In John’s Gospel, chapter six is where atheists find the “cannibalism” of Christianity.
John remembered Jesus telling the Jews, whom Jesus had just fed – with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish – a crowd which numbered probably 12,000 (5,000 men, plus wives and children) – a crowd that had afterwards followed Jesus to Capernaum, where he taught them in the synagogue there what it was he offered them and the rest of the world.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35a, and repeated in 6:48) He continued, saying “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51c) Further, he said, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53b) Adding, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54) Jesus then went on to say, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) Then he concluded by saying, “Whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.” (John 6:57c)
I recommend that everyone read John 6 in full, even going over it a few times (as often as necessary), in order to see how anyone who fails to understand what Jesus is saying is just as lost as were the Jews to whom Jesus was preaching. In the dialogue that happened [a revelation that a “sermon” in a synagogue is meant to be a question and answer exchange and not a shepherd telling mindless sheep what the plan for grazing today will be], the Jews heard Jesus make a comparison-contrast to his feeding the 5,000 [men, with families] to Moses feeding the Israelites manna in the wilderness. After Jesus told them that he was the bread sent down from heaven, “[then] the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” (John 6:41)
They grumbled, in part, because the Jews knew the history of the manna losing its taste and appeal. The manna simply kept the Israelites alive until they reached the Promised Land; and after they crossed the Jordan River, into Canaan, the manna ceased. Therefore, the Jews grumbled because they were already living a meager, tasteless existence (as immigrants in the Roman provinces of Judea and Galilee), and even though bread and fish were unexpected delights the day before, along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, they grumbled because they wanted more … in the long run … and they knew that was the expectation of a promised Messiah. They had asked Jesus, prior to his answer of “the bread of life,” “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?” (John 6:30)
By asking, “What work do you perform?” The Jews meant, “What is our true reward … if we keep following you, giving you the strength of our numbers?” Just as Moses had given the Israelites land to call their own, the Jews wanted that reward again. They were listening to hear Jesus say, “Well guys, I will defeat the Romans and give you your land back … free and clear.”
Jesus did not say that.
Instead, he confused them with statements that sounded like the craziness of cannibalism, where his promise to the Jews was “life to the world,” (John 6:33) given to anyone – “whoever comes to me” and “whoever believes in me.” (John 6:35) Jesus told them, “Do not work for the food that perishes [physical flesh and blood], but for the food that endures to eternal life [spiritual sustenance], which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” (John 6:27)
It is not wrong to find this hard to fathom. John remembered how Jesus’ own disciples said to Jesus, after he had made this presentation of himself as flesh to eat and blood to drink, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60b)
Jesus then said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:61b-63)
This is then not only directed at the twelve disciples who grumbled then before Jesus, those who were then not yet knowing what it meant to be an Apostle, but to all Christians today. This is why it is so important to understand just what Jesus meant by saying, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
When Jesus then clarified that statement, telling his disciples (and all Christians to come), “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life,” this says YOUR flesh and YOUR blood must become filled with the Holy Spirit, so YOU become Jesus reincarnated (or re-animated in human form). Without that LIFE, you are dead in the flesh, as the flesh can only die and return to dust. Without making your body the temple of Christ – becoming Jesus YOURSELF – you are nothing more than a “dead man [or woman] walking.”
If you recall three of the appearances of the resurrected Jesus – as the gardener before Mary, on the road to Emmaus before Cleopas and Mary, and along the shore of the Sea of Galilee before Peter and the disciples who were fishing – the man recognized or identified as Jesus was not seen within his own flesh, that which his followers knew. That projects how Jesus became resurrected within the flesh and blood of others, even if it was only a temporary possession or an illusion demonstrated by the power of God. The point inferred through those appearances is then a premonition of how Peter – the flawed disciple who constantly tried too hard to please Jesus, only to fail him time and time again – could stand before a crowd of pilgrims in Jerusalem, on the 50th Day gathering, and speak to that following as the flesh and blood of Peter, while possessing the Holy Spirit within, becoming a reborn Jesus.
As it was for those then, so it is expected of us today, tomorrow, and forever more.
In the dialogue of John’s chapter 6, the Jews asked, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (John 6:42) Think about seeing that question with the same set of eyes that saw Jesus resurrected as three different-looking Jewish males, and by seeing the Apostles as having transformed into duplications of Jesus.
Jesus, in the flesh, was the son of Joseph, whose mother and father (as far as the Jews knew) were neither God in Heaven. So, how did Jesus truthfully say, “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38) Jesus was the flesh and blood of a human existence, regardless of his angelic placement in his mother’s womb; BUT his being had come down from heaven through God’s Holy Spirit. When the skies opened and the dove came and lit upon Jesus’ body, when God said, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased,” THAT was when the Jesus of Joseph and Mary became the completed flesh and blood of God’s Holy Spirit. THAT was the bread of life sent to the Jews, for them to ingest spiritually and digest mentally and emotionally.
God wants … Christ wants … each and every person on earth to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, just as was Jesus that day in the Jordan River. God and Christ want every individual Christian to reach the point of devotion that the skies open and the dove descends, with God saying, “YOU TOO are Jesus, in YOU is my Son, in YOU I AM, which is very pleasing to all involved.”
Just as the Jews of Judea and Galilee were not given the Promised Land of Heaven by eating physical manna, so too are the Christians of today not given that reward by physically going to church or saying aloud, “I believe in Jesus Christ.” You “believe in Jesus Christ” by becoming Jesus Christ … by becoming the body and blood in which Jesus lives.
The power of this chapter in the Gospel of John is that it not only tells of how a religion can be so filled with “wannabe” followers, each of which wants something material in return for massing together (within the safety of numbers), but who individually grumble and complain about the tasteless repetition of Sunday sermons and Bible studies, because they fail to understand that they must consume the Word that has been written, foretelling of Jesus to come, so that they may consume the Spirit of God coursing through their veins, which comes from proved faith. This faith then leads their brains, causing them to stop being ignorant and start becoming led by the mind of Christ – acting in the name of Jesus Christ, doing the works of faith.
Without one having the ability to explain this to another, one is just as lost as were the Jews who would immediately cease following Jesus en masse. No one can truly follow someone whose message one cannot understand … cannot swallow. In this way, one is just as likely to then become like the one of the twelve who would betray Jesus [Judas Iscariot], as John identified.
If you cannot see how it is up to each individual Christian to “receive the spirit” of understanding [a talent of the Holy Spirit], so that each individual Christian can then go out and find other individuals who want to know the “secret” of getting to Heaven, teaching them how to “eat the flesh and blood of Jesus,” then one might as well be in league with atheists who think Christians are cannibals.