His Flesh and Blood
January 24th, 1971 @ 7:30 PM
HIS FLESH AND BLOOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
1-24-71 7:30 p.m.
On the radio of the city of Dallas you are sharing the services of our First Baptist Church, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled His Flesh and Blood. On the radio and with us here in this great auditorium, would you turn to the sixth chapter of John, John chapter 6, and we shall read verses 48 through 58. John chapter 6, the Fourth Gospel, and we shall read out loud and together verses 48 through 58. And if your neighbor does not have his Bible, you share your Bible and all of us read it together. It was written to be read out loud. Let us all of us read it, and on the radio, if you are where you can find a Bible, get your Bible and read with us, John 6:48-58, now all of us out loud together:
I am that bread of life.
Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.
This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?
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.
Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him.
As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.
This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
Can you imagine, can you think how those people reacted who first heard those words? Ah, what the Lord would say is astonishing! We shall come to that in a moment. First I want to point out to you how the modern preaching of Christ, the Christ of the new theology, the Christ of the new social order, the Christ of this new day of humanitarian amelioration is the Christ that the people were looking for in that day. It is remarkable to me how these things are pictures of our modern theological life.
In the sixth chapter of the Book of [John] is the story of the feeding of the five thousand [John 6:1-14]. Jesus took the loaves and broke and broke and broke. Then He took the fishes and broke and broke and broke, a little boy’s lunch [John 6:8-11], until He fed all of that vast throng [John 6:12-13]. They were on the eastern side of the lake of Galilee. Then follows the story of the people when they saw Him; why, He could feed an army. He could lead them against Rome. He could raise the dead [Mark 5:35-43]. If the soldiers were killed, He could raised them up. There were no commissaries necessary. He could feed a whole army just by breaking bread.
So the people came by force to make Him a king [John 6:15], to lead them against Rome, to bring eternal glory and political splendor to the nation. Well, when that happened the Lord sent the disciples away [John 6:15-16]. They were egging it on, pleased them that Jesus should be king. One of them prime minister, and one of them chancellor of the exchequer, and one of them the chief of staff; they were delighted, and they were egging it on. They were encouraging, building the flame and the fire. So the Lord sent the disciples away into a boat cross the sea, and then He dismissed the throng and Himself, went up into a mountain apart to pray [John 6:15-16]. Then you have the story of the sea raging and the Lord walking on the water [John 6:15-21].
Then follows the story of this sermon in the synagogue at Capernaum [John 6:24-59]. When the people tried to find the Lord and couldn’t, they learned that He, following His disciples, had crossed the sea. So they, some of them went around the head of, the top of the sea of Galilee, and some of them came over in whatever boat or craft they could find [John 6:22-25]. And they all gathered once again, those thousands, in Capernaum and pressing inside the large synagogue in that city. And when the Lord saw them, He said, “Ye seek Me, not because you saw the miracle, the evidence of the power, and presence, and saving grace, and love of God, but you seek Me because you did eat of the loaves and were filled” [John 6:22-26].
And that’s the kind of a Christ that is wanted and that is preached today, a Christ that can bring us material and physical prosperity and well-being. He’s the Christ of the social order. If there are sick, in the name of Christ, let’s heal them. If there are poor, in the name of Christ, let’s make them rich. If there are disillusioned and discouraged, in the name of Christ, let’s pick them up, and let’s create a new and a better world for the people to live in. Now I confess to you that a lot of that is in me, and it’s in the whole theological Christian world. That kind of a Christ is appealing, who can feed us and who can bring us material well-being, prosperity, happiness, to make the pigpens clean and to help the prodigal son down there where he is, to help him have a nice place to stay down there in the pigpen [Luke 15:15-16].
