July 8, 2013

Why did Jesus say “Eat my flesh, drink my blood”?

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” –Jesus Christ, from John 6:34

Jesus’ words in this passage are some of the most puzzling ever spoken.

 Early Christians were falsely accused of cannibalism because of this passage. Many of us avoid thinking about these words unless we are celebrating Holy Communion—and then we idealize away any literal meaning of these words because they seem incomprehensible and mysterious beyond understanding.

Only the Holy Spirit can give true insight into many of Jesus’ words. In fact, during one of His last teaching sessions with His disciples (sometimes referred to as the Olivet Discourse), Jesus told the disciples the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth.

We need a little bit of Greek grammar to really understand this passage. Here we go!

The words “eat” and “drink” in this passage are "present active participles". These are action words! The words describe an action which begins at a set point, is done by choice, and continues indefinitely. (Many thanks to the Hebrew-Greek Study Bible, NIV—along with the many grammatical aids and  notes found there).

I believe this is what Jesus is telling His followers in this passage:

“Whoever actively begins and continues to take my very self, substance, life energy, and essence into him or herself HAS eternal life and will be raised up by Jesus—whose very life force and essence they have and rely upon for life—at the last day.”

Whoever takes in and incorporates into him or herself the substance that is Jesus (His words, His priorities, His lordship, His will--whoever loves what He loves) and actively makes this substance his or her food and fuel for life --that which keeps one alive and functioning—that person already has eternal life and will be raised up from physical death at the last day.  The transformation has happened—only the full and complete manifestation await.

So often in Scripture, believers are told to walk by faith. As we engage in the faith process of taking more and more of Jesus’s essence and nature as our source of life, we will see the changes in ourselves that testify to cleansing, healing, salvation, and life that never ends.

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