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What does John 6: 57 mean?

Just as the living father sent me and I live because of the father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.

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If one answers this question without getting caught up the the discussion about whether communion is the literal body and blood of Christ, but focus on what those listening to Jesus thought, Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg gives one of the best answers when commenting on John 6:52-60.

Animal blood was symbolically poured on the altar of the Jerusalem Temple to make atonement for the Israelites. It was meant for God. It was meant to be consumed by Him and by Him alone. This may sound strange to modern ears, but this is exactly how the ancients thought of sacrifice. The ancient Israelites were not exceptional in this understanding of sacrifice. They offered God food for holy consumption.... But in the ancient mind, the slaughtered sacrifice was meant to symbolize a fully dedicated life offered to the deity worshipped. No questions asked.

So, what is happening here? I think it is something like this – Jesus says: “Now the tables will be turned. It is God’s turn to offer you all that He is. Just as you offer him the sacrifices symbolizing the whole life, so is he offering you Himself in the person of his Son.” ...

Therefore, when Jesus referred to his body and blood, he meant the bread and wine should become, in the minds and hearts of his followers, fully associated with him in the entire spectrum of his life – his person, his teachings and his works. In other words, Jesus expected to be fully understood and received through active participation by faith. By faith in Him, the believer would partake of salvation, which is found in Jesus alone and is offered freely to all.

So let me summarize. Jesus’ statement about his body and blood is true and no other picture could have made it clearer. His flesh and his blood, meaning Jesus Himself – the whole Jesus – is the only thing that can sustain a human being to life everlasting. (Jn. 1: 1, 14) -- Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Eli. The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel (pp. 105-106). Jewish Studies for Christians. Kindle Edition.

St. Augustine also answered:

The hard saying cannot be taken literally, says Augustine, since it would seem to be enjoining a crime or a vice: “it is therefore a figure, bidding us communicate in the sufferings of our Lord, and secretly and profitably treasure in our hearts the fact that his flesh was crucified and pierced for us.” Elsewhere he sums the matter up in an epigram: Crede et manducasti, “Believe, and thou hast eaten.” -- Kaiser, W. C., Jr., Davids, P. H., Bruce, F. F., & Brauch, M. T. (1996). Hard sayings of the Bible (p. 500). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.

Here is a summary related to communion:

In the discourse of John 6 Jesus is not making a direct reference to Holy Communion, but this discourse conveys the same truth in words as Holy Communion conveys in action. This truth is summed up in the invitation extended to the communicant in the Book of Common Prayer: “Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.” To feed on Christ in one’s heart by faith with thanksgiving is to “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” and so have eternal life. -- Kaiser, W. C., Jr., Davids, P. H., Bruce, F. F., & Brauch, M. T. (1996). Hard sayings of the Bible (p. 500). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity.

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Just as the living father sent me and I live because of the father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. John 6:57

There are 3 main components to this verse.

  1. God the 'Living' Father 'sent' Jesus
  2. Jesus 'lives' because of the Father
  3. Those who 'feed' on Jesus will similarly live.

ONE

The term 'living Father' signifies the immortality of God - He isn't just God, but the LIVING God - He IS life. True life is only His to give.

He (God) alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen Him, nor can anyone see Him. To Him be honour and eternal dominion! Amen. 1 Tim 6:16

For as the Father has life in Himself, so also He gave to the son to have life in himself. John 6:26

Having life in Himself is part of God's aseity - the state or quality of existing in and of oneself, without external cause or dependence. While other creatures have eternal spirit life (as far as we can know), they are dependant on the God who provides this life - having originated from Him. The "living Father" originated form no thing on no one, having no beginning.

1 Corinthians 8:6 for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we exist. And there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ...

1 Timothy 6:13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who made the good confession...

In this the love of God has been revealed among us, that God has sent His only begotten son into the world, so that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9

Only the Father has true eternal life. He has done all things for and through His son - giving Jesus authority for all that needs to be done - including granting life to those who believe in him.

because of Him (God), and through Him, and to Him are all things; to Him is the glory Rom 11:36, 1 Cor 8:6

Paul is careful to not understate the significance, the centrality, of Jesus to all God has done, but not to carelessly give Jesus credit for what only God has done as Creator. He is equally careful to ensure the reader understands that Jesus is the one who depends on God for life and that only God has this life - not Jesus. Paul is not alone in this important detail - all other NT writers teach the same truth.

