Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:53-54 NIV)
Most people find these words of Jesus difficult to understand. Jesus is telling his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood. What does Jesus mean by these words?
As I usually say, a verse out of context is a pre-text.
John 6 starts with Jesus feeding the 5,000 by the mountainside. The crowds are there for a long time. They are getting hungry. Andrew introduces a boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish. He feeds and teaches them. Jesus feeds the crowd abundantly. There are 12 baskets of bread left. Then Jesus walks on water to disciples in the boat in the middle of storm. It is in this context that Jesus starts to teach them. He says that he is the living bread who comes down from heaven.
‘Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ (John 6:27 NIV)
Therefore when Jesus tells us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he is presenting himself as the living bread who comes down from heaven. He tells us to put our faith in him and trust him no matter whatever happens in our lives. Eating and drinking are metaphors for whole-hearted faith in Jesus. It is he alone who can help us and raise up at that last day.
Recently I had an opportunity to return to Malaysia for a short holiday. I have had the blessed opportunity every year to return to Malaysia to visit my father and my brother and family. It is a great time. However, there is a challenge each time that I go to Malaysia. I displace myself from Canada where I live and to return back to my first home Malaysia. Each time I do this I find myself questioning my identity. My home is in Canada. Yet I feel that Malaysia is home too. After returning to Canada for 2 weeks, after the jet lag, I realise that I am really a displaced person. My home ultimately is where Jesus is going to take me to. I need to “eat his flesh and drink his blood” i.e. to trust in him totally that he will take me to where I will finally end up.