Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meet indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. John 6:53-55
Verily, verily, I say unto you. . . .” So Christ would speak whenever he was about to give utterance to great and vital truth. “My flesh is meet indeed. . . .” He refers to His human nature, to His body and soul, in which He expiated the sins of His people and merited for them eternal life. His flesh is meet. It is this on account of its being the seat of all the blessings accruing from His sufferings and death. Being by the right hand of God exalted, and receiving of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, all fullness now dwells in Him—all fullness, thus our sanctification and justification, our wisdom and redemption, our very life, all grace and every blessing. All is contained in Him. His flesh therefore is bread. It is meet indeed. So, except a man eat His flesh. . . .he has no life in him. This, to be sure, concerns God’s believing people, they who are spiritually living. It does so, as the dead do not eat, as bread is not for the dead but only for the living. It is to His disciples that Christ addresses Himself in particular. What He would have them take home to their hearts is that if they, the living ones, do not eat Him, their souls are without nourishment, the life in Him is not abounding in them. It is then not the quickening of the dead of which Christ here speaks, but of the necessity of living men eating Him, the true bread. His flesh, being meat, is indispensable, so absolutely requisite that should these living ones permanently desist from eating, which they cannot do, they would die. Hence, the man who is not eating Christ, who has never partaken of His flesh and blood, has no life in himself. Such a one is dead. For His flesh is meet indeed. It is this in distinction from the manna that the fathers ate in the desert. That was not the true bread. For the fathers, though they ate of it, are dead. Christ is the living bread, which came down from heaven.
This word of Christ was offensive to the Jews. Even many of His disciples, when they had heard, said, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” They thought that what He meant is that they should eat His bodily, material substance, that thus they should eat that flesh of His with their physical mouths. And the form of Christ’s words would seem, at first glance, to support this meaning. “Except ye eat my flesh. . . .” The perplexity of these disciples can at least be explained. They were not the last to suppose that what is required of God’s believing people is that they eat Christ’s bodily substance.
Aware that His disciples murmured at His word, He said to them, Doth this offend you? And if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? The form of this sentence may be completed by, What shall ye say then? Then will ye still be offended?
The Jews had seen Jesus feed five thousand with five loaves and two fishes. Seeing, they were amazed, and said, the one to the other, “This man shall be our king.” A man with such power, we have need of. So determined are they, that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him king. Perceiving this, Christ departed again into a mountain, Himself alone. The Jews searched for Him. The following day they found Him on the other side of the sea. They were surprised at seeing Him there. They are curious to know how and when He came. “Rabbi,” said they to Him, “When earnest thou hither?” Jesus instead of satisfying their curiosity, rebukes them on account of their seeking Him because they had eaten of the loaves, thus on account of their laboring for the meat which perishes, instead of for the meat which endureth unto eternal life. So did He expose their carnality. But they believed not that they were carnal. They imagined that in their endeavor to make Him king, they were working the works of God. Was it not the purpose of God to free them, through a deliverer that He should send, from the bondage of the Romans? Had not God promised? Had this man, Jesus, not brought Himself forward as the promised deliverer, through His feeding that multitude with the five loaves? Should He then not be king? Were they then not working the works of God in their attempt to seat Him on the throne?
Christ said not. He told them that their striving was carnal and sprang from the flesh, and that it was thus indicative of the fact that their affections were centered on things earthly. This was a terrible indictment. It cut them to the quick. “What,” so they now asked Him, “shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” ‘Canst thou say?’ He will tell them, “This is the work of God that ye believe on whom He hath sent.” They were aware that Christ spake of Himself. They must believe on Him, Christ. Then do they work the works of God. So Christ tells them by implication that He is indeed sent by God. They express their willingness to accept His testimony concerning Himself providing He by a miracle prove to them that He is what He claims to be, one sent of God. They say to Him, “What sign shewest thou then, that we may see and believe thee? What dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert: . . . .” Christ replies, “Moses gave you that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.” This reply of His shows that what they meant to say to Him is: Moses proved to our fathers that He was sent of God, through His giving them bread from heaven, what sign shewest thou then? Despite the fact that He had just fed the five thousand with five loaves, and through this action of His had provided them with conclusive evidence that He was the true Messiah, they ask Him for a sign. O, the stubbornness of their unbelief!
Taking their reference to Moses as a lead, Jesus said to them that Moses gave them not that bread from heaven; but His Father giveth them the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Hearing this, they said to Him, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” To this He instantaneously replied, “I am the Bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger: and he that believeth in Me shall never thirst”. In the sequence of His discourse Jesus again declares with emphasis that He is that bread of life. . . . the living bread which came down from heaven,—thus bread that, if any man shall eat, he shall live forever. And the bread that He will give is His flesh. Then the Jews strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat?
Even His disciples found this word of His a hard saying. “Who,” they asked, “can hear it,” ‘who can comprehend this word? who can hear it without being vexed in his soul at what he hears?’ Only they who are born of the Spirit. To the others, it is a hard saying indeed. For to eat Christ’s flesh is to hunger and thirst after righteousness, after God. Eating His flesh is the action of a man who knows that by nature he is dead in sin, guilty before God, and thus ill-deserving and condemnable—and who therefore by the mercy of God, reaches out for Christ, believes in Christ as His redemption.
Thus eating His flesh is a spiritual act. But it is not less real on account of this. What has rendered this eating His flesh objectively possible, Christ explained when He said, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, are spirit and are life.”
It is through believing the word that Christ spake of Himself, that God’s believing people eat Christ. What they eat is in the first instance the word. Through their eating, believing, receiving this word, they eat, believe in Christ, and this by reason of the fact that this word sets forth the Christ, is a true revelation of Him, and of God,—the God and Father of Christ. And through His causing the truth to dwell in the hearts of His people, through His sanctifying His self-revelation unto their hearts, He causes the life that dwells in Him to abound more and more in His people. It means that He is their true bread.
So are His people who eat Him, His flesh, truly fed, and the evidence of their being fed is their growing in grace and in knowledge, their constantly turning from sin to the living God, their true contrition, their earnest desire for holiness, their walking with God, and the assurance, the conviction, worked in their hearts by Christ’s Spirit, that they are God’s children.