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What Did Jesus Mean by Eating His Flesh and Drinking His Blood?

We are continuing yesterday's meditation on what Jesus taught about Himself being the true manna that came down from heaven. What Christ said next shocked His listeners to the core:

47I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." 52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" 53Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:47-54).

Many turned back from following Jesus after the above statement (v. 66). As a nation, God had forbidden them to drink blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 7:26-27), so how are we to interpret what He was saying? Some claim that they have the power to change bread and wine into the body of Christ and His blood, but is this correct? Should we take this as a literal statement or a spiritual statement? Jesus explained that He was speaking in spiritual terms. He said to them, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life (John 6:63).

We have no problem understanding that when Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well in Samaria, i.e., when He was talking about the water He would give, Christ was talking in terms of the Spirit of God (John 4:13-14). Why should we think in literal terms about eating His flesh and drinking His blood? When He said, “I am the vine” (John 15:5) or, “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:10), we should not believe for a minute that He was speaking in literal terms. He was speaking in picture language. The Passover lamb, a type of the sacrificial death of Christ, had to be consumed entirely, and none left over for the morning (Exodus 12:9-10). Eating His flesh and drinking His blood speaks of a total encounter with the Lord Jesus.

When He said these words, it was close to the time of Passover (John 6:4). As occupants of the household had to eat all of the Passover lamb, we are to spiritually feed on the person of Jesus, the Bread of Life, the actual fulfillment of the Passover Lamb of God. Just as we consume bread and wine, and the blood takes the nutrition to every part of the body, feeding on Christ spiritually allows His Word and Spirit to touch every area of our character as we live for Him and no longer for ourselves.

Paul the Apostle wrote about what happens to us when we give our lives to Christ, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Eternal life is to partake of the Bread of Life, the staple diet of the Christian. These words call for radical steps of giving up ownership of ourselves and all that we have. Isaac Watts, the Christian hymn writer, said, “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Do you have Him? And does Christ have you? Jesus went on to say, 55“For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just 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. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:55-58).

We must receive Christ into our lives and feed on Him for the rest of our lives, starting at the point of believing and receiving Him. This eternal life begins upon taking that step of faith. Jesus could not be more explicit about it than when He made this statement:

I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life (John 6:47).

Shortened from the more extended study at the following link: Jesus the Living Bread


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