This is the great “food” chapter. Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children. The men, realizing what had happened, determined that He was indeed the Messiah, “the prophet that was coming into the world”, verse 14. They wanted to make Him king. The Lord would not have such a thing based on the motive of a full stomach, see verse 26. The discussion then turns on the Jews wanting a sign from heaven, such as Moses gave bread from heaven. The Lord then leads the subject to His death, and the need to understand Him in death, and the reason for it.
What does it mean when Jesus speaks of eating His flesh and drinking His blood?
It involves us appreciating His death – the blood separated from the body speaks of that. Eating and drinking is a figure of speech, of course. We use language to signify things and to reinforce and amplify our meaning. To “eat” in English can be used to convey the idea of “taking in”, digesting, assimilating, and absorbing. We even use the expression “chew the cud” to mean reviewing a subject or thought. We say a person may have to “eat his own words” and we no more mean that the person will physically eat words any more than the Lord meant that they would eat His flesh or drink His blood in a physical sense.
“Him who knew not sin was made sin [i.e. the sin offering] for us…”, 2 Corinthians 5:21. In John 12:24, ”Except the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it abides alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit”. The perfection and moral glory of the life of Christ would have not helped us one little bit had He not died. He could have returned to glory at any time, but He would have been alone. It is His death, and by His death alone, that we are able to be redeemed. Everything for God and for man depends on His death, burial, resurrection and ascension. We are reminded in Hebrews 9:22, “and without blood-shedding there is no remission”.
It is only those persons who realize the need for Christ’s death for them, that have life eternal, see John 6:54. Such persons “feed” on Him as in death – they meditate upon it, and “take in” the truth as to it, the meaning and importance of it, and their characters are formed by it. Just as what we eat forms us in a natural sense, so this forms us.
It should be noted that the Lord’s Supper is nowhere in John 6.
However, as we have mentioned it, a few comments on that subject may be in order. The Lord’s Supper has been sadly misrepresented by some of the great religious systems in Christendom. Jesus referred to the bread and wine as symbols; His presence, His body, was there distinct from the bread and wine. “This is my body which is given for you”. A child flourishes a wooden stick and says “This is my sword”. I show you a picture of my deceased father and say “This is my father”. You know that it is no more than an array of ink spots on paper, but that it represents my father. How simple for those who are simple!
The Catholic system has the Mass as a repeated sacrifice, but Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice, once for all. See Hebrews 10:10, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”; verse 12, “But he, having offered one sacrifice for sins, sat down in perpetuity at the right hand of God”; verse 14, “For by one offering he has perfected in perpetuity the sanctified”. [Emphasis mine.] Read also Hebrews 9:24-28, where the emphasis again is on the one action; verse 28, “thus the Christ also, having been once offered to bear the sins of many”.
MM November 2008