Audio Only (with the Old Testament Scripture Reading)
He Doth Within Me Dwell
There’s an old hymn which I’ve been listening to over the last few weeks. It’s very simple—and in
its simplicity, it has some very moving words. They go like this—
I know that my redeemer lives;
What a comfort that sweet sentence gives;
He lives to crush the fiends of hell;
He lives and doth within me dwell;
He lives. He lives to crush the fiends of hell. He doth within me dwell—glory, hallelujah. That last
one is especially shocking, if you think about it. “He lives and doth within me dwell”. Actually,
really, truly, in me. He dwells—he lives, abides—in me. Do you believe that? Why do you believe
that? Why is that a comfort?
“Jesus lives in your heart”, we often say to children—and, we mean that without any qualification or
hesitation. Jesus—a human person—lives inside us. We commune with him, we sing with him, we
pray to him—even as he’s a human person, in the glorified flesh, seated at God’s right hand in the
heavens. Yet, “he doth within me dwell”. What do we mean that?
This morning, we’re continuing our study through Jesus’s bread of life sermon—and, this is where
Jesus goes. He’s explaining that phenomenon which we often talk about—him living, or abiding
inside of us. Only, he uses a very odd—even troubling, perhaps disturbing—metaphor. He says in
verse 53, “Truly, truly” (meaning, “I’m not joking here, I’m not mincing words, this is really what I
mean”), “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
Jesus is saying “I must be in you—even eaten by you—if you’re to live”.
That’s one way to say it. It’s offensive. It’s shocking. It’s what his disciples say in verse 60, “this is a
hard saying; who can listen to it?” They’re saying “who can stand to listen to this?”—and, that’s the
reaction Jesus wanted. It’s not like he said this and thought, “oops, I didn’t mean to say something so
weird and offensive, let me soften this up for you”. Jesus said this—he said “truly truly” (verse 53),
to say it emphatically. This wasn’t a slip of the tongue.
How are we to think of this, folks? Is Jesus endorsing cannibalism? That’s how early opponents of
Christianity interpreted Jesus, here. “Those Christians are cannibals; they claim they’re eating the
man Jesus!”. That was literally a charge against Christianity in its early days.
The Metaphor, the Meaning, and the Mandate
We’ll consider the metaphor first. I think there’s some value to simply consider the language, the
offensive metaphor, at face value here as we begin to consider this. Then, we’ll consider the
meaning. Jesus interprets his words for us—he doesn’t leave us in the dark.
So, the metaphor, the meaning, and then the mandate—what’s this mean for us, today? That’s where
we’re going. The metaphor, the meaning, and the mandate concerning Jesus, whom (yes) we must
“Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood”: The Metaphor
So, let’s consider the metaphor first.
Notice in this passage—just looking at the story at face value, it seems as though Jesus is
intentionally using this metaphor in order to stir up controversy. Can you believe that—Jesus, the
nice, kind, loving Savior, is intentionally stirring up controversy?
Look at verse 52, where our passage picks up. “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying,
‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”
So, Jesus has already started speaking this way earlier in this bread of life sermon. He said it very
clearly in verse 51, the verse prior. In comparing himself to the mana that God sent to Israel from
heaven in the wilderness, he says “51 I am the living [earlier he said the true bread] bread that came
down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give
for the life of the world is my flesh.”
So, there it is. He said it. “My flesh—eat it, and it will save you. You’ll live forever. It’s the living
bread. It’s the true bread. Eat my flesh”. Notice he says that his flesh is the bread that he’ll give for
the life of the world. So, somehow, his human flesh will feed and give life to the world.
Who talks like this? It’s disturbing—and yes, the Jews were reasonably well disturbed by it. Again,
our passage picks up in verse 52 after this initial statement, “The Jews then disputed among
themselves”. The sentence, in the greek, for emphasis, actually begins with the word “they disputed—
they quarrelled”. Sometimes the greek will use word order for emphasis. Jesus says “eat my flesh”—
then verse 52, “they quarreled among themselves, therefore, saying ‘how can this man give us his flesh
to eat’”. These Jews were in a real tizzy over this one.
