Do we understand the spiritual meaning of the words of Jesus?
Our sermon series on the Hard Sayings of Jesus has covered many of the most challenging and convicting truths that Jesus taught during his ministry. You can review the difficult teachings in our other blog posts here and here.
No matter where we are in our lives, hearing these truths from Jesus should always convict us but also encourage us to draw closer to God. As we continue in this series, we would like to take a closer look at one of Jesus' more difficult sayings:
Eat my flesh? Drink my blood?
Pat Hughes taught from John 6, where Jesus, after feeding the 5,000 people, turned to the crowd and said this 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 you. Whoever feeds on 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. Whoever feeds on 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 whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. John 6:53-57 ESV
Um, wow? Did Jesus suggest that his followers should cannibalise him in order to have eternal life? To steal the words of the Apostle Paul: "By no means!"
Why would Jesus speak in this way? As Pat explained, we need to see some of the context in this situation.
The people were drawn to Jesus by miracles he was performing, and the recent feeding of the 5,000 was certainly one of Jesus' showstoppers! After being enamoured by his miracles, the people then began to listen to the words of Jesus and, being astute listeners indeed, they began to believe that Jesus was the prophet "who was to come into the world" (John 6:14).
The Jewish followers remembered the words of Moses from Deuteronomy:
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen." Deuteronomy 18:15.
Jesus had just told the crowd that “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).
However, the crowd wanted to make Jesus an earthly king. They wanted more miracles! More signs, more incredible things. They were not quite seeing the big picture which Jesus had been repeating to them: that he is the bread of life, sent down from the Father in heaven, and through him you can have eternal life (see John 6:41-47).
Many of the listeners could not handle this saying. The Jewish leaders asked "How can he give us his flesh to eat?" They were not understanding the spiritual meaning of Jesus' words; they saw Jesus as man, and not as God in the flesh.
They did not believe that Jesus came from heaven to offer his body as a sacrifice for our sins. His flesh will be broken and his blood spilt to conquer and wash our sins.
What about us? Do we overlook or not understand the spiritual meaning of the words of Jesus?
We can often be like the crowd who were wanting to see Jesus perform more miracles and more signs of wonder.
Often, we want Jesus to perform something miraculous for us now. We are drawn to the miracles and the warm feelings that Jesus certainly provides us. But that is where we often stop. We come to church on Sundays expecting something incredible to happen in our lives instantly. "What's in it for me?" we may ask.
We fail to see recognise the person behind the miraculous. Sometimes we forget about who the man was who performed these miracles: God in the flesh, who came to save us from our sin.
Jesus is the bread of life. Feed on his flesh, drink his blood; live by his every word, abide in him.