“52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?’ 53 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to 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 him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven — not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.’ 59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.” John 6:52-59
How can Jesus give us His flesh to eat? This was a question troubling Jesus’ hearers in the synagogue at Capernaum, but it still troubles those who hear His words today.
And, certainly, eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood is important because Jesus also said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53).
Was Jesus talking about partaking in the Lord’s Supper? Some might say yes, but He had not yet even instituted His Supper when He spoke these words, and nowhere does the Bible say that those who have not been afforded the opportunity to partake in the Lord’s Supper remain spiritually dead and are condemned forever.
Jesus said, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” (John 6:54-55). Jesus says that His flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed, using the same Greek word used for “is” when He said of the bread in the Lord’s Supper, “This is My body,” and of the wine, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:26,28). In fact, Jesus’ words here, in John 6, are even stronger because He adds the word “indeed,” meaning it truly is, to His statements concerning His flesh and His blood.
Yet, Jesus is not talking about actually chewing and drinking His flesh and blood and digesting it in our bodies. He is talking about partaking of Him and His sacrifice on the cross in faith — a spiritual eating and drinking of His body and blood that we might also partake of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life that He won for all when He suffered and died on the cross and then rose again in victory.
Understanding how the sacrificial system pointed to Christ is necessary to rightly understand Jesus’ words. Sacrifices were offered, pointing ahead to the perfect sacrifice God would provide, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29; cf. Gen. 22:13-14); and, as the people often partook of their sacrifices, so we partake of Christ and His sacrifice for us on the cross when we trust in Him (cf. Ex. 12:1ff.; 24:1-11 29:33).
Jesus’ words in John 6:56-57 make this clear: “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” We abide in Christ and are in communion with Christ when we confess our sins and partake of His sacrifice for the sins of the world in faith (cf. 1 John 1:5 — 2:2; John 3:14-18). Not all who partake of the Lord’s Supper are saved, but those who partake by faith of Jesus’ body and blood, given and shed for all upon the cross, live through Him. They have the forgiveness of sins Christ won for them, and they have the promise of eternal life as God’s redeemed people.
As Jesus said in John 6:58, “This is the bread which came down from heaven — not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” Jesus is the true life-giving bread that came down from heaven. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The question is: Do you partake of Him and His perfect sacrifice for you on the cross in faith?
Dear Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, grant that I look to You and Your cross and partake of You in faith as the holy and sinless sacrifice for my sins that You may raise me up on the last day to life everlasting. Amen.
[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]