Eating Christ's Flesh and Drinking His Blood -- Joh_6:41-56
The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven? Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
It is a very notable principle in connection with the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ with men that if a soul came to Him who was honestly, earnestly, seeking to know the truth, He undertook to make that truth just as simple as possible so that the wayfaring man could understand. On the other hand, if the Savior presented something that was difficult for the natural mind to receive, and men, instead of recognizing their need and coming to Him for explanation, assumed a haughty, unbelieving attitude, He invariably seemed to make the truth more difficult instead of making it simpler. That is to say, if men will not have the truth of God when it is presented to them but deliberately choose to follow the path of error, they will be blinded to the very truth itself. This principle runs throughout Scripture. You remember how Pharaoh set himself against doing the will of God. We read that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. He confirmed the haughty king in his very wickedness. Later on, when the people of Israel chose the path of disobedience, God said, “I…will choose their delusions” (Isa_66:4). When we look on into the future to the day when the Antichrist, that last sinister enemy of God and man, shall arise, we are told that in that time if men receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved, God will send them strong delusion.
There is something very serious in this. Great responsibility is put upon the man and woman to whom God’s truth is proclaimed. That truth is given us to be believed. It is not something with which we may play fast and loose. We are called upon to accept it. “Buy the truth and sell it not,” exclaims the writer of the book of Proverbs (Pro_23:23). If there is anyone to whom I am speaking today who has not opened his heart to the gospel and received the Savior, do not imagine that it is a small matter if you turn away from that truth. Do not try to persuade yourself that some other day will do just as well. “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Do you imagine that it will be perfectly all right if you wait to make up your mind to come to God when you are ready? When your day comes, you may find that God has withdrawn Himself.
When you at last come to knock on the door, you may find that it has been shut and a voice will say, “I never knew you: depart from me” (Mat_7:23).
Cowper has said,
Hear the just law, the judgment of the skies:
He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies;
And he who will be cheated to the last,
Delusions strong as hell shall bind him fast.
Oh, I beg of you, cherish every evidence that the Holy Spirit is working upon your heart and conscience. Thank Him for the opportunity of hearing the gospel. He has written, “Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isa_55:3).
We have seen in our study of this sixth chapter of the gospel of John that Jesus was dealing with a group of selfish people. They were not interested in spiritual realities. So instead of explaining things in a way they might easily take in, when He perceived that they were not interested or concerned about understanding Him, He seems to make things more and more difficult for the natural mind to comprehend.
“The Jews…murmured” (Joh_6:41). They talked one to the other instead of coming to Him and saying, “Master, we are ignorant, our minds are darkened. We do not understand, but we long to do so. We do not know what you mean, but we want to know. Master, have pity upon our ignorance and enlighten us.” They murmured and said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” No, He was not. He was the son of Mary, but He had no human father. They knew Him as the son of Joseph in Nazareth and so they say, “Is not He our fellow townsman? What does He mean by talking about coming down from heaven?” They did not address their questions to Jesus, but He heard their murmurs because He knows what is in the heart of man.
“Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day” (Joh_6:43-44). Yes, that was as though He was deliberately turning away from them, saying, “You are not the people to whom I have come. I have no message for you. No man can come to Me except the Father draw him, and He is not drawing you.” A little while before, He said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” (Joh_6:37). But they did not come, and therefore were not of those who are drawn of the Father.
Hear me, my friend, are you concerned as to whether you are one of those who are drawn of the Father? You can settle that very easily. Have you come to Jesus? Do you desire to come? If in your heart there is the least desire to come, it is the Father who is drawing you to His Son. Oh, cherish the work of the Holy Spirit and instead of resisting His pleadings yield to Him at once. Yield to Him and say, “Blessed Lord, there is so much I do not understand, but I seek enlightenment. Make clear to me the things that are dark, but give me to know that I have been born again in Jesus Christ, that I am to be saved eternally.” You may depend upon it, you will not be left in darkness and perplexity. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (Joh_6:45).
Have you heard? Have you learned of the Father? What is the lesson the Father is teaching? He is seeking to occupy people with the gracious provision He has made in the gift of His blessed Son. The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. In His infinite love He sent Him into the world, that we might live through Him. Listen, then, as little children to the Father. Let Him be your instructor. Let Him teach you and open up to you from the Word the riches of His grace as revealed through His blessed Son. Thus you will be taught of God, and you may know that you are numbered among those whose sins have been eternally settled for. It is not that you will be able to see the Father with your natural eyes, but with the eye of the heart. The only one who has ever actually seen the Father is our blessed Savior Himself, for He says, “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father” (Joh_6:46).
But though you and I cannot see Him, we can believe His Word. We hear the message. We accept it in faith and have life eternal. And so Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (Joh_6:47). Let that be an end of all controversy. Let that be an answer to every anxious questioner. How may I know that I am a child of God, that I am accepted of Him, that my sins are forgiven, that I have life eternal? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Act_16:31). “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.”
