Is it any wonder that the Jewish leaders rejected Jesus. Even some of those who had been following him avidly walked away. Why? Because of something he said. But isn’t that often the case; people reject us more for our words than our actions.
Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. (Jn 6:53-56)
The Jewish people had no problem eating flesh, although this sounded a lot like cannibalism, to which they did object. The really problematic part of what he said involved the drinking of his blood. “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” (Jn 6:66)
There are some laws that predate the Law of Moses. These are called the Noahide laws (after Noah), and were considered to apply to all people, not just the Jewish nation. These seven laws were: Do not deny God; Do not blaspheme God; Do not murder; Do not engage in illicit sexual relations; Do not steal; Do not eat blood; and Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law. The Jewish people knew Genesis 9:4, which equated life and blood after Noah was told he could eat flesh. They could quote Leviticus 17:11, which said “the life of the flesh is in the blood.” What they could not necessarily grasp was the prophetic nature of the verse in Leviticus.
The disciples of Jesus who turned back took his words literally. He said they had a spiritual meaning. There are those today who still don’t understand. To them, Jesus was a good man. He was a moral teacher. To them the essence of Christianity is what Jesus personally said or “what would Jesus do?” They miss that the important thing that Jesus would do would be to shed his own blood as a sacrifice for sin.
That is the problem in the eyes of some theologians, professional or amateur, these days. Blood. Some contend that the whole concept of a blood sacrifice is barbaric. Others contend it is purely symbolic. Many don’t understand the concept of blood sacrifice at all. And the reason for all this confusion is that they don’t understand what God said in Leviticus: the life is in the blood.
The basis of much of the Law of Moses was, according to some is “an eye for an eye;” but they forget that was preceded by “life for life.” (Ex 21:23) If a man caused death, the only cure was another death; and sin is death. The only cure for sin is the death of the sinner, or of one who is willing to pay that price. “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Heb 9:22)
That is the basis for the atoning power of the blood of Jesus. He voluntarily gave life for life. He paid the blood debt with his own blood.