“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”
— John 6:53
The Bible is full of what it calls “hard sayings.”
The Bible is also said to be literal truth.
Sometimes this can be confusing.
One dear lady not quite through my new book “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age,” was quite excited about what she was reading, but was struggling with one of those “hard sayings.”
Let me quote the relevant part of her letter:
“You quote Hebrews 13:8: ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.’ I love that quote: I thank Him for that daily! But, I have to ask: Do you really, fully, without a doubt believe it and stand on it? I am talking the kind of belief that says, ‘The Bible says, therefore, it is true!? Because your answer is critical.
“Now, read John 6:43-54. Jesus said: ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’ Remember that the Bible also records that many disciples left Jesus in disgust after this discourse. Could this be for a test of our obedience to Him – just as Abraham was asked to sacrifice/kill his own son?”
Here is my answer to her.
Remember who Jesus is? He’s the Word made flesh (John 1:14). Eating His flesh and drinking His blood means consuming the Word of God. Context is everything in the Bible. It’s no wonder some disciples walked away from Jesus after He made that comment, if they thought He was telling them they must physically eat His own sacrificed body like they ate the Passover lamb.
This passage in Scripture has led to much confusion in the church, including the false doctrine of transubstantiation – that when we take communion, we are literally eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood.
But, if we dutifully study Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, His people will discover the truth of what Jesus was saying in the context. The Bible always explains itself. The teachings of men can be helpful, but Jesus warned against following blindly the traditions of men. This was the grave error of the Pharisees, we see throughout all the gospels – the subject of the entire first chapter of my book.
Instead of commanding us to eat His physical flesh and drink His actual blood, Jesus was simply telling us literally to consume the Word of God, which is He. Jesus is the Word made flesh and blood.
We know this, too, because no Apostles were ever tempted to eat Jesus’ body or drink His blood. They did, however, partake in the symbolic act of breaking bread and drinking the wine at the Passover meal when Jesus told them it was, again symbolically, His flesh and blood.
In fact, Jesus said, at that time, that He was actually drinking wine – “this fruit of the vine” – and would not drink it again with the disciples until He was with them in His Father’s Kingdom.
There’s more in John 6 that is relevant to this “hard saying.” When Jesus saw the dissension His comments caused, He added: “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Do you follow that? It is the spirit that provides life, not the flesh.
Later, He makes it known that he uttered this “hard saying” because some there did not believe and were intent on betraying Him. They were already lost. He was, in fact, calling them out.
Is Jesus, in fact, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow? Yes. And that, in turn, means God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
That’s not a hard saying at all. For me it is a clarifying one. It tells me that the God of the Bible didn’t change His character somewhere between the Old and New Testaments.
Since Jesus is the Word, and as He is the Creator of everything that was made (John 1:3), and because God is all-knowing and all-powerful, all that stands to reason – in the full context of all Scripture.
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