What Did Christ Mean?
To Eat & Drink Christ’s Flesh & Blood
Jesus the Christ (Gk. Christos: the Anointed One, the Messiah), the Son of God (i.e., God manifested in the flesh), made a number of exceedingly significant statements during His ministry prior to being crucified on Calvary.
In Capernaum and confronted by some quarreling Jews, Christ made the following statements:
(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.”
To properly understand the meaning of these statements by Christ, one must first consider the context from which they are taken. The occasion for His comments stemmed from the events of the previous day when Christ departed Jerusalem and having “went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias” (vs. 1) and while “up on the mountain” (vs. 3) with His disciples and realizing “the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near” (vs. 4), He performed one of eight specific “signs” recorded in the book of John. All of the recorded signs (and there were others) were performed for the stated purpose that the Jews “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing [they] may have life in His name (John 20:31).
(A more complete description and explanation of the eight signs that are recorded in the book of John, particularly as to their purpose, may be understood by reading the book, Signs in John’s Gospel, which may be accessed from the website www.bibleone.net or clicking on the following link: http://bibleone.net/SiJG.htm.)
It should be understood that Christ was making no reference to what eventually would be introduced by Him and named by Protestant Christians as the “Lord’s Supper” (Matthew 26:26-28). Granted, He used the same analogous speech on both occasions but to convey different spiritual truths. The practice now known as the “Lord’s Supper” had not been introduced when Christ was speaking in Capernaum, an event Christ later introduced to encourage Christians to remember His forthcoming sacrifice on the cross. That to which He spoke of in Capernaum was a further and more emphatic expression of a principle, a practice in which all Christians should daily engage.
Furthermore, it should be understood, as it was obvious, that Christ was not speaking of literally eating His flesh or drinking His blood. Clearly, He was utilizing analogous speech to press this most urgent topic home to His listeners, a topic that had surfaced previously as He was speaking to the “people” who had crossed over from Tiberias to Capernaum (vss. 2, 24).
As the “people” approached Him on that day, Christ knew that they sought Him not because they were impressed with the “signs” He had performed but because they had been “filled” with the “loaves” (vs. 26). And to exhibit their superficial understanding of the coming and Person of Christ, they referred to their ancestors who had also been fed manna in the desert as they crossed the wilderness (vs. 31). In other words, their interest was purely on the physical, not the spiritual.
It was then that Christ introduced the spiritual concept, the principle that is the foundation of spiritual maturation, which, if followed, would insure that Christians not only maintain their spiritual station but would progress in their spiritual growth. Specifically, Christ informed His listeners that it was He and He alone that they should feed upon in order to achieve a proper spiritual position and a healthy spiritual progress (maturity).
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. (33) For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (34) Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” (35) And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:32-35)
Soon after stating this, the Jews “complained about Him, because He said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven’” (vs. 41), which led Him to confirm the principle of spiritual maintenance and growth, as follows:
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (48) I am the bread of life. (49) Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. (50) This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. (51) I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. (John 6:47-51)
But this only led the Jews to quarrel “among themselves, saying, ‘How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?’” (vs. 52), which then led Christ to reiterate the spiritual principle in a more emphatic and awakening passage, as seen at the beginning of this study. But still, many of the Jews couldn’t or wouldn’t understand, as well as His disciples, as seen in verse 60:
Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?” (vs. 60)
So when Jesus “knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this” (vs. 61), he then conveyed a most revealing statement that should have resolved the difficulty that they were experiencing over the matter. He said:
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life (vs. 63).
And this should have made the matter clear to His disciples. He was essentially saying that it was the Word of God that alone can sustain and bring to spiritual maturity those who would follow Christ. The consumption of physical flesh could do nothing. But conversely, if a Christian would feast on a steady diet of God’s Word, spiritual success would follow – for it is the Word that is “spirit” (i.e., spiritual, not physical) and is “life.” And the Spirit of God is the only one who is able to convey the many (spiritual) truths of the Word.
Christians must understand that it is “the Word” who “was God” and who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14), who indeed was evident throughout all of the Old Testament (Luke 24:27; 1 Corinthians 10:4), who alone is our spiritual nourishment. It is only as we study Him, Christ Jesus, the Word of God, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:13-15), that we may become spiritually mature and eventual “overcomers” who will reign and rule with Christ in His soon-coming Messianic kingdom (Revelation 2:7, 17, 26-29; 3:5, 12, 21).
Furthermore, Christians must additionally understand that as they have by a decision of faith (a placement of trust) in Christ instantly and permanently became children of God (“made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” [Ephesians 2:1]), they are to employ the same principle of faith in the study and reception of God’s Word. This principle was repeated by Christ to His followers during the same day that He was endeavoring to teach them that it was He who they must “eat” and “drink” in order to achieve spiritual maturity, as follows:
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe [have faith] in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29)
And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes [has faith] in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes [has faith] in Me has everlasting life.
