God often uses graphic language to convey Truth. This example of eating His flesh was very offensive to the Jews who were not allowed to eat pork let alone a human’s flesh:
“Jesus said to them, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, you cannot have any life in you unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood. He who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has (possesses now) eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true and genuine food and My blood is true and genuine drink. He who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood dwells continually in Me and I in him.” (John 6:53-56).
To think of eating a man’s flesh is bad enough, but to drink his blood is even worse, it is a very offensive thing. The thought is awful – to think of tasting the blood let alone drinking and swallowing it… we are naturally repelled! Of course we know that this is the basis of the religious ceremony of “communion” and that Jesus was referring to Himself as being the Bread, “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51 NIV) but seriously, eating a representative piece of bread and a cup of red juice in a religious ceremony does not mean for one moment that you are eating the spiritual Bread of Life! Nor does it convey to us the offence of eating human flesh and drinking human blood from a Life that has died for us.
We have to eat and drink every day. We daily need to be in communion with Christ, eating and drinking His flesh and blood. The Body cannot survive without food and drink; but eating and drinking is something personal, something which nobody else can do for us… Centuries of religion have robbed the Cross of its offence and power. The Cross of Calvary was not something sacred or ornate or religious; it was a symbol of agony, torment, torture, humiliation, embarrassment, unbelievable pain and finally death. Centuries of religion have also robbed our communion with Christ of its offence and power.
Death on a cross and eating human flesh and blood were extremely offensive to the Jews, Jesus was a Stumbling Block as Isaiah said He would be. Of course I’m not suggesting anyone try to crucify themselves or become cannibals! External things have no ability to subdue or deal death blows to Self. We can only grasp the reality, truth and appropriation of these things by the Holy Spirit opening the eyes of our hearts to see and receive them internally instead of externally, enabling them to become reality instead of religion and be real in our experience instead of mere knowledge.
The first followers of Christ ate bread and drank wine, they remembered Christ’s death and resurrection, and they shared food in one another’s homes. They also expected to suffer. Paul went so far as to say that all who delight in Christ will meet with persecution (2 Tim 3:12). They knew the reality of suffering as a result of being Christ’s ones. “Even now I rejoice in the midst of my sufferings on your behalf. And in my own person I am making up whatever is still lacking and remains to be completed of Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the assembly.” (Col 1:24 ).
Jesus used the illustration of drinking His blood to show us how difficult and awful it is for us to drink His Cup. The disciples said “This is a hard and difficult saying, an offensive and unbearable message. Who can stand to hear it?” (John 6:60). Many were offended and deserted Him because of what He said about drinking His blood and eating His flesh; and many will still react in the same way to drinking His cup with Him. Jesus spoke several times about drinking the cup His Father had given Him, and He was referring to His suffering and death.
To drink of His cup is to share in His suffering and grief. Paul said “the cup of blessing upon which we ask blessing, does it not mean we participate in and share a fellowship (communion) in the blood of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). The Greek word for fellowship and partnership is koinonia and in this verse it is usually translated as “communion”. It means a common union, a partnership, a joint participation in the blood of Christ. When you are united and in partnership or koinonia with Christ in His suffering, it is something you participate in – not just something you know about in your head, but something you feel and experience in your heart.
The Biblical context of communion was that of eating a meal. Eating together in the Hebrew culture was viewed as something intimate and almost sacred, but this communion with Christ is not about an external ritual performed ocassionally with symbolic emblems in a church, it is about an internal reality that is your very Life.
We are called to drink the cup of His blood but there is a very dear price to be paid – embracing the Cross and laying down our lives, loves, wants, hopes and desires. “For even to this were you called. For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you His personal example, so that you should follow in His footsteps. Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange and alien to you and your position were befalling you. But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory is revealed, you may also rejoice with triumph” (1 Peter 2:21 4:12,13).
In the western world today we don’t usually have to suffer physically for our beliefs. Our suffering is more likely to be internal; hidden and unseen in the heart and mind, but still very real nonetheless. Rejection, slander, accusation, betrayal and misunderstanding are just a few of the things we may suffer.
And there is also a very real grief associated with God revealing His heart to us and seeing what He sees. He grieves over many things which ‘ought not to be so’ and to share a small portion of that suffering and grief with Him is a privilege indeed: “For you have been granted the privilege for Christ’s sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer in His behalf.” (Philippians 1:29).
In explaining to His disciples what He must go through in dying on the cross, Jesus gave us a powerful picture:“I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just one grain; it never becomes more but lives by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces many others and yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it, but anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” (John 12:24). The picture of the grain of wheat is rich in meaning. Initially the grain is together with many other grains in the ear of wheat on the plant. Its life source is from the plant which it shares with many others. Then comes the day of separation and harvest when it is either taken to the threshing floor to have the chaff removed so it can be ground into flour, or it is set aside and reserved for the planting season.
