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EUCHARIST: Why all disciples except the apostles left Jesus at one time?


Why all disciples except the apostles left Jesus at one time? (Jn 6:66-67)

Jesus told the Jews, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:53-54). That made little sense to the people.

1. The Jews were not cannibals. After the deluge, God allowed Noah to eat the meat of animals. “Any living creature that moves about shall be yours to eat; I give them all to you as I did the green plants” (Gen 9:3). However, a tragic situation leading to consume human flesh was a horrible misery and a punishment for forsaking God. Jeremiah prophesied, “I will have them eat the flesh of their sons and daughters; they shall eat one another’s flesh during the harsh siege under which their enemies and those who seek their lives will confine them” (Jer 19:9). Eating the flesh of Jesus was an inconceivable declaration for them.

2. The Jews were prohibited from consuming blood: For the Jews, blood stood for life. When God permitted Noah to eat meat, He warned, “Only meat with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat” (Gen 9:4). “Anyone hunting, whether of the Israelites or of the aliens residing among them, who catches an animal or a bird that may be eaten, shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth, since the life of all flesh is its blood. I have told the Israelites: You shall not consume the blood of any flesh. Since the life of all flesh is its blood, anyone who consumes it shall be cut off” (Lev 17:13-14).

The listeners could not comprehend the teaching on consuming Jesus’ body and blood because he established the Holy Eucharist only later. The people were taking the message in a literal sense while Jesus was talking from a spiritual perspective. Jesus had a similar style of discourse with the Samaritan woman and Nicodemus.

Besides the crowd that had gathered to listen to Jesus, many of his followers, too, found his teaching on the consumption of his body and blood offensive. The situation resembled the seed sown on rocky ground. The miracles and teachings of Jesus impressed these followers at first and so they gladly followed him. Though they might have received baptism in the name of Jesus (Jn 4:1), they fell away when they found his teaching irrational to their understanding. So, their loyalty to Jesus did not last (Mt 13:20- 21). Some others, including the 12 apostles and the 72 disciples, accepted whatever Jesus taught, although they did not understand it. Their patience helped them grasp what Jesus taught later when he established the Holy Eucharist at the last supper.

From a worldly point of view, Jesus’ doctrine on the consumption of his body and blood was nonsense because it was impractical to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus who was alive. It was also against Jewish law. So, these words on eating his body and drinking his blood was meant offensive to the listeners, which is clear from Jesus’ following question to them: “Does this offend you?” (Jn 6:61).

The 12 apostles, 72 disciples, some devoted women, and many others continued following Jesus as his disciples. After the resurrection, Jesus had 120 disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 1:15), and 500 in Galilee (1 Cor 15:6). Jesus did not express any offence at those who withdrew from his discipleship. They had the freedom to join him or leave him. Whereas, those who left his discipleship returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him as his disciples. They continued their Jewish religious practices.


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