What is eating his flesh and drinking his blood mean? A somewhat difficult passage that has caused many questions and misunderstandings. These are my annotated notes, translation, and my understanding of this passage. It is about 5 pages long.
Jesus Is the Bread of Life
25 When they found Jesus on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did yous come here?”
26 Jesus answered and said to them, “Very truly, I say to youp, ‘Youp are not looking for me because youp saw the miracles but because youp ate the loaves and were filled.
[The people were interested in physical food but not spiritual food, so Jesus corrects them. These people had their stomach in the right place but not their heart. Jesus wanted them to have their priorities reordered. They should attend to their eternal issues before attending to their physical].
27 “‘Do not work for the food which spoils but for the food that endures into eternal life, which the Son of Man will give youp, because the Father, God, has affixed [his] seal on him.’”
[Jesus is not telling the people to quit working but to get their priorities reordered. Spiritual needs are more important than physical needs. Physical food spoils but spiritual food does not. See Isaiah 55:2, Matthew 5:6, and Revelation 3:17. The only source of spiritual food is God, thus what He says is our food (Matthew 4:4). God gives but it is future tense which refers to Jesus’s coming death as the Passover Lamb. Affixed his seal on him refers to He is the one and only Messiah approved by God. Compare John 1:29-34 and Luke 3:22].
28 Then they said to him, “What can we be doing, so that we can continually work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that youp keep on believing in the one he sent.”
[Jesus had taught them about working for the food that endures into eternal life, so they ask Him how to accomplish it. Jesus replies that God expects us to believe and continue to believe on Jesus as Messiah. Jesus has always and always will be Messiah. He is Messiah for every situation and for every need. He does not answer every prayer the way we want Him to but answers according to His wisdom, love, and holiness. Sometime later we will understand. Jesus is not teaching that believing is God’s work but that this work is expected from us].
30 Then they said to him, “What sign do yous show, that we may see and believe yous? What are yous going to do?
31 “Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” [Exodus 16:4, Nehemiah 9:15, and Psalm 78:24-25]
32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I say to youp, ‘Moses has not given youp that bread from heaven, but my Father gives youp the true bread from heaven.
33 “For God’s bread is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34 Then they said to him, “Lord, give us this bread forever.”
35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never hunger, and he who believes in me will never thirst.
[Adam Clarke commenting on this verse, writes: The person who receives my doctrine, and believes in me as the great atoning sacrifice, shall be perfectly satisfied, and never more feel misery of mind. All the guilt of his sins shall be blotted out, and his soul shall be purified unto God; and, being enabled to love him with all his heart, he shall rest, fully, supremely, and finally happy, in his God].
36 “But I spoke to youp concerning that, and youp have seen me, yet youp do not believe.
[These people have seen fulfilled prophecy (Matthew 1:22, Micah 5:2, and Luke 3:3-6), testimony from God and John the Baptist (John 1:29 and Luke 3:21-22), seen Jesus’s authority over weather, danger, people, demons, and death, yet still refuse to believe. People refuse to believe either because of pride or love for sin. Compare Psalm 10:4, Hebrews 11:24-25, and Revelation 9:20-21].
37 “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and those who do come to me, I will not reject.
[…several key points about Arminian theology that needs to be known before the exegesis can be done. First, Arminians do believe in predestination. We simply do not believe that predestination is unconditional, but that God places the choice on the individual to either respond to His grace or resist it (Acts 7:55). God does not violate the person’s free will in Arminian theology but rather He convicts the sinner and allows the sinner to submit to God’s grace or deny the cross and turn away from Christ. Secondly, Arminians believe that salvation is by the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus (Titus 2:11-12). Salvation is not a work of man or even man co-operating with God for their salvation, but it is a humbling denial of self in true repentance before the cross. As the hymn reads, “Jesus paid it all; All to Him I owe.” Arminians cherish Ephesians 2:8-9 and we affirm that salvation is of the Lord (Jonah 2:9). Thirdly, Arminians believe that God has given free will to man and thus when Adam fell into sin, he did so by his own accord (Romans 5:12; 1 Timothy 2:14). God is not the author of sin nor does He tempt anyone (James 1:12-15) (Source). Some are not willing by their own free choice. See John 5:40 and Luke 13:34].
