Jesus’ Flesh is of No Avail?



Q. In John 6:63 doesn’t Jesus explain that He was only speaking symbolically in the earlier verses? “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.”

A. This is not the plain sense of this passage when taken in context of the whole chapter.
First of all, Jesus says, v51“ I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh”

The Jews were shocked and indignant. But, Jesus does just the opposite of assuring the Jews He is speaking symbolically. He stops using the usual word for “eat” and uses a more graphic word meaning “gnaw” which is translated “eat” or “feed” in English. Jesus talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood four times in four verses as well as the three other times about eating the Bread from Heaven.

John 6:53 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. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

In this discourse absolutely nothing indicates symbolism but rather He seems to be at pains to emphasize the literal meaning of His words. Even his own disciples are struggling with this teaching. Then Jesus says, “The Spirit gives life the flesh is of no avail…” But many of his disciples stop following Him anyway. Why? Because this statement in no way meant that His words were symbolic. The word “spirit” is not used anywhere in the Bible to mean “symbolic.” The spiritual is just as real as the material. For instance “we believe in the Holy Spirit” not the Holy Symbol.

Q. But what about the fact that Jesus says, “The flesh is of no avail”? Why would He say that if He was telling us to eat His flesh?

A. The flesh Jesus is speaking of in most of John 6 is His own Flesh which we know “avails much”. The whole gospel is about how Christ died in the flesh so that we might live forever. So, this cannot be referring to His Flesh but rather to mankind in the flesh unaided by the Graces received in Holy Communion.

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