eat my flesh, drink my blood | John 6.53-59
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, 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 feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. John 6.53-59 | ESV
But Jesus just pushed the envelope even further: Let me say it to you twice and mean it: if you don’t eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you’re flatlined, dead, not a lick of life in you. But chomp on my flesh and drink in my blood, you are thoroughly invigorated with life, and when all is said and done I’ll make sure you’re standing up with me. What is the ultimate, the genuine sit down dinner? My flesh; what’s the ultimate drink – the real thing? My blood. The one chomping on my flesh and drinking in my blood makes the ultimate inner connection with me – I in him, he in me. It’s a circle of life: the living Father sends me, I live because he lives, and now the one who sinks his teeth into me lives because I live. This is the Bread came down right out of heaven, the true Wonder Bread – not the pathetic “wonder bread” your ancestors ate and then died; this is the Bread that, if you will but sink your teeth into it, will launch you into life you can’t even begin to imagine; and this is the Bread you should be looking for.”
And a discussion that had started by the lake had now ended up in their crowded synagogue meeting right there in Capernaum. MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Jesus had many hard sayings.
“Turn the other cheek.”
“I have not come to bring peace upon the earth, but a sword.”
“You want to follow me? Then you must hate your father and your mother – and your own life also.”
“Go. Sell all that you have and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away.”
Yep. Hard sayings.
Hard sayings that go down hard and leave much indigestion in their wake. But, from John’s vantage point, this is the granddaddy of hard sayings. Same held true for many who heard it. It was the conclusion of Jesus’ sermon in a synagogue on the Sabbath.
Hardly the appropriate time and place, it would seem, for talk of eating flesh and drinking blood. And John doesn’t use the usual word for “eat.” It’s not just eat or consume, it’s a much more colorful word that captures the sound of chewing, chomping, munching. Let’s just say the word choice doesn’t help anyone warm up to the idea. It’s an offensive concept stated in just about the most emphatically offensive way imaginable. Doesn’t do much for us either – especially for those of us with Protestant leanings for whom communion is more a cognitive, passing remembrance than it is participation in a divine mystery.
But Jesus calls us to more than cognitive reflex to a more thoughtful, meditative response. The key Hebrew word translated “meditate” in the Old Testament refers to that deep, contented growl or purr a lion makes as it gnaws on its prey. Such meditation is not so much a matter of mind as of mouth.
Deep, contented feeding.
It’s what the Word made flesh offers. There’s the reality. We don’t diagram and analyze the Word, we eat it. Eat him. Communion is more than the recalling of a historical event or the reaffirming of a personal vow of faith and obedience; it is the contented feeding that results from “struggling with divine presence in one focused, determined and assured place” as we enter into the mystery of bread and wine, of flesh and blood, and truly feed on Christ.
How would you describe your experience of the Lord’s Supper? Does the imagery of “eating his flesh and drinking his blood” help or hinder you in this experience? Why?
Lord, lead me deeper into the mystery of eating your flesh and drinking your blood. Let me ever grow restless with mere samples of you or with merely fine-tuning my thoughts about you. Show me how to feed upon you as the Living Bread. Amen.