words, who can digest such teaching? And we agree, if we are honest, this is a hard teaching. It makes eternal life dependent upon our eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood. To the modern day man or woman this is a very weird and creepy teaching. And to those back in that day it was hard teaching and verse 61 tells us they were grumbling about it and were offended over it. We can understand that can’t we.
But they were offended about it only for one reason, and that is because they were interpreting it literally. As if Jesus were teaching cannibalism here. Their error is in interpreting what Jesus said in a literal or a carnal manner. It’s the exact same error that certain religions make when they teach Transubstantiation, or the turning of the bread and wine into the physical body and blood of Jesus. Jesus is not teaching cannibalism here. And He is not teaching Transubstantiation here.
And Jesus knew our propensity to interpret His words carnally, so He gives 3 proofs that He is not speaking literally. 3 arguments confirming that He does not mean the physical eating of His body and drinking His blood. Let’s notice them:
First, notice verse 62: “ What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!” In context He is saying, “don’t grumble at my teaching about eating my flesh and drinking my blood. I’m not speaking literally for you will not even be able to see My body anymore, much less feed on it.” They would not be able to eat His physical body and drink His blood because His body would die on the cross, then rise from the dead and ascend into heaven, where they would see Him no more.
Secondly, look at verse 63: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” The flesh counts for nothing. “Even if you could eat my flesh, this would do nothing for your salvation, it would not benefit you in any way.” The flesh counts for nothing.
And thirdly, he concludes verse 63 by saying, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” These are spirit-words, to be interpreted spiritually, not physically.
So what does it mean to understand His words spiritually? What is the plain meaning of His words? Just this: by Jesus’ death—that is, his body and his blood offered in sacrifice for sin--he would secure our pardon and our forgiveness; and that those people who feed on this good news would be united with Christ and live forever. He means that His own body and blood, offered on the cross, are the very means of our eternal life.
See, He uses this word picture of eating and drinking because that was the subject of discussion; in verse 31 the Jews prided themselves that their fathers had eaten manna; and so it was easy for Jesus to say that food must be eaten in order to be of any use in sustaining life. Just so, we must feed on His death, His body and blood offered on the cross, in order to live forever.