John 6:53-56 53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.
If you are just hearing this passage for the first time, you might be looking for the exit door about now. What in the world is Jesus talking about when He says we are to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood? That’s creepy, right? That’s cannibalism. He is obviously serious because He says it four times in three verses. But exactly what is it that He means? To understand these verses, we need to look at what comes before these verses and at what comes after.
Earlier in John 6, as we talked about last week, Jesus fed the 5000 which was more like the feeding of the 15,000-20,000. He did that with five loaves of bread and two fish. Everyone ate, got full, and there were leftovers. A huge miracle had obviously taken place. When people got a taste, (literally) of what Jesus could do, they wanted to follow Him for more of that. They had plans for Jesus. Isn’t that interesting? The crowd had plans for Jesus. We see it in verses 14-15.
14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
They intended to make Him king by force. They had political aspirations for Jesus. They wanted Him to become a temporal, earthly king in Israel. They wanted to use Him for their own ends. They wanted to force Him into that role. The miracles He was performing suggested He would be a good politician. The crowd was willing to resort to violence to make Jesus King. They wanted out from Rome’s control. Jesus hadn’t come to overthrow Rome. He had come to overthrow sin and Satan. Those who had been part of that miraculous feeding didn’t necessarily see themselves as having a sin problem. Their perceived problems all stemmed from Rome’s occupation. Jesus was going to have to teach them in a way that would wake them up to their real need.
So, Jesus had sort of slipped away from the crowd and they started looking for Him. He basically said to them, “Hey, I know you are looking for me because of what I did for you. What I did for you was just a sign of what I really want to do for you. I fed you, yes, but I have more for you. I have eternal life to give you.” Jesus had eternal life to give, and it was going to become available by the giving of His very flesh and blood.
People in the crowd asked how they could obtain the eternal life He was offering. He told them that they needed to believe in Him, to believe in Him as the One God had sent to make eternal life possible. They asked Him what sign He would perform to prove He was the One who would make eternal life possible. They dipped back into their history as the Jewish people. They said that their ancestors had been given bread from Heaven to eat when they were on a journey in the wilderness. Bread literally fell from Heaven every day for them to pick up. It was this bread in their background, this bread in their history that Jesus could use to teach them something deeper, something spiritual.
He said in verses 32-33: 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
Jesus declared He was the bread that gave life! It wasn’t about a physical hunger. It wasn’t about a physical thirst. It was about a far greater spiritual need that could only be met by believing in Jesus. The miracles Jesus was performing weren’t meant to just amaze people or to relieve people of some momentary suffering, but they were to point to His Divinity, to His assignment, to authenticate that He was the Son of God, sent by the Heavenly Father, to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world so that all who take Him in would receive eternal life.
Well, they couldn’t handle the thought that Jesus had come down from heaven. They knew Him to be the son of Joseph and Mary. Some of them had grown up with Jesus. It didn’t compute that He had a Divine origin. Jesus went on to say, 47 Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread (I think He was pointing to Himself here) that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
I can just see Jesus with His head in His hands, shaking His head, taking a deep breath, and thinking to Himself, “I’m going to have to get really graphic, here.” That’s when He said four times in three verses that those who would receive eternal life would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood. What did Jesus mean?
If He was offering His flesh and blood, He was talking about His death. You can’t part with your flesh and blood and remain alive, right? People were following Jesus because of His miracles, but in this graphic exchange about eating flesh and drinking blood, Jesus was declaring that salvation wasn’t about miracles; it was about His sacrifice on the cross.
He continued to teach. They continued to not get what He was saying. They wanted a miracle for a moment. He wanted to give them eternal life. Verse 66 says, “66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Do you feel the weight of that statement? Many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. It is super sad. They cut ties with Jesus. They no longer followed Him. There was a disconnect and a departure from Jesus because He didn’t fit their profile. They wanted political liberation. He wanted so much more for them than temporary reprieve from Rome. They wanted Jesus on their terms. He wanted to give them eternal life, life that would begin by “eating of His flesh and drinking of His blood.”
What is meant by that statement? It means that Jesus was going to give His flesh and His blood, His very life, so that they could live a new kind of life. It means that by faith and because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we can choose to take “the all” of Jesus into “the all” of us. Jesus went all in for us, so we could take Him fully into our hearts and lives.
- Jesus gave His life as the atonement or covering for our sin.
- He gave His life so that we could have our sin debt cancelled.
- He gave His life so that we could be forgiven.
- He gave His life so that sin would no longer have any dominion over us.
- He gave His life so that we could have a relationship with God that is based on the sinless righteousness of Jesus and not on any works that we would attempt to do to impress God.
- He gave His life so that we could have the image of God fully restored in us.
