Summary: Eating & drinking of Christ are here described as the means of bringing eternal life. This consumption of Jesus springs from hungering & thirsting after the life of JC & becomes a metaphor for the interior life one should have with Christ.
JOHN 6: 51-59
PARTAKING OF CHRIST’S LIFE
Eating and drinking of Christ are here described as the means of bringing eternal life. As St. Augustine said these verses that call “for a man to eat that meat and to drink that drink is to dwell in Christ and to have Christ dwell in him.” It is to nourish yourself in Christ and satisfy your self in Him.
This consumption of Jesus described so explicitly springs from hungering and thirsting after the life of Christ and now it becomes a metaphor for the interior life one should have with Christ. For John, the spiritual life is not simply a confession, but a life of abiding in Christ or partaking of Christ.
I. FLESHED OUT BREAD, 51-52.
II. MANDATORY CONSUMPTION, 53-55.
III. PARTAKING TO LIVE, 56-59.
Let’s briefly look at verse 51 again. “I AM the Living Bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
These words sum up and drive home the preceding lesson. If the Living Bread is a person, then how does He give Himself so that people might partake of it or Him?
Jesus has declared Himself the Living Bread that came down (aorist tense), referring to His incarnation, and one must eat this bread (aorist tense), referring to the decisive moment when one believes. But it is in the third sentence of the verse where Jesus makes a pivotal statement, “This bread is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” When Jesus refers to His “flesh” (Gk. sarx), we are at once reminded of 1:14, where sarx was used to describe the comprehensive life of the Son. Quote.
[ Jesus is flesh offered in sacrifice. The gift of this bread, this flesh, will come with His death. [Burge, Gary. NIV Application Commentary, Book of John: Grand Rapids: Zondervan, © 2000. 201-202.]
The second half of this sentence tells us that this flesh will be given in order that the world, made up of those who partake of Him, His life, will have life. Jesus is giving Himself in order that the world may have life. Jesus’s gift of the substance of life is nothing other than a sacrifice, a blood sacrifice, a temple sacrifice, that will benefit the world. [This thought parallels 1:29, 36, where Jesus was described as the “Lamb of God,” referring once more to a sacrificial victim]. By Christ death, life is offered to the world.
Once again in verse 52 John points out that the crowd misunderstands what Jesus is saying. Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
The reaction of Jesus’ opponents was prompted by the apparent impossibility of His statement. As often happens, Jesus’ teaching was not understood (2:20; 3:4; 4:15; 6:32-34). Their perception remained at a materialistic level. They took literally the figure of eating His flesh. A violent argument erupted among them.
Unless one has spiritual perception, spiritual truth makes no sense whatsoever. Nicodemus could not comprehend the new birth; so, too, now the Jews considered the Lord’s words to be utter nonsense. In incredulity they responded, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Of course, Jesus is not proposing religious cannibalism. Earthly symbols must be converted into spiritual truths. How, then, are we to understand this life-giving meal? What deeper spiritual truth needs to be uncovered?
II. THE MANDATORY CONSUMPTION, 53-55.
Before answering their question, Jesus makes an even more offensive statement in verses 53 and 54. So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. (54) “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Jesus repeated the statement to make Himself perfectly clear, adding for emphasis, "I tell you the truth." With such importance and deliberateness He then added another aspect that was even more repulsive to the Jews: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood.” What a shocking message! If what Jesus said before was nonsense, this statement bordered on gross sin. To eat flesh and drink blood sounds like cannibalism. The law of Moses expressly forbid any drinking of blood on penalty of being cut off from the people (Lev. 3:17; 17:10-14). Three times in this context Jesus refers to the importance of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. There could be no mistaking what He said now.
[The progression in thought in vv.51-54 is significant. First, Christ said he gives His flesh "for the life of the world" (v.51). Then He says whoever has not partaken of His flesh and blood has "no life" in Him (v.53). But then whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood "has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (v.54) [as in vv.39-40, 44].