Jesus said to them, "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. John 6:53
For most Christians the verse above is difficult to swallow and hard to understand. Even the disciples said this is a hard teaching and who can accept it. (John 6:60) Jesus was not asking his followers to eat a meal of his flesh and blood or become a cannibal. The problem stems around the human nature with seeing and hearing the words of Christ through human understanding.
Still Jesus said that unless you eat and drink of his flesh and blood you have no life in you. And again Iíve known fellow Christians who quote and Old Testament scripture to say that you are not to eat blood Ė for the life of the creature is in it.
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. Leviticus 17:11
There appears to be some contradiction concerning the eating of blood for the Old Testament tells us not to eat the meat with the blood still in it. God said the lifeblood of Abel spoke to him, but to Noah the shedding of blood showed a lack of respect for the image of God.
"But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man. Genesis 9:4-6
Requiring an accounting for the life of man shows that God has a sacred respect for life. According to Leviticus 17:11 the life of a creature is in the blood which includes the blood of mankind. God also said that it is blood that makes atonement for oneís life. At the same time, the creature without blood meant that death occurred.
Godís law also promotes a respect for life making every creature liable to his justice and demanded death of those whom violated his law. Yet within his covenant he made a provision for a substitute death of a lamb to atone for the acts that violated his law. Throughout the Old Testament millions of lambs were substituted for various violations of Godís law, laws that men were unable to keep.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6
God wanted every man to learn that the entirety of the law was to love God with his complete being and to love his neighbor, as he loved himself. He considered obedience of these two basic law were more important than all the burnt offerings made to atone for manís sin. (Mark 12:30-33) the bible also said.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17
Jesus was not sent to abolish the law of God but to fulfill them and he fulfilled them by becoming the Lamb of God. He said the greatest love that can be demonstrated is to lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13) Jesus died as the substitutionary Lamb of God on the Cross of Calvary with the sins of mankind laid upon him. He was the sinless lamb that bore our sin and paid the penalty to satisfied Godís justice, once and for all of mankind. The bible tells us that Jesus appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Through his shed blood he redeemed and justified man, but more importantly restored a relationship with God.
"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. John 6:53
How does one eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood when Jesus ascended into heaven. When we think in this fashion, we are not taking into account that in his conversation that followed Jesus said.
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life John 6:63
Lets consider the sacred rites of the church in taking communion. When Jesus instituted the taking of wine and bread at what we know as the Passover Supper he spoke of his flesh and blood. He had taught his disciples that he was the bread of life that came down from heaven, at the Passover meal he took bread and broke it saying take and eat this is my body. Then taking the cup, he gave the cup to his disciples saying this is the blood of the covenant. The elements of wine and bread are symbolic of his shed blood and the death of his body. We are to take these elements in remembrance of the covenant God has made with us.
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
In other words in taking communion we participate in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God. In taking or should I say consuming these elements we are to remember that without the shed blood of Christ and his death on the cross there would be no atonement for our sin. We would still be in our sins.
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 10:16