John 6:53: “Jesus therefore said to them, Truly, Truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food and My blood is true drink.”
We have been reflecting on the early Christian heresy of docetism today, which taught that the Son of God was not really incarnate, but only took on the appearance of humanity. He did not take on flesh, become flesh, but only seemed to be flesh.
But this makes nonsense of the biblical portrait of salvation. Jesus’ flesh, he says in this passage, is the channel of life. Unless we are united to His flesh, we cannot have life in ourselves. Unless we participate in His flesh and blood, we remain dead.
Jesus’ human flesh and blood is not life-giving because it is human flesh and blood. It is life-giving because it is the flesh and blood of the Son of God, because this flesh and this blood is united to the eternal Son of God, who is equal to the Father and who has been given to have life in Himself. The Son has life in Himself, but He has taken flesh so that His flesh can become a means for communicating that life to us.
Without a true incarnation, without a true union, between God and man in Jesus, there is no salvation. There is no life.
Jesus is perhaps not talking about the Eucharist directly here, but He is certainly at least alluding to it. The Eucharistic meal, where we eat bread and not the appearance of bread and drink wine and not the appearance of wine, is one of the means Jesus gives for participating in His life-giving humanity. As we eat and drink together, we are together united in one flesh with Him and with one another, and we share in the life that He has in Himself and which comes to us through His flesh.
This is not a “seeming” communion with the body and blood of Christ. This is not communion in appearance. Here at this table, we commune with Christ, share in His body and blood, so that we might have life, and have it abundantly..