A Bizarre Teaching
A BIZARRE TEACHING
John 6: 52-60
If you would look once again at verse 53 and 54. Jesus is in the synagogue speaking to the Jews and He says: “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 yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
That’s pretty bizarre sounding isn’t it, this “Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus?”
- This was so bizarre sounding that if you look in verse 60 you find that many of those who had been following Christ had a hard time accepting it.
- In verse 52 His enemies actually thought that Jesus was talking about literally eating His flesh.
- And history reports that many of the pagans at the time, as well as the Roman government, considered Christianity to be an evil cult because they believed that Jesus was endorsing cannibalism here.
- So, admittedly, this seems to be a pretty bizarre statement that Jesus makes here.
What does Jesus mean by it?
- Is He promoting cannibalism?
- Is He talking about the Lord’s supper? Many religious groups believe so.
- Is that what Jesus is speaking of here when He says that you must eat of His “flesh and drink of His blood?”
And it is important that we understand what He is talking about because Jesus says it is a matter of “eternal life and death.”
- So, what is Jesus talking about?
- We all want eternal life…so let’s spend a little time this morning and learn why Jesus says this…and what He is saying.
First of all, Jesus is not teaching or endorsing the practice of cannibalism.
- The fact is, we know that no one ever literally ate Jesus’ flesh or drank His blood.
- We never find in scripture or history where anyone took Jesus, before or after He died, and ate Him.
- And nowhere, in all of church history, do we find any record of anyone in the church practicing cannibalism.
Also, in Genesis 9: 4 and Lev. 17: 10-12, the Jews were explicitly forbidden to eat blood.
- So, it is not remotely reasonable to contend that Jesus is actually promoting the practice of cannibalism.
Now, many people think that Jesus is referring to the Lord’s Supper here, the taking of communion.
- And as a result, some have come up with the doctrine of “transubstantiation” which says that Jesus is literally present in the bread and the fruit of the vine that is taken during communion.
- Their idea is that the Holy Spirit transforms the bread literally into the flesh of Jesus Himself…and the fruit of the vine is literally transformed into His blood. (the bells rings)
- So the fundamental question arises: Is what Jesus says here a reference to the Lord’s Supper?
Well, notice vs. 54 once again. Jesus says: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.”
- If the “eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood” is a reference to the Lord’s Supper then all that would be required of us for eternal life is to take the Lord’s Supper.
- A person could just simply take the bread and the drink and eternal life would be his.
And notice the word “eats” and the word “drinks” both words are in the aorist or past tense…that means all you would have to do is take the Lord’s Supper one time and you would have eternal life.
- There would be no need to take the Lord’s Supper ever week.
But, the truth of the matter is, eternal life does not come simply by taking the Lord’s Supper.
- In I Cor. 11: 23ff where the apostle Paul discusses the Lord’s supper he refers to it as a memorial to the life of Christ…
- …he refers to it as a reminder of what Christ did for us on the cross…
- …he refers to it as a time of self examination…
- …he refers to it as a proclamation of the Lord’s death and His impending return…
- …and He refers to it as an indication of fellowship with Christ.
- But at no time does Paul or any of the other apostles ever associate the Lord’s Supper with salvation and eternal life.
In Luke 22: 17-22 where Christ institutes the Lord’s Supper. He takes the bread and He says, “This is my body (not flesh…body is a completely different term than that used here in John 6).
- He says, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
- He refers to the Lord’s Supper as a reminder.
- And then He refers to the cup as the “new covenant in His blood.”
- But He says nothing about obtaining “eternal life” by taking the Lord’s Supper.
And, not only that, in Luke 22: 17-22 where Christ speaks of His supper, He makes no reference at all to what takes place here in John 6.
- And as far as the idea of “transubstantiation” where the bread and the fruit of the vine literally become the flesh and blood of Christ…no where in scripture will you find that doctrine substantiated.
- So, what Jesus says here in John 6: 53 and 54 does not teach cannibalism…and it is not a reference to the Lord’s Supper.
So, what is Christ talking about when He says that we must “eat of His flesh and drink of His blood” to have eternal life?
Well, first of all let’s look at who Jesus is talking to in all of this. Let’s go back a little to verse 26.
- Jesus has just fed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fishes.
- The people are so impressed that in verse 15 they want to make Him king and will use force if necessary.
- But that isn’t what Jesus wants so He withdraws from the people…and eventually makes His way to the other side of the sea.
- And when the people find out where He is they follow.
Now, notice in verse 26, the kind of people that have followed Him. Jesus says: “Truly, Truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.”
Now, notice verse 28: “They said therefore to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
And then verse 30: “They said therefore to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You?”
And then verse 41 and 52 speaks of the “Jews” who grumbled against Him.
Do you see the kind of people Jesus is speaking to?
- The people that Jesus is speaking to here are lukewarm disciples…disciples who are following Him because they want more to eat…
- …and because they want to see another sign.
