We might ask the same question as the Jews today: how can this man give us his flesh to eat? Each day we gather here and eat the flesh of Jesus Christ and drink his blood. How is this possible? This mystery has been with Christians since Jesus told us to do, in memory of him, what he did on the night before he died, when he took bread and said “This is my body” and took the cup and said “this is my blood.”
How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Perhaps he only means this analogously. Perhaps it is a metaphor. Perhaps it is really just bread and wine, and we pretend that it is the flesh and blood of Jesus. Why though? That seems like a very strange thing to do. It may be difficult to understand why we eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus. We may not understand how Jesus can give us his flesh to eat. But it makes more sense than playing pretend.
If Jesus only meant what he was saying as a metaphor, he is not very helpful. The people he is talking to wanted to make him a king. They came to him as followers. Jesus does not quench the smoldering wick or break the bruised branch. If this were merely a metaphor, if Jesus were merely trying to teach the crowd that the bread we eat to keep us alive is not as important as the Word of God, he is phrasing all this in what seems to be an unnecessary difficult way.
On the other hand, if the bread we eat is not really bread but, in truth, the body of Jesus Christ, if the wine we drink is not really wine but, in truth, the blood of Jesus Christ, then it makes sense that Jesus would teach as he does today. When he says that “my flesh is true food” he means exactly that. When he says that “my blood is true drink” he is telling a truth to the crowd which is difficult to understand but is the truth nonetheless.
He tells us that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” We do not understand fully. We do not know how Jesus Christ makes bread become his living flesh and wine become his living blood. That is okay. We eat and drink, knowing what we cannot understand.