Truth Can Be Shocking
When Jesus nears the end of His teaching in John Chapter 6, He plans to teach them the difference between food that perishes and that which is eternal. The setting follows His feeding of the multitudes. Jesus tells them, …."Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal."" (John 6:26-27) The concept of food sustaining eternal life is a precursor to words He will speak that will shock them in an attempt to lead them to think beyond their routine thoughts of a Messiah who would lead them in material, temporal ways.
These words are followed closely by Him teaching them He is the bread of heaven rather than Moses. His goal is to move them from the temporary bread of heaven their fathers ate in the wilderness to the eternal food Jesus brings when he comes down from heaven as the Bread of Life. The difference Jesus tells them is your fathers ate of the manna and died, but if you eat of the true Bread of Life, you will live eternally. Following that He utters these words, ""I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh." Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." (John 6:51-53)
Jesus knew they would be appalled initially at the idea of eating flesh and drinking blood since it would have been a violation of Mosaic Law. This discussion had reached a point where they needed to be shocked into hearing the ultimate message of the gospel. That message is that just as one must take nutrients into his physical body to sustain life, he must surely take in the eternal message of the Messiah to bring eternal life to his soul.
Jesus uses the occasion of their recent memory of food to sustain their bodies as an occasion to teach them about a greater need and a source that will supply that greater need. This Bread of Life if taken into the heart of a man will give him life eternal as Jesus says, ""He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
Jesus' teaching on the greater value of the eternal in this text is in perfect harmony with His overall message of discipleship. One must sacrifice this life in order to achieve eternal life (Matthew 16:24,25). What Jesus teaches the multitude here, is the only way we can have the Spirit of God and Christ living in us as Paul tells the Romans. "However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:9-11)
Brethren, we too, are subject to the desire to satisfy the flesh ahead of the spirit. We must get our priorities right if we are to attain eternal life.