Were Jesus' words about "eating his body" just a metaphor meant to shake up his listeners?

By March 17, 2015 8 Comments

Full Question

My Baptist friend says that when Jesus talks in John 6 about “eating his flesh and drinking his blood,” he was using a shocking metaphor to shake up people who were not ready for his real point (faith, of course), just as when he said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it” (John 2:19). What do you say?


I say, if Jesus’ hearers were not ready for his “real point,” and if that “real point” was faith, then why did Jesus go on at such length earlier in the chapter (6:29-47) about having faith in him?
In John 2, as your friend rightly says, Jesus didn’t wish to speak openly of his Resurrection to faithless men, so he used a “shocking metaphor” to obscure his real point and to “shake them up” at the same time. But in John 6 Jesus spoke quite openly about having faith in him. He laid those cards right on the table. Why would he then seek to muddle what he already had stated so plainly?
Jesus used figurative language for one of two reasons: to illumine, or to obscure. When he sought to illumine, he sometimes appended plain explanations to his metaphors (especially if he had been misunderstood), but nowhere did he do what your friend thinks he did here: follow a clear exposition with puzzling metaphors on the same point. There would be no reason to do so. If he meant to be obscure, he would not have been so plain to start with; if he meant to be clear, he would not have muddied the waters with obscure metaphors.


  • Lorry says:

    If you listen to Dr. BRANT PITRE, Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Eucharist, YouTube, you will come to a much greater understanding of the Holy Eucharist. Also, YouTube Dr. Scott Hahn’s The Fourth Cup.
    Not only will you have a greater understanding of the Holy Eucharist, but you will see the True Real Presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist!!!!

  • Roch says:

    Following up on the “Catholic Say” answer: During Jesus’s straightforward exposition, He stated, “For My Flesh is true food and My Blood is true drink.” (John 6: 56) We know that Jesus was Himself, Truth Incarnate and would not confuse or mislead His disciples just for “shock value!” His disciples certainly were “shaken up!” Would not Jesus certainly have continued teaching if His disciples had so completely misunderstood and, consequently, began LEAVING Him! However He had given them the truth and concluded even though many left! “Many of the disciples therefore, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it? ‘ ” (John 6: 61) “Jesus therefore said to the Twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter therefore answered, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life, and we have come to believe and to know that You are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ” (John 6: 68 – 70) Today most Christian Denominations still think that this is a hard saying, and who can listen to it! At the Last Supper, He again makes clear His point, “And having taken bread, He gave thanks and broke, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My Body, which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In like manner, He took also the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My Blood, which shall be shed for you.’ ” (Luke 22: 19 – 20) “

  • Sal says:

    Many people do not truly understand the bible. It is true that at times Jesus spoke in parable to make it easier for us to understand. But major points he was extremely clear on. The fact that he said he would tear down the temple and rebuild it on 3 days was not for shock value, nor was it a parable. In fact Jesus did exactly as he said he would do. The temple was a place of worship and a place to gather and discuss religion, God and our reason for existence. It was the strongest symbol man had at the time for religion. When Jesus said that he would tear it down and rebuild it in 3 days he referred to religion and mans position. He came to teach and also to save. By His death he freed us from sin and God fulfilled his promise to us. Everything that was the Old Testament had now changed. He established His church and gave us eternal life. He suffered died and was buried and on the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the scriptures. By doing so he erased our debt of original sin and gave us a promised life in Heaven. His resurrection created a new alliance between man and God, in fact completely rebuilding the Church and religion. There is nothing figurative about that.

    • migs says:

      I like your comment. Yes, there are a lot of bible “experts” going around having their own different interpretation/gospel. Some of them totally digress from the Church teachings. I guess they just want to go against the traditional way of interpretation of the Gospel which was received from the Apostles. I guess “Men” has maintained its tradition to rebel against God or in this case his Church like the Old israelites do in the Old covenant.

  • If He was trying to “shake people up”, He certainly did that. St. John’s gospel, I believe it is chapter six, says that, once Jesus taught that his flesh and blood were real food and drink, many of His followers left Him. He did not call them back or give further information. He turned to Peter and asked, “What about you? Will you leave Me too?” Peter answered for the whole Church when he said, “Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” That is the best answer possible-there is no where else for us to go if we leave Him.

  • Ashwani says:


  • It does not matter what bible expects or any ordinary men says. We all got to have faith and believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Whoever believe in him may live forever in eternal life.

  • James griffiths says:

    Just as God fed his people with manna in the desert so to does the Lord feed his people with manna from heaven through his body and blood….There can be no mistake about this as God said he was the life giving bread from heaven

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