John 6:53-60 : Jesus therefore said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you don’t have life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven—not as our fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?”
Here we see Jesus put the listeners to the test. He uses a metaphor that, if taken literally, is not nice to hear, but if taken spiritually, describes our dependence on His body and His death for our lives. Up to this point, Jesus has used many difficult food metaphors. Remember, that at Jacob’s well, Jesus spoke of water, that if a person drinks it, he would never be thirsty again (John 4:13-14). This was clearly not a reference to physical water. At that time, He also told His disciples that He had food that they didn’t know anything about (John 4:34). When they start thinking from a physical perspective, He explains further that His “food” was to do God’s will (4:35). This explanation proves that Jesus is speaking metaphorically.
Here, Jesus uses a physical illustration to describe a critical Christian belief.
To get a better understanding of what Jesus true disciples were later to witness, let’s look at Matthew’s record of the time right before Jesus died. Jesus is eating the Passover with His disciples:
Matthew 26:26-30 : As they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, and broke it. He gave to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, “All of you drink it, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins. But I tell you that I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on, until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
It is obvious that Jesus used the physical as an metaphor of the spiritual. We can see this in context because first He calls the wine “my blood”. Then He calls it “this fruit of the vine.” Clearly, He intended it to be metaphorical. God has used the physical world as a metaphor of the spiritual so much that I believe that is one of the primary reasons that He created the physical world. The problem is that, in this case, the physical picture is not pleasing to those who consider it only physically.
There are some today who argue that Jesus death and blood should not be mentioned in church because it may turn people away. Clearly, this is not the example that Jesus gives us. Just because something is difficult to understand doesn’t make it something that we should avoid. God is the one responsible for bringing people to Jesus, and Jesus is the one who keeps them. It is our job to live and speak the truth no matter what it sounds like.