Did Jesus Tell Us to Be Cannibals?


Challenge #3: Eat the Flesh of Jesus and Drink His Blood vs Cannibalism

Back to back John chapter 6 issues, but a much different issue. On the one hand, the Bible teaches that people are not to eat anything with the blood in it. And obviously people have an issue with the apparent cannibalism that Jesus talks about when he tells people, “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 yourselves.”[1] People in that day were even more apprehensive toward this saying of Jesus. They said in essence, “This is rough stuff; we can’t handle this. We’re done with you.”

Jesus was more about speaking hard truths than winning fans. It’s not that these people didn’t want a messiah… as long as it was a messiah according their own preferences. They wanted a national identity more than an identity with a person. They wanted a king and wanted power instead of a lower class servant.

John records the right questions that the people ask: “How can he claim to have come from heaven when we know his mom and dad?” (6:42). “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”[2]

This is one of those strange Bible passages that becomes magnified and clear when the surrounding verses and total context are considered. Jesus equates eating his flesh with the story of Israel’s survival in the wilderness: “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.”[3] Manna, bu all appearances, came down from heaven in order to give life to the people that God was liberating and taking to a certain promised land. Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the 5 and 4 thousand, not just to wow them, but to illustrate a bigger truth. This is why he had the right to say that he is the bread of life. The best way to interpret the great stories of the Old Testament is to say, what greater truth is this illustrating? What does this say about the role of Jesus.

Jesus further clarified the meaning of eating his body the night before he was betrayed. “Jesus took some bread, and bafter a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’”[4] Does that mean that the bread literally becomes his body when it’s “blessed”? No. His body was present regardless of the bread. The bread is a reminder that he is the bread of life, like fulfillment of the manna. Eating was a mark of fellowship and a way of associating with what was being represented; that’s why they had a meal for Passover. That’s also why there were strict rules about avoiding food sacrificed to idols. The association with the Bread of Life preserves lives into eternity.

What is the point of drinking his blood? “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”[5] Drinking his blood meant that you were consuming the blood of the new covenant instead of the incomplete blood of the old covenant. This was celebrated on Passover. Up until that time, the people celebrated the blood of a lamb that was slaughtered on behalf of the people. They had ceremonially looked forward to the blood of the Lamb of God. This blood would not just provide a temporary covering, but would take away the sins of the world—as John the Baptist called out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”[6]

Does this mean that we are literally drinking human blood? No. Jesus promised to be with them anyway and would send the Holy Spirit to be present with them. In addition, Jesus is sacrificed once for all, not over and over through literal flesh and blood consumption. This is why Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” instead of “Do this to keep me with you.” It’s not his literal body and blood, but is a picture of the fulfilled Passover. With consuming his body (life and death) and blood (covenant), we get passed over by death that strikes the guilty.



*By a simplistic reading of Ezekiel 39:17, this would appear foretold. But this context seems to be different—an invasion involving Gog and Magog. On the other hand, there may be typology involved, because it does say, “My sacrifice which I have sacrificed for you.” There may be a dual fulfillment in Jesus’ first coming and second coming. Therefore he may be directly referencing this passage (as well as the other aforementioned events). Thus, it may well be that he is stating that he is the “My sacrifice” and that he is the “My glory among the nations” that are referred to in the Ezekiel passage. Following the sacrifice is the restoration of God’s people (Ez. 39:25-29).

[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Jn 6:53). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Jn 6:52). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Jn 6:49–50). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Mt 26:26). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Lk 22:20). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Jn 1:29). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.


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