John 6:53
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
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(53) Then Jesus said unto them.—This is hardly strong enough for the original. It is rather, Jesus therefore said unto them. The words follow upon those he has heard from them.

Some of them have spoken of eating His flesh. Others may even have pressed this to the reductio ad horribile. Eat His flesh! Shall we, then, drink His blood too? In no less than seven passages of the Pentateuch had the eating of blood been forbidden (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26-27; Leviticus 17:10-14; Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:16; Deuteronomy 12:23-24; Deuteronomy 15:23); and we find in later times the strength of the feeling of abhorrence, as in 1Samuel 14:32, and Ezekiel 33:25, and in the decree of the first Judæo-Christian Council (Acts 15:29). In the fullest of these passages (Leviticus 17:10-14), the prohibition is grounded upon the facts that the blood is the physical seat of animal life, and that the blood maketh atonement for the soul. It was the life-element poured out before God instead of the life of the soul that sinned. Such would be the thoughts of those who strove among themselves as to what His words could mean; and to these thoughts He speaks with the “Verily, verily,” which ever expresses a spiritual truth that He alone could reveal.

Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man.—The words point more definitely than those which have gone before to His death. The blood is spoken of as distinct from the flesh, and in this is involved physical death. The eating the flesh would itself involve, as we have seen above, the thoughts of sacrifice and of sustenance, the removal of the death-penalty attached to sin, and the strength of life sustained by food. But the spiritual truth is fuller and deeper than this; and the true element of life in the soul depends upon such communion with Christ as is expressed by drinking the blood itself: that is, by receiving into the human spirit the atonement represented by it. and with this the very principle of life. They may not receive into the human frame the principle of animal life, but no man really has spiritual life who does not receive into the inmost source of his being the life-principle revealed in the person of Christ. This is to pass through and through his moral frame, like the blood which traverses the body, hidden from sight, but passing from the central heart through artery and vein, bearing life in its course to muscle, and nerve, and tissue. It is to traverse the soul, passing from the Eternal Life and Love, which is the heart of the universe, through the humanity of Christ, and carrying in its course life and energy for every child of man.

Life in you.—More exactly, life in yourselves. This is more fully expressed in John 6:56-57.

6:52-59 The flesh and blood of the Son of man, denote the Redeemer in the nature of man; Christ and him crucified, and the redemption wrought out by him, with all the precious benefits of redemption; pardon of sin, acceptance with God, the way to the throne of grace, the promises of the covenant, and eternal life. These are called the flesh and blood of Christ, because they are purchased by the breaking his body, and the shedding of his blood. Also, because they are meat and drink to our souls. Eating this flesh and drinking this blood mean believing in Christ. We partake of Christ and his benefits by faith. The soul that rightly knows its state and wants, finds whatever can calm the conscience, and promote true holiness, in the redeemer, God manifest in the flesh. Meditating upon the cross of Christ gives life to our repentance, love, and gratitude. We live by him, as our bodies live by our food. We live by him, as the members by the head, the branches by the root: because he lives we shall live also.In these verses Jesus repeats what he had in substance said before.

Except ye eat the flesh ... - He did not mean that this should be understood literally, for it was never done, and it is absurd to suppose that it was intended to be so understood. Nothing can possibly be more absurd than to suppose that when he instituted the Supper, and gave the bread and wine to his disciples, they literally ate his flesh and drank his blood. Who can believe this? There he stood, a living man - his body yet alive, his blood flowing in his veins; and how can it be believed that this body was eaten and this blood drunk? Yet this absurdity must be held by those who hold that the bread and wine at the communion are "changed into the body, blood, and divinity of our Lord." So it is taught in the decrees of the Council of Trent; and to such absurdities are men driven when they depart from the simple meaning of the Scriptures and from common sense. It may be added that if the bread and wine used in the Lord's Supper were not changed into his literal body and blood when it was first instituted, they have never been since.

