Consider all of the things science can do. Like understanding the Human Genome to the point of analyzing and distinguishing individual differences and wired in traits. Whether you agree or disagree with Genetically Modified Food, just consider how a scientist can enhance an attribute of a plant, bypassing decades of traditional modification through selective breeding. But in all of that, there is one thing that science has not been able to do, they can’t create life. They can encourage it, modify it, enhance it but not create it. In our next Jesus Said That?! we tackle one of the hardest sayings recorded in the Gospels but one that leads us to an understanding of the radical life offered by Jesus.
John recorded, “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” (John 6:53–56, NASB95) Context is vital to understanding these verses and what Jesus is driving at.
The bookends of John’s Gospel provides us with his overarching themes. He opens with “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:1–5, NASB95) John provides his mission statement near the end of his Gospel, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30–31, NASB95) Understanding life, its origin, and meaning in Christ, is a prominent theme in John’s Gospel. But John had more in view than just biological life, he was looking deeper into the abundant and eternal life found only in Jesus Christ.
Today’s Jesus Said That?! verses are part of a larger narrative that begins all the way up at the beginning of chapter six and the feeding of the five thousand. Some of that same crowd followed Jesus to Capernaum and into the local synagogue. What follows is a series of questions and answers, not unlike the discourses we see between Jesus and Nicodemus (chapter three) and the Samaritan woman (chapter four). In this discourse Jesus declares Himself to be the Bread of Life which is similar to, but more vital than the manna given to Moses’ wandering Israelites.
Jesus’ hard saying comes in response to the grumbling of the crowd and their demand for a sign even though they had just experienced the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus’ miraculous arrival at Capernaum. What Jesus offered them was anathema according to the Law of Moses. Some may have understood that Jesus was not talking physically, which He wasn’t. Neither was Jesus speaking by way of metaphor or extreme example. A few verses later, when He was discussing His declaration with His closest disciples, Jesus said, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” (John 6:61–63, NASB95) Jesus was not speaking physically or metaphorically but spiritually. In other words, Jesus does want us to partake of his body and blood, not in the physical sense of cannibalism, but in the reality of the spirit.
Later in John Jesus provides us with a metaphor to understand our life in Christ. Jesus compared our spiritual lives with those of a grape branch with the grape vine. ““Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4, NASB95) Abiding in Christ is the key that unlocks Jesus’ hard saying about drinking His blood and eating His flesh.
Perhaps it’s a little easier for us to understand Jesus’ words in Chapter six than it was for the crowd in Capernaum that day. We can mentally connect Jesus words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood with the Last Supper and Jesus’ death on the cross. But Jesus was talking about a deeper truth than simply partaking in the bread and wine of remembrance.
To enjoy the abundant, rich and satisfying, everlasting life that Jesus offers we must abide in Him. But there is a growth process like a branch that has been grafted onto a vine. As we grow into Him, He grows into us. The idea of life changes for those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus. Life is now so much more than the physical reality of our experience. In a few moments, I’ll eat breakfast, a couple of pieces of toast and jam. It will give life to my physical body, allow me to move, breath, and do all things necessary for life to continue. That is a physical reality. The spiritual reality of Jesus’ statement about eating His flesh and drinking His blood is that there is no spiritual, abundant, everlasting life apart from Him. In a way, Jesus is saying it’s all or nothing.
The encouragement that I draw from these hard words of Jesus is that I must partake in all He offers and provides, not just the parts I like. It’s all of Jesus or nothing. I cannot just brush up against Christianity and church life and think that I’m ok. I cannot just desire the good stuff, the sweet tasting morsels of faith and the savoriness of belonging to a family without the sourness of confessed sin, the saltiness of obedient integrity, or the bitterness of dying to self. But to abide in Christ means that I must embrace all that He offers.
What about you? Are you partaking in all that Jesus offers or only searching after the parts you like, desire, or agree with? My encouragement is for you to press into this radical life of following Jesus. Decide to desire all that Jesus has for you and you will discover a rich and satisfying life that can’t be experienced anywhere else.