When Jesus spoke about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, did the disciples leave because they thought Jesus taught cannibalism?


Jesus made very clear that his “literal” flesh is “bread” that must be consumed:

I am the bread of life”(48). “This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 50

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. 51

This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever. 58

Jesus referred to himself as bread 10 times in the Bread of Life Discourse.


Jesus was very explicit that the “bread” you eat is truly his flesh:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 53

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 54

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 56

Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. 57


In scripture, nobody “technically” questioned cannibalism

If the disciples left Jesus because they thought he was teaching cannibalism, this would provide even more proof that Jesus was speaking “literally” and not symbolically. 

Nobody technically questioned cannibalism in the Bread of Life Discourse. The Jews questioned the process of how Jesus can “give us” his flesh to eat:

How can this man “give us” his flesh to eat? 52

How bread can become flesh (51). They questioned the supernatural.

They never questioned whether they had to bite off body parts because Jesus referred to himself as bread. But they had “disturbing thoughts” since Jesus was speaking literally.


It’s incomprehensible and was disturbing for the disciples

The disciples understood what Jesus was saying, but they could not comprehend how this could happen and why he would want this to happen. It was (is) a very “hard saying” (60) especially back then when the disciples did not know how everything would play out, biblically speaking.

It’s incomprehensible and was disturbing to the human mind and the human way of thinking. He wants us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, and somehow bread becomes his flesh?

These new teachings required the disciples to believe in Jesus beyond what they could comprehend; supernatural faith. Instead of “fully trusting” Jesus like St. Peter did, many disciples leaned on their human comprehension, rather than faith in God, which led to their disbelief and their difficult and disturbing thoughts.


To read about supernatural vs. natural faith, click here.


The New American Bible, Revised Edition

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