John 6:52-59 – Believe and You Have Eaten

Jesus finishes the Bread of Life discourse and he does so with what appears to be some outrageous remarks.
• His words seem almost purposely antagonistic toward the unbelieving Jews.
• And the title of our lesson comes from Augustine’s characterization of the words Jesus spoke – “feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood”.

Jesus has spent chapter 6 speaking with a crowd of Jews about the nature and need of salvation.
• And the more he talks, the more he ratchets up the “narrow gate” nature of salvation.
• In our text today, he continues to do so; causing a dispute among the Jews.

1) THE DISPUTE

John 6:52 (ESV) — 52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Last week we saw how Jesus described Himself as the bread of life.
• He went on to say in verse 51 that His flesh (sarx) is the bread.
• The Jews are perplexed, like Nicodemus, about the literal implications of Jesus’ words.
• We are told that they “disputed among themselves”.
• This is a heated quarrel just short of physical violence – BDAG.

Jesus is now faced with a crowd that is extremely agitated with Him, His message and probably with each other at this point.
• We are told in verse 59 that they are standing in the synagogue, a place set apart for learning about and worshiping God.
• One would think that at this point, Jesus would say something to diffuse the situation.

2) PURITY OR PEACE – JESUS’ RESPONSE TO THE DISPUTE

John 6:53 (ESV) — 53 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.

So Jesus, faced with the choice of bringing peace or bringing purity, chose purity of doctrine.
• Why? – because even though the teaching of “strong doctrine will inevitably produce discord”, Jesus did not seek “peace at the expense of doctrine” – Boice.
• In fact Kostenberger suggests that Jesus’ words serve “to intensify, rather than remove or diminish, people’s hardening toward Jesus and his message”.
• D.A. Carson sums up Jesus words in vs. 51 and His response to the Jews dispute this way – “the Jews had found Jesus’ statement in v. 51c impenetrable at best, blatantly offensive at worst, but in this expansion Jesus in their view is even more offensive.”

Why would His words “intensify” the crowd’s “hardening toward Jesus and his message” and be offensive?
• Simply because God made it quite clear in the Law of Moses that blood was never to be eaten.

Scriptural examples of this prohibition:
Genesis 9:4 (ESV) — 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
Deuteronomy 12:16 (ESV) — 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water.
• So when Jesus suggests that eternal life is to be found in the eating of His flesh and blood, we see that this is a scandalous assault on the Jewish senses given the Law of Moses.

And yet, as we have suggested, Jesus’ aim was not to upset the Jews, but to teach them the truth no matter how offensive it may be.
• We can look again to the Law of Moses and see the point Jesus was making; the truth He was teaching.
• Here we see again the prohibition, but we see why there is the prohibition.
• Leviticus 17:10–11 (ESV) — 10 “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.
    o Jesus is the why.

Jesus has set a bold example for us with respect to advocating for His truth.
• James Boice sums up our discussion thus far rather well when he says:
• “It is interesting as an insight into the problems of our own times that in answering those who were in conflict over his teaching Jesus did not try to tone down the teaching to make it more palatable. If anything, he did the opposite. It would seem, then…that, according to Jesus, truth concerning doctrine…, rather than peace at the expense of doctrine, was to prevail.

Paul, like Jesus, has also set the example for us with respect to purity of doctrine.
• He recognizes that the Gospel and the doctrine that goes with it can be offensive and so there is a temptation to corrupt it.
• 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) — 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…
• 1 Corinthians 1:23 (ESV) — 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
• 2 Corinthians 2:15–16 (ESV) — 15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life…
• 2 Timothy 4:3–4 (ESV) — 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
• 1 Timothy 6:3–5 (ESV) — 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing…
    o Paul goes on to tell us these people are “depraved in mind and deprived of the truth”.

Yet he warns us plainly not to accommodate unsound doctrine.
• 2 Timothy 1:13–14 (ESV) — 13 Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
• 1 Timothy 4:6 (ESV) — 6 If you put these things [sound teaching] before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed.
• Titus 2:1 (ESV) — 1 But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

But now we need to look deeper into the truth that Jesus is advocating in such an offensive way.

3) THE TEACHING THAT CAUSES DISPUTE

John 6:54–59 (ESV) — 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 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. 58 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.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

(1) Once again, He brings it back to the Father (vs. 57):
We have discussed thoroughly God’s role in our salvation as Jesus has taught in John 6.
• We have seen that the Father draws and gives us to Jesus.
• We have also seen in John 5 that Jesus attributes His authority and His purpose to the Father.
• So it comes as no surprise here that Jesus, once again, attributes the life He has and gives to those who “feed(s) on my flesh and drink(s) my blood” as originating in and coming from the Father.
• Jesus “makes clear that the basis for believers’ union with Jesus is Jesus’ union with the Father” – Kostenberger.

(2) Yet another description of belief (vss. 54 & 56):
And this brings us back to our title – “Believe and You Have Eaten”.
What is it to have eaten the blood and flesh of Jesus?

We need only go back to near the beginning of the Bread of Life discourse.
• John 6:37 (ESV) — 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
• It is simply coming to Jesus in belief in response to the work of the Father.
• And as Jesus taught in verse 40 about the “coming” and repeats in our verses today about the “feeding”, “whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”.
• And very plainly, Christ makes clear in John 6:53, that unless you do this, unless you “come”, “feed” and “drink” “you have no life in you”.
    o There is both a present and future dimension of this life.


(3) Once again, Jesus confirms belief in the Father’s Jesus not the World’s Jesus:
When Jesus speaks of both His flesh and His blood he is using a “Hebrew idiom referring to the whole person” – Kostenberger.
• Jesus must be consumed in His entirety as the Father has made Him known.
• In other words, it is the Father who is the arbiter of all that Jesus does, the truth He speaks and who He is, not the world.

(4) Moses’ manna falls short
It is also interesting to point out that Jesus finished on the topic that was originally issued as a challenge by the Jews – manna.
• We spoke in detail about this last week.
• But Jesus challenges the claim that the manna they mistakenly attributed to Moses was as spectacular as they suggested.
• Quite simply because those who ate it died; it did not impart eternal life.
• The bread that Jesus offers, his flesh and blood, does.

Lesson for Us:
• Jesus is controversial.
• The Gospel is controversial.
• Sound doctrine is controversial.
• Jesus did not compromise the truth for those who opposed Him.
• The Father does the drawing and giving, Jesus was simply to be faithful and obedient to the mission appointed to Him by the Father.
• Jesus’ example is worth following!