Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53–58)
We cannot truly embrace and enjoy the gospel unless it is scandalous to us. It is only good if it is simultaneously offensive. If you have never thought of the news about Jesus Christ that way, then maybe you have not listened or thought long enough about the cross. The life found in and with Jesus is only found on the far side of a shocking, bloody, and unjust death. There simply is no other way to find real, full, and lasting life in this world than to look long and hard at the greatest tragedy in history: the death of God.
Grace, what have you done?
Murdered for me on that cross,
Accused in absence of wrong.
God died. The creator of the universe came in human form. In other words, he “made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:7). And having made himself nothing, he went even lower, “by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). The God who created the earth and everything in it — including governments like Pilate’s, trees like those that formed the cross on which he died, and people like you and me, the one for whom he died — he died. If there ever was a scandal in history, it wasn’t a great president’s adultery, or a successful CEO’s embezzlement, or a suicidal terrorist’s bomb; it was the execution of the Almighty Judge of all things.
Eat My Flesh, Drink My Blood
You can taste the offense and scandal when Jesus describes his death in John 6. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:53–54). It is an awful, awful picture. Do you want to live? Eat my flesh, and drink my blood. It sounds like the worst, most dangerous kind of cult — a mystical cannibalism.
Amazingly, we’ve grown comfortable with this kind of cannibalism — symbolism we’ve routinely heard, recited, and sang in the church, especially around the Lord’s Supper. Even when his own disciples heard him talk that way, many of them did not know what to think or say (John 6:60). It was gross and outrageous enough that many walked away from Jesus (John 6:66).
The Cross Should Offend Us
Jesus used the graphic, horrific imagery he used because he was explaining the cross — the most shocking, most offensive event in history. As awful as the language seems to our consciences, it’s utterly soft and inadequate in telling the story of the murder of the Son of God. There’s nothing more wicked than the killing of the Christ, not even cannibalism.
If we’re shocked by cannibalism, and we’re not shocked when God hangs on the cross in our place, something is wrong in our minds and hearts. It is an absolute scandal, the worst we’ve ever known. Understanding and believing the good news of Jesus Christ — the crucified and risen Lamb of God — requires coming to terms with the gruesome way in which he saved us — just how far he had to go to rescue us from our sin.
Our Hope Hung on a Cross
Jesus used horrific language to describe the horrors of the cross, and he used that language to describe our desperation for him in our sin. He must be in us, or we die. He is the bread of life (John 6:35), our only hope of survival. He went on to say to those disciples, “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:55–56). The language, however hard to grasp or swallow at first, is a vivid way of describing how we are united to the one who suffered in our place. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The body that was broken for us, the blood spilled on our behalf, it all joined us to Jesus in the most intimate, most secure, and most satisfying way possible. We feast on Jesus because only he will fill us. We don’t literally eat his flesh or drink his blood, but we strive to have as much of him in us as possible — his news, his character, his words.
Oh to be like you,
give all I have just to know you.
Jesus, there’s no one besides you,
forever the hope in my heart.