So, Jesus backs down and says “no, sorry, that’s not what I meant. I didn’t mean to raise up
confusion or controversy”. That’s what he does, right? Not at all. He leans in, he makes more radical
claims, he burries further into the metaphor. He says “Truly, truly”, you must eat my flesh (verse
So, of what else could be said of this metaphor—it’s clear that Jesus is using it to confuse and
disturb these Jews. Jesus is intentionally confusing and disturbing these Jews, and stirring up
controversy among them. That’s the Jesus this world wants and preaches, right? “Jesus is loving,
accepting to all, condescending to all—he’d never want to stir up controversy or dissention or
confusion, right? We need deeds, not creeds!”. That’s what our world says about Jesus. It’s simply
not true, folks. Jesus is full of hard, offensive, divisive teachings. We’ve seen a number of those
offensive teachings in the last few weeks, even in this bread of life sermon—and, Jesus is saying that
these offensive teachings actually give life! That’s the whole point of this bread of life sermon—it’s about
offensive matters which are matters of life and death.
I’d venture to say that this bread of life sermon is one of the most offensive, hard teachings Jesus
preaches. “No one is able to come to me unless the Father who sent me draws [or “drags”] him”.
Jesus is saying “you are so dead in your sin, your mind will never truly understand what I’m saying to
you and your heart will never desire it, unless the Father personally drags you out of your spiritual
grave to desire and understand me”. We’re that far gone, unable to come to Jesus or understand him,
to desire him for life. What’s more—only he offers life. He alone is the bread of life, and you’re
unable to desire and come to him. In and of yourself you’re doomed to eat the bread of fruitless,
It’s offensive, folks. But it’s true. We bring nothing to the table of God’s grace and salvation—
indeed, we cannot. Unless God drags us to Jesus—unless he personally gives us a new heart to desire
him, a new mind to understand him, we’ll never come to him by faith.
So, Jesus says these things, and then he proves it. He demonstrates it. That’s the point of the hard,
offensive language. “You’ll never come to me unless the Father draws you to me”, then, case in
point, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you”. He speaks in a strange,
offensive metaphor or parable.
Folks, if someone said that to you—what would be your natural instinct? If a public teacher or
politician started talking this way, what do you think would happen to him today? He’d lose all his
popularity. People would run away from him. No one in their right mind would ever stick with a
teacher saying those sorts of things. It’s crazy. It’s weird. Yet, that’s the point. Jesus’s claims are
offensive—or, at best, weird—unless the Father has dragged you out of your spiritual death to
receive him and desire him by faith.
How Jesus Uses the Metaphor (It’s a Parable)
Folks, this “eat my flesh and drink my blood” language, here, essentially is a parable. It’s easy to not
see it as a parable because John’s gospel doesn’t emphasize Jesus’s use of parables like the other
gospels do. John doesn’t expressly identify this as a parable. Although, the word picture in and of
itself—together with the way Jesus uses this language—entirely fits the category of a parable. In the other
gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—Jesus uses word pictures to teach the masses. He proclaims a
spiritual truth through some concrete (albeit mysterious) word picture or story—the parable of the
sower, the parable of the talents, the kingdom parables. Although, he doesn’t explain their meaning
at length to the masses. He simply says the parable, and he lets it sit on the crowds as a mystery.
Now, if you’re interested in the parable and you want more explanation, what would you naturally
do? You’d go up to Jesus and say “give me more, Jesus, explain yourself, help me understand, I want
you and your teaching!”. Although, if you’re not interested—or better, if your offended by Jesus’s
strange stories and metaphors, what do you do? You brush it off and leave. You call him a crazy
man. You call him a liar.
