Summary: To eat Jesus’ flesh and to drink His blood means to believe in Jesus…by personally appropriating His sacrificial death… and by continually partaking of His life
A couple years ago on Christmas day our family was hanging out together when my brother started talking about this TV show that featured a family of Louisiana rednecks who had gotten rich selling duck calls. Now I’m at least a little bit redneck – not enough to be a NASCAR fan – but still at least a bit of a redneck. I just can’t get too excited about watching a bunch of cars that are covered with advertisements drive around in circles. But even though my brother said the show was funny and actually featured the family praying to Jesus, I just have never been a big fan of any of these so-called “reality” shows. So I didn’t give it much more thought.
Several months later I was flipping through the guide on our TV and recognized the name of the show my brother had been talking about so I thought I’d just go ahead and record an episode and take a quick look when I had some time. A few days later there really wasn’t anything Mary and I wanted to watch, but I noticed that there were a few episodes of this show recorded on our DVR. After watching 3 or 4 episodes of Duck Dynasty back to back, we were hooked. My preconceptions about what that reality show was going to be like had kept me from experiencing a really encouraging and enjoyable entertainment experience.
On a much more significant level, we see in the gospel accounts how people’s preconceptions about the Messiah kept them from fully experiencing a relationship with Jesus. John’s gospel account, in particular, records how even those who were closest to Jesus often let their preconceived ideas get in the way of a fresh encounter with the Word of God who became flesh.
So Jesus often resorted to saying some very shocking things in order to jolt people into thinking outside the box when it came to the kind of Messiah that he truly was. We’ve been looking at some of those things He said in this sermon series where we’re dealing with the hard sayings of Jesus. This morning we’ll come to what may very well be the hardest of all these sayings. In fact, after Jesus spoke these words, the people who heard them responded like this:
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
(John 6:60 ESV)
So exactly what had Jesus said to elicit such a response? Go ahead and open your Bibles to John 6 since we’re going to be looking at a lot of this chapter in order to be able to understand what Jesus meant when He spoke the words we find in verse 53:
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 you.
(John 6:53 ESV)
Even on this side of the cross, we can understand why this was a hard saying for those that heard it. But for those who had not yet experienced the death and resurrection of Jesus these words would have been all the more shocking.
Before we address what Jesus meant by these words, I want to take a moment to explain what He did not mean, because I think that is equally important for us today.
There are some that believe Jesus was speaking about here was the Lord’s Supper and they use these words to support a doctrine known as transubstantiation. According to that doctrine, the bread and the wine used in the observance of the Lord’s Supper literally become the body and blood of Jesus, so that those who take those elements literally eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus.
There are several reasons why it is clear Jesus is not referring to what we call the Lord’s Supper or Communion here:
1) Although the Jews observed the Passover, the new meaning that Jesus gave to that meal the night before He died on the was not yet in place.
2) Jesus is speaking here primarily to unbelievers who, as we will see this morning, He is calling to become His disciples by believing in Him. The Lord’s Supper, as Paul explains clearly in 1 Corinthians 11, is only for those who are already Jesus’ disciples.
3) As we’re going to see this morning, the eating and drinking that Jesus speaks of here is for the purpose of receiving eternal life. The Lord’s Supper is for those who have already received eternal life.
4) The Lord’s Supper does not produce the results that Jesus speaks of here. If Jesus’ words here speak of the Lord’s Supper then He would be teaching that participating in a ritual, the Lord’s Supper, results in salvation. That would contradict the clear teaching of the rest of Scripture that salvation is through faith in Jesus alone and it would also, as we will see, contradict Jesus’ own words right here in John 6.