“my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (John 6:55)
Jesus’ discourse in John 6 about eating his flesh and drinking his blood is surely one of the strangest of his sayings. The content was so offensive to some that they turned away from him, never to return (John 6:66). All these years later we can probably appreciate Jesus’ metaphor better than the original hearers did.
Of course, the meaning of the saying is important: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). It is indeed a metaphor and it involves something like, “Take me for what/who I am.” It is also parallel to statements like, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me” (Mt. 11:29).
But is the implication of that statement that interests me most. Jesus always puts himself in an elevated position (that is, unless he is referencing his assumed deference to his heavenly Father, John 14:28). But when it comes to humans, Jesus always positions himself above us.
All you have to do is imagine yourself repeating the words of Jesus to, say, your spouse. “Honey, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you can have no part with me.” Of course that sounds weird, but note that it also contains an assumption of superiority. Here’s the thing: Jesus says these kinds of things with a straight face. He doesn’t follow up with, “Gotcha! Just kidding.” He meant them quite sincerely.
This is the kind of thing that, to my way of thinking, Jesus must have actually said. Who would make up this kind of thing? Not just the metaphor, but the implications of it? No God-fearing Jew (or non-God fearing Jew) would make up a Messiah who thought himself God, who positioned himself both amidst humanity and above them at the same time. It’s — as my great Aunt Martha used to say of things she found astonishing — “absolutely, utterly, ridiculous.” Too ridiculous, in my mind, to have been fabricated.
Then comes the question of whether or not he truly meant it, or was completely insane. Again, as many thinkers have pointed out through the years, and as the Bible bears witness, the words of Jesus are not the words of a person whose full faculties are not available for use.
This leaves us with one option: Jesus really must have been — somehow not entirely discernible to our finite mind — God, in the flesh, and blood, as it were.
Jesus is man’s feast.
He is the well of wisdom and understanding.
He is the meat of contentment and peace.
Man is starving without him.