“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:54
Not only can I experience eternal satisfaction by comprehending that Jesus is the Son of God (John 6:41-42) and by coming to Jesus through the Word (John 6:43-45), but also when I am …
CONVINCED THAT JESUS GIVES ETERNAL LIFE FREELY (John 6:46-54). Jesus said, “46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:46-47). The person who responds favorably to the Father’s drawing will believe in Jesus (cf. John 6:44-45). If we want to receive the ultimate satisfaction, we must believe or trust in Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life. After all, Jesus has seen the Father and has come from Him, so He can be trusted to get us to where the Father lives in Heaven. After all, who knows best how to get to your home? You do because you live there. So who knows better how to get to heaven than Jesus Christ who lives there?
Jesus tells us that the one who believes in Him has everlasting life (John 6:47). The essential element is always belief. We have a tendency, in our human thinking, to make it something more. But belief is not being baptized nor joining a church. Nor is belief praying a prayer nor confessing Christ publicly nor persevering in good works. Belief is simply being convinced that Jesus was speaking the truth and then trusting Him when He said, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). The gospel is so clear and simple!
Then Christ says, “48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.” (John 6:48-49). Because Jesus came from the Father, He is the bread of life. Earlier in John 6, we saw that Jesus’s critics wanted Him to reproduce more food like Moses had. But Jesus points out that manna had limitations. For example, you eat a piece of bread, and you are still going to die regardless of how much nutrition it has. Which goes to show that you really cannot prevent death, even in today’s technological age. You can take a lot of vitamins, or herbs, and be on the best diet or fitness plan, but it makes no ultimate difference. People still die 100% of the time. What Jesus is offering is eternal. Christ alone can offer satisfaction that never ends.
Jesus continues, “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 6:50-51). The one who eats what Jesus offers “…shall live forever.” Jesus identifies this bread as His own flesh which He shall give for the world. Christ’s death on the cross explains how He can make the free offer of eternal life to those who believe in Him. This gift is absolutely free because Jesus has already paid for it with His blood.
“The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, ‘How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?’ ” (John 6:52). Instead of trying to understand what Jesus meant, the people mock Christ with this sarcastic question. Jesus has already answered the question they asked, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat,” by saying that He will give His flesh for the life of the world (John 6:51). That can only mean death, and they are troubled by that. Behind their protest is the feeling that their sins are not that bad, that it should not require death to clear up their difficulties.
Many people are right at that point today. They do not want to believe that their problems come from something so bad within themselves that it requires death to cure it. Most people think they are pretty good. They may need a few changes, a few New Year’s resolutions, a little adjustment in behavior, they feel, but they are not that bad. Yet throughout the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments alike, there is this emphasis upon the necessity for blood, for a death in order to cure and deliver us from the evil grip of sin in our lives. This is why the Jews protest Jesus’s words.
“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.” (John 6:53-54). Some churches have misunderstood these verses to apply to the Lord’s Supper (communion) so that when you take the bread and the cup, you are actually eating the flesh and the blood of Jesus. The phrase “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” cannot refer to the Lord’s Supper because:
1. The Old Testament forbids the consumption of blood (Leviticus 3:17). Jesus would not encourage disobedience.
2. It would contradict the Bible’s clear teaching that belief in Christ is the only condition for eternal life (John 3:15-18, 36; 4:10-14; 6:27, 29, 35-40, 47; 7:38-39; 11:25-26; 20:31; Acts 16:31; Romans 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; I Timothy 1:16; I John 5:13; etc.). Repeatedly Jesus has taught that eternal life is obtained solely by believing. Why would He wait until now to say, “Oh by the way, you must believe in Me plus partake of communion.” God’s Word does not contradict itself.
3. Nothing in the context suggests that Jesus is addressing the Lord’s Supper. Christ did not institute the Lord’s Supper until a year later (John 13:1-30; cf. Luke 22:1-23).
4. John uses the word “flesh” (sarx) and not “body”(sōma) in John 6:53-54. In all the references to the Lord’s Supper in the New Testament, the word “body” is used, not flesh (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; I Corinthians 11:24).
Since the phrase “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” does not refer to the Lord’s Supper, to what does it refer? The phrase “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” refers to personal faith in the Person of Jesus Christ because:
1. The verbs “eat” (phagēte) and “drink” (piēte) are terms John uses for “believe” (John 4:14; 6:35b, 47, 50, 51, 54, 58). In the context, we are told that eternal life is given to those who “eat” (6:50-51, 54, 58). In John 6:47 Jesus tells us “he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” Since both “eating” and “believing” are the means for obtaining eternal life, they must be synonymous. John 4:14 says that“whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst” and in John 6:35b Jesus tells us that “he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” Since “drinking” and “believing” both quench one’s spiritual thirst, they must be synonymous.
2. The phrase “flesh and blood”is a Hebrew idiom which normally means physical humanity (John 1:14; 6:33, 38, 41-42, 46, 51, 58). It emphasizes that we are to put our faith in Jesus who became flesh and blood without ceasing to be God (John 1:1, 18; 5:17-47; 8:56-59; 10:30-33; 12:44-45; 14:6-11; 20:28, 31).
3. Throughout the gospel of John, the object of one’s faith is the Person of Jesus Christ, Who later died and rose from the dead (John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 6:29, 35, 40, 47; 7:38; 8:30; 9:35; 11:25-26; 12:11; 19:1-20:31). A fundamental rule of interpretation is to interpret unclear verses in light of clear verses. So if you are struggling to understand a verse, look at clear verses about the same subject which can help you understand its meaning. For example, when John 6:40 [which is very clear what one must do to have eternal life] is compared to John 6:54 we can see that eating My flesh and drinking My blood refers to believing in the Person of Christ (see diagram 1):
If the results are the same, then the actions leading to the results must also be the same. Jesus is comparing faith to eating and drinking to demonstrate that it is voluntary. Just as you must choose to eat a piece of bread or drink a cup of water, so you must choose to believe in Christ. And as food goes into your body and is digested and is then assimilated so that it becomes a part of the body, so we must appropriate Christ; that is, we must personally trust in Him alone for the free gift of eternal life in order to receive His life.
A remedy must be accepted by the one who needs it. A doctor capable of performing lifesaving surgery cannot do so until the patient trusts the doctor’s careful hand and climbs up on the operating table. A wealthy person who desires to help out a friend financially cannot do so unless the friend is willing to receive assistance. Likewise, someone who understands that he or she is a sinner and also understands that Christ took his or her punishment on the cross and rose from the grave does not automatically have a right standing with God.
The Bible shows us that a person must believe this truth and receive Christ’s free offer of eternal life, otherwise, Jesus says, “you have no life in you.” (John 6:53b). There are many people in the world searching for “life” in a religious ceremony which cannot give life to them. I was once one of those people. I went to church weekly and participated in communion occasionally only to find myself empty and dissatisfied. It was only when I understood that Jesus was the Son of God through the Bible and was convinced that He alone could freely give me everlasting life, that I had “life in” me, that is, I had a personal relationship with Jesus that gave me satisfaction forever! Hallelujah!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I spent a lot of time searching for satisfaction that lasts forever in the things of this world and in religion, only to find myself more empty and dissatisfied. Thank You for pursuing me in love to begin a personal relationship with You that lasts forever. I praise You for convincing me of my sinfulness so I could see my need to believe in You as a Person and Your finished work on the cross (not some religious ceremony or ritual), so I may have everlasting life. You alone, Jesus, can satisfy my hunger and thirst for immortality. Please use me to share this message of hope with a broken world that is desperately searching for this lasting satisfaction. In Jesus’s name. Amen.