4 “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. ... I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.’ ... The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us His flesh to eat?’ So 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’ ...”
John 6:47-59 (ESV)
In “a past life,” I was a personal fitness trainer and even owned a gym at one point.
As a trainer, I found that most people were willing to work out pretty hard and often. However, most were not willing to change their diets.
For many, their reluctance or inability to eat well had to do with a lack of discipline. Others were just misinformed. They lived by the saying, “You are what you eat.”
Unfortunately, taking the saying literally held them back from experiencing better physical health. They believed that eating dietary fat inherently meant gaining body fat, while eating “fat free” foods led to losing body fat.
But this is not how metabolism works, and they learned this the hard way. The point of the saying is not to communicate that we literally become what we eat. Rather, the saying means that the quality of one’s diet will directly affect the quality of one’s health.
In a similar fashion, Jesus’ words in this passage are not to be taken literally.
If those to whom Jesus was speaking tried to cut pieces of His flesh and eat it, they would have essentially been doing the exact opposite of what Jesus meant to communicate, since they would have been breaking God’s clear commands against cannibalism.
Instead, Jesus was using the physical example of eating as a way to communicate the nature of belief.
Jesus would soon be crucified on the cross. His body (flesh) would be broken and His blood shed for the sins of humanity. In order for us to receive forgiveness of sin, we have to believe in the body and blood of Jesus broken and shed for us.
This belief cannot be a trivial or superficial belief. But like the saying “you are what you eat,” belief must so permeate the life of the believer that every aspect of his or her being is affected by it.
The way the believer lives -- what she values, how she loves, to what she gives her time and energy -- should all be informed and transformed by faith in the Savior.
The call for us is to have a steady diet of Jesus through time spent in His Word, prayer and Christian community, so that we are regularly nourished by Him to the point that His influence is evident in all areas of our lives.