Jesus says in John 6

53 Jesus said to them, “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. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

Are eating his flesh and drinking his blood related to the eating his flesh and drinking his blood in Matthew 26?:

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Or is the meaning different in each passage?

  • I think it's important to know that Matthew (AD 40'S) was before John (AD 60'S). Therefore textual critics state that John borrows information from Matthew. Often times, John appears "drive home" the points from Matthew by making them appear more glamorous. I'm not saying that is intentional, I'm just speaking from my understanding of textual criticism. Dec 30, 2013 at 22:56

5 Answers 5


I am an amateur at this, but I think that 2 Samuel 23 gives us a big clue as to how to interpret Jesus' remarks. Jesus's language appears to be the same language used by David who refused to drink of the water that the soldiers brought him because they had risked their lives to bring it to him, and what they brought to David was not worth them losing their lives. To drink the water they brought would be to drink their blood. This is in sharp contrast to the situation where Jesus brings salvation, and those who will not drink of the living water and will not accept that offering (i.e., who will not drink his blood and eat his flesh,) can nothing to do with Jesus. There is no other way than to accept that which Jesus has brought; so the gift is more than worthy of the sacrifice that he made for us. We must accept his gift and, in doing so, drink of his blood.

2 Samuel 23:15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

  • I've never seen that verse in 2 Sam. 23 before. Thanks! :)
    – user862
    Dec 31, 2013 at 23:10
  • @H3br3wHamm3r81: You're welcome. I wondered if others had noticed this. Jan 1, 2014 at 1:10

The symbolic language Jesus used in John 6:53 strongly points to Leviticus 17:10-11.

Lev 17:10 “‘Any man of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who live as foreigners among them, who eats any kind of blood, I will set my face against that soul who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. Lev 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life.

This verse explains why God would forbid any person from consuming animal blood. The reason being was that the life was in the blood. The sacrificed animal would suffer death and remain dead forever. But Only Jesus' blood could impart true life. Only Jesus could suffer, then die, then resurrect and live forever. The crowd Jesus spoke to took offence to his comments because they did not have the ears to hear. Only Jesus' life giving blood is fit for consumption. Thus Jesus spoke those words to point to himself as the only true Lamb of God. The lamb whose flesh and blood has the power to give life and atone for sins.

The types and shadows of the old covenant sacrifice, God took no pleasure in:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings (Ps 51:16).

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Heb 10:4

But there was complete satisfaction for the debt of sin when Jesus took our place:

But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

So complete was Jesus' fulfillment of the OT Passover lamb, John recorded these words in his gospel (compare to Ex 12:46 ):

Joh 19:34 However one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. Joh 19:35 He who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, that you may believe. Joh 19:36 For these things happened, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “A bone of him will not be broken.”

Exo 12:46 It shall be eaten in one house. You shall not carry any of the flesh outside from the house. And you shall not break a bone in it.

See also Luke 22:20


The Greek tenses apropos the Passover, are Present - here the idea of a repeated act act consonant with repeating weekly. The Greek tenses in Jhn.6 are aorist, consonant with one-off action. Also 'flesh' (Jhn.6: Gk. sarx) does not equal 'body' (Mt.26: Gk. sōma). Jhn.6 carries the idea of one-off conversion to messiah; the Passover passages (Synoptics + Paul; no Johannine equivalent) carry the idea of inhouse remembrance of messiah's death, thence lordship, and future parousia.


An everlasting ordinance was ordained in the time of Moses and Aaron, as celebration, to commemorate the Passover event (Exodus 12:1-14). During a Jewish passover event unleavened bread is broken, and is accompanied with wine. During the original passover event. Blood from a sacrificed lamb was to be painted on the door posts, as a sign to the angel of death to passover and allow the first born to live.

When Jesus states "This is my Body" this was to help us understand that his body is now the sacrifice. When Jesus states "This is my Blood" this is to help us understand that it is because of his blood that death will passover us. This was stated as a "New Covenant" because God's delight had diminished from that of sacrifices (Isaiah 1:11). Therefore expressing once again that he was replacing the need for sacrifice and continuing the everlasting ordinance (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

It's beautiful really, the way the broken bread is to remind us that he had broken his body for us. He also said "Do this in remembrance of me" this is to remind us that our bodies also must be broken. He gave of himself to his disciples, we also should give of ourselves.