I listened to a missionary, and some of you heard him; it’s one of the most penetrating and moving addresses I ever heard a missionary make. He said that down there in Brazil where he works, there were so many sick and he felt that what he ought to do is to make the sick people well, to do all that he could to get medicines and to minister to them. Then in other areas he saw the people afflicted with malnutrition. They didn’t eat right. And they were hungry and their diet was not correct, and he felt that he ought to turn aside and try to find food for the people and to teach them how to eat right and to be well and healthy. And then he saw people that were in political bondage and needed somebody to guide them in their liberties as citizens of the state, and he felt that he ought to be a social reformer. And he went all through those things. But he said those were siren voices to take him away from the great calling he had in Christ because he had been sent of God to save them from sin, to win their souls from damnation in hell, and he felt that if he could win them to Jesus that these other things, concomitants, corollaries, addenda would somehow take care of themselves. Get a man right with God, get him close to Jesus, make a Christian out of him, and all of these things will follow after.
But we don’t do it that way in our modern day. “You seek Me not because of the miraculous presence of God, but you seek Me because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled” [John 6:26]. That’s the kind of a Christ the modern day wants. We want comity between nations, and we want comity between individuals. And we want prosperity and happiness among our people, and that’s the Christ that we seek, and that’s the modern Christ that is preached. And it is attractive, and I say, that is in all of us. The only trouble with that kind of a Christ is that we part with Him at the grave. If the ministries of our Lord are in this life, if we’re cleaning up the pigpen for the prodigal to stay in, when we come to the parting of the ways, that’s when this life ends. If all there is, is just the here and now, then that kind of a Christ who can feed us in the kind of a Christ that we need.
But the Lord repudiated it, and He turned to an altogether different kind of a word and ministry as He spoke to those people, who were looking for the kind of a Christ that could bring us well-being in this life and make this world a comfortable place in which to live. And He began to speak of the bread of heaven, and of eating His flesh and His blood, and of having eternal life in God [John 6:48-58]. You know the way He does these things is sometimes astonishing and remarkably penetrating! That’s why in the Bible, in the passage, it says, “And the Jews murmured, because He said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ And they said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose mother and father we know and whose brothers and sisters are here with us?’” [John 6:41-42] Then again, “And the Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” [John 6:52] And then in the next column, “Many therefore of the disciples, when they heard Him, these that believed in Him said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” [John 6:60] Jesus was just like that all the time.
Nicodemus had come to see Him and the first thing the Lord would say to that learned ruler of the Jews and doctor of the laws, “You must be born again” [John 3:1, 3]. Well, can you imagine how if that’s the first time you ever heard that sentence, it’s the first time he ever heard it, can you imagine your reaction? And Nicodemus, this learned man said, “What? To be born again? Why, I’m an old man. How could I enter into my mother’s womb and be born again? It’s unthinkable! It’s illogical!” [John 3:3-4] Yet, that’s the Lord.
Now turn over the page here in the Gospel of John, and you read about what the Lord will say to the woman at Sychar [John 4:5-7]. He said to her, “You come to get [water] out of this [well], the water that I could give you would make you never thirst” [John 4:13-14]. And she said, “Why, by all means give me that water that I do not come here anymore to the well and draw” [John 4:15]. Isn’t that a natural reaction? What an amazing thing for a man to say, “The water that I would give you would make you that you never thirst” [John 4:14]. I tell you, the Lord, He just was like that way all the time.
And so He says here, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat, talking about Moses, he gave them bread [John 6:31-32]. But I am that bread of life” [John 6:35]. Ah, dear. I can understand, “He gave them bread.” Any man who had a great truth, and a great message, and a great blessing for the world, you could say that about him, “He gave them bread.” I think of Salk, the man that discovered this polio vaccine. Oh, think what a blessing he was to the world. Just take a little wafer, a little cookie or a little cube of sugar and a little tasteless substance placed on it, and that dread disease is impossible. It is done for. It is out. It is over with. It’s one of the most unusual triumphs in human story. He gave them bread. He gave them a great blessing.
I think of Pasteur who discovered that our diseases were caused by infinitesimal microbes. They’re germs. They’re bacteria. Ah, think what a blessing such discoveries, and you could multiply that ten thousand times. He gave them bread. He gave them a great blessing. But the next thing the Lord will say, “I am that bread of life!” [John 6:35, 47]. Ah, and we are to eat His flesh, and we are to drink His blood [John 6:53-54]. Oh, dear! When you come to Jesus you just automatically are catapulted into a different world. It’s not like this world. It’s another kind of a world. And it’s another kind of life, and it’s another kind of thinking.
