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Does eating his flesh and drinking his blood mean to “believe” in Jesus? The eating and drinking are symbolic… and the disciples left due to a misunderstanding?

If it’s symbolic and it only means to believe, why did the disciples leave Jesus and return to their former way of life and no longer accompany him? John 6:66

Jesus “already” taught the disciples the requirement to believe

The definition of a disciple is a believer and follower of Jesus.

Before the discourse took place, Jesus already taught the disciples the “requirement” to obtain eternal life, which is to “believe” in him. They did not leave him then. John 3:15,16,18,36: 5:24.

Verse 66 shows that the disciples were believing in Jesus prior to the discourse. They gave up their “way of life” to follow him, but after the discourse many returned back to their former ways of living. To give up your own “way of living” to follow another person shows major commitment and belief in that person you are following.

Some disciples had accompanied and followed the Lord for over two years. Imagine you giving up your life to “literally” follow another person for over two years! They believed!

Our “all knowing God” misled people about eternal life?

Jesus referred to eternal life 13 times in the Bread of Life Discourse, more than any other chapter in the New Testament.

Why would the greatest teacher ever to walk the earth allow his very own disciples to leave him based on a misunderstanding about eternal life?

Knowing the importance of eternal life, which is the reason he came down from heaven, would Jesus not know that his words would create this misunderstanding?

No correction from Jesus here

They questioned Jesus. How can this man give us his flesh to eat (52)? Instead of correcting a misunderstanding, Jesus gave an ultimatum:

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

Jesus vividly misled people?

Since God is all knowing (omniscient), why would he provide such vivid literal imagery that would mislead people?:

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 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. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever. 54-58

No correction from Jesus there

They questioned Jesus again. This saying is hard; who can accept it (60)? Instead of correcting a misunderstanding again, Jesus says, “does this shock you?” 61

He then allows the disciples to leave and asks if the apostles are going to leave too? 66,67

To say the disciples left Jesus because of a misunderstanding, is to say that our omniscient God knowingly misled people about a teaching on eternal life, that he preached using his very own words.

Jesus would “not” reject or lose them, if they believed

God is “all knowing;” omniscient. Jesus knew that many disciples would leave him that day. So, before the new teachings, Jesus explained to the “crowd” of non-believers that he would not reject or lose anyone that comes to him unless they were not granted by his Father’s will. 37-39.

Jesus then explained the Father’s will in verse 40:

For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and “believes” in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.

If Jesus were to reject or lose a disciple to something other than “lack of faith” in him, he would not have obeyed the Father’s will. 

Some say John 6:63 confirms that Jesus was speaking symbolically. Does this verse confirm that Jesus in fact was speaking symbolically?

Verse 63: It is the spirit that gives life, while “the” flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

What are the words he just spoke? Several times Jesus spoke, eat my flesh (7) and drink my blood (3) to obtain eternal life.

What does “no avail” mean? It means “no help or benefit.”

Did Jesus say “my” flesh is of no avail? No, he said “the” flesh is of no avail.

The term “the flesh” is used many times in the New Testament to describe human nature separated from God’s grace.

Is Jesus’ flesh of no avail? No!

The Lord is perfect and sinless. His flesh is holy and pure. His flesh and spirit rose from the dead. Was his flesh on the cross of no help or benefit? Jesus is referring to “our” sinful flesh, which is of no avail. It is your spirit that gives life, your flesh is of no help or benefit. Jesus feeds our spirit, which gives life.

The Flesh

Many disciples had natural faith which is of “the flesh.” You need to see to believe. You can’t believe in God beyond what you can comprehend. Your faith is of the flesh and of this world, not of the spirit which only God can see and feed. This faith is weak and lacks trust in God.

“The flesh is of no avail” 63

The Spirit

Supernatural faith is of the spirit, that is fed by Jesus, and means to believe beyond scientific understanding and laws of nature; of the miraculous similar to his supernatural birth and the multiplying of bread and fish. Having “complete” faith and trust in Jesus requires you to believe in God beyond what you can comprehend.

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” 63

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

The New American Bible, Revised Edition