The Significance of Jesus’s Body and Blood

Wow. Hello. It has been more than six months since I last posted on here. And that last series isn’t even finished yet. I’ll probably finish the Thurman series as individual posts and not as a connected series.

Today, I want to talk about John 6. In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples that if they eat his flesh and drink his blood, they will abide in him and have eternal life:

John 6:25-59, New Revised Standard Version

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do to perform the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which[g] comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

In John 6, Jesus says that in his body and blood, we have life. Later, in Luke 22, he says that by partaking of these elements in the form of bread and a cup (of wine), his disciples memorialize him: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

Before I can even think about salvation from sin, and faith and grace, and all the traditional soteriological concepts, I must first think about what happened to Jesus and what that meant in his particular context.

Jesus was a poor Jew during a time when Romans had political power. He claimed that he was going to institute a new kingdom (which was true, but not in the way people thought). Poor Jewish people were excited because they thought it meant immediate salvation from oppression through the overthrowing of the Roman empire and the institution of Jesus as king. The Romans were unbothered, because they interpreted it as a Jewish problem. The Jewish religious leaders, however, felt that Judaism was being threatened by the theological claims that Jesus was making about being God and the Son of God, and saying that God was not pleased with their religion and how they followed the laws that God had given them.

The Jewish religious leaders had Jesus turned in to the Roman authorities. This way, they could maintain control over the religious life of their community.

Jesus’s body was maimed and beaten even before he was nailed to the cross, conjuring images of the different ways in which power is maintained through the use of violence, whether through crucifixion or lynching. Before I can even think about the spiritual aspects of Jesus’s death and resurrection, I have to acknowledge the political aspects of his murder.

The spiritual effect of this murder, Jesus knew all along. His death and resurrection are mentioned multiple times in the gospels, especially as destroying and rebuilding a temple (John 2:19, and the words of accusatory witnesses in Matthew 26:61 and Mark 14:58). It is easier to think about the spiritual aspects of Jesus’ death because that is also how the gospels were written–for the sake of faith and conversion. Jesus’s signs and miracles, the “I AM” statements–they all point to his having a divine purpose. The traditional evangelical interpretations of the Hebrew prophets point to Jesus as the Messiah. His body and blood were broken and shed for us, that by believing in his death and resurrection, we may be justified and made righteous.

That’s the traditional, accepted narrative. I’m not here to apologize for or exegete that. I’d like to highlight the other aspect of the crucifixion. That even though Jesus was killed by Romans who were “just following orders” in order to preserve the power and influence of the Jewish religious leaders, his resurrection was the ultimate power. That no oppression or silencing or torture–or even death–can put to an end the fact that justice is still right, and that God’s power is higher than all others. It doesn’t fail or lose. Now, when we decide what God’s power is and is not, or what it can and cannot do, that’s when we run into trouble.

Jesus’s body and blood means that I have faith in a Savior who has experienced what I and my ancestors have experienced. That the high priest is not only acquainted with temptation, but with state sanctioned violence as well. And this Jesus, who had no worldly power or influence whatsoever, is also the wielder of God’s divine power and authority, which made it possible for all of us to experience salvation and justification, through the more spiritual act of resurrection.

(Yes, Jesus was resurrected physically, but my point is to emphasize spirituality and faith in direct opposition to social and political issues, which have traditionally been seen as separate for far too long).