14. Except You Eat My Flesh
Paul, here, in verse 30, says the most extraordinary and unbelievable thing in all Scripture. He says that the reason that God loves me, the reason God cherishes and nourishes me is because I am God's flesh. Is this not what God is speaking in verse 30? I am God's flesh. My flesh is His flesh. My flesh is the flesh of God.
14. Except You Eat My Flesh
We are the flesh of Christ. We are that part of Christ visible in the earth.
I am writing this letter for those who are on this journey with me, a journey of knowing Jesus, the Christ, in all of His revelation in us, through us, as us, in this hour of His glory. I am sharing with those who know that they have the mind of Christ and who hear all things by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.
It is in John 6, just after feeding the 5000, that Jesus says these words, “He that eats My flesh and drinks My blood shall have the life of the age to come.”
Every single person who heard Him say that turned their backs and fled in horror except the twelve who were, nevertheless, shattered and confused. We must understand the extent of the blasphemy and the horror that Jesus spoke to the ears of those who heard Him.
Israel in that day survived, barely, in a sea of Greek culture. The party of the Sadducees, who had the greater power and wealth, had embraced much of Greek culture, while still remaining Jews. But the memory of the Law of Moses and the Prophets would have long since been swept from the earth in face of the overwhelming onslaught of all things Greek if it were not for a small group of devoted, gallant men who had committed their lives to keeping at least a small group of people in Israel connected to Moses and the Prophets, and separated from Greek culture, philosophy, and paganism.
These men were the Pharisees. Certainly, they get a bum rap, but without them, there would have been no people left for Jesus to minister to.
But the Old Testament did not, nor was it intended to, restore man back to the relationship with God that Adam enjoyed – infused utterly with God, no separation of self. And so the Jewish mind had elevated God as “untouchable” and way beyond the commonality of man. To equate God with the dregs of degraded humanity dragging upon the earth was, to their thinking, the most horrible evil that a person could conceive. Thus the idea of “blasphemy” was a huge deal in the minds of all Jews of that day.
Inside of the Greek culture that pressed at all times against all things Jewish, there was a particular religious cult called the cult of Dionysus. In this cult, a person, usually a child, was presented on the stage as the god, Dionysus. Then, at a certain point in the ritual, the worshipers would tear the child to pieces and eat his flesh and drink his blood. They did this because it was Dionysus who said, “Except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.”
The Romans were a hard, cruel, and wicked people. They had learned, early on, that tolerating a certain “freedom of religion” was necessary to keep captive peoples quiet, and so they did. But to the Roman sensibility, the cult of Dionysus was so excessively awful that it was banned from the Italian peninsula.
The Jews were fully aware of the gross paganism and filthy ritual of the cultures and peoples that swirled around and through their midst at all times. They were a captive people, living in a land claimed and possessed by others. They knew of the cult of Dionysus and the gallant role of the Pharisees in keeping such evil away from their lives.
Moses, on the other hand, had commanded the people of Israel not to eat the blood with the flesh of an animal, because the blood was the life of the flesh. The Pharisees had expanded greatly on the rituals and rules of Moses, and so not eating the blood was a big deal to all Jews.
Because we have heard these words of Jesus all of our lives, they seem weird to us, but no more. We have no ability to comprehend the awfulness of these words to the minds of those who first heard them. For Jesus to quote this most horrible of pagan deities in the most excessive pagan ritual that even the Romans could not stomach was beyond all human reason. And to the Jewish ear it was BLASPHEMY in every possible way. It was not possible for Jesus to have said any more “wicked” and “evil” thing to the mind of those who heard Him speak.
Jesus was not speaking in John 6 to the Pharisees; He was speaking to the Jews who had followed Him, who had eaten the bread He had broken and multiplied, brought their sick to Him to be healed, and had hung on His every word.
Jesus is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. He couches the greatest truth of the gospel inside the greatest blasphemy uttered in Scripture.
Except you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no life in you.