When the time is right the grain is placed into the earth: buried. It is on its own and covered with dirt. While the life is inherent in the grain of wheat, it cannot and will not come forth until the conditions which surround it are right. It must be planted on its own and hidden. It now no longer sees the sun or feels the rain or has the companionship it had known in the ear of wheat with other grains, but is in a dark, hidden place, all alone. In that dark place of isolation transformation takes place.
In the earth, the hard outer shell of the wheat is softened by the moisture in the soil and the grain as we have known it, disintegrates and disappears as it is transformed into new life (2 Cor 5:17). The new life makes its way upward towards the sun, and downward towards more moisture. Previously it had survived by relying on the plant which had roots; now it has roots of its own which are firmly and deeply planted (Col 2:7). It had previously been only one grain of wheat, but now because of its “death” in the earth, it bears and brings forth much life by bringing forth MANY grains of wheat which will need to go through this process for themselves so that the Sower receives a great harvest.
One grain of wheat on its own will produce only a tiny, miniscule amount of flour for food.
One grain of wheat which has been planted and has given up its life to be changed and transformed will be fruitful and bear many grains of wheat which will produce a lot of flour and bread for generations after it!
Drinking Christ’s blood is about accepting the death of M.E. (My Earth), it is taking up my Cross daily. It is accepting and doing what God wants instead of what I want; it is accepting and drinking from the cup my Father gives me. Our flesh never likes suffering or giving up on ourselves. We don’t WANT to do it, we don’t WANT to suffer or die, it is a very hard thing for us to agree to. If we react or are offended, it just proves that Self and our flesh are still very much alive, because what is already dead cannot be offended or react. Jesus said: “If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23).
In the same way that Christ is our Passover Lamb and we eat His flesh as our Meat and Bread, so His Blood must also be brought to our lips which are like the doors of the houses at the first passover and must be marked with His blood. Death, sacrifice and blood are practically synonymous in Hebrew writing. We are called to be living sacrifices, totally surrendered and submitted to our God. When our mouths and words are marked by the blood of the Lamb, when we are dead to the things which WE want to say and instead speak His words, it is a sign that we are taking up our Cross daily.
In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked Father three times to remove the cup that was before Him. That word “Gethsemane” means “oil press”. In our personal Gethsemanes, our suffering is like an oil press which we submit to and drink. It is in accepting and drinking that cup, that we find Life. We must surrender completely to what our Father wants, just as Jesus did, so that His Life will come forth.
Gethsemane is a very lonely place. Jesus asked His friends simply to be there and to wait for Him in the garden while He suffered, but they fell asleep and He was on His own. “He began to show grief and distress of mind and was deeply depressed. Then He said to them, My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow. Stay here and keep awake and keep watch with Me. And going a little farther, He threw Himself upon the ground on His face and prayed saying, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, not what I desire but as You will and desire. And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, What! Are you so utterly unable to stay awake and keep watch with Me for one hour? All of you must keep awake, be cautious and active and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:37-41).
He is still looking for those who will stay awake and watch with Him… to simply be with Him; communing and identifying with His heart. He is still looking for those who will agree to drink the cup of His blood and suffering with Him. It is a “hard and difficult saying”, the spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak… Mark records Christ’s words in the garden as being “Father, everything is possible for You. Take away this cup from Me; yet not what I want but what You want.” Christ knew that anything was possible for God and yet going through the suffering and agony of the Cross was still what God wanted; it was not what Jesus wanted, but what His Father wanted. His desire to do what His Father wanted done on earth was stronger than His own human desires.
To die to the things we want or desire is a very difficult thing. Even God-given desires and hopes must be kept yielded to Him because we can be tempted to lay our hands upon them and “help God” by making things happen ourselves. This is not about being dead to sin or being cleansed by the blood (which are essential) but about being willing to drink from the cup of death and die to OURSELVES! It is the laying aside of even the good parts of our nature so that ALL will be in complete submission to Him and His will. “It is harder to die to our virtues than to our vices; but the one is just as necessary as the other for perfect union. Our attachments are the stronger as they are more spiritual” – Pere La Combe. Often we think we have laid it all down and surrendered all only to discover that we yet hold onto something, even ‘godly’ things like serving, ministering, helping others and doing things for God but from which WE may secretly delight in by taking to ourselves glory and honour. He must be the sole Reason, Source and Instigator of ALL our doing and saying.
There can be no resurrection Life without death. Only in dying to ourselves and our desires and hopes, can Christ transform us through resurrection Life (2 Cor 4:8-12). Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. We cannot embrace our Father’s plans for us until we have given up all our own plans. His kingdom cannot come in our lives while we are still on the throne deciding what we will do and say. When we are truly searching for Him and His Kingdom above all else, then our decisions and actions will be based on what HE desires, and He will get all the credit, glory and honour that is rightfully His and His alone.
For my determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed to His death, that if possible I may attain to the resurrection that lifts me out from among the dead even while in the body. Philippians 3:10,11