Read: John 6
So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:53-56, NLT)
The crowds had been pretty impressed with Jesus—and why not? He had healed their sick, he had fed their multitudes—5,000 of them were treated to a full meal when he miraculously multiplied a couple of sardines and five loaves of bread—and he had even walked on their water—literally traipsing across the Sea of Galilee. So you can see why they wanted to hang around Jesus. Who wouldn’t?
But Jesus didn’t want star-struck fans, he wanted fully devoted disciples. So, in essence, he said, “Whatever your reason for following me up ‘til now, let me take you to a deeper, more satisfying experience, and you can only do that by taking my life fully into your own.” Oh, he didn’t say it quite that innocuously; he got pretty graphic and told them they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood if they wanted to be his disciples. And when the adoring crowds heard Jesus lay down the demands of discipleship in that way, they were shocked—and turned off. The New English Bible translates John 6:60 this way: “This is more that we can stomach. Why listen to such words?”
Why were they so upset? Was it because they found Jesus’ words so revolting? Was it because they didn’t understand what he was saying? No, it was because they knew all too well what he was asking of them. He was calling them to accept him as God’s Son, the true bread of life, the only one who could truly satisfy their spiritual hunger and quench their thirst for God, both now and for all eternity. Jesus was calling them unequivocally to commit their lives totally to him, promising that if they did, then, and only then, would their deepest longings and innermost needs be fully met in him.
Jesus’ call to radical discipleship, using those provocative terms, would not have been unfamiliar to them. When a leader in that era called for unreserved commitment, he would demand that his followers “eat his flesh and drink his blood”. So the reason the crowd was upset and abandoned Jesus at hearing this was because they knew exactly what Jesus was asking: Nothing less than total commitment and full surrender.
Interestingly, Jesus used two different words in two different Greek tenses for “eating his flesh.” In John 6:53, the word “eat” meant to eat once and for all—a specific act at a moment in time that produced continuing effects into the future. He was speaking of the act of salvation—a specific moment in time when you give your life over to Christ and are born again. Salvation occurs at a moment in time, but it produces effects that continue throughout life and clear into eternity. The second word for “eat” in John 6:54 referred to a continuous act of daily and voraciously taking life-giving, soul-satisfying nourishment into one’s life. Jesus was referring not to salvation, but to the daily walk of discipleship.
In both cases, to “eat and drink of him” means to so thoroughly absorb Jesus that every fiber of who you are and every aspect of how you live is fundamentally and profoundly affected. And when he is invited and allowed to so fully and completely take over your life that way, something wonderful will happen: Jesus begins to show through.
That reminds me of the story of a little girl who turned to her mother on their way home from church and said, “Mommy, the pastor’s sermon confused me.” The mother said, “Why was that?” The girl replied, “Well, he said that God is bigger than we are. Is that true?” The mother replied, “Yes, honey!” Then the little girl said, “And he also said that God lives in us. Is that true, mommy?” The mother again said, “Yes, that’s true, too.” Upon hearing that, the girl said, “Well, mommy, if God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?”
That is what happens when you take Jesus so thoroughly and fundamentally in to your life—both at salvation and in your daily walk as his disciple. He begins to show through, and that is a good thing! If he is not showing through, it is likely that you are lacking in good spiritual nutrition, and, in the words of your Lord, you need to go back and “eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man.”
“Salvation is free … but discipleship will cost you your life.” ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
What If God Took Over?
Offer this prayer of committed discipleship: “Jesus, I want to absorb your life so fully into mine that you show through. I offer myself to you; Lord, fully take me over.”