Even to our ears, these words are awful, and we have none of the religious bent of the Jewish mind of that day. In order to follow Jesus in this present unveiling, we must be willing to embrace that which, to the natural mind and to the religious mind, is utter horror and blasphemy.
To know Him, as He reveals Himself in us, is to be what the world will call insanity and what Christianity will call blasphemy.
And we ourselves, just like the disciples, have only one answer to give in our own confusion at the incredible insanity of what God speaks to us in the New Covenant.
Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of age-abiding life.
And so we begin this journey.
And without controversy, great is the mystery – the secret – of godliness: God manifest in the flesh… 1 Timothy 3:16
So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:28-32
Did you catch that? I never have, nor have I ever heard any minister or teacher of the gospel catch it either.
Every human being loves and feeds his flesh. This is a given. That is why those sad Christians who see themselves as separate from God, with the obligation to hear what He says and do it, and who with all zeal put their “flesh” under foot, as they see it, are such an example to us of not the Lord Jesus. I have known people like that, who actually took seriously the injunction to get their flesh under foot. They are my brothers and I love them, but there is no light of Christ in their eyes. The very act of willfully and fervently “subduing the flesh” makes the flesh the greatest thing in their lives.
Every man, woman, and child loves and feeds their flesh. This is a given. The question is to whom does the flesh belong? Because, you see, Paul, here, in verse 30, says the most extraordinary and unbelievable thing in all Scripture. He says that the reason that God loves me, the reason God cherishes and nourishes me is because I am God’s flesh.
Is this not what God is speaking in verse 30?
I am God’s flesh. My flesh is His flesh.
My flesh is the flesh of God.
That sounds like blasphemy, doesn’t it? It certainly does to me.
But I have put these bounds upon myself at this point in my life. All that God speaks in the New Covenant, I will believe. And if God does not speak it in the New Covenant, I refuse to consider it.
Christ is God manifest in the flesh. Jesus is the eternal entrance into all that Christ is.
Now, Paul here says that I am a “member” of His flesh. That is the same thing as saying “I am His flesh.” The reason Paul uses the word “member” is that just as I am His flesh, so you are His flesh.
To see as Jesus sees, we must accept our own blindness. To enjoy all the riches of heaven, we must accept our own poverty. And to be clothed with His flesh, we must accept our own flesh. For our flesh is His flesh.
The princess must kiss the frog.
You could spend some time thinking about that statement. Ask God to show you what it means.
And so, over the last several weeks, I have been pondering this thing that Jesus says. Faith makes everything God speaks personal to one’s self. If it is not personal to me, it is not faith.
In the past I carried great and overwhelming shame in my heart. Almost all people who, in their Christian zeal, attempted to “fix my problem,” trying to persuade me that I had better “get myself straightened out before God,” did nothing more than increase that debilitating and overwhelming sense of shame.
How many times has this thought cast its dark pallor over my soul, “I am so ashamed of myself.” I could never count them all.
How many times has God revealed Himself to me? So many times over the years! Yet within a couple days shame re-asserted its dominion over my heart and the glory was hidden from my eyes once again.
And so in recent weeks, as the reality of life in this world hits me with all of its viciousness, and once again shame mounts its familiar assault, both from within and without, I cast all to the wind. I have nothing else to lose.
I speak in my heart and with my voice, with tears streaming down my face. “Jesus, this shame is Your shame. This flesh is Your flesh. This weakness is Your weakness. This inability is Your inability. This darkness is Your darkness. This sin is Your sin. You have become me. I am Your flesh. I am the cup and the dregs which You have drunk.”
And I am clothed with an intimacy and a closeness to Him that I have never before known.
Yes, to the mind that is separate from God this is folly: to the religious mind, it is blasphemy, and to the natural mind, it is stupidity. But to me, at this moment, as this present age of folly is crashing into ruin, as the heavens are turning, as my own days are caught in great stress and difficulty, it is LIFE.
It is Jesus, the One upon whose breast I lean my head.
I am the cup and the dregs which Jesus drank.
I am His flesh.