Peace to you. As the Father has sent me forth, I also send you." John 20:21

"As You sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. John 17:18

TWO

When Jesus was born to Mary, it was possible by the purposeful act of God, granting life where no life should be possible - through a virgin. This was necessary to have a man without the sin inherited from Adam - which is passed through each father to every generation.

When Jesus is raised from the dead by God his Father, after having died in the flesh as a mortal man, the Father raised him to a new life in the spirit. Jesus gaining eternal life from then - as the first born of a new creation of many brethren.

Acts 2:32 God has raised this Jesus to life, to which we are all witnesses.

Christ... put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit 1 Pet 3:18

Rom 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brethren

John 5:26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted the son to have life in himself.

John 5:21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the son gives life to whom he wishes.

This life the Father initially gave Jesus (from the logos 'which' became flesh) was unique. Only Jesus (since Adam), while in the flesh, had a life which was without corruption. And now, only in the exalted Jesus, is this new spirit, eternal life, available to others. Life as we know it is simply a temporary existence; God offers true life and only through Jesus. Yet Jesus had to die. It was only once he was raised, exalted to the Father's side that he gained the true life from the Father - a life of spirit.

knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over him. 10For the death that he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life that he lives, he lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Rom 6:9

Notice this aspect Jesus raises about life.

You gave him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given him, he may give eternal life. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent John 17:2-3

Living forever is not the point - the angels (seem to) have that, and for the wicked ones that is a bad scenario. True life, eternal life, is from the Father, with the Father and knowing the Father - and His son!

THREE

So we have this model Jesus provided - a way to partake of this life through him - his blood and his flesh. Except we eat of him - take into ourselves the deposit of true life of the Father symbolised by these elements of His son and the death necessary, there can be no life for us. Jesus is the only way to the Father - this is another way of expressing that reality.

At the beginning of this process to receive this new and true life, we are given God's spirit as a deposit. A down-payment or pledge of the full spirit life given finally at Jesus return for those that are his. Just as Jesus was raised in the spirit, so too will those who partake of his body and blood.

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead: What is sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. 1 Cor 15:42

placed His seal on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge of what is to come 2 Cor 1:22

v49 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so also shall we bear the likeness of the heavenly man.

It can be easy to read John and become confused when we don't understand the now, but not yet reality John writes with. Jesus is 'granted' many things - John writes as if they are already done and they are in the plan God has laid out - but they are yet to be fully realised by Jesus.

To say Jesus has the life of the Father before his crucifixion is an error. IF he had true life as only the Father has, then he could not possibly die. No, he died in the flesh - just as all men do - but was raised IN the spirit. Not BY the spirit - because no verse says that, nor do any say he raised himself. If we are careful to read what the bible provides without imposed contradictions, the reality of God and His son will become apparent.

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  • You need to provide evidence for your pivotal assertion, "The term 'living Father' signifies the immortality of God" because I disagree and can see no evidence for this in the Bible.
    – Dottard
    Dec 13, 2020 at 10:50
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    John 5:26-27 The Father has given to the Son to have life in himself (the same sourceless life the Father has) and authority to judge (mankind) because he is the son of man. All before death, burial, and resurrection. Dec 13, 2020 at 13:31
  • @Mike out of curiosity, what do you base 'the same sourceless life' on? As Jesus died and was raised from the DEAD, his life is quite unlike the Father.
    – Steve
    Dec 14, 2020 at 7:58
  • The Father has life in Himself...He does not draw this life from any outside source. He has given the Son to have life in Himself just as He has. Just as. Exactly like. The Son does not draw his life from any other. Just as the Father, the Son sources his own life. Jan 14, 2022 at 16:01
  • Wow, God gave His only son, who died, so he didn’t have such life before his death then did he? You just made up your own truth based on nothing biblical.
    – Steve
    Jan 14, 2022 at 21:07

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