John 6:51-60 - What Did He Just Say?
Are you going to follow the crowds, or follow Christ?
Read / Listen
Read John 6:51-60
Context: Jesus has just fed the 5,000, and those who were there wanted to 'make Jesus king by force (6:15). Jesus slipped away from the crowd, but they've caught up and want more bread. Jesus is instead pointing them to the spiritual bread they really need.
51 "... I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell 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 them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just 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. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” ... 66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 76
Q. What does it mean
to eat the crucified body of Christ
and to drink his poured-out blood?
A. It means
to accept with a believing heart
the entire suffering and death of Christ
and by believing
to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
But it means more.
Through the Holy Spirit,
who lives both in Christ and in us,
we are united more and more
to Christ’s blessed body.
And so, although he is in heaven
and we are on earth,
we are flesh of his flesh
and bone of his bone.
And we forever live on
and are governed by one Spirit,
as members of our body are by one soul.
Jesus broke every public relations rule there is.
He had massive crowds, literally eating out of the palm of His hand, and ready to overthrow the government and install Him as their king. If you're trying to start a movement, this is as good as it gets.
But Jesus wasn't trying to start a movement, or rally people to a better way of life, or even promote Himself. So He doesn't capitalize on His popularity or try to seize the moment. Instead He does quite the opposite.
He drops a truth bomb so rich with meaning, yet so strange that it sounds disgustingly weird. You must eat my flesh, says Jesus, and drink my blood.
Granted, He starts the conversation with something a bit more palatable, stating, "I am the bread of life (v51)." That's actually a great slogan that works on many levels. But Jesus quickly drills down: "This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
This doesn't sound too shocking to us because we're more or less familiar with the concept of communion, but it sure got the attention of the Jews 2,000 years ago. John records that they began to "argue sharply among themselves" about what Jesus just said.
Jesus goes on, stating the basis for salvation: "The one who feeds on me will live because of me."
That's just weird, and even kind of gross. The Jews thought so as well, so from that time on "many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him (v66)."
The crowds of thousands would soon dwindle down to a handful of close friends and His mother as Jesus literally gave His flesh for your life.
Thankfully we're not called to literally eat flesh and drink blood. We know that the bread and wine we eat are signs and symbols of a spiritual reality. But don't be too quick to 'spiritualize' the communion experience. As you follow Christ's command to consume His body and blood, you are literally being "united more and more to Christ's blessed body (HC 76)."
In other words, you are becoming less and less your own and belonging more and more to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. This is much more than a spiritual concept. Your whole whole life - body and soul - must be transformed. Every part of you must look different as a result of participating in the Lord's Supper.
That means that the more united to Christ you become, the weirder you will look to the world around you. There's an increasing likelihood that they'll scoff at you as they did to Jesus and ultimately leave you behind as they turn to follow the next big thing that promises them a bit of bread.
So always keep Jesus' promise in mind, that "whoever feeds on the living bread will live forever (v58)." Know that you're being strengthened for the task as you sit under the Word and respond to the invitation to the Lord's Table.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who sent Jesus, that we may feed on the Word;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray for the strength to continue feeding on Christ in an increasingly hostile world;
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Luke 11