Lesson 36


The Gospel of John

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

6:52
The Jews therefore contended with one another, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

6:53 Jesus therefore said to them, "Most assuredly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you don't have life in yourselves. 6:54 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 6:55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 6:56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I in him. 6:57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me. 6:58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven -- not as our fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread will live forever." 6:59 These things he said in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.


 Today's Lesson

As we discussed in yesterday's lesson, this conversation is a continuation of a longer conversation that Jesus is having with men critical of Him that were part of the multitude that was fed on the mountainside in Galilee. As the conversation progressed, it was apparent that they were not understanding the deep spiritual significance of the things of which Jesus was speaking. But, unlike us, Jesus knew what was in a man. He knew that these men would refuse to believe because their hearts were hardened toward God. They were interested in signs and wonders, not obedience and truth. So, instead of making it easier on them, Jesus speaks about progressively more difficult spiritual issues.

 

He had told them that they must eat of the bread that the Son of Man could give them if they wanted eternal life. He had told them that they did not recognize Him because they did not know God and refused to believe that which Moses wrote about. Finally, He tells them that the living bread that gives eternal life is His flesh.

 

Now to the Jews, the eating of human flesh would be anathema, as it would to most cultures. And, taken at face value, that would be the difficulty of this passage. (Early Roman critics of Christianity spread rumors that Christians believed in cannibalism because of a misunderstanding about the practice of communion.) The key to understanding this passage for both the Jew and Gentile is that Jesus is speaking about Himself as a sacrifice.

 

Both Jew and Gentile understood that in the area of sacrifice to a deity, the God was present and associated with the sacrificial animal. In Jewish sacrifice, the sinner would place their hands on the sacrificial animal to symbolically transfer the sin of the human to the animal. The animal died in place of the man. But, both the animal itself and the spirit in which it was offered must be acceptable to God. Only the finest animals were acceptable. No diseased or crippled livestock could be offered.

 

In the Greek mystery feast, the deity was assumed to be present at the feast. The deity was believed to be present in the sacrificial animal. As the participants ate of the sacrifice, they consumed the God and their union with the deity was strengthened.

 

Jesus uses the ideas of sacrifice here about Himself. He is saying that the Son of Man has eternal life. If anyone eats of His flesh and drinks of His blood, then that person too will have eternal life. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I in him." This is the eternal life that God is offering through Christ. Participate in His sacrifice, become united with Christ in His death and resurrection, and God will give eternal life. Because God sent Jesus, because the Father found His sacrifice acceptable, we are allowed to participate in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Although we are far removed from the sacrificial cultures that Jesus lived in, His words still speak to us today. Jesus Christ offers His death and resurrection to us today as a continuing sacrifice for our sins. He offers us fellowship with the Father. He has opened the way for us through the sacrifice of His life. How will we respond to that sacrifice?

 

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