Is the Bread of Life Discourse a symbolic teaching? 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. The Lord is saying, it is no help or benefit to feed “our” flesh that dies and withers away. “His” resurrected flesh and blood feeds our spirit (soul), which gives life.
  • Consuming his flesh and blood feeds our spirit (soul) which gives life, not our sinful flesh which is of no avail. We transform into the Body of Christ by spiritually being fed, so we too rise from the dead.

Some people believe the Bread of Life Discourse is a symbolic teaching and that the disciples left Jesus due to a misunderstanding.

  • 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?
  • Jesus refers to eternal life 13 times in the Bread of Life Discourse, more than any other chapter in the New Testament.
  • Knowing the importance of eternal life, would Jesus not know that his words would create this misunderstanding?

The disciples questioned his teachings

“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
  • 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

The disciples questioned his teachings 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.

The New American Bible, Revised Edition

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