In Part One, we saw that the well-known proverb, "Blood is thicker than water," may have come from an older one: "The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb." If that is the case, the original thought reverses the meaning of the modern proverb, meaning that our covenantal link with God should be stronger than physical family ties. This thought squares with the Bible's insistence that blood is special, equating it with life itself.
God takes special care in the Pentateuch to teach Israel about the sacrifices and offerings, which involved shedding the blood of countless animals to remind the people of their sins and obligations, as well as to foreshadow the far greater sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Israelites preserved this knowledge even through war and exile, though they failed to understand it fully.
Nearly 1,500 years later, John 6 begins with Jesus feeding the five thousand, and afterward, He and His disciples depart for Capernaum. The same people whom Jesus had fed the prior day followed Him across the sea to assemble before Him the next day. Knowing their hearts, Jesus tells them in verse 26, "You seek Me, not because of the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled." They were following Him just to eat another free meal!
He gives them some advice in verse 27: "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you. . . ." He then begins to teach them about the true bread from heaven (verse 32). According to what is said in this chapter, these people knew about their fathers being fed manna from heaven in the wilderness, so we can assume that they also knew the Scriptures well enough to know about the laws concerning the eating of flesh and blood. Jesus, then, is about to drop a bombshell on them:
"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."
Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever." . . .
Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" . . . From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (John 6:47-58, 60, 66)
These Jews knew that they were forbidden to eat the blood with the flesh of animals, and now Jesus is telling them that, if they want eternal life, they must eat His flesh and drink His blood! Note that many of these people were His disciples. They were looking for the Messiah, yet when He came offering the words of eternal life, they turned and walked away. They eagerly took the bread that they could see and eat, coming back the next day for more, but when it came to believing that He was the Bread of Life, they did not believe Him. They could not understand that He was speaking metaphorically.
They actually made the right choice in turning away. As the apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 11:27-29, we are to examine ourselves before we eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord, for if we eat and drink in an unworthy manner, we are bringing judgment on ourselves. These disciples had not been prepared by God to partake of what Christ offered. Using the metaphor that Christ did, that bread or that blood could be toxic! In John 6, Jesus does not seem overly upset that these disciples turned away. He simply asks the Twelve in verse 67, "Do you also want to go away?"
In I Corinthians 11:30, Paul writes, "For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep [are dead, margin]." These disciples, as they are called, could not discern the metaphorical from the literal or the spiritual from the physical. Should we not apply what Paul says to us spiritually—that many among us, the church, may be spiritually weak, sick, or even dead due to taking the Passover in "an unworthy manner"? This passage shows that partaking of the bread and wine, symbolically the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ, is a very big deal to God!
The average adult body contains about 1.2 to 1.5 gallons of blood. When we consider all the blood, human and animal, that has been shed in the past and all that will be shed until the New Heavens and New Earth—it is even prophesied to be as deep as a horse's bridle during the time of God's wrath (Revelation 14:20)—all of it together cannot begin to compare with the efficacy of the shedding of Jesus' blood nearly two thousand years ago. As the sacrifice to end all sacrifices—by the breaking of His body until every drop of His blood poured out on the ground—His shed lifeblood covered or made atonement for all sin.
John 6 contains an underlying theme, stated or alluded to in five different verses (verses 37, 39, 44-45, 65), that no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him. In other words, the blood of Christ is not offered to redeem everyone at this time. Only the elect—those specifically called by God to a relationship with Him—are currently under His blood (I Peter 1:2; Romans 11:5, 7). What a privilege! He poured out His lifeblood specifically for us! Are we taking advantage of God's grace? Because "our hearts [have been] sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water," are we "draw[ing] near [to God] with a true heart in full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 10:22)? Are we drinking in His life to become like Him?
The writer of Hebrews ends his epistle with this blessing:
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)
The blood in this covenant is indeed thicker than any other!
- Ronny H. Graham