Sadler On John 6: 52 and 53
Verse 52 “The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
The words of the Jews do not seem to be the outcome of mere unbelief. Unbelief would, on such an occasion, have shown itself in scorn and contempt — in such words as, “He hath a devil, and is mad, why hear ye him?”
These words of the Son of God could at that time be understood by no living being. They could be received by implicit faith, as the Apostles received them, but understood they could not be, for to understand them implied the believing apprehension of Christ’s holy Incarnation, as well as of His atoning Death, and His Resurrection in His spiritualised Body. To understand them implied that the Flesh of this Jesus, “whose father and mother they knew,” was in some sense a necessity for every inhabitant of the world. No matter what explanation is given of them, they mean that some sort of apprehension of the lower nature, the Flesh, of the Man before them was an antecedent to the Resurrection of each of their bodies at the last day.
No explanation such as would make His words intelligible could be given till after the Resurrection and the Ascension, and the day of Pentecost had come; and so the Lord proceeds to further enunciate the mystery in words which, like the former, could only be received in implicit faith, but which a short time after this would help those to whom God had given this faith, if not to a solution of the mystery, at least to a realization of the promise.
Verse 53 “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”
The mystery contained in the fifty-first verse is here repeated with the most important addition of the Blood . “Flesh” and “Blood” are the two lower elements of man’s nature, and sometimes stand for human nature, to distinguish it from natures above it, such as that of the angels, which is purely spiritual.
Flesh is the tenement in which man’s intellectual nature resides, and which in this lower world is its instrument for making itself known, and Blood is in the Scriptures put for his animal life. (“The blood is the life,” Deuteronomy 12: 23.) So that here the Lord asserts that we are to receive Himself — the Living Bread, and with it the Resurrection of the body — not primarily through communion with His higher Nature, but through participation in His lower, and His lower Nature is “flesh and blood.”
It will be needful to ask in passing, “Can flesh and blood stand for death, so that the Lord means that all we have to do is to realize His Death?” Impossible. Flesh and Blood never stand for death. On the contrary in every place where they occur together in the New Testament, they mean the living human being. We of course do receive the Flesh and Blood of Christ in remembrance of His Death, but this we do, not to receive His Death, but His Life. Those who now heard Christ would understand the words of one living, not of one dead. Before we proceed to consider how this feeding is to be brought about, one or two matters must be noticed.
1. If our Lord meant by “flesh” and “blood” that part of our nature
2. This assertion of Christ that, in order to have His life, we are to
Now, if all leads up to this, the faith which is set forth throughout this discourse as the qualification, on our part, for eating the Bread of life, must ultimately, if it be a true implicit faith, such as that of the Apostles, fasten itself upon Christ giving to us His Flesh and Blood.
It must be a humble and devout faith, willing to receive Christ, not through His Godhead or His Spirit, but through His Flesh and Blood, the lower part of His lower nature.
If the Faith mentioned throughout this discourse has to do with the subject of this discourse, then it must follow Christ as He enunciates one deep truth after another, and receive each one, and not stop short till He comes to an end, which He does when He says, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you.” If then our faith is to be what many call a “self-appropriating” faith, it must appropriate to itself what Christ here sets forth to be received, which is His Flesh and Blood.
And now we have to answer the question, Has our Lord provided any means, in the faithful use of which we can partake of His Flesh and Blood for the purposes set forth in this discourse?
The New Testament, taken by itself, would lead us to believe that the Flesh and Blood of Christ and the accompanying benefits are actually given to us in one ordinance, and in that alone; for in the references to that ordinance, and that only, have we the salient words of this discourse reproduced. This ordinance, of course, is the Eucharist or Breaking of Bread, which was ordained at the hour when Christ actually gave His Flesh and Blood, which was immolated within twenty-four hours after as a Sacrifice.
The words of Institution of the Eucharist and the words of St. Paul in 1 Cor. 10 and 11. which refer to them, and are founded upon them, are the only passages in which there is any allusion to this eating of the Flesh and drinking of the Blood of the Son of Man. Christ is set before us in the rest of the New Testament in every possible relation of love to us.
He is set forth as the Husband of the Church, its Head, its Shepherd, its Priest and Intercessor, above all its Life, but never as its Bread or its Food, except in connection with the Communion of His Body and Blood. Never is the reception of His doctrine, or the contemplation of His Goodness, or the abiding in His Body or Church, or trust in His Righteousness called by such terms as “eating Him as the Living Bread,” or “eating His Flesh”. So that if this discourse be not the setting forth of a blessing which it is the will of God that we should receive in the devout reception of the Eucharist, then its most salient words fall to the ground.
How is it then that so many professed believers in Christ and in the Inspiration of Holy Scripture formally repudiate any connection worth speaking of between this discourse and the Eucharistic rite? It cannot be because of the teaching of the New Testament, but simply because of the present state of the Church, or rather of one part of Christendom, in which it is supposed that many Christians have a realising or self-appropriating faith in our Lord, altogether apart from Eucharistic Reception; and even the greater part of those who do receive Holy Communion, have no belief that it is anything more than a means of reminding ourselves of His love. They look not for, and in many cases would repudiate, any benefit of a kind different from what they would receive by hearing a sermon on the Death of Christ.
But surely it is most perilous to make our own unbelief, or that of the majority of any particular age or part of the world, the measure of God’s dealings. In the Pentecostal Church, and for centuries afterwards, there would be no difficulty, for every one who believed, we may say naturally, and as a matter of course, received the Eucharist; and if any one for the sake of discipline was debarred from it, it was considered both by the Church and by the man himself, if he had any faith or repentance, as tantamount to his separation from Christ.
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