I heard Ira D. Sankey tell how he had been anxious for days and months for the assurance of salvation, and had sought for some internal evidence that might make him know that he had eternal life. But as he sat in a meeting he was led to turn to this sixth chapter of John and his eyes fell on this forty-seventh verse, and it came home to his soul with a strangely new and wonderful meaning, “He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life.” Mr. Sankey told us that night long years ago in a meeting in San Francisco, that in a moment he saw it, and he looked up and said, “Lord, I believe. I dare to take Thee at Thy word.” And that was the beginning of that great ministry of gospel song to hundreds of thousands of people, carrying the glad message of a full and free salvation.
“He that believeth… hath everlasting life.” Do not put anything between “believeth” and “hath.” Not “hopes to have,” but “He that believeth hath everlasting life.” Take God at His word. “I,” says Jesus, “am [the] bread of life” (Joh_6:48). “I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead” (Joh_6:48-49). He says, “Yes, your fathers ate that kind of bread in the wilderness that you long for, but they are dead. I am the ‘bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die’” (Joh_6:50). “I am the living bread” (Joh_6:51 a). It is not merely, “I have come to give you the living bread,” but, “I am the living bread. I must be received in faith, and the soul must feed upon Me as the body feeds upon natural bread, in order to be sustained.” “I am the living bread… if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (Joh_6:51).
He is looking forward to the cross. In a little while He is to go to that cross. There He is to be immolated as the great sin offering. The sacrifice of old was called the food of the altar, and He says, “There I am going to die, and in thus giving Myself, My body becomes the bread for poor starving souls to feed upon and live forever.” “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1Jn_5:12). And so, dear friends, the great question for every one of us to decide is this, “Have I definitely received Christ?” When we eat our natural food it becomes part of us and gives new strength and life. In the same way when we receive the Bread of God, when we take the Lord Jesus Christ by faith and our hearts dwell upon the work that He did for us upon the cross, we gain new strength and life.
“I am the living Bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Joh_6:51-52). They seemed to be unable to rise above the natural. Our Lord’s words were clear enough. Anyone who comes to God as a repentant sinner will have no difficulty in understanding this. But the sneering legalist exclaims, “Eat His flesh! It is absurd! How can a man give us his flesh to eat?” So the Lord Jesus Christ seemed to say, “Well, if you refuse to believe Me, if you will not come to Me, I will tell you something even more difficult to believe.” If men will not take what He has already told them, then He will give them something harder to comprehend.
So He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me, and I in him” (Joh_6:53-56). What striking expressions these are, and how difficult for an unbelieving Israelite to understand! What did He mean by “eating his flesh and drinking his blood”? Of course, the words cannot be taken literally. He certainly did not mean that they were to feed upon His actual body and blood.
In the law the children of Israel were forbidden to eat blood in any form or manner. Every kind of flesh that they ate was to have every drop of blood poured out. Yet Jesus speaks of eating blood and, amazing thought, His own blood-the blood of a man! He did not mean that literally. He meant to challenge them, to make them see their ignorance and need of enlightenment. Apparently, His words had no such effect. Neither did He mean that He was to give His flesh and blood in some mysterious sacrament. I know that many suppose He referred to the Lord’s Supper, in which they tell us the bread and wine, after the prayer of the officiating minister, pass through some mysterious change, so that as people partake of it they will be partaking actually of Jesus’ body and blood.
But let me say this: millions of people have partaken of what is known as the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Eucharist, the Communion, the Sacrifice of the Mass-different names have been used-millions of people have partaken of it who have never received life through it. They give no evidence of having received life through it. They can partake of it Sunday morning and live in sin Sunday afternoon. There is no evidence whatever that they have been born again. Sacraments do not give life. But let me tell you this: no one ever ate and drank of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ without receiving life. He promised that, and it is true. His Word has been fulfilled down through the centuries.
What did He mean? Well, throughout the church age He has shown us that to eat of the Bread of life is to receive Him in faith. It is to receive implicitly what Holy Scripture reveals concerning the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross, that upon the tree His precious body was given up for us and His blood was poured out for our redemption. When we recognize that His precious blood poured out on the cross has atoned for our sins, then we are eating His flesh and we are drinking His blood. And it is practically true that in the regular observance of the Lord’s Supper we do have that which calls our minds back again to Calvary and reminds us again of the price of redemption. We may recognize the relationship between the communion and this precious truth. But do not confound the symbol with the reality. As we feed in faith upon the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we lose our appetite for everything unholy. That same precious body and blood will be our meat and drink through all the days to come, and when we get to yonder glory we shall still be occupied with Him, the Lamb that was slain. “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.”