The Lord Jesus would institute it just as he meant it should be observed, and there is nothing now in that ordinance which there was not when the Saviour first appointed it. His body was offered on the cross, and was raised up from the dead and received into heaven. Besides, there is no evidence that he had any reference in this passage to the Lord's Supper. That was not yet instituted, and in that there was no literal eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood. The plain meaning of the passage is, that by his bloody death - his body and his blood offered in sacrifice for sin - he would procure pardon and life for man; that they who partook of that, or had an interest in that, should obtain eternal life. He uses the figure of eating and drinking because that was the subject of discourse; because the Jews prided themselves much on the fact that their fathers had eaten manna; and because, as he had said that he was the bread of life, it was natural and easy, especially in the language which he used, to carry out the figure, and say that bread must be eaten in order to be of any avail in supporting and saving men. To eat and to drink, among the Jews, was also expressive of sharing in or partaking of the privileges of friendship. The happiness of heaven and all spiritual blessings are often represented under this image, Matthew 8:11; Matthew 26:29; Luke 14:15, etc.

53-58. Except ye eat the flesh … and drink the blood … no life, &c.—The harshest word He had yet uttered in their ears. They asked how it was possible to eat His flesh. He answers, with great solemnity, "It is indispensable." Yet even here a thoughtful hearer might find something to temper the harshness. He says they must not only "eat His flesh" but "drink His blood," which could not but suggest the idea of His death—implied in the separation of one's flesh from his blood. And as He had already hinted that it was to be something very different from a natural death, saying, "My flesh I will give for the life of the world" (Joh 6:51), it must have been pretty plain to candid hearers that He meant something above the gross idea which the bare terms expressed. And farther, when He added that they "had no life in them unless they thus ate and drank," it was impossible they should think He meant that the temporal life they were then living was dependent on their eating and drinking, in this gross sense, His flesh and blood. Yet the whole statement was certainly confounding, and beyond doubt was meant to be so. Our Lord had told them that in spite of all they had "seen" in Him, they "did not believe" (Joh 6:36). For their conviction therefore he does not here lay Himself out; but having the ear not only of them but of the more candid and thoughtful in the crowded synagogue, and the miracle of the loaves having led up to the most exalted of all views of His Person and Office, He takes advantage of their very difficulties and objections to announce, for all time, those most profound truths which are here expressed, regardless of the disgust of the unteachable, and the prejudices even of the most sincere, which His language would seem only designed to deepen. The truth really conveyed here is no other than that expressed in Joh 6:51, though in more emphatic terms—that He Himself, in the virtue of His sacrificial death, is the spiritual and eternal life of men; and that unless men voluntarily appropriate to themselves this death, in its sacrificial virtue, so as to become the very life and nourishment of their inner man, they have no spiritual and eternal life at all. Not as if His death were the only thing of value, but it is what gives all else in Christ's Incarnate Person, Life, and Office, their whole value to us sinners. The short and true sense of these words is, that without a true believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, as he who died for our sins, no man hath any thing in him of true spiritual life, nor shall ever come to eternal life. Here are two questions arise from this verse and what follows.

1. Whether the flesh of Christ, that is, his human nature, giveth life, or all our life floweth from the Divine nature? That is a question between the Lutherans and the Calvinists; the former affirming, that there is a quickening virtue in the human nature of Christ by virtue of its personal union with the Divine nature. It is a curious question, serving to up great edification; those who have a mind to be satisfied in it, and to read what is said on either side, may read Tarnovius on this text, and Zanchy, in his book Deu Incarnatione, p. 540.

2. The other is a question between the papists and us, Whether this and the following verses spake any thing about the eating of the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ in the sacrament. All protestants deny it, both Lutherans and Calvinists. The papists most absurdly affirm it, to maintain their most absurd doctrine of transubstantiation.

