Take the 2-minute tour ×
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professors, theologians, and those interested in exegetical analysis of biblical texts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

What does Jesus mean when He said He gives life to the world? According to verse 53 “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. 54 Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life,”

How can the world have this life when it is clear that the world does not eat the flesh of the Son of Man nor drink His blood.

The second part of my question is, how should we interpret those words "flesh" and "blood"? Literally (as the Catholics do) or figuratively?

share|improve this question
1  
Kindly check other posts to see how people are able to "block" their quotes from the Bible. Also, feel free to browse the new user tutorial to understand how to hyperlink verses (when you do not spell out the verse for us), so that we can read and check the verses ourselves as your readers. Thanks. –  Joseph May 26 at 3:21

2 Answers 2

I'll answer your last question, first.

Jesus interpreted His words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood in verse 63 of chapter 6, where He said,

"'It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.'"

In other words, Jesus was telling disciples who were offended after hearing His words about eating His flesh and drinking His blood,

"'Hey, guys, don't be so literal. I'm talking spiritually here, not literally" (SRV--Standard Rhetorician Version).

Evidently, the disciples had missed the main point of the teaching Jesus gave in the synagogue at Capernaum (v.59) and had subsequently grumbled among themselves about His teaching being

"a difficult saying, who can listen to it?" (v.60).

As was so often the case, Jesus was speaking on one level and His disciples were listening on a completely different level, much as they did, for example, in John 4:31-34, where they were talking about literal food and Jesus was talking about spiritual food. The scene borders on the comical!

"Meanwhile the disciples were urging [Jesus], saying, 'Rabbi, eat.' But He said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about. So the disciples were saying to one another, 'No one brought Him anything to eat, did he? Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work'" (4:31-34 NASV).

A similar scenario was acted out again in chapter 6, where not only the Jews took offense at Jesus' words (v.41 ff.), but so did Jesus' disciples, at which point Jesus, evidently a little miffed with His disciples, said,

"'Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?'" (vv.61-62).

I would paraphrase Jesus' words as follows:

"So my words about the Father sending me down to earth to be the bread of life to a spiritually starving world offend you? I can only imagine how you'll feel when you see Me, the Son of Man, ascending where I was before! If you simply can't fathom why I descended from heaven to be with you here and now, how will you fathom--let alone cope with--my leaving you and ascending back to heaven?"

In short, then, Jesus' "difficult statement" was simply His way of saying that to believe in Him was, figuratively, to eat His flesh. Moreover, knowing full well what lay ahead of Him at the cross, Jesus added the part about drinking His blood as a prophecy of sorts concerning the kind of death He would experience at Calvary, where He would literally shed His lifeblood so that spiritually dead people could be revivified through the forgiveness of their sins. Again, however, Jesus was not suggesting that people drink His blood!

As for your question about Jesus giving life to the world, for people to receive that life requires they first believe in Him. Jesus repeatedly, both in John chapter 6 and elsewhere, emphasized the importance of simply believing in Him in order to receive the eternally satisfying bread and drink He offered to all people freely. It's as if Jesus was paraphrasing the prophet Isaiah in chapter 55:

"Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good. And delight yourself in abundance" (vv.1-2).

In conclusion, Jesus becomes "the life" (John 14:6A) to people in the world only when they believe in Him. When they simply come to Him by faith to receive His gift of life, He will give it to them, "without money and without cost." Moreover, Jesus said,

"'All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out'" (6:37).

share|improve this answer
    
Thank you for your answer,Don! How about this; Jesus was the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden? –  user2479 May 30 at 4:07

The concept of the "word" descending from heaven comes from Deut 30:11-14, which is quoted by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans.

Romans 10:5-11 (NASB)
5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness. 6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”

Paul is applying "Christ" as the referent in the Deuteronomy passage. In other words, the "Christ" is the Son of David (ref. Davidic Covenant). The covenant was comprised of "words" from God spoken as promises to David, which resonated with eternal implications. When we turn to the Book of Deuteronomy, we also see the additional correlation of bread; that is, God's word is equated with the manna from heaven. In other words, God's words are living bread upon which man lives --

Deut 8:2-3 (NASB)
2 You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.

The source of the bread was God's word. The manna was therefore dependent on the Lord's command (that is, His word articulated), and thus the word of God was "bread" in the ultimate sense (otherwise the manna would have never appeared without the commandment given by the Lord in heaven). No commandment from God's mouth, no bread; ergo, man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. In summary, those "words" are divine revelation as captured in Scripture.

The flesh and blood of Christ also fit into this same picture. That is, he is the "lamb of God" (Jn 1:29 and Jn 1:36), and therefore he is the sacrifice, which occurred on the Passover.

