TODAY’S READING: LEVITICUS 16-18
In John 6, Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children with two loaves of bread and five fish. When this crowd came to Jesus the next day, he told them that they were seeking him because they saw a miracle and had their stomachs filled. So, Jesus told them that he is the true bread from heaven.
The Jews grumbled about this. Isn’t this the son of Joseph and Mary? Who does he think he is?
Jesus continued to tell the crowd that he is the true bread from heaven. He said that their fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and died, but anyone who eats his flesh, the living bread that came down from heaven, will live.
The Jews disputed among themselves. How are we going to eat this man’s flesh?
Then Jesus drops a proverbial bomb on them. In John 6:53-56, Jesus says, “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, and I will raise him up on the day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
Now Jesus had really done it. When the disciples heard this business about drinking Jesus’ blood they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”
So, in John 6:63, Jesus said to them, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.”
It was at that moment that many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. Those disciples that turned away wanted the physical, having their stomachs fed, but they didn’t want, or couldn’t grasp, the spiritual, feeding on Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood to give their spirits life.
Why was the teaching about drinking Jesus’ blood so hard?
ANYONE WHO EATS BLOOD WILL BE CUT OFF
This was a hard teaching because the Jews and the strangers sojourning with them had been strictly forbidden from eating any blood. If they did, then they would be cut off from the people of Israel.
Leviticus 17:10-12, 14 says, “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood…For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.”
The Jews took this literally. They believed exactly what it said. They were not to eat any physical blood of any physical creature. So, when Jesus said they were to drink his blood, they immediately called to mind this law from Leviticus 10. The Jews said to themselves we can’t literally drink his blood because we have been specifically forbidden by God not to do that. If we do what he says, then God will cut us off.
But, this was reading the law of God as a dead letter with a veil over it. It was a reading of the law of God, an understanding of what God had said, that was based on the natural mind.
This is why Jesus said in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Jesus’ command to drink his blood could not be understood by the natural mind. His words were spirit. Therefore, they needed to be understood by the spiritual mind. Then these words would be life.
There were some that at least partially understood what Jesus was saying. The 12 disciples did not leave Jesus. It was here that Peter confessed that Jesus had the words of eternal life and the 12 had come to know that Jesus was the Holy One of God. Sure, they did not understand the full import of what Jesus was saying, and no one would until after his resurrection, but the 12 had at least some understanding of the spirit of Jesus’ command to drink his blood.
So, what was Jesus saying?
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
The spiritual nature of Jesus’ command to drink his blood is you are what you eat.
So, when Leviticus 17 says that the life is in the blood of the creature and the Jews are not to eat that blood, God is saying that if you physically feed on the blood, the life, of these creatures you will become like them.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Paul, and others in the Bible, many times alludes to these spiritual forces as beasts, animals, creeping things, living creatures, etc. Spiritually, therefore, if we feed on these evil spiritual forces ruling the world, their blood and their life, then we will become like them.
Nebuchadnezzar is one picture of this in Daniel 4. In Daniel 4:25, Daniel interprets the king’s dream, “That you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven.” Nebuchadnezzar fed on pride and his power, the pride of life, the spiritual forces of this world, believing that he had made Babylon great. As a result, Daniel 4:32-33 says, “‘And you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like on ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’ Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.” Nebuchadnezzar had fed on the blood, the life, of the beasts, the spiritual forces of this world, and became like them.
Therefore, to drink the blood of Christ is to feed on his spiritual nature, light, love, and life, and become like him. But, this is to be done spiritually. How so?
DRINKING JESUS’ BLOOD = SETTING YOUR MIND ON CHRIST
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Our mind is renewed by setting it on Christ, the things above, not on the things of this world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
Paul is telling us not to drink the blood of animals and beasts because the blood contains their life. Do not set your minds on the spiritual forces of this world or you will be conformed to them.
Instead, drink the blood of Jesus. Feast on his life. Set your mind on Jesus. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. This is how we become like Jesus – by eating him.
The Jews heard what Jesus said and took it literally. They were thinking of dead letters. They were reading Moses through a veil. But, 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 says, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Jesus said his words are spirit and life. So, we need to hear them, read them, with the veil removed. Drink his blood. Set your mind on Jesus.