Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked.
So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum
John 6:52-59 (NLT)
There is no eternal life apart from Jesus. We have to personally partake of Him the same way we eat food to sustain our physical life.
In John 6:52, these Jews clearly thought Jesus was speaking of cannibalism. Jesus knew what they were thinking but made no attempt to explain. Instead, He repeated His previous statement and even strengthened it by speaking about drinking His blood. This shows He was not a people pleaser.
Jesus depended on the Holy Spirit to draw the people and give them revelation (John 6:44). We should do the same.
Being orthodox Jews, the listeners knew the divine prohibition against eating human flesh or any kind of blood (Gen. 9:3-4; Lev. 17:10-16; 19:26). Here we have another example in John’s Gospel of the people misunderstanding a spiritual truth by treating it literally (see John 2:19-21; 3:4; 4:11). All Jesus said was,
“Just as you take food and drink within your body and it becomes a part of you, so you must receive Me within your innermost being so that I can give you life.”
Some interpreters tell us that Jesus was speaking about the Lord’s Supper, and that we eat His flesh and drink His blood when we partake of the elements at the table, the bread and the cup. I do not believe that Jesus had the Communion (or Eucharist) in mind when He spoke these words.
For one thing, why would He discuss the Lord’s Supper with a group of disagreeable unbelievers?
He had not even shared that truth with His own disciples!
Why would He cast this precious pearl before the swine?
Second, He made it clear that He was not speaking in literal terms (John 6:63). He was using a human analogy to convey a spiritual truth, just as He did with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman.
Third, Jesus made it plain that this eating and drinking were absolutely essential for eternal life. He made no exceptions. If, then, He was speaking about a church ordinance (or sacrament), then everybody who has never shared in that experience is spiritually dead and is going to hell. This would include all the Old Testament saints, the thief on the cross, and a host of people who have trusted Christ in emergency situations (hospitals, accidents, foxholes, etc.). I personally cannot believe that our gracious God has excluded from salvation all who cannot participate in a church ceremony.
It is significant that the word flesh is never used in any of the reports of the Lord’s Supper, either in the Gospels or in 1 Corinthians 11:23-34. The word used is “body.”
If a person holds that our Lord was speaking about the Communion service, then he must believe that somehow the two elements, the bread and the fruit of the vine, turn into the very body and blood of Christ; for He said, “Anyone who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” (John 6:57, italics mine).
How does this “miracle” take place? What is the secret of accomplishing it? Why is it not apparent?
Our Lord’s messages recorded in the Gospel of John are filled with symbolism and imagery. To take them literally is to make the same mistake the people made who first heard them.
Cultivating Dynamic Devotion
John’s gospel introduces the Holy Spirit as the key to a truly dynamic devotion to God. It anticipates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who will become the very energy of the believer’s devotional life. The Holy Spirit will maximize prayer and worship, minister through the Lord’s Supper, and enable believers to continually draw their lives from Jesus Christ Himself.
Draw on Jesus’ life and healing while partaking of His body and blood in the Lord’s supper.