Each one of the gospels tell us that Jesus intentionally speaks this way in order to sift the wheat
from the chaff. He intentionally speaks this way to turn away those whom the Father hasn’t given
him to save, and to draw in those whom the Father has given to him. Specifically in Mark 4, Matthew
13, and Luke 8—all three of those gospels, we learn that Jesus spoke in parables so that people
wouldn’t turn to him and be saved. Mark 4:11—
To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is
in parables, 12 so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
Isn’t that strange? “For those outside [the kingdom] everything is in parables”—and indeed, remains
in mysterious parables—“...lest they should turn and be forgiven”. It’s easy to hear that—and only
that. But, again, Jesus fronted all that by saying to his disciples, “to you has been given the secret”.
No one is able to come to Jesus, unless the Father draws him to Jesus. No one is able to understand
Jesus, see Jesus, love Jesus, unless the Father himself takes initiative and gives a mind to understand, a
heart to desire—might I say a mouth to feast upon the bread of life.
“Eat my flesh”—it’s a stumbling block to the Jew, and it’s folly to the Greek. Jesus is intentionally
stirring up confusion in order to show that if anyone is to desire Jesus after saying that, it must be a
work of God. That’s what we see, isn’t it? At the end of chapter 6, what happens? Verse 60, many of
his disciples (referring to those beyond just the 12 who had been following him, we could be talking
about a few hundred) heard it and said “who can listen to this?”. They walked away. The only way
you’d say “this guy is my only hope, I must eat him” is if God helps you. Verse 65, “This is why I
told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father”. Jesus is saying this to
his twelve, as he looks around and sees all of his other disciples walked away. “Yep, I said some
crazy stuff—you see what happens? My words are proven true. Unless the Father moves you to
desire more, you’ll walk away”.
So, as we consider Jesus’s metaphor of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, we’re first reminded
that he’s speaking this way for a reason. He’s speaking a parable. He’s speaking offensive, mysterious
words to intentionally draw out from the crowd those whom the Father is drawing to himself. He’s
emphasizing that salvation is entirely a work of divine initiative.
Now, that’s certainly how Jesus uses these metaphors—these parables. Although, it doesn’t hurt to
consider the image that Jesus is actually presenting to us. “Eat my body and drink my blood”, he
says. Is Jesus condoning cannibalism, here?
We must ask the question, folks. What he’s saying—at face value—is cannibalism. There’s no way
around it. He’s saying, “think of your salvation in terms of cannibalism”. That’ll separate the wheat
from the chaff, right? You’re not going to want that savior unless the Father draws you.
What’s he getting at, folks?
You can get at this in two ways. In one sense, he’s drawing us to think not of cannibalism, but of
fulfillment. Again, he doesn’t merely call himself the “living bread” (verse 51), or the “bread of life”
(verse 35), but also “the true bread” (verse 32). In other words—the mana, the food involved in the
Mosaic and Levitical ceremonies and festivals—all that consecrated and festal and life-giving food in
the Old Testament points to the true bread. It all points to Jesus. I’ve said a number of times what
another OPC pastor has said at this juncture—these words of Jesus here in John 6 are not about the
Passover, or about the mana, or about the Lord’s Supper. Rather, all of those special, consecrated,
ceremonial foods are about what Jesus is saying here in John 6. This is where you find the true
meaning—the true life and joy and comfort and salvation—which all those ceremonial meals
pointed to. Jesus fulfills them all—so, feast on Jesus. Feast on the fulfillment, by faith (even as you
partake of the Lord’s Supper). Think “fulfillment”, here in John 6, rather than “cannibalism”.
Although, I will say that I think there is something to see in the seemingly cannibalistic metaphor.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the mana and the special ceremonial foods that promised life. So, if that’s
the case, what is all that food telling you about the coming Messiah? If the food which is eaten for
life is to be fulfilled in the human, personal, Messiah—then what does the food tell you about the
Messiah? It’s telling you that the Messiah, in some way or another, must be eaten in order to enjoy
his benefits. So, even when you think of this in terms of fulfillment, you’re still stuck in the
cannibalism problem. “Jesus is the fulfillment of all that food”. Well, if you ate the ceremonial foods
for life and fellowship with God, and Jesus is the fulfillment of that food, then—well...
