Many of Jesus’ followers could not understand the idea of eating his flesh. Even if we take it as a metaphor, the image was too appalling.
Chapter 6 is loaded. Bread is the theme. In all of this, verse 65b is a key. This is why I told you earlier that no one is capable of coming to me on his own. You get to me only as a gift from the Father. MSG
Mercy is the gift. It comes from God, not Jesus. Jesus is what God would be if he could be human. God is God, One and Only. Jesus is a flesh-and-blood human who obeyed God every day without fail. The Messiah—God’s representative on earth—existed before Creation. Think of the Messiah as that part of God which serves as the blueprint for humans.
Yet, that is too limiting. The Messiah is the blueprint for the countless stars, planets, rocks, trees, grass, and animals of the universe. God created all of it in the image of the Messiah. When the time was right, the Messiah was born to a human body.
But his essence was God. It is easiest for us to call Jesus the Son of God because that is the closest human connection in our experiences.
When John sat down in his later years, possibly as the last surviving Apostle, to write his version of the Life of Christ, he returned to Genesis. For John, it is crucial that we understand Jesus has always existed. Even before the creation, Jesus existed.
But notice, In beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and God was the Word. United Bible Society interlinear translation The Word was first, the Word present to God, God present to the Word. MSG At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning. Phillips
For John, God speaks, and all we see comes into existence. The Word is all God needs to create a universe. God speaks to a teenage girl, and she carries a child. He speaks, and the child is named Yeshua—Jesus. When Yeshua speaks, he speaks the Word of God because he is the Word of God.
Chapter 1, verse 4: In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. Phillips This short line is so often overlooked, and so powerful. It is John’s thesis statement. Jesus is the Light, and he is the Life. He uses both terms more than the other gospels, especially Life.
Jesus is Life. Bread is life. To have life we must eat Jesus.
We know that the body of Jesus is gone. John does not record the ascension, so we will look at Luke 24:51. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. ESV We cannot eat his body in the physical sense, but that is not what he meant anyway. As William Barclay put it: When he told us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he was telling us to feed our hearts and souls and minds on his humanity, and to revitalize our lives with his life until we are filled with the life of God.
For John, it seems we eat and drink the Holy Eucharist when we sit with other people and share a part of our selves with them. Jesus did that at the beginning of chapter 6.
By the time John wrote, the Eucharist was being celebrated in many ways by Jews, Greeks, and a UN of others. For John, it must be about Life. How we eat and drink is not the important point. Eat the bread that is the Word of God. Drink the wine that is the Life of the Word of God.
Bless and be blessed.
Read my earlier comments on this theme here.
Be righteous and do good.