More than Bread and Wine Part 2: Jesus' Words
From Our Savior's Lips
First, we turn to John's gospel, and we see Jesus feeding the five thousand. Here, he took a finite amount and multiplied it exponentially. He fed the people's bodies, then retreated across the Sea of Galilee. The next day, however, they found him, and Jesus said that they followed because they ate of the bread and were filled, but he warns them not to work for bread of the world but the bread of life that fills. The people ask for that bread always and ask for a sign, after all, the Israelites in the desert got manna. Jesus replies by saying,
Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to use, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of Heaven. For the Bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
They said to him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
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. But I say that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe.” -John 6:32-36
What came from heaven? Jesus. What gives life to the world? Jesus. “For the Bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven [Jesus], and gives life to the world [Jesus].” But, if you, like the disciples there do not see this as being the way to interpret this and are looking for physical bread like he gave them before, look at the answer Jesus gives. “I am the bread of life.” Jesus is the bread.
But the people still don't understand. After all, they know his mother (and they think they know his father)! Some of them have likely watched him grow up or know people who did. And besides, this talk of being bread and eating of himself is against their laws and they begin to grumble. After all, this is a lot harder to accept than when Jesus called himself a vine, a door, a shepherd. Those were so obviously analogies, but this... this, if they accepted his words literally, would go against their sacred laws! So, they grumble among each other, almost asking for someone to clarify this so that they can continue to follow him without accepting this hard teaching. Jesus berates their grumbling and continues on.
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 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.” -John 6:48-51
Here, he says, “Yes, I'm the bread from heaven. Yes, you have to eat it if you do not wish to die. Yes, the bread I'm talking about is My flesh.”
The Jews begin to argue and quarrel because they want to believe Him, but what he's saying is hard. “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6:52) they ask. So, Jesus says a third time.
“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.” John 6:53-54
To have eternal life, you must eat the flesh of the Son of Man, the man who came from heaven but took a physical body. His flesh must be eaten. And wait, what is this? Now you must also drink his blood! But Leviticus, their old Law, is very, very, very clear on what happens if you drink any blood.
“You are not to eat any blood, either of bird or animal, in any of your dwellings. Any person who eats any blood, even that person shall be cut off from his people.”Leviticus 7:26-27
Jesus is asking them not only to go against their senses and accept that the new manna, the new Bread of Life is going to be His Flesh, but now he is saying that in addition to that, his blood must be drunk. And he does not make the pill any easier to swallow with his next statement:
“For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:55-58
His flesh is true food. Food that can be eaten, can be consumed. And his blood is true drink. Drink that can be consumed. He is telling them that to gain that eternal life, that eternal bread of heaven, they must eat His flesh and drink His blood. Never does He waver on this, even though he is in a Jewish Synagogue (John 6:59). And to make matters even more literal and more hard to swallow, the verb he used for eating is not the word usually used for humans eating something, it is the word used when animals gnaw on something. So, he's not saying “Eat me like you would a piece of cake” he's saying “devour me like an animal devours its food.”
Four times He says this, and each time, the people get more agitated, and each time, He holds His ground, driving the point harder and harder, until finally, the people said “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” Not “Who can understand it?” Not “Who can believe it?” But “Who can listen to it?” This idea was so repulsive to the Jews that they did not even want tolisten to Him! And these were the people who in verse fifteen – the day before – were trying to make him King! They were willing to rally behind him as a form of Messiah, yet they did not even want to listen to His teaching. And many left (John 6:66).
This would have been a great chance for Jesus to correct any misunderstanding about whether he meant literally eating His body and drinking His blood or if He meant it to be symbolic. But instead, he turns to His twelve, His handpicked twelve and said, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” (John 6:67) He's giving them a chance to back out.
And Peter answers for them, saying, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and come to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) Notice, Peter doesn't say, “Of course not! We understand everything you said, they're silly for not understanding.” Instead, he says “Who else is there to go to?” He knows Jesus is the Holy One of God. He knows that, and yet even he says “Well, there's no one else we can go to because You speak the Truth.” He never says he's comfortable with the idea of eating his Lord and Master's flesh. He never says he's not appalled by the idea of drinking his Rabbi's blood. Rather, he simply says, “I follow you.”
Skip forward now to the Passover Meal where Jesus has his Last Supper with his apostles and institutes the Eucharist. He takes the bread, and what does he do? He blesses it, and offers it to His apostles, saying,
“Take, eat; this is My body.” -Matthew 26:26“Take it; this is My body.” -Mark 14:22“This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”-Luke 22:19
“Is.” Not “represents,” “symbolizes,” “stands in place of,” “is a metaphor for,” or anything like that. “Is.” Now, either Jesus is confused, distracted by his impending death, lying, quibbling over the meaning of the word “is” (as Clinton did), or He is being literal. I think all Christians would take offense at the idea of Jesus being any of the first four, so we have to take Him at His Word. And He said, “is.” And not only that, He tells us to “do this in remembrance of me.” Do what? Break bread and say the same words? Take crackers “This is a symbol of Jesus' body.” No. He told us to do “this” – to break the bread that was His Body.
He then took the cup, likewise, blessed it, and gives it to His apostles, saying,
“Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” -Matthew 26:27-28“This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” -Mark 14:24“This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”-Luke 22:20
Again, “is” is used, but more importantly, he says that that cup is poured out for us. Would a cup of wine really have any merit? Not in the long run. Only Jesus' blood could make that much of an impression. Also, this is the only time Covenant is used by Jesus. Covenants required blood. So, obviously, blood is literally being referenced here.