1 Corinthians 5:7 (NASB)
7 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.

The reference to the Feast of Unleavened Bread is in view in which the Passover occurred. In other words, Paul is saying that Jesus Christ was the Passover Lamb, which was eaten on the Passover. Please click here (schematic) or here (conceptual) for the alignment of the Passover with the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

So we "eat" this lamb, who is the "bread" from heaven. We therefore "ingest" him when we believe on the Word of God (i.e., we "take in" the bread that comes down from heaven). When we drink his blood, we receive eternal life. We see this in the next verse (noted below), which is the only place in the Christian New Testament where the blood includes water, which removes the contamination of death. That is, the Hebrew Bible is specific that "blood is life" (Gen 9:4; Lev 17:11; Lev 17:14; Deut 12:23; and Deut 19:6), but what we now find in the Christian New Testament is that the blood of Christ not only includes his mortal life, but his eternal life as well.

Hebrews 9:18-20 (NASB)
18 Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.”

Neither in the Masoretic Text nor the Septuagint does the Hebrew Bible in general and the Book of Exodus in particular (Exod 24:8) ever mention ANYTHING concerning the sprinkling of water as part of "the blood of the covenant." (Please note the "water, scarlet wool, and hyssop" describe the particular water mentioned in Numbers 19:1-22; another parallel is found in Leviticus 14:4-8, however, there the blood is sprinkled, but cleansing is consummated by washing of water.) That is, the author of the Book of Hebrews includes the sprinkled water as inclusive of "This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you." In the both passages just noted, the water (that was filtered through the ashes of the Heifer and/or under the sacrifice of an animal in a container) was sprinkled to "wash away" contamination with dead people or animals, or, in the case of leprosy, to "wash away" the contamination of dying flesh. So the author of the Book of Hebrews is saying that the "blood of the covenant" not only included the animal's red bodily fluid, but also water (filtered through ashes and/or poured beneath sacrificed animals), which removed contamination of death or leprosy, which was decomposing dying flesh. So the "blood" includes not only mortal life but eternal life as well. In other words, in the Hebrew Bible the water pointed to the eternal life of Christ in the New Covenant (described further below), which was what "washed away" the contamination of death (via resurrection); the "blood" of the New Covenant was this eternal life (further discussed below).

So to "eat" the meat of the Paschal Lamb was to ingest the "bread" from heaven -- the Word of God. To drink his blood is not to drink the red liquid substance that circulates inside the body, which was very very very abhorrent to the Christian New Testament Jewish mind (Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29; and Acts 21:25), but to drink the living water, which is the eternal life of Jesus Christ. Jesus referred to this eternal life as "living water" (Jn 4:10).

So, in summary, to believe on him is to "eat" him (in the same way the Paschal Lamb was eaten at Passover, which enabled one to escape the bondage of "Egypt"), and to drink his blood, which means to ingest his eternal life. That is, "the iron furnace" was Egypt (Deut 4:20; 1 Ki 8:51; and Jer 11:4); the blood is what set the prisoners free from the waterless pit (please see Zechariah 9:11).

Remember, Jesus introduced the cup of the Lord's Table as the "blood of the New Covenant" (Luke 22:20). In the context of the New Covenant in the Hebrew Bible, the liquid mentioned is NOT "blood" (red substance that circulates inside the body), but is instead "WATER" (please compare Ezek 36:24-26 with Ezek 37:21-23, where the New Covenant "cleansing" is with water).

In other words, Jesus is saying that his "blood" includes his eternal life, which saves us from the waterless pit ("iron furnace") of sin and death. Please refer again to the parallel of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ with the Passover.

In closing, when we understand the "blood of Christ" to include his eternal life, we can infer that when he stated that he was thirsty on the cross (John 19:28), he was not only implying that his mouth was dry, but also that he was dead on the cross spiritually (even though he was yet still alive mortally), since he lacked "living" water. That is, eternal life died on the cross through the person of Jesus Christ, but because eternal life was "indestructible" (Acts 2:24 and Hebrews 7:16), he conquered and therefore "washed away" death. Thus while his body was the sacrifice for the sins of the entire world (compare 2 Cor 5:21 with 1 Jn 2:2), this sacrifice would have been in vain were eternal life unable to conquer death (1 Cor 15:17-19). Thus the "blood" of his mortal life and the "blood" of his eternal life worked in tandem not only to atone for sins, but to save unto eternal life.

One more closing statement: the so-called "sacraments" do not save - please click here for Paul's discussion from the Hebrew Bible that "sacraments" have no intrinsic salvific value. While the Lord's Table represents his death on the cross (eating flesh and drinking blood), and water baptism represents receiving eternal life (washing away spiritual death), participation in the sacraments provide no intrinsic salvific value when understood through the "plain and normal" interpretation of the Word of God.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.