38 “For I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
[Jesus freely chooses to do His Father’s will].
39 “This is the will of my Father who sent me, that I should not lose any of those given me, but I will raise them up on the last day.
[Those who are given are those who met God’s conditions for salvation. It is God’s will that they will not be lost. Ben Henshaw commenting on this verse writes: Jesus is speaking to Jews whose hearts are not right with God. They are not faithful Jews and do not know the Father. Because they are not in right covenant relationship with the Father, they cannot recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son. Since they are not willing to do the Father’s will they cannot properly discern the truth of Christ’s words (John 7:17). Those who know the Father will recognize the truth of Christ’s words and be “drawn” to Him (6:44, 45, cf. John 3:21). They will be given to the Son and come to faith in Him as a result (6:37). To them alone has the Father granted access to the Son (6:65).
The passage has to do with the Father giving the faithful Jews to their long awaited Messiah. It has nothing to do with a pre-temporal unconditional election of certain sinners to come to faith in Christ. This is a conclusion that many have read into this passage according to a prior commitment to a theological system without any contextual warrant.
Jesus assures anyone who would come to Christ in faith that they will not be rejected. They will be accepted in the Beloved One of God (6:37). The Father will not fail to give all the faithful Jews to Christ and Christ will not fail to receive them to Himself. Christ will “raise them up at the last day.” These Jews can be sure that their destiny is secure in Christ. However, the promise is only for those who are presently and continually “eating”, “drinking”, “believing”, “coming”, “listening”, “following”, and “beholding.” Only those who persevere in saving faith will be raised up at the last day (6:40). There is no promise here for those who stop believing and no guarantee that those who begin to believe will inevitably endure in that faith. The “all that” in verse 39 is the sum total of believers. It is the corporate body of Christ and that body will certainly be “raised up at the last day” because that body is comprised of those who are presently and continually “believing” in the Son (vs. 40). (Source)].
40 “And this is the will of the one who sent me that all who see the Son and believe in him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
[The word “see” here is the Greek word θεωρέω theōréō (G2334) which is to see with the idea of studying the details. We may see a sunrise, or we see the sunrise and mentally note all the details—the cloud pattern, the colors, the movement of the clouds, sunbeams, etc. It is this seeing that Jesus speaks of. All the people saw Jesus, but there is a difference. One person just sees Him, but the other is analyzing and forming an opinion. It is not a glance or going to a gathering and see him speak. It is mentally gathering details of what He is doing and what He is saying. It is a discerning. It is asking questions and studying what this man is saying as “Is this the Messiah?” and recalling Scriptural prophesies. Two of us may be looking out the window. I say, “I saw a car go past,” but my wife notes the size of the car, color of the car, direction of the car, speed of the car, and maybe even the make and model. We might compare it to the idiom “size up.” Compare the same Greek word and its use in Mark 5:15, Mark 12:41, John 4:19, and Revelation 11:11-12].
41 Then the Jews started grumbling about him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.”
42 They kept saying, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that he says, ‘I came down from heaven?’”
43 Then Jesus responded and said to them, “Stop grumbling among yourselvesp.
44 “No one is able to come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day.
[All have opportunity. All have been drawn. All believers have been drawn but did not resist the Holy Spirit. Craig L Adams writes on this passage: The context here has to do with the relationship of the Father and the Son. Jesus is claiming that the Jews are rejecting him because (in actuality) they have rejected the Father. So, the context of this passage is not a discussion of whether God has chosen to send the mass of humanity to an eternal Hell, while choosing to arbitrarily save (by compulsion: “dragged”) a few. The context concerns why these particular Jews have not been drawn to Jesus as Messiah and Son, while others have. The Greek word for “draws” is ἑλκύω helkýō (G1670). It means to draw, to move something that has resistance. See John 12:34. But what is the means of drawing? Is it something against the will as someone who resists arrest by law enforcement? Or, is it love and compassion that draws someone? Are people drawn to what is repulsive and against their will, or are they draw by something beautiful and desirable? See 1 John 3:1, 1 John 4:9, and John 3:16].
