Jesus Gave His Flesh For The Life Of The World: So, Does It Profit Nothing?

During my spiritual journey I have learned that there are basically two ways of looking at John 6:63 where Jesus says, “The flesh profits nothing,” or “The flesh is of no avail.”

One way (A) is to say that Jesus is speaking metaphorically when he tells his disciples to eat his flesh. In other words, verse 63 means, “My flesh doesn’t actually profit anything. This is all symbolic.”

The other way to look at it (B) is to hear Jesus using “the flesh” to mean “human understanding apart from grace” as found elsewhere in scripture such as Romans 8. People are said to be “in the flesh” or “carnally minded.” Or, as Jesus said to his disciples, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” (Matt 26:41)

Let’s see how the two interpretations compare when they are placed within the context of what they supposedly clarify, namely, the words of Jesus that precede verse 63.

Verse 51:

  • “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

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 (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • 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 (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

Verse 54:

  • “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

Verse 55:

  • “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • “For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

Verse 56:

  • “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (but my flesh doesn’t actually profit anything).”
  • “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (but you won’t understand this apart from grace while you are still in the flesh).”

Notice that Jesus never says, “My flesh profits nothing.” Jesus says, “the flesh.” This is an important distinction. If his flesh profited nothing, he would also need to say that his blood profited nothing in order to be consistently metaphorical. Yet, he insists that his disciples must ingest both his flesh and his blood.

The interpretation (A) that de-emphasizes Christ’s flesh over his spirit also threatens to undermine the doctrine of the hypostatic union by leaning towards Gnosticism. That is, spiritual things are considered “good,” but physical things are considered “bad.” Yet, the incarnation places the flesh and the divinity of Christ together as fully good. (More can be learned about the Gnostic threat here.)

Interpretation (B) explains how the Christian can receive Christ without compromising the hypostatic union rather than receive Christ merely in a “spiritual” capacity. The Christian can fully receive the entire glorified Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity). Christ’s flesh, blood, soul and divinity profit us eternal life which is everything! We become fully united to him. He dwells in us and we dwell in him (vs 56). It is the ultimate example of the expression “you are what you eat.” It is also the ultimate fulfillment of what was foreshadowed at Passover: then as now, believers are instructed to eat the Lamb that was slain. Additionally, we can take Jesus at his word when he says at the last supper, “This is my body” and “this is my blood.”

We do not receive Christ without faith. It is such faith that allows God’s grace to work in us to accept that which our carnally minded understanding fails to grasp. Without that grace, we are offended by the idea of ingesting his flesh and blood (Jn 6:61). Such grace comes from the Father (Jn 6:65), and through the Spirit we receive life (vs.63).

“There are some of you that believe not.” (vs. 64) In order to believe, we do not need to fully comprehend how God accomplishes the miracle of feeding us with his flesh and blood. Nor do we need to see the bread and wine change in appearance. “We walk by faith, not by sight.” We only need to accept it like Peter and ask, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (vs. 68)

There is no reason for Christ to have given his flesh for the life of the world if his flesh profits nothing. His words are “spirit and life.” If we want life, we must abandon our desire to remain in “the flesh” and humbly ask him for the spirit of grace to accept his flesh and blood as he presents it to us. He presents it to us like he did at the Last Supper: under the appearance of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.

5 thoughts on “Jesus Gave His Flesh For The Life Of The World: So, Does It Profit Nothing?

  1. SR

    You did an OUTSTANDING JOB ON THIS! You need to write this in a book or something. This was the very best I have ever read concerning this Matter. Great job and I so enjoyed reading. God Bless, SR

    Reply
  2. SR

    I am serious! You need to do something with this, besides leave it on a “blog.” I would copyright this post for sure! There is so much insight in this. I would say (drum roll) this is right up there with Scott Hahn! To me this is about as good as they come! 🙂 So that is a “great compliment” you are receiving. Again great job! God Bless, SR

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s