Why did Jesus command followers to eat His flesh?

By Joseph Farah

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

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.

Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.

For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.

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 6:51-56 (KJV)

The Bible is full of what it calls “hard sayings.”

The Bible is also said to be literal truth.

Sometimes this can be confusing.

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 that we see throughout all the gospels. It was also a grave error later in the church.

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.
God had commanded all in Genesis 9:4: “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”

Is Jesus, in fact, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow? Yes. And that, in turn, means God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He character and His commands are the same.

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.

“The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament” by Joseph Farah is available in both hardcover and e-book versions.

ALSO: Get Joseph Farah’s book “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians, and the End of the Age,” and learn about the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith and your future in God’s Kingdom. Also available as an e-book.

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