For example, just for a moment, the Lord will be asleep in the boat, just asleep like anybody else. He was tired, and He was weary, and He lay on a pillow in the bottom of the boat and was asleep. Why, He was just like any other man, was weary, He was tired, and He lay down, and pillowed His head on the bottom of the boat and was fast asleep. Well, the storm came and the disciples awakened Him. They were in a terror. The boat was about to sink, and here He is just like a weary man, tired, and He was asleep. And then He stands up and He speaks, just says a word, and the wind and the waves obey His voice. No wonder the disciples say, “What manner of man is this? What kind of a man is this?” [Matthew 8:24-27] Why, it’s just, you’re just catapulted into another world in His presence!
Or just take again at the tomb of Lazarus. He weeps [John 11:35]. He cries just like any other mourner. He stands at the tomb like any other heartbroken friend. And the tears course down His face, and He weeps at the tomb. The next day He raises Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44]. You just can’t imagine such a thing! You’re in another world with Him. Same thing about His cross; here He is nailed, and His whole heart ruptured, and His blood spills out on the ground, and He is certainly dead, so certainly dead that they don’t even break His bones [John 19:30-34]. And they bury Him [John 20:38-42], and the third day He rises again! He is alive! [John 20:1-18]. That is the Lord.
When you meet Him, and look at Him, and listen to Him, you’re in another world! You’re in an upward world. You’re in a spiritual world. You’re in a world where God moves and where God lives! And it’s like that here. He gave them bread. Of how many blessed, blessed wonderful men, scientists, doctors, discoverers, business leaders, how many men have blessed the world. “He gave them bread to eat” [John 6:31]. Then, Jesus immediately introduces us into an altogether different world. “I am that bread of life. And if a man shall eat that bread, he shall live for ever. I will raise him up at the last day” [John 6:48, 51, 54].
Now we must hasten. In the passage that we read, “Except a man eat My flesh, and drink My blood, there is no life in him. But whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed” [John 6:53-55]. Well, when you read those words you think, “Well, that’s transubstantiation. That’s the mass. That’s turning the bread and the wine into the actual body and blood of Jesus.” Oh, there’s no approximation of that! The only thing is that the Lord’s Supper [1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Matthew 26:26-28], and what Jesus has said here [John 6:53-55], both of them refer to the same great truth. What is said here for our audible ears to hear is portrayed there on the communion table for our eyes to see. What is spiritually said in these words, for He says His words are spirit and truth [John 6:63, 17:17], is symbolically portrayed there. But what the truth is that the Lord is presenting is twofold.
One, He is speaking of the sacrifice of His life, of His atonement for our sins [Isaiah 53:4-5]. I can easily see why they strove saying, “Why, why, it is just unthinkable that we eat His flesh, and drink His blood” [John 6:52]. And even His own disciples said, “This is a hard saying” [John 6:60]. And when I turn the page, why, “From that time many of the disciples went back, and walked no more with Him” [John 6:66]. I can understand how when they first heard that, ah, that was just unthinkable! But these two great truths, God has given to us to understand. And the first is that He was speaking of the sacrifice of His body in atonement for our sins [Isaiah 53:4-5], the great moving purpose of God through all of the years and the ages, that in Christ we should have remission of sins [Matthew 26:28; Acts 10:43], that in His blood we should be washed clean and white [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. I love that song.
Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour?
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
[“Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?” Elisha A. Hoffman, 1878]
This is the Passover season as you read in the chapter. And all of the Jews were going to Jerusalem, and the paschal lamb was already shut up ready to be offered, and its blood poured out before God [Exodus 12:3-7]. The real Paschal Lamb, whose flesh we eat, and whose blood we drink, was to be offered up unto God [John 6:53]. And this refers to the sacrifice, the atoning gift of God’s love in the body of Christ when He died on the cross [1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Peter 1:18-20].
