52Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57Just 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. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
I have spent a considerable amount of Internet space writing these meditations on John’s Gospel. I have spent a considerably amount of time reading John’s Gospel and trying to make sense of it for myself so that I would be able to converse intelligently with you. What I continue to find in John’s Gospel, however, is a return to the same themes over and over again. Well, mostly I keep coming back to the same theme in my writing because John keeps coming back to the same theme in his Gospel: Jesus is the only Way to salvation, to the Father, to eternal life and that apart from Jesus there is simply no hope. If we trust the Bible to be God’s Word once delivered to the Saints, then we must believe what it says about these matters. The Bible affords us no other options but Jesus. We are given licence to preach in no other Name; we are given no other Name under heaven by which we might be saved. The message we preach is valid only when it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many in this culture we live in, however, have managed to convince great numbers of people (Christians included and especially!) that there are other ways. Eugene Peterson calls this ‘Christian idolatry.’ In his small book Living the Resurrection he comments on this phenomenon:
“But what we also do is look around for ways to affirm and cultivate our new life in Christ outside our workplace. And we soon find, quite to our delight, that there is a lot to choose from. A huge religious marketplace has been set up in North America to meet the needs and fantasies of people just like us.There are conferences and gatherings custom-designed to give us the lift we need. There are books, videos, and seminars that promise to let us in on the Christian ‘secret’ of whatever it is we feel is lacking in our life—financial security, well-behaved children, weight loss, sex, travel to holy sites, exciting worship, celebrity teachers. The people who promote these goods and services smile a lot and are good-looking. They are obviously not bored.
“It isn’t long before we’re standing in line to buy whatever is being offered. And because none of the purchases does what we hoped for, or at least not for long, we’re soon back to buy another, and then another. The process is addicting. We become consumers of packaged spiritualities.
“This is also idolatry. We never think of using this term because everything we’re buying or paying for is defined by the adjective Christian. But idolatry it is, nevertheless. It’s God packaged as a product—God depersonalized and made available as a technique or a program. The Christian market in idols has never been more brisk or lucrative. The late medieval indulgences that provoked Luther’s righteous wrath are small potatoes compared to what’s going on in our evangelical backyard” (Eugene Peterson, Living the Resurrection, (NavPress: Colorado Springs, Co. 2006), 35-36. Emphasis his.).
It is unbelievable that this is the situation, but I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who sees things this way. His is a warning to those of us who not only treat Christianity as if it were a cash-cow or who think that the Gospel can be promulgated through clever marketing campaigns or slick programming. Peterson is warning us that we are in danger of displacing God and replacing Jesus Christ with something less that is guaranteed not to create in us the sort of Resurrection Life that Christ has called us to live. Jesus said as much himself. “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” You can run from place to place, read book after book, follow all the rules of the super-teachers, adhere to all the principles of the preaching prognosticators and prophets, and yet still miss out on life because Jesus was not a part of your running around and consumption of goods. Most of this stuff is fast food. Only Jesus is a life giving, sustaining meal.
In other words, all this other stuff can either lead you to a deeper relationship with Christ or it can lead you to a deeper relationship with itself. It is easy to get caught up in all the goods and services and miss out on Jesus. Jesus says, from his own mouth—what he heard in the Father’s presence—that unless we find in him our complete nourishment then we are lifeless; that is, we are dead. Those who have no life in them are, for all intents and purposes, dead. Conversely, those who do find their nourishment in Christ’s flesh and blood are full of life; life now. It’s not even a life we have to wait for. It’s ours now! I believe His clear point is that those who are abiding in Christ are already living the Resurrected Life.
Look what he says. Six times he makes reference to those who eat his flesh and drink his blood. Note them well in verses 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, & 58. Such a repetition can only mean that he really wants us to get it into our head. He really wants to consider deeply how imperative it is for those who would follow after him to be in such close communion with him that his life, his flesh, his blood is ours. It is impossible to live without food forever. Eat his flesh, have life in you. Eat his flesh, drink his blood, have eternal life and be raised up at the last day. Eat his flesh, drink his blood, and you will remain in Christ and He in you. The one who feeds on Jesus will live because of Jesus. The one who feeds on this bread will live forever. We will have life, he says, because of Him. Life is His work in us. It is not from ourselves or from anyone or any place else. We have life, if we have it, because of Jesus.
He said: Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever. Manna is fine as far as it goes, but it is incapable of providing sustained, eternal nourishment that will guarantee a life beyond this life. The same is true today. There is nothing wrong with books, seminars, and all that stuff. I love books as much as the next person, but I am not naïve enough to think that it will be my vast (that’s hyperbole) knowledge of and wisdom from books that will secure me the sort life Christ has promised. Those things are fine as far as they go, but they are temporary things that will eventually wear out and need replacing. They will be chewed on, consumed, digested, eventually pass out of the body. But Jesus? No. Once you feed on Jesus He stays with you. And the longer you stay with Him, the Longer he stays with you. Jesus provides the life that the idols of this earth cannot, will not promise or provide. So why do so many preach these idols? Why do so many feed on them instead of Jesus?
Jesus is saying that if you want Life, true Life, Eternal Life, Living Life, Abiding Life, Forever Life then you must, and he does not equivocate, eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. There is simply no getting around this at all.
I Hope you find that after 27 Days with Jesus your life is becoming more and more His.
Soli Deo Gloria!