45 “It is written in the Prophets, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ [Isaiah 54:13] Therefore, all, having heard and having learned from the Father, come to me.
46 “Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God; he has seen the Father.
47 “Very truly, I say to youp, “The one who is believing in me has everlasting life.”
48 “I am that bread of life.
49 “Yourp fathers ate manna in the wilderness and are dead.
50 “This is the bread coming down from heaven that anyone may eat from him and not die.
[The word “this” is Jesus referring to Himself. I imagine Him pointing to Himself as He speaks to his disciples].
51 “I am the living bread who came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread, he will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
[See note at Matthew 13:11-13 about the purpose of parables. In John 6:51, Jesus teaches that he is the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). Substitution was taught by Jesus starting with Adam and Eve. Either they died for their sin or a substitute dies (see Genesis 3:21 where the word “skins” implies a death). Also see Genesis 4:4. When God gave the instructions to Moses concerning the Passover (Exodus 12:1-28), the Passover Lamb was the substitute. God had judged and passed sentence that the firstborn of all humans and livestock in Egypt were going to die unless the lamb was killed, and its blood placed on the door posts and lintel (Exodus 11:5). The lamb was to be roasted and eaten. It was a voluntary meal but lifesaving (Exodus 12:13). So too, Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the flesh we need to eat. Not a physical eating but a spiritual eating of “I will do your will to save my life.” Believers Bible Commentary on Exodus 12:29 has this note: Its blood was to be applied to the door, bringing salvation from the destroyer (v. 7), just as the blood of Christ, appropriated by faith, brings salvation from sin, self, and Satan. The flesh was to be roasted with fire, picturing Christ enduring God’s wrath against our sins. It was to be eaten with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs, symbolizing Christ as the food of His people. We should live lives of sincerity and truth, without the leaven of malice and wickedness, and with true repentance, always remembering the bitterness of Christ’s suffering].
52 Therefore, the Jews started arguing among themselves saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I say to youp, ‘Unless youp eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, youp have no life in youp.
[Drinking or eating blood was strictly forbidden by God (Genesis 9:4, Leviticus 17:14, and Deuteronomy 12:16). Blood was for atonement and was the life of flesh. See Leviticus 17:11, 14. Believer’s Bible Commentary has this note at Leviticus 17:11: The blood was for atonement, not for nourishment. “The life of the flesh is in the blood” (v. 11). The principle behind atonement is life for life. Since the wages of sin is death, symbolized by the shedding of blood, so “without the shedding of blood is no remission.” Forgiveness does not come because the penalty of sin is excused, but because it is transferred to a sacrifice whose lifeblood is poured out. Verse 11 is one of the key verses in Leviticus and should be memorized. When an animal was slaughtered, its blood was drained immediately. An animal that died accidentally was unclean if its blood was not drained right away].
54 “The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day,
55 “For my flesh truly is food, and my blood truly is drink.
[Jesus is clear that this is symbolic. See verse 63—It is the Spirit who gives life; this flesh is useless. The words that I speak to youp are spirit and life].
56 “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
[Eating Jesus’s flesh and drinking His blood is symbolic of accepting His atonement. Jesus suffered and died as punishment for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). This sinless God/man dying in place of the sinner, IF we meet His conditions of faith and trust in Him for salvation. Compare Hebrews 7:27 and Hebrews 10:24].
57 “Just as the living Father has sent me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who eats me, likewise will live because of me.
[Jesus was sent to be Messiah born from the Virgin. Jesus, in the flesh, lives because God gave Jesus’s flesh life through the incarnation. Having faith and trust in Jesus alone in what causes spiritual life which will last for eternity. See John 6:63 and 1 Peter 1:21].
58 “This is the bread, which came down from heaven, not like the manna, which yourp ancestors ate. They died, but the one who eats this bread will live forever.’”
59 These things he said in the synagogue as he taught in Capernaum.