At the close of yesterday’s passage, Jesus made a statement that left the people aghast and appalled, saying “So then, the bread that I give is also my flesh on behalf of the life of the world.” He was continuing to employ the theme of manna. Eating, in this illustration, was a metaphor for assimilation into one’s life.
Jesus was also prophesying of giving his life for the life of the world, and his later gift of the Holy Spirit.
There is no question the people were shocked by Jesus’ words, and
Therefore they were quarreling-and-disputing among each other, the Judeans were saying, “How is this one able to give us his flesh to eat?!”John 6:52
It is always possible some of the religious leaders thought Jesus might have been talking literally about eating his flesh.
But, this was actually typical for Jewish rabbis to use metaphors and allegories, so most likely these other scribes and teachers were upset that Jesus had so elevated himself as to say that he was himself not only God but the very sustenance of life for the world.
That meant this erstwhile blue-collar laborer in the construction business, not even seminary trained, was elevating himself above not only them, but the greatest prophets, above even King David, Moses, and all the heroes of their faith.
He was raising himself to the place of God.
Talk about a Messiah complex!
[Now, hit the pause button for a minute. Time out! What are you and I tempted to do when we can tell something we just said is causing a problem? We try to figure out how to soften it somehow. “Well, what I meant was . . . “ “All I am trying to say is . . . “ But that was not Jesus’ method.]
Jesus went straight for what was the hardest part of the teaching for them, and drove it home even harder.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, if you all do not eat the flesh of the Son of Humanity*, nor drink of him the blood, you all do not have life in yourselves.
“The one who crunches-and-gnaws on my flesh and drinks of me the blood has life eternal, and I also will raise that one up, the last day.
“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.Jesus, to the religious authorities, in John 6:53-55
Eating blood was the biggest taboo they had, it was considered filthy and disgusting.
But the reason why is very important.
God had explained, when giving the food laws to God’s people, “the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.” Keeping that in mind, now listen to what Jesus said next.
“The one who crunches-and-gnaws on my flesh and drinks of me the blood, in me abides-and-continues, even so I likewise in that one.”Jesus, in John 6:56
Jesus would fulfill all the Law in himself and usher in the new covenant where
“Even as the living Father sent me, even so I also live because of the Father, then also the one who crunches-and-gnaws on me will also live because of me.Jesus, in John 6:57
Those who “eat of Christ” would receive the life with the meat and live.
We live in the same way Jesus lived, depending on the God, always having the strength we need for every situation.
Consider that this was the time of the Passover.
God had given careful instructions to Moses that a lamb without blemish was to be sacrificed and its blood painted on the door posts of every Hebrew family’s home, as a sign to God that blood had already been shed for this household. God was willing to pass over judgment of sin on that house and move on.
Every home held death that night—either by God’s judgement or by atonement.
John the Baptist’s words should have been ringing in their ears, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Jesus was God’s perfect lamb, who bore sin’s penalty for us when he died in our place on the cross, and his death on the cross made atonement for the sin of the world, enough for all who repent and believe in him.
The sole purpose of the lamb was to provide Passover cover and nourishment for the journey into a new life.
Those of Jewish faith and descent were also familiar with the metaphor of eating God’s word from the prophet Ezekiel. We even use that metaphor today, “swallowing a lie,” “devouring a book,” “being hungry for information.”
This was how Jesus intended his meaning to be understood:
To eat his flesh—Is to take Jesus’ perfect life into our own life, faith for salvation, then the progressive eating and growing daily by applying Jesus’ words, depending upon the Holy Spirit for wisdom and enabling.
The Bread of Life has come down from heaven to nourish us every day, to give us strength and power to live freely for him, and to meet death with courage and peace.
D.L. Moody once said “One day you’ll read that D.L. Moody is dead. Don’t you believe it! I’ll be more alive on that day than I have ever been before!” We can be secure in the knowledge that if we eat this bread, we will live forever, and Jesus will raise us up on the last day.
To drink his blood—Is to participate personally in the Lord’s death, accepting that Jesus’ death is sufficient to cause judgment to pass by, and then to rise up again with Jesus in his resurrection, receiving eternal life with his blood.
Jesus’ death is our life.
As Paul once put it, Jesus washes away the stain of what we once were. Now that we are joined with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, you and I are free to be who God created us to be.
“This is the bread that has come down out of heaven—not as the forefathers ate and died—the one who crunches-and-gnaws on this bread will live into eternity.”Jesus, in John 6:58
Jesus must have continued to use his hands to help them all understand what he was teaching them. Think of him consistently pointing to himself as the bread, perhaps sometimes waving his fingers out from his mouth to help them understand Jesus as both the word, and the giver of life-giving words.
This is the life-transforming union that happens when a person takes in the Lord Jesus in faith. This is better than manna, profoundly better than anything the Judeans had ever imagined. Jesus was sharing his life and his fellowship in the most intimate form of communion possible. It is a relationship more mysterious, more exalted, more beautiful than any human relationship ever known.
Jesus is the source of eternal life and true satisfaction
All of us have what is called “the urge to merge.”
Think about it.
In marriage a husband and wife literally merge their bodies together in sexual union, a special kind of merging that they share with no one else. Intimate, deeply personal, and often the fruit of that merging is a new person, born of their two bodies.
Think of your closest friendships. You share your secrets, your hopes and fears, your deep insights and most intimate thoughts, merging emotionally with each other, often even able to say what the other person is thinking.
So it is spiritually, all of us have a longing to be made one with God, whether we recognize it for what it is, or not. We have the “urge to merge” with God.
That spiritual longing can only be satisfied by the Lord Jesus Christ. As you and I daily take in Christ, may we take time to chew and digest, then use the energy God gives us to spiritually grow and mature.
* The traditional way to translate this phrase from the Greek “uion tou anthropou” is “Son of Man.” This is because “Man” connoted “humankind” for a few centuries in the English language. Interestingly, in Middle English, the female version of “man” was “wimman” or “wifman,” our modern-day “woman.” The male version of “man” was “werman.” This left the word “man” as truly neutral, referring to male and female alike as humans.
However, at some point the prefix “wer” fell away, so that “man” came to mean both male humans and humans in general.
Today, being more sensitive to the implications of using the male version of human as standing in for all humans, more and more people are making the intentional effort to use more accurate language when translating. In this case, “anthropos” in Greek is the neutral term denoting humankind (like “anthropology,” the study of people). If a male term is desired, the Greek uses “aner/andros.”
[Depiction of the Last SUpper | The LUMO Project, http://www.freebibleimages.org]