“Very truly I tell you,
eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,
and I will raise them up at the last day.
For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me, and I in them.
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. This is the bread that came
down from heaven.
Your ancestors ate manna and died,
but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
Upon hearing these words, many of Jesus’ followers said,
“This is a hard teaching”
and many of them
actually stopped following Him that day
Jesus’ graphic imagery about eating His flesh and drinking His blood
is indeed puzzling at first.
Context will help us understand what He is saying.
As we consider everything that Jesus said and did in John 6,
the meaning of His words becomes clearer.
Earlier in the chapter, Jesus fed the 5,000
The next day, the same multitudes continued to follow Him,
seeking another meal.
Jesus pointed out their short-sightedness: they were
only seeking physical bread,
but there was something more important:
“Food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you”
At this point, Jesus attempts to turn their perspective away
from physical sustenance to
their true need, which was spiritual.
This contrast between physical food and spiritual food
sets the stage
for Jesus’ statement that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood.
Jesus explains that it is
not physical bread that the world needs,
but spiritual bread.
Jesus three times identifies Himself as that spiritual bread
(John 6:35, 48, 51).
And twice He emphasizes faith (a spiritual action) as the
key to salvation: "My Father’s will
is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him
shall have eternal life”
(verse 40); and
“Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has
Jesus then compares and contrasts Himself to the manna that
Israel had eaten in the time of Moses:
“Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.
But here is the bread that comes down from heaven,
which anyone may eat and not die”
Like manna, Jesus came down from heaven; and, like manna,
Jesus gives life. Unlike manna, the life Jesus gives lasts for eternity
In this way, Jesus is greater than Moses
(see Hebrews 3:3)
Having established His metaphor
(and the fact that He is speaking of faith in Him),
Jesus presses the symbolism even further:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread,
which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh. . . .
I tell you the truth,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you cannot have eternal life within you.
But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. . . .
My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me, and I in him. . . .
Anyone who feeds on me will live because of me”
(John 6:51–56, NLT).
To prevent being misconstrued, Jesus specifies that
He has been speaking metaphorically:
“The Spirit gives life;
the flesh counts for nothing.
The words I have spoken to you—they are
full of the Spirit and life”
Those who misunderstood Jesus
and were offended by His talk about
eating His flesh and drinking His blood were
stuck in a physical mindset,
ignoring the things of the Spirit.
They were concerned with getting another physical meal,
so Jesus uses the realm of the physical
to teach a vital spiritual truth.
Those who couldn’t
make the jump from the
physical to the spiritual
turned their backs
on Jesus and walked away
At the Last Supper,
Jesus gives a similar message and one that complements
in John 6—when the disciples gather to
break bread and drink the cup,
they “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”
(1 Corinthians 11:26).
In fact, Jesus said that the
bread broken at the table is His body,
and the cup they drink is the new covenant in His blood,
shed for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26–28).
Their act of eating and drinking was to be a symbol of
their faith in Christ.
Just as physical food gives earthly life,
Christ’s sacrifice on the cross gives heavenly life.
Jesus was speaking metaphorically about His flesh and blood
and hold that the bread and wine
are symbolic of the
spiritual bond created with
Christ through faith.
In the wilderness testing,
the devil tempts Jesus with bread,
and Jesus answers,
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but
on every word
that comes from the mouth of God’”
(Matthew 4:4, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3).
The implication is that the bread is God’s Word
and that is what sustains us.
Jesus is called the
Word of God
who came to earth and was made flesh
The Word of God is also the Bread of Life
The book of Hebrews references
the way that God uses the physical things of this earth
as a way to help us understand and apply spiritual truth.
Hebrews 8:5 says that some tangible things are
“a copy and shadow of what is in heaven,”
and that chapter explains how the Old Covenant,
so concerned with physical rites and ceremonies,
was replaced by the New Covenant in which God’s laws
are written on our hearts
(verse 10; cf. Jeremiah 31:33)
Hebrews 9:1–2 says,
"The first covenant had regulations for worship and
also an earthly sanctuary.
A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were
the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread;
this was called the Holy Place.”
According to Hebrews 8:5, the consecrated bread, or
the “bread of the Presence,” was a physical representation
spiritual concept, namely, the actual
presence of God
being continually with us today.
The physical tent of meeting
has been replaced
spiritual temple of God
(1 Corinthians 3:16),
and the physical bread of
has become the spiritual bread that
abides within us through
When Jesus said we must “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” (John 6:53), He spoke, as He often did, in parabolic terms.
We must receive Him by faith
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled”
We understand that we need physical food and drink;
Jesus wants us to understand that we also need spiritual food and drink--
and that is
what His sacrifice provides.
This was part of Jesus' teaching to focus less on material things
and more on heavenly things.
The people were unhappy with the idea that belief,
and not good works, were the real key to salvation
Jesus uses the term "abide" from the Greek root word meno,
meaning "to continue, to dwell,
or to endure."
This sense of "abiding" is used in reference to
the relationship between
God the Father and God the Son
God the Son and God the Spirit
as well as to the relationship between Jesus and
those who are saved (John 15:4).
This eternal meaning points to an intimate relationship.
Food for the body must be taken inside—by eating it--
in order for it to do the body any good.
Belief in Christ
is something which a person must take "inside" themselves;
this is symbolized by the role of Jesus as the Bread of Life.
The prior verse used the Greek root word meno,
which carries a sense of
enduring, dwelling, or persisting.
This same word is used to describe the relationship of the divine Father and Son, as well as Christ with those who believe in Him
(John 1:32; 6:56; 15:4).
Here, Jesus connects the idea of this "abiding"
relationship to the source of eternal life--
which He earlier described as
coming through belief.
Jesus previously emphasized that
"the bread that comes down from heaven"
is embodied in this physical person,
whom God expects people to accept in
order to be "raised up."
The concept of "feeding" on Jesus, then, is
meant to continue this symbolism:
taking Christ into one's life in the most
complete, deep, and full sense.
The Bread of Life is Jesus
(John 6:48), and "eating"
that bread means accepting Him
One sent from God the Father