- And some of them still believe that they need to do “works” in order to be justified with God.
- And as far as the Jews are concerned, they are simply Jesus’ opponents.
- And what Jesus is doing through out this whole discourse is He is trying to get them to believe in Him.
- To put their faith and trust in Him for their salvation.
In verse 29 He says: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
Vs. 35: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.
36: “But I said to you, that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.
40: For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
47: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
Jesus is talking to a bunch of lukewarm disciples as well as His enemies…and all through this discourse His purpose is to get them to believe in Him…to trust in Him…because it is only by believing in Him that they can obtain eternal life.
- That is the primary purpose of this whole discourse.
Now, let’s go back to verse 53 and 54. In verse 53 Jesus says, “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 yourself. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
- What does Jesus mean here when He speaks of eating His flesh and drinking His blood?
Well, let’s compare these verses with what He has already said back up in verse 47. Notice what produces eternal life in this verse: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.”
- “Belief” or believing results in eternal life here…and in verse 53 and 54 it is “eating and drinking” that results in eternal life.
- Which one is right?
- You see, all the way through this discourse Jesus equates believing with eating and drinking.
Look at verse 34: “They said therefore to Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.”
- Now, notice what Jesus says:
“I am the bread of life…”
- What do you do with bread? You eat it.
Look what He says: “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
- Jesus equates eating the bread, which He is, and drinking of Him…with believing in Him.
Look at verse 47: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 “I am the bread of life.
And now look at verse 51: “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever;
- In one verse you must “believe” in the bread of life to live eternally.
- In the other you must “eat” of the bread to live eternally.
- All through this passage Jesus equates believing in Him with eating and drinking Him.
And so, in verse 53 and 54 when Jesus says that we must “eat His flesh and drink His blood” He is telling these Jews that they must believe in Him or “trust” in Him or “rely” on Him in order to have eternal life.
- And what you have in the metaphor of “eating His flesh, and drinking His blood” is an illustrated definition of what “believing” really is.
Most people do not know or understand what it means to believe in Christ.
- To many people believing is a superficial thing.
- It is nothing more than just believing that Jesus is…and it has nothing to do with trusting in Him or being obedient to Him.
- All that most people want is what Jesus can give them without making any changes in their life at all. (Treat Him like a Genie).
But this idea of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” conveys more than that.
- “Eating His flesh and drinking His blood conveys that believing consist of taking Christ in and making Him a part of your inward being. (If I eat something I take it in and it becomes a part of me. That is the idea here.)
- And it is not just taking in a part of Jesus…not just the part you like…and leaving out that which you don’t like.
This idea of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” conveys that believing consists of taking all of Christ in…and letting Him be a part of your very being.
- In fact, look at verse 56. Jesus says: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides (dwells, resides) in Me, and I in him.
- That is the definition of believing.
This is not a passage on cannibalism.
- This is not a passage about the Lord’s Supper.
There are 13 references in verses 26-58 to eternal life.
- This is a passage about eternal life and being raised up on the last day.
And this is a passage on how to obtain that eternal life.
- And what it takes is “believing” in Jesus.
- Believing that He is the Son of God.
- Believing that He is the Son of Man.
- Believing that He is the Messiah…the Chosen One of God.
- Believing that because He gave His flesh and His blood on the cross that you can have eternal life.
- Believing that He made atonement for sins there.
- Believing that He is Lord and by obeying His commands you can have eternal life.
And, it is allowing that belief to cause you to take Christ in…and be a part of your very being.
- To change you…motivate you…guide you…and direct you.
- To let His life and values be your life and values.
Now, let me ask, “Who or what are you eating of drinking of? Who are you taking in and letting them be a part of your being?”
- These Jews were “eating and drinking” of some prominent Rabbi.
- The Romans were eating and drinking of Caesar or some General.
Today, some eat and drink of some pleasure; or some entertainer; or some philosopher, or some author; or some group; or perhaps a sports team.
People eat and drink of these kinds of things and they walk away hungry and thirsty with no hope of eternal life…completely unfulfilled with life.
It is only when you eat and drink of the flesh and blood of Christ…only when you allow Him to change you, motivate you, guide you, and direct you, and let His values be your values that you will inherit eternal life.
Believing in Jesus is so much more than just saying, “I believe in Jesus.” A lot of people say that and simply because they are afraid of being lost…they want what Jesus can give them; while they want to give very little of themselves in return.
- Sincere believing is living for Jesus and letting Jesus live through you.
In this passage Jesus is speaking to some lukewarm disciples and to His enemies.
- And His purpose through out this discourse is to get them to believe in Him…to trust in Him…to take Him into their very being to guide their lives so that they may be strong and be saved.
Most of His enemies refused.
- And verse 66 says that “Many of His disciples withdrew, and were not walking with Him anymore.”
- But then others remained.
What will it be for you today?
- Will you reject Him and withdraw.
- Or will you believe?
- It is your decision to make.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023