But really—cannibalism? Eating flesh, drinking blood? In addressing this passage, one minister
brought up one of those rare stories of people caught in a horrible bind. Back in the 1970s, a plane
carrying a rugby team crashed in the Andes mountains. Many died in the crash, others died in the
days after the crash. The remaining few realized that if they were to survive, they would have to
resort to cannibalism. They realized they would have to consume their friends—take the energy and
strength from their friends—if they were to have life and strength themselves.
It’s gross, it’s hard to imagine—although can you imagine what might be going through your mind
in those moments? This isn’t your barbaric form of cannibalism—this is survivalism. It’s seeking life
when your only other answer is death. It’s the sort of thing that—if those dead people could speak,
they’d say “yes, I’m already dead, consume me lest you die too”. In those moments—and, I’d hate to
say it this way but it’s true—there’s a whole new level of intimacy with your dead friends which you
never hoped to experience, ever. Although, it’s there. The intimacy is there. You couldn’t help but
think, “I’m alive because my friend Johnny died—he took care of his body, he ate food, he grew
muscles and fat on his bones to live, and therefore, now I live.” There’s an odd, peculiar union of
strength and intimacy at work there. “He is in me, giving me strength so I can live and survive to
fight another day”.
So that’s the metaphor, folks, if we consider it at face value however crude and carnal it is.
Remember, Jesus is using it to turn people away. It’s an offensive metaphor, and you’ll only want
more of this stuff if God himself is moving you to desire more. Yet, Jesus isn’t simply sifting the
wheat from the chaff. He really is communicating something. Just considering the metaphor at face
value, Jesus is saying that he must be in you. Him, being in you, is your strength and your salvation. If
he’s not in you, “you have no life in you” (verse 53). This is a life-or-death situation, folks. He’s your
only food—you must eat his flesh and drink his blood, or you’ll die. You must experience that
intimacy and union with Jesus, or you’ll die. That’s the metaphor.
Now, I said we’d get to the meaning. We have, in some ways, already exposed the meaning as we’ve
dissected the metaphor. Although, thankfully, Jesus does get more clear in his words.
“Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood”: The Meaning
Look at verses 54–57. This is where Jesus really gets to the substance and meaning of what he’s
54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on
the last day.
So, that’s a picture of the sort of life Jesus gives, as the “bread of life”. We’re talking about two
things, there. (1) If you feed upon him, you “have” eternal life. You’ll be strengthened with his life
now, today. You have it. Then, as we might conclude, as he gives us eternal life, (2) he will raise us
up on the last day. We’re talking about eternal life now, by faith—and we’re talking about eternal,
resurrected life in the last day. Now, how does this work? What’s underneath that? We aren’t talking
about eating and being strengthened with life by proteins and dietary nutrition, here. Jesus is moving
us from the physical to the spiritual, the temporary to the eternal. So, verse 55—
55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and
drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
There it is, folks. We’re talking about an intimate union of abiding in Christ—us in him, and he in
us. Do you see how the strange metaphor of cannibalism is coming through, here? He must abide in
us—his life, his strength, his righteousness, his atoning body and blood, his person—it must all be in
us for us to live and stand before a holy God whom we’ve sinned against.
Folks, this is mysterious stuff—although, it is so supremely foundational to our Christian faith. It’s
only going to make sense by faith. It’s only going to be experienced by faith. Jesus is telling us that he
must abide in us, and if he doesn’t, we’re dead.
What does that mean, for Jesus to abide in us? What’s that mean? It is an oddly mysterious, mystical
thought—although remember, Jesus is giving us a metaphor to help us understand. He’s giving us
the metaphor of food, yes, even cannibalism. When those survivors were eating their friends, they
benefitted from the strength, the nutrients, of their friends. The strength and nutrients abided in
them. That was life to them—other than death, it was their only option. It was their only bread.
Jesus is saying “think of me and my salvation like that. You must eat me, I’m the true food.”