The vanity of their assertion, as to this text, appears:

1. Because it was a year and upwards after this before the sacrament of the Lord’s supper was instituted; and it is very absurd to think that our Saviour should speak of an institution not in being, his doctrine about it being what it was impossible people should understand. Nor:

2. Is the proposition true, of sacramental eating; for many may have never sacramentally eaten the flesh and drank the blood of Christ, and yet be spiritually alive, and be saved eternally. Besides that mere sacramental eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ will not give life; but the eating here spoken of giveth life, eternal life, John 6:56,58.

3. Besides, it is plain from John 6:29, that the eating here spoken of is believing; but it is plain, that eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ in the sacrament is not believing. By all which, it is apparent, that our Saviour saith nothing in this text of a sacramental eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ.

Then Jesus said unto them,.... The Jews, who were litigating this point among themselves:

verily, verily, I say unto you; or you may assure yourselves of the truth of what follows,

except ye eat the flesh of the son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you: by "the son of man", Christ means himself; under which title he often speaks of himself; because it was a title of the Messiah under the Old Testament; and was expressive of the truth of his human nature, though as attended with weakness and infirmities. The "flesh" and "blood" of Christ do not design those distinct parts of his body; much less as separate from each other; nor the whole body of Christ, but his whole human nature; or Christ, as having united a perfect human nature to him, in order to shed his blood for the remission of sin, and to offer up his soul and body a sacrifice for it: and the eating of these is not to be understood of a corporeal eating of them, as the Capernaites understood them; and since them the Papists, who affirm, that the bread and wine in the Lord's supper are transubstantiated into the very body and blood of Christ, and so eaten: but this is not to be understood of eating and drinking in the Lord's supper, which, as yet, was not instituted; and some, without participating of this, have spiritual life in them now, and will enjoy eternal life hereafter; and all that partake of that ordinance have not the one, nor shall have the other: and besides, having a principle of spiritual life in the soul, is previously necessary to a right eating of the supper of the Lord. These words, understood in this sense, once introduced infants to the Lord's supper; as misinterpretation of John 3:5 brought in the baptism of them. But the words design a spiritual eating of Christ by faith. To eat the flesh, and drink the blood of Christ, is to believe that Christ is come in the flesh, and is truly and really man; that his flesh is given for the life of his people, and his blood is shed for their sins, and this with some view and application to themselves: it is to partake of, and enjoy the several blessings of grace procured by him, such as redemption, pardon, peace, justification, &c. and such a feeding upon him as is attended with growth in grace, and in the knowledge of him, and is daily to be repeated, as our corporeal food is, otherwise persons have no life in them: without this there, is no evidence of life in them; not such live as feed on sinful pleasures, or on their own righteousness; only such that believe in Christ are living souls; and without this there is nothing to support life; everything else that a man eats tends to death; but this is what will maintain and preserve a spiritual life; and without this there is no just expectation of eternal life; but where there is this, there is good reason to expect it, and such shall enjoy it: some copies and versions read, "ye shall not have life in you"; eternal life. Now, though the acts of eating and drinking do not give the right to eternal life, but the flesh, blood, and righteousness of Christ, which faith lays hold, and feeds upon; yet it is by faith the right is claimed; and between these acts of faith, and eternal life, there is an inseparable connection.

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have {s} no life in you.

(s) If Christ is present, life is present, but when Christ is absent, then death is present.

John 6:53-54. εἶπεν οὖνἡμέρᾳ. Instead of explaining the mode Jesus merely reiterates the statement. The reason of this is that their attention was thus more likely to be fixed on the necessity of using Him as the living bread. The difficulty of the statement disappears when it is perceived that the figure of speech is not to be found in the words “flesh” and “blood,” but in the words “eating” and “drinking”. The actual flesh and blood, the human life of Christ, was given for men; and men eat His flesh and drink His blood, when they use for their own advantage His sacrifice, when they assimilate to their own being all the virtue that was in Him, and that was manifested for their sakes. As Lücke points out, the σὰρξ καὶ αἷμα form together one conception and are equivalent to the με of John 6:57. If αἷμα stood alone it might refer especially to the death of Christ, but taken along with σάρξ it is more natural to refer the double expression to the whole manifestation of Christ; and the “eating and drinking” can only mean the complete acceptance of Him and union with Him as thus manifested. [τρώγω, originally the munching of herbivorous animals, was latterly applied to ordinary human eating.]

