“52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’53 Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, 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 them 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 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 ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.’ 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.” NIV
We should not be surprised to find that Jesus’ teaching divides and offends certain people (52). We cannot, and should not, try to make palatable that which the natural man innately finds distasteful. Certainly we should not aim to be offensive. There is no virtue in that. But it is not for us either to sandpaper down the rough edges of the of the cross. It says in ‘The Message’, ”But Jesus didn’t give an inch.” Neither should we. If you never have an adverse reaction to the gospel you share, just check that you are preaching the Biblical gospel. Neither should we be surprised, by the way, if what we teach ‘in church’ (59) sometimes meets with painful opposition. There may be ‘disciples’ (66) who don’t much like the sermon. The truth sets free, but first of all it can make people miserable, angry and uncomfortable. (Notice again here that Jesus was being taken literally when His intention was to be understood spiritually.)
Whenever Jesus says, ”I tell you the truth” in this fourth gospel (and He frequently does), He is underlining the importance of what is to come. It’s like, ”Listen up folks. This really matters.” Jesus was not advocating cannibalism. But He did have a teaching style that involved being provocative at times. He would say shocking things and get people to think. When you ”eat” and ”drink” you take into yourself that which is outside yourself – and we have to do that with Jesus. We have to receive Him into the ‘inner person’. I mentioned in yesterday’s piece that there is the idea in the Greek language of enjoyment. ‘The Message’ captures this in these words: ”The one who brings a hearty appetite to this eating and drinking has eternal life and will be fit and ready for the Final Day. My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” If you’re looking for reality, you will find it in Christ alone. Feed on Jesus Himself and you will find yourself consuming great big mouthfuls of reality; swallowing down huge gulps of authenticity. You’ll be fully alive because of Who Jesus is in His Person and because of what He did for you at the cross, and that new, fresh quality of life will continue forever.
Furthermore, His death is indispensable for us to have ”life”. ”Flesh” and ”blood”, mentioned in separation, as here, point to death – violent death. It cost the Lord Jesus dearly to save us. It’s the Bible Jesus we are called to feed on – not some version of Him (and therefore an idol) we have constructed in our own image. It’s the Jesus of the cross who is our true life. Let’s feed on Calvary truth and all that it means. Devour it. Hunger for it. Settle for no substitutes.
There is no basis here for the belief that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of our Lord at the communion service (‘transubstantiation’). Jesus did not teach that. He did however make it clear that we can feed on Him (the One who died for us) by faith, and be eternally nourished and satisfied in Him.
Remember, as long as Jesus is outside your life He cannot free you from your sins. You must ”eat” and drink” and ‘feed’. (Look at the repetition of ”eat” and ”drink” in 53, 54, 55. This imperative is hammered in). Open up all you are to all He is, and all that He has done on your behalf.
Prayer: Lord, let there be no compromise in the way I live, or in the message I communicate. However tempted I may feel, I never want to dilute your gospel to make it more acceptable to the hearers. ”Great is thy faithfulness”. O Lord, grant that I may have a great faithfulness towards you and your truth.