To reiterate, the only way a Christian may “eat” and “drink” God’s Word is to believe [exercise faith in] it. This is a concept revealed in the following statement concerning the only way a Christian may “walk in Christ,” as follows:
As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord [i.e., by faith], so [in the same manner] walk in Him. (Colossians 2:6)
The absolutely essential principle that Christ was endeavoring to teach His followers in such a dramatic fashion – that spiritual nourishment and maturation could only be obtained by becoming intimately acquainted with Him, the Word of God – is expressed in several other ways within the written Word, for example:
1) In James 1:21 the apostle James confirms that it is by receiving the Word one is able to save his soul (a facet of one’s salvation relative only to the coming kingdom, not one’s eternal salvation [of the spirit] that is based solely on the sacrifice of Christ – for a full explanation of this please go to the following link: http://bibleone.net/SOS.htm).
Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)
2) A comparison of Ephesians 5:18-20 with Colossians 3:16 confirms that to be “filled with the Spirit” is the equivalent of having “the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.”
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, (19) speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, (20) giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-20)
Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)
3) In John 17:17, when Christ prayed to the Father, He confirmed that sanctification of His followers comes from the Word.
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth. (John 17:17)
It is regrettable that over the years the “body of Christ” – the Christian Church – has drifted so far from the principle that Christ was conveying to His followers in the 6th chapter of John. Whereas pastors should be “pastor-teachers” (the correct interpretation in Ephesians 4:11), the vast majority of evangelical churches endeavor to confine the teaching of God’s Word to a brief “Sunday School” meeting prior to the “church service,” which normally presents very little instruction of the Word. And the truths of the Word have little place in the lives of so many Christians today. They are usually confined to “one” day a week (and even then to a very limited time) or to the mantel within the home.
In closing this study, the following from Chitwood’s book, Signs in John’s Gospel (which may be found at the link on the first page of this study), Chapter 13, is presented for your consideration.
The fourth sign in the gospel of John has to do with a miraculous multiplication of five barley loaves and two small fish that a lad had in his possession. And the multiplication of this small quantity of food was enough to feed both the disciples and the multitude, with twelve baskets of food left over after the remaining fragments had been gathered.
Key information necessary for properly understanding the sign, within its contextual setting (as it is introduced through referring to a mountain and to the nearness of the Passover), is given later in the chapter when inquiry pertaining to the sign is made by some comprising the multitude.
Note verses twenty-six and twenty-seven in this respect:
Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.
Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to everlasting life [contextually, ‘age-lasting life’], which the Son of Man will give you . . . .” (John 6:26, 27a)
Then in verses thirty and thirty-one, the people requested another sign, calling attention to the manna provided in a supernatural manner during Moses’ day. But Jesus, remaining within the framework of the sign already given and their mention of the manna, drew a parallel between that bread (the manna) and the Bread that had been provided from heaven (He Himself [vv. 32, 33]). The former foreshadowed the latter. A partaking of bread to nourish and sustain the physical body foreshadowed a partaking of bread to nourish and sustain the spiritual man.
The people then said to Christ, “Lord, give us this bread always” (6:34). Then Jesus said to them,
I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. . . .
For I have come down from heaven . . .
I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever [for an age]; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh . . .
. . . 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.
Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life [age-lasting life]; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:35b, 38a, 51a, 53b, 54).
The previous multiplication of the loaves and fish foreshadowed partaking of Christ Himself, as the provided bread during Moses’ day had foreshadowed as well — eating of the Bread of Life, eating His flesh, drinking His blood.
But how can this be the case? How can one partake of Christ Himself in such a manner? The answer is simple, and it was given in the introductory verses of John’s gospel.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . . (John 1:14a; cf. vv. 1, 2).
The Old Testament Scriptures — which, in their entirety, are about the person and work of Christ, revealing the Son — became flesh (cf. Luke 24:25-27, 39-44). The written Word, which is alive (Hebrews 4:12), became flesh, in the person of the Son, the living Word. And the Two are so inseparably related that partaking of One is synonymous with partaking of the Other.
Thus, one eats of the Bread of Life, partakes of Christ’s flesh and blood, by partaking of the written Word. And Christians must partake of Christ today, in this manner, if they are to have a part with Him in His kingdom (ref. chapter 4 of this book, “The Word Made Flesh”).
The final thought to each and every Christian who is reading this study pertaining to Christ’s statements in the 6th chapter of John is “Study the Word!” For this is the “work” (vs. 29) and the “will” (vs. 40) of God for you.