By Femi Aribisala
Jesus shocked everyone by saying: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:53-54).
Eating or drinking blood is forbidden in the Law of Moses. God says: “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Genesis 9:4). He says furthermore: “I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people.” (Leviticus 17:10).
So it came as a great surprise to many that Jesus would declare that doing something forbidden in the law is a prerequisite for obtaining eternal life. As a result, John reports that: “From that time many of (Jesus’) disciples went back and walked with him no more.” (John 6:66).
Jesus tried in vain to explain that he was not speaking about drinking the blood that flows in his natural body. He was talking about a different kind of blood; the one that flows in his spiritual body. He told his listeners: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63).
This means it is not profitable for anyone to drink Jesus’ natural blood. For something to be profitable in the economy of Jesus, it must have eternal consequences. That disqualifies anything and everything of the flesh, leaving only the things of the spirit. Jesus says: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6). Paul concurs: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
Therefore, natural blood cannot sustain eternal life. Natural blood can only sustain life for a maximum of 80 to 120 years. Jesus says: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). 80 to 120 years of natural life hardly constitutes “abundant” life.
There is only so much blood that can be in the body of a man; including the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5). If it is the blood from Jesus’ natural body that we are required to drink, that blood would have run out a long time ago. In any case, we don’t have access to Jesus’ physical blood today.
Since the flesh profits nothing, the blood from Jesus’ natural body cannot provide atonement for sins. God says: “The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4). However, natural blood cannot touch the human soul. Since it is the Spirit that gives life, the “blood” that sustains eternal life must be spiritual. That “blood” is the Holy Spirit.
Blood determines lineage. People of the same family are called blood relatives. Similarly, we are told in Acts that: “(God) has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.” (Acts 17:26). This answers Jesus’ prayer to God about believers: “Protect them by the power of your name- the name you gave me- so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11).
What then is that one blood that unites all believers with God and Jesus, making us blood relatives? What is that one blood that is in God and Jesus and also in believers? Certainly, it cannot be the blood that flowed in Jesus’ natural body because that blood is no longer available and is not in any believer. In any case, God is spirit: he has no natural blood.
The “one blood” that unites all believers with God and Jesus as members of a single family unit is the Holy Spirit. When we receive the power to become children of God, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. Jesus says: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56).
God said to Moses: “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” (Leviticus 17:11). But Jesus says of the life he gives: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” (John 6:63).
When blood stops flowing in the natural body, the result is physical death. Similarly, when the Holy Spirit stops flowing in the spiritual body, the result is spiritual death. This makes the Holy Spirit the spiritual equivalent of natural blood. Therefore, in the spiritual realm, the Holy Spirit is “the blood of Christ.”
At the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus invited the Jews to drink his blood of the Holy Spirit, which he referred to as “living water: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38).
John explains that: “By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” (John 7:39). However, the people did not understand what he meant.
Paul says: “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking.” (Romans 14:17). However, at the Last Supper, Jesus ate bread and drank wine with his disciples. He said to them: “Take, eat; this is my body.” (Mark 14:22). “I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:25).
So what eating and drinking is done in the kingdom of God that is not actually eating and drinking? What wine is drunk in the kingdom of God that is not old but new?
The food we eat in the kingdom of God is the word of God. Jesus says: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). By the same token, the wine we drink in the kingdom of God is the Holy Spirit: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13).
Therefore, when Jesus said: “My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (John 6:55), he was speaking metaphorically and not harking back to pagan mystery religions. In the scriptures, “the fruit of the vine” is juxtaposed with “the fruit of the Spirit.” Old wine comes from grape juice. New wine comes from the Holy Spirit.
At Pentecost, when Jesus’ disciples received the Holy Spirit, onlookers thought they were drunk with wine. But Peter explained: “These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Acts 2:15-17).
The new way of drinking “wine” that Jesus spoke about at the Last Supper is by receiving the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, Paul counsels: “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18).