Flesh and Blood

"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."

John 6:51-58

August 13, 2021, Words By: Lina Thompson, Image By: Blakely Dadson

Made Flesh

I’ll be honest, today’s passage makes me cringe. The language Jesus uses is cannibalistic; it’s scandalous. “Eat my flesh. Drink my blood.” Yuck. Am I right? As someone who presides over the communion table, hearing Jesus speak about His body this way makes me super uncomfortable. 

And yet, I can’t turn away.

In verse 61, Jesus asks his disciples, “Does this offend you?” As a modern follower of Jesus, I’d like to raise my hand and say, “Why yes it does!.” 

BUT … I also resonate 100% with Peter, who just a few verses later says, “Where else would I go? You have the word of eternal life.”

So back to the passage I go … back to the “eat my flesh and drink my blood” words of Jesus. Where is the “Good News” in such gross imagery? 

Loving Self-Sacrifice

I wonder if Jesus was planting a theological seed in His disciples’ minds? If that was the case, the question remains, what was the seed? 

At a minimum, Jesus’ crude language serves as a reminder that His crucifixion was a fleshy, bloody, violent mess.  

I was always told His violent death was a necessary atonement; Jesus had to die so that God could receive me. Is that the theological seed Jesus is planting in this verse? Is it just a reminder of how much pain He suffered to pay a cosmic price for my sin? If Jesus is in agreement with the sacrificial system of His day, then that would make sense.

But it wouldn’t quite fit His way of doing things. Jesus was more prone to turning systems upside down than accepting the status quo. 

So what if this is about interrupting the sacrificial system instead of affirming it? After all, God, through the prophets, suggested many times, “Stop with the sacrifices. I don’t want them.” In fact, the prophet Micah reminds us what God wants is mercy.

It makes sense then that Jesus would step into the system as a way of subverting it … of showing a path of mercy. He sees the sacrificial killing, the scapegoats, and the tit-for-tat-eye-for-an-eye concepts of justice; they are performed in God’s name, but they are really just a reflection of how we deal with each other in society.    

So Jesus endured the violent system, not to condone it, but to free us from it. He stepped into the endless cycle of violence to stop it, to show a different way. 

“Eat my flesh and drink my blood”

All of a sudden, today’s passage takes on a new meaning. Jesus is saying, “Remember. Feed on me. Forever. My body received the violence you took out on each other. And I responded with love and mercy. Feed on what I have done so that you might live differently in the world.” 

Our abiding is grounded in us feeding on the self-sacrificial love of Christ and allowing it to nurture our resistance to the dominant narrative of violence. This, in turn, transforms the way we see one another and live together.

The call to the Church feels urgent to me. In a world that is hungry and thirsting for a new way, do we dare model a new humanity — a new way of being human that resists violence in all of its forms, feeds on and embodies the self-sacrificial love of Jesus and seeks restoration instead of retribution? That path may feel risky. But it’s the only way to the freedom and shalom we so badly seek. 

Dwelling Among Us

What emotions does the idea of a non-violent God provoke in you?

About The Author

Lina Thompson