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 yourselves. He who eats 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. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” John 6:53-56 NASB
Eternal life! That’s the offer on the table. And it’s an incredible one. I receive life that will never end in exchange for my choice of food. It’s that simple. If I can only make my way past the gate. That narrow, limiting gate. The gate that acts like a kitchen strainer: filtering out big chunks of unbelief, while letting pass those believing hearts that are hungry and desperate for something they refuse to let their natural mind and sensibilities limit.
Eating his flesh and drinking his blood, taken literally, seems absolutely offensive. So for Jesus to say this, it catches our attention. It was spoken to Jews who were fastidiously observant of the law. The Levitical code precisely defined which foods Israel may eat. Even if they could get past the morbid suggestion of cannibalism and do what Jesus asked, it was forbidden. It’s a difficult statement on so many levels. In the church we eat bread and drink wine as a symbol of consuming his body and blood. As much as I value the sacrament of communion, interpreting these words in this natural way is similar to how zealous Jews interpreted Moses words when he told them to bind God’s words on their hands and their forehead in Deuteronomy 6:8 — they created phylacteries, little boxes literally tied to the hand and forehead. To them it not only fulfilled the requirement, it also served as a symbol of their outward devotion.
But Jesus’ words are Spirit and life. They apply to the heart and core of our inward man (John 6:63). My natural mind will always have difficulty grasping them. And Jesus said frankly, “no one can come to Me unless it is granted him [unless he is enabled to do so] by the Father.” John 6:65 It’s the Spirit which breathes life into them.
I can’t move far from what is at stake — life, in exchange for our choice of food.
While Jesus walked the earth, kicked up the dust in Palestine, and shared time with those whose lives he intersected, he was that flesh and blood that they ate. It is significant that the conversation in John 6 is about a contrast between the physical and spiritual. During the time of the Exodus, God fed his people with physical bread from heaven every morning. Manna (literally, “what is it?”) Yet, as Jesus and Paul reference these events, we understand that they are shadows of the real. The law is a schoolteacher that brings us to Christ. That bread which fell in the wilderness was a symbol of the real bread — Christ. Physical bread keeps the body alive. Spirit bread keeps the soul and spirit alive.
While on earth, Jesus lived out his intersection with heaven. He was the very image of the invisible God. His behavior, his character, that which he laughed and cried over, the correction, the friendship, the conversations, care, nurturing of the disciples, compassion for the sick — all of it expressed in human flesh the exact heart of God. When you looked at Jesus, you were looking at the Father. (John 14:9). When others found and followed him, listened and watched, he became that meal. When the disciples fellowshipped with him, they drank deeply of his spirit, fed at his table of teaching and understanding, they were encouraged, built up, emboldened. The sheep follow the shepherd. Men become what they observe. We are what we eat.
Fast forward to today. As a member of his body I become that same meal. We feast on Jesus in each other. It’s both a requirement to eat, and an offering to be available as the meal for others.
The amazing thing about grace, is that in it, God extends to me something I am completely unworthy of. He says I’m forgiven. No longer is my sin counted against me. Period. It’s absolute. If that were not enough he then calls me a son of God, an heir, and co-heirs with Christ. Christ was the firstborn of many sons. The body of Christ has many members, and I am one of them. Christ is the head. All that Christ is, I am called to become. The very Spirit of God that was in Christ, now abides in me. The body, every member, is in Christ. Is Christ. And is that meal. Now I am the one walking the earth. I am the one with real flesh and blood to offer. Although the Holy Spirit is invisible, people may see me. I am the “flesh” that the Spirit inhabits. But not me alone, that flesh is also my sister and brother in Christ. Those that share the same journey as I do. And when we are together we offer each other our “flesh and blood” or the life that we live out daily and our own personal intersection with heaven.
When was the last time you sat down with another over a coffee or a meal and shared heart and soul? You were vulnerable and expressed your journey and your experiences with heaven. While you were interacting you felt a dynamic interface with the other that was not only nurturing but it felt like a real meal for the soul. Relationship. Friendship. Trust. Giving. Receiving. Together we are called to be a temple for his presence. It’s hard to deny that when believers assemble with one heart and purpose that his tangible presence is obvious in that place. The body and blood of Christ is that meal. We need each other.
Daily when I venture out into my world, I have begun to recognize that I may choose to offer myself as a meal to others. It’s a place of vulnerability and authenticity to live my kingdom identity transparently. There is great, great power and authority given to the sons of God, yet who may see it as it really is? Who may stare at the sun and see anything? So, we clothe ourselves in humility and venture out, serving, preferring, and loving others just as Jesus would.
What is the price of eternal life? Our choice of food.
My personal challenge
This morning I hear the Spirit say, I cannot be drinking from two fountains. If I drink from the same source as the world, I get the same nourishment and frankly, the same side effects from the poison offered. — Yet even when I do, he said, “If you eat any deadly thing, it shall not harm you.” Another declaration of grace for death-riddled man. — If I drink from the fountain of heaven, I feed on Christ. I eat his body, drink his blood. It is life to me. And what Christ is, I become. You are what you eat.. except when grace must supersede some stupid choices.
As I think about this, it feels frightening to live solely from the food served at his table. Why? Because it will make me different. I won’t appear to be the well-rounded, integrated Christian that many in the church value. I could become a little more black and white. This is good, this is not. A little more convinced. God heals — as opposed to “let’s see what happens” or “who knows God’s will?”
He’s called me to life. Abundant life. Eternal life. Eating at his table. And becoming that table for others to feast upon.