Jesus worked to offer you a full plate of spiritual nutrition. He never sinned—he lived a full life of
righteousness, for his righteousness to abide in you. Feast upon that, and stand blameless before
God’s judgment seat. He prepared himself to be a perfect sacrifice for sins. Drink that blood, and
stand before God’s judgment seat with your sins forgiven. You’re forgiven, you’re righteous. But,
there’s more. Jesus says “I offer life—I offer life now! Whoever eats and drinks has eternal life!”.
Folks, by faith, you’re united to the living Messiah who was victorious even over the grave. His
victory, his person, his living hope, is in you. His peace and fellowship with God is in you. His Holy
Spirit is now in you. His eternal life—even as he’s always lived in perfect fellowship with the
Father—is in you. That’s what Jesus says, folks. Look at the next verse (verse 57)—
57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he
also will live because of me.
The divine life of God is in you, if Jesus abides in you. That’s eternal life, folks. It’s nutrition for the
languished, hurting, humbled soul.
By the way, if this “eating Jesus”, cannibalistic language really trips you up, I don’t blame you.
Remember, he said this in part to turn people away. If you want a softer, more appealing metaphor,
Jesus illustrates the exact same thing with the same language of “abiding” in John 15. Only there, he
uses the metaphor of a vine and its branches. Instead of saying “get your nutrition by eating my
flesh, that I might abide in you”, Jesus says “picture yourself like a branch. From where does a
branch feed, to get it’s strength and nutrition that it might flower in season? It gets its nutrition from
the vine. I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in me, be nourished by my righteousness and
Spirit, and flower with the joys of eternal life”. It’s the same language, same idea, just a slightly
different metaphor. Only, you get to think of yourself more as a flowering, pretty branch rather than
So, we’ve considered the metaphor. We’ve considered the meaning of the metaphor, as Jesus himself
interprets it. He must abide in us, and we in him. There’s a lot more that could be said, there, but I
think we get the point. Now, what about the mandate? We’ve seen the metaphor, and the meaning
of the metaphor. What about the mandate?
“Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood”: The Mandate
At face value, there is no resounding mandate in this passage. Jesus never issues out a command or
mandate at the end of this bread of life sermon.
Isn’t that odd? You’d expect him to conclude his sermon with at least one more command, calling
these people to feed upon him. It’d only be natural. You’d think he say at the end, here, especially as
people are dismissing and leaving him—“I urge you, do not leave! Eat my flesh and drink my blood!
Abide in me! Stop feeding your soul with the fleeting pleasures of this world and feast upon me!”.
That’d be a pretty natural mandate—or command—to leave his people with. It’s a command to
He doesn’t do that. Throughout this bread of life discourse, he simply declares himself as the bread of
life as we’ve described, and then he leaves it at that. No commands—even as his disciples are leaving
him by the masses. Right here, he widdles his massive following down to 12 men. That’s it. Why no
urgent calls to obedience? Why no commands?
Folks, remember what has Jesus been saying. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent
me draws him” (verse 44). Or, after his crowd had been widdled down to the twelve, “This is why I
told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (verse 65). Or again,
verse 70—in in reference to his sovereignty over Judas, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet
one of you is a devil”.
Folks, Jesus is showing us that he sets the table. He invites his guests, and he puts himself—and
himself alone—on the table, and his people will come to him as the Father draws them in with life-
giving grace. He doesn’t need to issue out commands. This is all about Jesus’s sovereignty and
sufficiency and initiative. I love how the exchange happens between his disciples. Verse 66—
66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus
said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”
Do you hear that? Jesus is asking the twelve. He literally just said one of the weirdest, most
concerning and detestible things a public teacher could ever say. “Eat my flesh!”—then people leave
a bit queasy, and then he asks them “do you want to go away too?”.
This is crazy stuff, folks. The only way you’d stick around and be interested in what Jesus had just
said is if God himself is sovereignly drawing you in, awakening you from your spiritual slumber, and
keeping you interested and hungry for more. This is all demonstrating the power of the Father to
draw us in—to awaken us to the glory of Jesus so that we’d want nothing other than Jesus on our
dinnerplate. I love how this conversation continues. Jesus asks the question, and then we get Peter’s
famous answer. Verse 68—
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed,
and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
To which Jesus responds, “Did I not choose you, the twelve?”. No mandate, no command needed.
