Jesus is not bound by figures as used elsewhere.
Jesus starts the whole theme of the Bread of Life discourse using an analogy between believing and eating.
Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”
(John 6:26-27 NASB)
Having the previous day provided the crowd with the food that perishes, Jesus now starts about the food that leads to eternal life.
Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”
(John 6:28-29 NASB)
Asked how they get this food Jesus tells them by believing in Him. On this section Augustine says:
“They said therefore unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” For He had said to them, “Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that which endures unto eternal life.” “What shall we do?” they ask; by observing what, shall we be able to fulfill this precept? “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” This is then to eat the meat, not that which perishes, but that which endures unto eternal life. To what purpose do you make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and you have eaten already.
(Tractates on the Gospel of John, Tractate 25, Paragraph 12)
A little further on Jesus says:
Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
(John 6:35 NASB)
Coming to Jesus means we will not hunger. What relieves hunger normally? Eating. By believing we will not thirst. What satisfies thirst otherwise? Drinking. So Jesus equates coming to Him with eating and believing with drinking.
A bit later He says:
“For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
(John 6:40 NASB)
Beholding and believing in Jesus results in eternal life. Note that He puts no other requirements on attaining life. This verse is paralleled a little further on when Jesus says:
"He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
(John 6:54 NASB)
The parallel language reinforce that beholding and believing equate with eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
Jesus again assures us that believing in Him results in eternal life.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.
(John 6:47 NASB)
Again Augustine comments:
Wherefore, the Lord, about to give the Holy Spirit, said that Himself was the bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe in Him. For to believe in Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again.
(Tractates on the Gospel of John. Tractate 26, Paragraph 1)
Jesus goes on to say:
“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 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. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. "For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
(John 6:51-55 NASB)
If these verses are taken literally it would basically amount to salvation by the Eucharist alone. Anyone, whether a believer or not, would have salvation by going to a Catholic church and receiving the Eucharist. And it would be impossible to be saved without receiving the Eucharist. If this part is taken literally Jesus would be contradicting what He said earlier about believers having eternal life. He placed no condition on those statements but here He says you must also eat His flesh and drink His blood. This difficulty disappears if the previous equivalence between believing and eating and drinking is recognized.
(to be continued)