Joining the Cannibals
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves." (John 6:53)
As many have, I have often felt a twinge of something like disgust whenever I read these words by Jesus. Maybe He intended it that way to get our attention. Of course, I have also heard the explanations about what this verse means but it still seems rather stark and even crude to my inner reactions.
Something came to my mind today that helps me understand this a little better. A few years ago I learned something very fascinating about the natives in jungle areas that are known for cannibalism. The more civilized people of the world have usually assumed that cannibals are simply just bad people with murderous intentions that hate outsiders and want to get rid of them by eating them. But that is actually not very accurate.
Primitive cannibals actually have some very interesting motives for their strange actions toward foreigners. Instead of hatred toward them, strangely enough their behavior in eating other people is not based on hostility nearly so much as it is based on admiration. Because they do not think along the lines of logic like most others in the world who have been trained through centuries of “civilized” thinking, their logic is much more intuitive and is related in some ways to how our brain works at a subconscious level. Some of their thinking may even be closer to how we were originally designed than the thinking of those we consider civilized and advanced.
That is not to imply that God intended for people to eat each other from the beginning. What I am attempting to get across is that even though primitive natives have had their thinking distorted by sin which has perverted God's original plan for mankind, they also, like many unaffected natives in different parts of the world, hold concepts about God and about spirituality that are in some ways far advanced from those of us who consider ourselves more intelligent and superior in every way to these primitives. This can be seen rather in some of the stories about American Indians and the truths that they believed about the Great Spirit that was actually closer to the truth about God than the beliefs of most all of the invading white men who claimed to bring a superior religion and imposed it upon them with brutal force.
As I think about this it seems to me that Jesus was expressing a mysterious truth here that actually corresponds closer to an understanding appreciated by primitive cannibals more clearly than nearly any of the rest of us. For the real reason that most cannibals desired to kill and eat other humans was not so much from hostility but was from a deep belief that doing so would somehow bring into their own life the characteristics and advantages and intelligence of the person who was eaten. Therefore, if they saw a person they admired for their boldness, their greatness, their superiority over what the native had, then the natives believed quite firmly that the best way to become like this person that was clearly better than everyone else was to eat them and absorb them quite literally.
I believe that there is much deeper significance in this mysterious truth than most of us can grasp. It is almost as if maybe our education and culture and history of trained logic has obliterated some basic truth about reality from our consciousness that was not lost so completely in those we consider more primitive. And while this basic concept is certainly perverted and misunderstood to some extent by cannibals, they may actually be able to better understand these words of Jesus easier than nearly everyone else in the world because it resonates with their fundamental assumptions about how to become a better person. Jesus said, if you want His life you must be willing to eat Him.