I wonder what it is exactly that gave the Jews offense as they listened to Jesus. It’s very possible that they simply didn’t understand what Jesus was saying and were taking his words literally, instead of figuratively as he meant them.
Namely, when Jesus said,
I tell you the truth, 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. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. (53-56)
Taken literally, it would be abhorrent to anyone, but especially to the Jew who had been taught from childhood that to eat anything with blood in it was strictly prohibited.
But of course, Jesus wasn’t speaking literally, he was speaking figuratively as I pointed out in the last blog. To “eat his flesh” is to come to him, and to “drink his blood” is to believe in him. And if you come to Jesus and believe in him, you will never be spiritually hungry or thirsty again (John 6:35).
At any rate it is possible that the Jews were offended by what he said because they took it literally. But it’s just possible that they took it as Jesus meant it, and were offended by it. It’s possible they understood that Jesus was saying that he was the only way to eternal life. Even today, people say, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (60)
When Christians say that Jesus is the only way to God, people often get offended. And so I hear some Christians, and worse, even some Christian leaders waffling on the issue at times. “Well, I’m sure that Jesus didn’t really mean he was the ONLY way. I’m sure there’s an out somewhere.”
But Jesus meant what he said. Apart from coming to him and believing in him, no one will ever see eternal life. There will only be judgment and eternal punishment waiting for those who reject him.
Jesus told the Jews,
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. (63)
There are different ways to interpret this verse (we looked at one yesterday), but it’s also possible Jesus was telling these Jews who were trying to work their way into heaven through the Law, “All your efforts are meaningless. You can’t do enough to earn your way to heaven. In fact, apart from me, all your efforts are like filthy rags before God. Only the Holy Spirit can give you life. And he will only give you life if you come to me and believe in me.”
He then said, “All that I have been saying are spiritual words, and if you’ll just accept them, they’ll give you life.”
But as many people do today, many of the Jews rejected them, and walked away from Jesus.
And so Jesus asks us what he asks the disciples,
You do not want to leave too, do you? (67)
May our answer be as Peter’s,
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God. (68-69)