53. Then said Jesus] Better, Therefore said Jesus: see on John 6:45.

and drink his blood] Christ not only accepts what they have added to His words, but still further startles them by telling them that they must drink His Blood; an amazing statement to a Jew, who was forbidden to taste even the blood of animals (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10-16). These words point still more distinctly to His propitiatory death; for ‘the blood is the life’ which He offered up for the sins of the world. The eating and drinking are not faith, but the appropriation of His death; faith leads us to eat and drink and is the means of appropriation. Taken separately, the Flesh represents sacrifice and sustenance, the Blood represents atonement and life.

no life in you] Literally, no life in yourselves: for the source of life is absent. The next four verses explain more fully how this is.

John 6:53. Ἐὰν μή, if you do not) The Jews were questioning as to the possibility: Jesus replies as to the necessity: for in fact the latter infers the former.

Verses 53, 54. - Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye have eaten the flesh of the Son of man, and have drunk his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. He that eateth (τρώγων, "eateth with pleasure, eagerness," is repeated four times, as perhaps a stronger expression than φάγων) my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. This result, it should be seen, is identical with the promises made to "beholding," "coming," "believing." Life and resurrection will really follow these acts and conditions; but then it is obvious that "beholding," "coming," "believing," must veritably cover what is contained in this last statement. There is no mere tautology. These words express more fully the original condition. They are not new conditions, but a further imaginative exposition of the former ones. The believing involves an assimilation into the very substance of the believer's nature of that which he here specifies as "flesh and blood." Reuss and Luthardt, and to some extent Moulton, admit that by "flesh and blood" he means no more than "flesh;" that under "flesh" is included "blood;" that by both he simply means "himself." Lunge urges that by "flesh" is meant "human nature" - his "manhood;" but by "flesh and blood" (see Matthew 16:17; Galatians 1:16), "inherited nature" - the humanity of Christ in "historical manifestation." But he passes on to say that this manifestation culminates, is completed, in death, and, thus completed, the life of Christ is the nourishment of the real life of man. Tholuck: "The addition of αῖμα to σὸρξ only expresses, by its main constituents, the sensible human nature." The great bulk of interpreters take the additional mention of drinking of his blood to connote an entire acceptance of the atoning sacrifice, of the Paschal blood shedding, to be effected for the deliverance of the world (so Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Lucke, Neander, Keim, Meyer, Weiss, etc.). "Eating of the flesh," then, would mean acceptance of his humanity, of the manifestation of the eternal love in the Son of man; and "drinking his blood" would mean entire mental assimilation also of the terrible culmination of his mission in violent, sacrificial death. This momentous condition of life eternal is stated both negatively and positively. Without the participation in this twofold aspect of the Lord and his work, there is no life. Unless "coming to him," "believing on him," means an acceptance of his humanity, an apprehension of that Personality in whom the Word was incarnate, and an utter surrender of the soul to the rending of that flesh and shedding of the blood which is the life, i.e. to the death of the Son of man, it is not the coming to him and believing on him of which he has already spoken. He that does thus eat and drink will satisfy a craving after nourishment and refreshment. Unless a man consciously or unconsciously accepts, absorbs, the sublime and wondrous gift of the Divine humanity from the second Man, the Lord from heaven, rather than from the first man, he has no life in himself. Human nature apart item the new creation and the new beginning is a dying, not a living, entity. The new life quickened by the Incarnation is not all that Christ would give. The blood of the Son of man, to be accepted in the same way. is a further exposition of the object of faith. The "eating" and "drinking" are therefore phrases which portray the very intimate and close form of that contact with, and