Now the other great truth that the Lord was speaking here is, we appropriate the life of Christ in our hearts, in our lives. We eat of His flesh; we drink of His blood [John 6:53-54]. And what bread is to the nourishment of our human body, so the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ are to us in our spiritual lives. We feed upon the Lord. We live in the love and grace and presence of the blessed Jesus. Our lives are hid with Christ in God [Colossians 3:3]. We think of Him. We sing about Him. We preach about Him. We worship and adore Him. We ask His loving and guardian care. We pray in His name. We plead His righteousness in the forgiveness of our sins [2 Corinthians 5:21]. We live in the grace and love of Jesus [John 14:19]. He becomes a part of our very souls. As the bread we eat becomes a part of our very bodies, search the springs of our salvation, and there you’ll find Jesus. Cut into the heart of our faith, and there you’ll find the blessed Jesus. Look into the secret of this blessed and precious church, and there you will find the Lord Jesus. Look into any holy and godly life, and there you will find our Lord. That’s what that means; living in the Lord, appropriating the love and grace of the blessed Savior, walking in His presence; and how sweet and blessed, how benedictory and precious any life that is thus given to God.
A man, in these days gone by, was on a horse traveling through one of our Southern states. He came to an old dilapidated shack, shanty, and there in the doorway was an old, stooped Negro mammy. The years of hard work had been her load. Her face was deeply creased, and the wool on her head, her kinky hair was white as snow. The traveler pulled up his horse, and looking down at her in the doorway, said, “Good morning, Auntie. Do you live here alone?”
She lifted up her face to him, and her eyes brightened with the thought, and she replied, “Yes, master, just Jesus and me.”
Why, bless your soul. She lived in a palace. Bless your heart. She’s the richest old woman in the state: “Just me and Jesus.” That’s what He meant. He’s poor, and ragged, and hungry if he has the whole world and doesn’t know the Lord. But he’s rich, and his home is palatial, and his life is blessed, and the breath of heaven is the aura and the aroma of the saintliness of his life if he knows and loves the blessed Jesus. O Savior! Let me take time to read this poem I brought:
I cannot go it alone;
The waves run fast and high.
And the fogs close chill around,
And the light goes out in the sky.
But I know that we two shall win in the end,
Jesus and I.
I cannot row it myself.
My boat on the raging sea.
But beside me sits another
Who pulls and steers with me.
And I know that we two shall come safe into port,
His child and He.
Cowered, and wayward, and weak,
I change with the changing sky.
Today so eager and brave,
Tomorrow not caring to try.
But He never gives in, and I know we shall win,
Jesus and I.
[“Jesus and I,” Dan Crawford]
Loving, adoring, worshiping; feeding upon the Lord [John 6:53-54]. Now while we sing our hymn of appeal, somebody you to give himself to Jesus, a family you to come into the fellowship of the church, a couple you coming together, or just you, if the Lord calls, and if our Savior speaks to your heart, come and stand by me. “Here I am, pastor. I’m coming tonight.” In the balcony round, you, on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, you, make the decision now where you’re seated, and in just a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. Do it now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
I. Modern preaching of Christ is what the
people sought in that day
A. The feeding the five
thousand (Mark 6:32-52)
1. Those who saw
miracle sought to make Him king (John 6:14-15)
B. People followed
Jesus seeking bread (John 6:26)
1. Christ that
can bring material and physical prosperity preached today
2. Cleaning up
the pigpen for the prodigal to stay in
II. Jesus turned to an altogether
different word and ministry
A. Jesus is the Bread
B. The Jews murmured and
strove among themselves (John 6:41-42, 52)
1. A “hard
saying” (John 6:60)
sayings of Jesus (John 3:3-4, 4:13-15)
C. Different kind of
thinking and world
1. Jesus asleep
in the storm (Matthew 8:24-27)
2. Raising of
Lazarus (John 11:35-43)
3. The cross and
resurrection (Matthew 27:50, 59-60, 28:6)
4. “I am that
Bread of life.” (John 6:48, 51, 54)
II. The meaning of the message
A. This discourse and
Lord’s Supper present the same truth
1. The sacrifice
of His life in atonement for our sins
a. Difficult to
understand (John 6:66)
2. The appropriation of
a. What bread is to the
body, Christ’s body and blood are to the soul