Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life… ~ Jesus
Whoa. Imagine hearing this for the first time. Imagine hearing this without any previous experience of the Lord’s Supper. Imagine a young, perhaps educated, couple attending church for the first time in their lives—this Sunday as this passage is read!
Imagine hearing Jesus say these words.
We know that some in the crowd took such offense at Jesus that they stopped following him because he said these things.
Eat my flesh. Drink my blood. If you don’t you’ll die. If you do, you’ll live forever.
He drives this point home with clarity and repetition.
We hear it—as people who are “churched”—and I think we largely let the bombshells land around us without much reaction. I mean, of course Jesus is talking about Communion…right? We hear these words against a lifetime of hearing: take, eat, this is my body…take drink, this is my blood of the new covenant.
For us, they have lost their offensiveness.
But, Jesus didn’t launch these rhetorical bombshells so that they’d fizzle with time.
No, I think it’s clear that Jesus was stirring the pot on purpose. He wanted to say things that challenged people, even to the point of having to decide that they’d have to leave.
One thing is clear here: Jesus isn’t about people-pleasing. He’s not about glad-handing, and smoothing out the wrinkles so that everyone can go away happy, and come again happy. He’s not about just saying and doing just about anything to attract a crowd.
Jesus and Eugene Peterson agree where Peterson said,
Being a pastor who satisfies congregations is one of the easiest jobs in the world. If we are content to please congregations.
If you read through the rest of chapter six of the Gospel of John, you will see that many people are offended and leave Jesus after this teaching. And in the very earliest days of the Christian Church, one of the main charges of the critics of Christianity was that followers of Jesus were cannibals. (Today we think it difficult that we are associated with white supremacists or shady politicians.)
How can he say that?
Jesus knows that there is a hunger that is deeper in and further down than all of our physical hungers, thirsts, and cravings.
Jesus is saying that behind every biological hunger is a spiritual hunger—and that is what I have come to satisfy. Behind every physical and social craving is a spiritual longing that only Jesus can provide.
All of theirs and our cravings and longings are aches for God. His love, mercy, grace and presence in our inner most being.
As a pastor, I can tell you that I know many people who have full stomachs and emaciated souls.
Listen to your hungers; listen to the rumblings in your own life right now. Jesus is saying, “I am what you are aching for—come to me for life.”
I love the way the old hymn writer, Clara T. Williams, writes about this life…
All my life I had a longing
For a drink from some clear spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.
Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.
Poor I was, and sought for riches,
Something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me
Only mocked my soul’s sad cry.
Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of life so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.
May you come to Jesus for life, no matter how weird what he says may sound to your hungry heart.