Prepared by John E. Marshall
To us this passage sounds crude and bizarre. Eating flesh and drinking blood repulses us. Jesus, not speaking literally, was using symbolic language, as we do when we speak of tasting sorrow or feeding on love, etc.
Eating and drinking refer to taking something into one=s innermost being, as when food is taken in and nutrients are absorbed. So it is with Christ to our spirit. We find life when Jesus is taken in and assimilated into our spiritual essence.
Eating Jesus= flesh and drinking His blood is a graphic way of saying we need ongoing intimate union with Christ. The metaphor vividly teaches the best recipe for spiritual health.
John 6:48-51 (Holman) AI am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.@
First, nourishment must be sufficient. We need nourishment capable of raising us from death. Only Jesus has defeated physical death. Only His meat and drink can give us victory over the grave.
In the wilderness wandering, not even manna enabled its eaters to overcome physical death. Manna was wonderful. It preserved and supported life. However, manna could not perpetuate life. Only Christ can do the latter.
Once Jesus is appropriated, physical death becomes only a parenthesis, a momentary jolt on the journey of life. For believers, physical death is actually an improvement. Paul said, AFor me, living is Christ and dying is gain@ (Philippians 1:21).
Jesus not only gives us victory over the grave. Before we experience our physical death, Jesus nourishes us in daily living. He gives us power to live right. Pastor Samuel Pearce, of Birmingham, England, determining to dedicate his life to the Lord, drew up a covenant and proved his seriousness by signing it with his blood. He soon failed in his vows. Depressed, he prayed, studied, and came to realize Christ alone could give the power needed. He had depended too much on self, not enough on God. Pearce took the blood-signed covenant to the top of a house, tore it to pieces and cast it to the wind, resolving to lean totally on Christ=s blood alone. For every situation Jesus alone is sufficient nourishment.
John 6:52-53 AThe Jews argued among themselves, AHow can this man give us His flesh to eat?@ So Jesus said to them, AI assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves.@
Second, nourishment must be appropriated. Food is no help until taken in. To receive nourishment, people must realize their need and find something outside themselves to meet their need.
We do not feed on ourselves. Eating and drinking is a going outside of ourselves to take hold of something beyond us to sustain ourselves.
Eating and drinking Jesus means taking Him into our essence, trusting ourselves entirely to Him, even as people trust their life to bread they eat and to water they drink.
We must trust Jesus, release the reins of our life, and surrender totally to Him. To appropriate Jesus we must Aeat@ and Adrink@ (v. 53). The tense is aorist, denoting a once-for-all act, not a repeated deed. We enter into a relationship with Jesus by receiving Him as having died for us as our sacrifice.
Jesus had to die before an intimate relationship could be made possible between us and Him. The bread had to be broken to become food. The blood had to be spilled to become drink. Christian faith is faith in Christ crucified. Whether we are saved or lost, our nourishment is found at the cross.
John 6:54-56 AAnyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him.@
Third, nourishment must be continuous. AEats@ and Adrinks@ are present tense, denoting continuous appropriation. Jesus not only gives life at first; He upholds it. Jesus maintains and preserves spiritual life. His continuing influence enriches it. We are to feed on Jesus continually. Eating and drinking must be done frequently.
Keep even the strongest person from food but a few days, and their life will end. Many Christians are spiritual weaklings because they do not meditatively and repeatedly feed on Christ. Yesterday=s portion can not stop today=s hunger.
As Christ is continually taken into our lives, He becomes part and parcel of us. We feed on Jesus till we are like Him, till our life is the life of Christ. We want to be one with Christ, as our bodies are with our food when digested (v. 56).
Rees Howells, to show his sense of uninterrupted prayer, did not wear a hat. A Mr. Hewitson once wrote in his diary, AI think I know more of Jesus Christ than of any earthly friend.@ An acquaintance wrote of Hewitson, AHe seemed to have no gaps, no intervals in his communion with God. I used to feel, when with him, that it was being with one who was a vine watered every moment.@
We feed on the living Christ, realizing His shed blood has been transfused into the veins of our spirits, where it becomes a throbbing source of life, working to saturate the whole of our inmost being. If continually fed on, Jesus never stops transforming us. He influences us from center to circumference.
John 6:57-59 AJust 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven, it is not like the manna your fathers ate B and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.@ He said these things while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
Fourth, nourishment must be desired. Spiritual life depends on eating. The amount we eat is determined by the intensity of our desire for Jesus. Eating and drinking imply appetite. Spiritual eating and drinking begin with hunger and thirst. ABlessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, because they will be filled@ (Matthew 5:6).
Jesus is the only food which by filling makes us capable of more food. In Him, appetite and satisfaction continually increase in eternal alternation.
The catalyst for spirituality is desire. There is no spiritual growth where there is no desire towards Christ. If the spirit does not hunger and thirst, it does not thrive.
If we ever lose our desire for more of Christ, rest assured we are out of health. There is no surer sign of spiritual anemia than not to delight in Jesus and His salvation.
Some believers are dangerously content, seeking no closer communion with Jesus. Let this thunderbolt jolt our lethargy B our right behavior can be a tool of Satan to lull us to sleep. The Devil can make a Pharisee as easily as a drunkard.
Desire for more of God must ever be the hallmark of believers. Taking mysticism out of our faith would destroy its very heart. We might as well take light out of the sun, and still call it the sun, as take intimacy with Christ out of our faith and still call it Christianity. We should want increasing communion with the living God. Christ and Christ alone is the ultimate object of our desire.
In 1673 Samuel Rutherford wrote from an Aberdeen, Scotland, jail, AChrist, Christ, nothing but Christ can cool our love=s burning languor. O thirsty love! Wilt thou set Christ, the well of life, to thy head and drink thy fill? Drink and spare not; drink love and be drunk with Christ . . . I am confounded with wonder, to think what it shall be, when the fairest among the sons of men shall lay a King=s sweet soft cheek to the sinful cheeks of poor sinners. O time, time, go swiftly, and hasten that day! Sweet Lord Jesus, post! Come flying, like a young hart or a roe upon the mountains of separation.@
Rutherford once said the distance between Himself and Jesus was a death. He felt if he could clasp Jesus in his arms He would never let go again. May the passion for Jesus be equally as strong in us.