dependence upon, the incarnation and the sacrifice of the Son of God, which Christ erewhile defines in broader, vaguer metaphor. A great question has arisen on these verses - whether our Lord is pointing to, or making prophetic reference to, the institution of the Eucharist, about which the fourth evangelist is strangely silent. Certain of the early Fathers - Chrysostom, Cyril, and Theophylact - have given it this meaning, though the great bulk of the patristic writers - Ignatius, Irenseus, Origen, Clemens Alex., Tertullian, and even Cyprian (though the passage may be applied by them to the Eucharist as one way or method of spiritually eating and drinking the Son of man) - do most obviously interpret the passage itself of direct and spiritual, not the indirect and sacramental manducation of the living Bread. The same view is presented by Eusebius, Athanasius, and Cyril of Alexandria. For the first four centuries all that was done was to apply the argument of ch. 6, in order to press the importance of communicating sacramentally. This led the Romanist writers to go further, and regard the participation in the sacramental body and blood as essential to life eternal. Pope Innocent I., Bishop of Rome, A.D. 402, was the first distinguished man who brought up out of this passage "the necessity of communicating infants;" and from the time of his synodical epistle (A.D. 417) the Latin Chinches interpreted the passage, "Except you receive the Eucharist, you have no life in you." The views of Augustine were vacillating or are dubious. Fulgentius shows that he had, to some extent, broken loose from this narrow view when he concluded that baptism without the Eucharist did convey all the benefits of the body and blood of Christ. Numerous Schoolmen (see Albertinus, 'De Eucharistia,' lib. i.e. 30; and Wake, 'Disc. of the Eucharist,' p. 20) rejected the sacramental interpretation, and the Reformers most justly repudiated it. Luther, Melancthon, Beza, Grotius, Owen, Lampe, Cocceius, asserted that the whole construction of the passage, which treats "coming," "believing," as the complete conditions of life and resurrection, must not be held to transform an, as yet, uninstituted ceremonial into the sole method of "believing." Notwithstanding this wide protest, the opponents of the authenticity of the Fourth Gospel - Bretschneider, Strauss, Baur, Thoma, Hilgenfeld, and numerous others - see in this passage the conception of a mystically disposed second-century divine, who placed the Eucharistic ceremony in the lips of Jesus long before the institution. But while this view can be without hesitation rejected, it is obvious that there was a spiritual participation in the "humanity" and the "sacrifice" of the Son of God which Christ called upon the Capernaites to experience - one which must have been possible to Old Testament saints, to little children; to all who are acceptable to God and accepted by him. Such participation is, without doubt, aided and rendered peculiarly possible, thinkable, in the Eucharist. These words were timed, therefore, to bear the rich and twofold sense of Holy Scripture. Observe:

(1) The use of σῶμα rather than σάρξ, in every account of the institution of the Supper, is not without special meaning; σάρξ and αῖμα meaning the whole of his humanity, and the entire fulness of the sacrifice for the world; while σῶμα καὶ αῖμα suggest that organized personal life in which the Incarnation culminated, and the blood which was shed for the remission of sins. The σῶμα is not without reference to the new "body" in which the spirit would be ultimately enshrined.

(2) The phrase, "drinking of the blood," is peculiar to these verses. In the Eucharist we "drink of the cup which is the new covenant in the blood of Christ." "The hand of history," says Edersheim, "has drawn out the telescope; and, as we gaze through it, every sentence and word sheds light upon the cross, and light from the cross carrying to us the twofold meaning - his death and its celebration in the great Christian sacrament." John 6:53Eat the flesh

Appropriate the life. Compare Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 3:17.

Drink His blood

Appropriate the saving merit of His death. The passover was approaching, and the reference may well have been to the flesh and blood of the paschal lamb.

Have no life in you (οὐκ ἔχετε ζωὴν ἐν ἑαυτοῖς)

Not according to the Greek. Rightly, as Rev., ye have not life in yourselves. All true life must be in Christ. Compare Colossians 3:3.

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