He sovereignly chooses. The Father draws them in, convinces them, opens their minds and their
hearts to receive him by faith so that they might at least be intrigued and desire Jesus, even when he’s
saying difficult things. Peter didn’t even understand. He simply knew Jesus was life.
This is the sovereignty of God in action, folks. It’s a divine initiative, a divine savior, a divine
banquet of grace.
So, what’s the mandate? It’s nothing less than wholehearted prayer and dependence upon God. Pray.
First Mandate: Pray with Dependence
Pray that the Father would sovereignly draw you in to desire Jesus, even when you struggle to
believe or understand what he’s saying. Pray that the Lord would move you to desire him—to be fed
and strengthened by him rather than the things of this world. Pray the Lord would expose those
ways you sinfully seek strength and comfort in this world, in your family, in your job, in your
reputation, in the praise of man. If this passage reveals anything, it’s that the head of the table must
invite you, and draw you in from your grave, reveal to you the lies of this fleeting and world. He
must persuade you that his food alone, even Jesus himself, is sufficient for all life, peace, strength,
So, pray with wholehearted dependence upon God.
Second Mandate: Feast with Urgency
Then, of course, the other implied mandate is feast your soul upon Jesus, and only Jesus. Folks, I
don’t usually go on personal anecdotes. Although, I cannot tell you how moving and convicting
these few weeks have been upon me as we’ve been going through this bread of life discourse. I have
been moved to renounce the fleeting securities and pleasures of this world in ways I haven’t been in
a long time. I’ve been moved to read my bible and pray more diligently—to go to his word and
prayer for strength rather than my phone or my family or my daily routines. That stuff simply does
not have life in them.
Feel the weight and fearfulness of what Jesus is saying, here. “Unless you eat [me], you have no life
in you” (verse 53). Think about that. The world offers a whole host of things, folks, which promise
life and comfort. Jesus says that if you consume those things apart from him, you will have no life in
you. Meaning, they offer no life. They’re dead. They’re the bread of anxious toil, not of life. Your
phones, your apps, your TV, your books, your job, your “me” time, your hobbies—yes, children,
your toys—these will all leave you lifeless and anxious if you pursue them for life. Really, think
about that the next time you need to “de-stress”.
Now, I’m not saying we can’t watch TV, or play with toys. I am saying we need to prioritize and
understand where life and comfort really comes from, and act accordingly. “You have the words of
eternal life”, Peter says. Or in Jesus’s words, verse 63—"The words that I have spoken to you are
spirit and life”. In other words—feast on Jesus by feasting on his words. Find comfort and strength
in his words—and go to his words, in prayer, asking for life.
So, ask yourself—are you reading your Bible? Are you praying and communing with him? Parents—
are you praying for your families, for your children, and opening the scriptures with them?
Fathers—are you leading your children in family devotions? Do you realize that’s the best way to
breathe life into your family? Whether your married with children, or without children—conclude a
dinnertime feast with a feast over the Bible, the words of life. It doesn’t need to be long. Just give
them a quick bible verse, and do it with a smile on your face. “These words are life, children”. It’s an
incredible way to avoid a spiritually dead and discontent family or marriage. You simply need to
believe it’s enough—that Jesus is sufficient. He’s the bread of life—to you believe it?
Conclusion: He Doth Within Me Dwell
We considered the metaphor, the meaning of the metaphor, and the mandate. I’ll leave you with
where we began. “I know that my redeemer lives—what a comfort this sweet sentence gives. He
lives to crush the fiends of hell, he lives and doth within me dwell, glory hallelujah”.
May he dwell in us, by faith, that we may live fully in him. Consume him, folks. Abide in him for his
righteousness and forgiveness and strength and comfort and life and peace and protection and
Spirit. It is your life.