13 July 2017

John 6:52-59

“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” (v. 54)

Psalm: Psalm 36


What on earth was Jesus doing? Fancy a good Jewish boy speaking of eating flesh and drinking blood. Even the most lax of Jews would have known from a very early age the rules set out in Leviticus (Leviticus 17:10-16) prohibiting consuming of any blood, least of all that of another human! The whole ritual of kosher butchering was designed precisely to prevent any blood being consumed during the eating of meat and here it appears that Jesus is turning their understanding on its head.

To understand a little of what Jesus is alluding to we need to recognise where Jesus is speaking. The people of the synagogue knew the Jewish story better than most. One of their stories we often miss but that is highly relevant to today's passage is where King David's men risk their lives that he might drink water (2 Samuel 23). In receiving the water he declares "The Lord forbid that I should do this. Can I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?" (2 Samuel 23:17) as he pours the precious water into the ground. David could not be seen to profit from the blood of his men.

But Jesus knew that if the people were to benefit from all that he would endure they needed to accept wholeheartedly the gift that was being offered. He states it here, and reinforces it in a physical representation on the night before he dies as he gathers his friends in the upper room (Matthew 26:26-29). In order to benefit from what God is offering them they need to receive Jesus, keep the faith and (as some may argue) remain within the community he was gathering around him.

To Ponder

  • What is Jesus asking of you in this passage?
  • What is your understanding of what we must do to receive eternal life?
  • How does Holy Communion fit into this understanding?
  • Does your understanding include the need to receive Holy Communion regularly? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Paul Wood

Paul is a presbyter serving in the Connexional Team as Coordinator for Ministry Development. He grew up in Derbyshire and has served in Durham and Coventry.