- He gave His life so that we could receive Christ on the inside, like we would receive bread, and we could be strengthened by Him in our inner man, so that we could be empowered by Him on the inside, so that we could be transformed to be like Him from the inside out.
- He gave His life so that we could possess His mind, His heart, and His mission.
- He gave His life so that we could live with power and authority over the things of earth and over every dark, spiritual force, including Satan Himself.
- Jesus gave His life so that we would never have to face death the way He did, as a condemned sinner.
But they wanted loaves of bread. They wanted a new king. They just wanted an easier, more comfortable “now.” They wanted to be entertained and wowed by miracles.
It was at this point that Jesus asked His question. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
He was asking His 12, His inner circle, do you want more than a miracle in the moment? Do you want a relationship with Me for eternity? Do you want ALL that I have to give? Some people will only go so far with Jesus. When conditions are favorable, and it doesn’t require too much, they are in. When they are experiencing the blessing of God, the benefits of God, the favor of God, and life is fairly comfortable, they are in. But walking with Jesus when it requires faith in the dark and difficult moments, walking with Jesus when it requires sacrifice and trust in Him when you can’t possibly predict what He is up to and you just want the discomfort to end, well, many look for a quick fix on a different path.
This was a defining moment for the 12. Many follow Jesus as fans. Sadly, fewer come to truly know Him for Who He is. Look at Peter’s response. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
This is one of the most triumphant Scriptures! “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” Listen, when you truly come to believe in Jesus as the Bread sent from Heaven, as the Messiah, as the Holy One of God, as the One who is qualified to restore our lives and to give eternal life to all who come to Him in faith, you won’t want to follow any other way or any other person and you want to take Him up on His offer to fully take Him in.
Peter spoke on behalf of the rest, although he could really only speak for himself. He said, “We are in! We want all You have to offer, Jesus. We believe in You not just because of the miracles, but we believe in you because we have placed our trust in You, and we have walked with You, and we know Who You are . Jesus, we want you for more than a miracle or a monarch. We want YOU! And we want to eat of your flesh and drink of your blood, not in a true, physical sense, of course, but we want to take “the all” of You into “the all” of us.
What have you come to believe and know about Jesus this morning? And why are you following Him, and to what extent are you following Him? Dr. Linda Withrow shared this very challenging quote with me this week: “The critical question for our generation-and for every generation-is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?” -John Piper
Do we just want Jesus to make our lives better or do we want Jesus? He called Himself, “Bread.” How many of you love bread? How many of you look for excuses to take your laptop to Panera Bread just so you can hang out near the smell of bread?
Honestly, there are so many benefits of bread. Bread has a wide range of vitamins and minerals including B group vitamins such as B1 and B3 which are important for releasing energy from food and maintaining healthy skin, eyes, and nails. White bread is fortified with calcium which helps us maintain healthy bones and teeth. Some breads are important sources of fiber which keep our digestive system healthy and help control blood sugar and cholesterol levels and make us feel full for longer. Bread contains surprisingly high amounts of proteins and zinc. It is also considered essential during pregnancy.
But y’all, if I don’t ingest the bread and digest the bread, it won’t do me a hill of beans. What I am trying to say is, I could be around bread all day long and could know enough bread facts to win an entire Jeopardy category, but if I refused to receive it on the inside of me, I could starve to death. Until I eat the bread, it won’t benefit me. I can’t be spiritually fed by Jesus, nourished by Jesus, and sustained by Jesus if I hold Him to an outside admiration. He must be taken in.
Why did Jesus say we are to eat and drink of His sacrifice? Because eating and drinking are acts of reception. Our faith and belief in Jesus and what He can do cannot be rightly compared with admiring Him or knowing about Him or getting a miracle from Him. We have to partake of Him, fully, deeply, to be able to experience the satisfaction and thrill that come from knowing Him on the inside.
Nothing will satisfy our hunger and bring us spiritual life except actually eating the bread. And Jesus said, “He who eats this bread will live forever.”
This was a defining moment for Peter and the others. Jesus asked, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Peter victoriously declared that he had settled where real life was found. There was nowhere else, there was nothing else that could give life like Jesus.
Maybe this morning, Jesus wants to ask you the same or similar question. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Or maybe the question He is whispering to you is, “Why did you leave Me?” Perhaps He is inviting you to totally trust Him, to take “the all” of Him into “the all” of you.” What if this is supposed to be a defining moment in your life and faith? What if the turnaround you need for your life rests solely on how you answer this question? What if the breakthrough you need has been out of reach because you have hung around with the Bread of Life but have never truly taken it in? How you answer the question Jesus is asking you just now will determine what you can receive from Him, and I promise you, in this moment, He wants to give His all to you. You simply have to believe and receive it.
Don’t relegate Jesus to an outside experience. Take Him in, all of Him in, on the inside and watch Him not only provide for you, but watch Him transform you from the inside out.