Summary: Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will not have eternal life. What does this mean?
Text - NIV John ch.6 vs.51-58
These are the words of Jesus:
51. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he (or she) will live forever. This bread is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.
52. Then the Jews began to argue sharply (quarrel) among themselves “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
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 (or her) up at the last day.
55. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
56. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (them).
57. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.
58. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died but he who feeds on this bread will live forever”.
One Sunday morning, an elderly pastor was searching his closet for his clergy collar when he found a small box containing 6 eggs and a hundred one dollar bills. He called his wife into the closet to ask her about the box and its contents. Embarrassed, she admitted having hidden the box for the entire 30 years of their marriage. Disappointed and hurt, the pastor asked her, "Why?" The wife replied that she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He asked her how the box could have hurt his feelings. She said that every time he had delivered a poor sermon, she had placed an egg in the box.
The pastor felt that 6 poor sermons in 30 years was certainly nothing to feel bad about, so he asked her what the one hundred one dollar bills was for. She replied, "Each time I got a dozen eggs, I sold them to the neighbors for a dollar!"
In defense of the elderly Pastor, I must say that sometimes God’s word is not received well. We might hear things that we do not want to hear and so God’s word is sometimes discomforting. This is more so when it falls on the ears of those who have a hard time believing. To the Corinthian Church the apostle Paul once said “ the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.
It seems to me that to the Jews who listened to Jesus that day, his message was foolishness. They did not like to hear Jesus telling them to eat his flesh and drink his blood! Earlier on in the chapter when Jesus suggested that he was the bread of life, they began to murmur and complain. Matters had now gotten worse when Jesus said “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you”. Their murmuring has now gradually escalated into quarreling among themselves. They are confused and angry at what they have heard. To the Jews, Jesus is a stumbling block; but to those who believe, the broken body and shed blood of Jesus is the only means of salvation.
Notice if you will that Jesus likened his body to bread. He spoke of himself as the bread from heaven and goes on to say that unless we eat his flesh, we will have no life in us. The only bread from heaven that the people were familiar with was “manna”. “Manna” fell from heaven in the form of little flakes and was a substitute for bread. While in the wilderness, God satisfied their physical hunger with this heavenly food. But, even though manna was food from heaven and in that sense holy, it only filled their stomachs. It supported earthly life but did not take away death. But for those in a spiritual wilderness, Jesus offers bread, which is his body. This real food is not for the belly but for the soul. It is the “real food” that Jesus spoke about and one that supports everlasting life. “Your fathers ate manna and are dead” Jesus said, “ but I am the living bread and ….whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life… My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink”.
Jesus never attempted to undermine the work of his father in providing manna but was simply making the point that he had come to give His people something better, something superior and something that would satisfy them in a way that they would never hunger or thirst again. The people never fully understood and took Jesus’ words literally in terms of eating his flesh and blood. You and I cannot literally eat the flesh of Jesus even if we wanted to, but in subscribing to His life and values, we are indeed feasting on him spiritually. John 1:14 tells us that the “word” became flesh and dwelt among us. Therefore, when we feed on God’s word, in a sense we are also feeding on his flesh. I am not merely talking about the written word but also about the words that come from that still small voice that is in constant dialogue with those who believe. Friends, Jesus’ holy life and values is “real food” because it is eternal.