Failure to present the Lord's offering: "But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin." -Numbers 9:13

Therefore when the bread is broken we are presenting and offering to God for the forgiveness of sin. For it is a reminder offering. The offering was to be presented without leaven, later Jesus also taught us that leaven symbolized puffing of pride. So also the offering was to be presented in humility.

"So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord." -1 Corinthians 11:27

When looking at what was mentioned in John 6 we see a duality in the meaning of what he his telling us.

His flesh is his words. "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." -John 1:14

His blood refers to the Holy Spirit.
   "On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified." -John 7:37-39

So by replacing the words with the concepts you have.

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you swallow the what I am telling you and drink the Holy Spirit, you have no life in you. Whoever swallows what I say and drinks the Holy Spirit has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my word is real food and my Spirit is real drink.

Jesus also calls himself the Bread of Life. "Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." -John 6:35

So the strong connection between God's Word, God's Flesh, and The Bread of Life is in his message. Yet the context of Matthew 26 is focusing more the Reminder Offering. John 6 however similar in nature is focused more on people understanding his message "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you — they are full of the Spirit and life." -John 6:36

To add my personal conjecture with this "I feel there was a possibility to dwindle down the size of the crowd following him that wanted more free food."


There are obvious similarities between the two passages, to be sure, but there are also some key differences. Looking into the context of each passage helps to clarify the differences.

In John 6, Jesus gave his "I am the bread of life" speech both to the crowd whom he had fed miraculously just hours before, and to the "Jews," some of whom may have been with the crowd and some of whom were not part of the crowd but comprised a contingent of the Jewish leadership which was highly suspicious of Jesus and even plotted to kill Him (John 5:18). In the face of such unbelief and hostility, Jesus did not tone down his choice of words; rather, He ramped it up a notch!

In context, in encouraging people to eat His flesh and drink His blood Jesus was simply telling people to believe in Him and to accept Him for who He claimed to be, something the Jewish leadership was unwilling to do (John 5:39,40). Jesus was also aware the crowd which followed Him had mixed motives; in fact, Jesus suggested they followed Him from town to town because He had miraculously filled their bellies, a motive Jesus attempted to disabuse them of (John 6:26,27).

Later in John 6, Jesus explained the "hard saying" (His disciples' words) about eating flesh and drinking blood by telling them,

"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some of you who do not believe" (vv.63,64a).

Here Jesus is telling His disciples He was speaking spiritually, not literally. Again, the flesh and blood verbiage was a metaphor for belief in Him, and it was meant to expose the unbelief of the Jews.

When we turn over to Matthew 26:26, the context is very different indeed! In the Upper Room Discourse with His inner circle of disciples, Jesus enacted what was later called the Lord's Supper (communion, Eucharist, breaking of bread, mass). Aware that His life was nearing its end, Jesus took two common items in the traditional seder meal, unleavened bread and wine, and as His disciples ate and drank, Jesus called the bread His body and told them to eat it. He then called the wine His blood and told them to drink it. Henceforward, the New Covenant between God and believing humankind would be in Jesus' once and for all atoning sacrifice at Calvary, and not in the repeated atoning sacrifices of animals. Jesus, in other words, was truly the Paschal Lamb of God who bore away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

In conclusion, in Jesus' discourse to the crowd in John 6, He underscored the necessity of belief in Him and used the "flesh and blood" metaphor to hammer home the point about belief being the only means by which believers could have eternal life (v.58). In Jesus' Upper Room Discourse, He established an ordinance which has come down to us today through the centuries, as a way of reminding us both of His atoning sacrifice and of the commitment we made to Him when we believed and then entrusted our very lives to Him. By availing ourselves, by faith, of the forgiveness of sins we have through His broken body and spilled blood, we become the possessors of eternal life. In other words, in John 6, Jesus attempted to get people to believe, but in Matthew 26, He established an ordinance for all who have believed to "proclaim His death until He comes [back again]" (1 Corinthians 11:25,26).

"There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel's veins,

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see

That fountain in his day;

And there may I, though vile as he,

Wash all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood

Shall never lose its power

Till all the ransomed church of God

Be saved, to sin no more.

(William Cowper, 1731-1800)

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