It was a shocking day of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee as He taught Jews in the synagogue in Capernaum. Jesus made a staggering claim that He is the bread of life that came down from heaven, and said that they have to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life (John 6:35-59).
This is a chapter that has been mutilated by the Roman Catholic Church, and used to develop the Mass where Christ is re-sacrificed repeatedly. They perform a bizarre ritual eating His flesh and drinking His blood, just exactly what Jesus was not talking about. A Catholic mass is by definition the sacrifice of Christ (Catechism 1322, 1338). The Baltimore Catechism (Confraternity Edition of 1949) says, “Christ gives us His own body and blood in the holy Eucharist first, to be offered as a sacrifice commemorating and renewing for all time the sacrifice of the cross” (Catechism 356). While the Catholic catechisms quote the passages that speak of Christ dying once, they also teach that the priest miraculously transforms the bread and wine into Christ’s real body. At the Mass, the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This is not a chemical change because the outward, sensible appearances of bread and wine remain, but under those appearances of bread and wine, Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist (CCC 1374).
At the 22nd session of Trent in 1562, the decree entitled “Doctrine Concerning the Sacrifice of the Mass” says, “In as much as this divine sacrifice, which is celebrated in the Mass is contained and emulated in an unbloody manner, the same Christ who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross. The Holy Council, therefore, teaches that this is truly propitiatory and has this effect. That if we, contrite and penitent, with sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence draw an eye to God, we obtain mercy and find grace in seasonable aid. That is to say that there is salvation in the Mass!
Is Jesus asking us to Literally Eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood?
As with all the other scripture the clarity to this question comes in the context. This verse comes in the context of Jesus feeding of the five thousand (John 6:1-14). We read in the text that more crowd continued to pursue Christ with the hope of free food. They neither come to hear the teaching of Christ nor to worship Him. Jesus knew their superficial faith and told them, “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” (John 6:26–27). Though Jesus urged them to seek the life giving supernatural food that came from heaven instead of seeking perishable food, the crowd relentlessly asked Him to perform food creation signs. Jesus continued to identify Himself with the “bread came out of heaven”, and said “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).
Jesus has repeated the same thing over and over using sever terminology and imagery in John 6:48-56
“I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, 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 you. Whoever feeds on 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. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”
Tasting the Supernatural Food
God commands us to take His word and eat it – eat every bit of God’s word -reading it, meditating it, planting deeply in our hearts to make it part of our inner constitution. We become what we eat. Jesus Christ is the Word of God (John 1:1) who became flesh (John 1:14). In him was life (John 1:4) and He is the bread of life that came out from heaven (John 6:51). If we eat life-giving, eternal, supernatural food, we will live.
There are five paths to the brain. Minds are informed in our capacity to touch, taste, see, hear, and smell. Taste was a path of wisdom to the heroes in the scripture. The prophet Jeremiah swallowed God’s Word and found it tasty. He said, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16). The Psalmist tasted the Word and said, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).
There were others who found God’s Word is tasty. Both Ezekiel and John dined on God’s word. A vision of the Lord came to Ezekiel, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey” (Ezekiel 3:1-3). And John, “I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey” (Revelation 10:9).
Eating is Believing; Drinking is Believing
If I said to someone, “I have something to tell you. It’s very important for your life, and I know that it’s not going to be easy, but you have to swallow it if you want to move on with your life.” you understand that I’m not asking that person to eat something literally. That’s simply a metaphoric way of saying, “You have to embrace what I’m going to say. You need to accept it.” And that’s what Jesus is saying here in v56: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them”.
In order to come into union with Christ, you have to accept His life and His atoning death. This is the core of the Gospel – the PERSON and the WORK of CHRIST. You have to accept that He is God in human flesh, who lived a sinless life, and offered His flesh as a sacrifice for our sin, and shed His blood as the one who was executed in our place. Jesus using a metaphors in this text. Bread refers to nutritious food, and it’s a heavenly provision. When Jesus said “I am the bread of life”, He was saying “I am your true soul nourishing food.” Our responsibility is to appropriate this bread so that we will have eternal life.
Eating is believing; drinking is believing. Believing in what He said who He is, believing in His teaching, believing in why He came in to this world, believing in His sinless life, believing His sacrificial death on the cross, believing in His resurrection, believing in that He paid in full the penalty for our sin, and that His perfect righteousness is freely given to us in exchange for our unrighteousness.
The Lord’s Supper
Believing is how we “eat” Jesus’s flesh and “drink” his blood. This is why He instituted the Lord’s Supper, so that we remember the very core of what we believe. The bread and wine does not miraculously transformed in to Flesh and blood. Although there is some variation among Protestants on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, without exception biblical Protestants teach that the sacrament is not a renewal or a re-visitation of the bodily sacrifice of Christ. Rather it is a remembrance and a memorial use of symbols blessed by God to the benefit of the humbled believer.
Three specific facts about the Lord’s Supper:
“As often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). We proclaim the gospel. The bread and cup proclaim the saving death and resurrection of Christ.
“Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25). These symbols are representation of Christ sinless life and bloody death on the cross for my salvation.
- Feast by Faith
“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). It is a celebration of the new covenant of God. New covenant is the promise of complete forgiveness of all our sin, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:20). God promised to forgive our sins, remember them no more, remove them as far as the East is from the West, completely and totally forgive them, because of what Jesus Christ has done on the cross. It is a celebration of Hope, and not some kind of barbaric, flesh eating, blood drinking, cannibalistic ritual.
There is no salvation in the Mass
Jesus Christ made one sacrifice for all, never to be repeated, that can take away sin, in contrast to priests repeating over and over and over, sacrifices which can never take away sin. There is no salvation in the gruesome rituals of the Catholic Mass. The Old Testament had a priesthood, an altar, and sacrifices which were only shadows of the final sacrifice. Christ offered that final sacrifice, and God sealed that final sacrifice by destroying the temple (70 AD), by destroying the altars, and smashing the entire sacrificial system of the Old Testament. There are no more sacrifices, no more altars and no more priests as a special order to offer sacrifices. That era has ended at the cross. Any sacrifices being made today are unbiblical and any priests of a special order are false pretenders of paganistic religion.
Living Bread and Dying Blood
Eating the flesh and drinking the blood means taking in, receiving, appropriating. Jesus said “You have to take Me in”. It’s not enough to come and listen. It’s not enough to admire Him as a good man in a Bible story. If you want eternal life, eating is necessary. You have to appropriate it. You have to receive Him, personally. That is our responsibility -believing in the person of Jesus Christ. V51b reads, “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” This is a reference to His death, His sin offering, His sacrifice on the cross. So, there is more to believing in the person of Jesus Christ as the living bread. You not only have to believe in Him as the living bread, but also you have to believe in Him as dying blood.
Blood is simply a metonym for His death, as it is throughout the New Testament. As bread, He nourishes the life of the believer. As blood, He cleanses the soul of the foul sinner. You have to be able to eat His flesh in the sense that you take Him, take His Word as the one who nourishes the soul. And you have to be willing to drink His blood in the sense that you accept his sacrificial death as the sole atonement for your sin. To believe in His person, and to believe in His death is to receive eternal life. This is what eating His flesh and drinking His blood means.
Only the people who are spiritually hungry will eat. The hungry heart long for the spiritual bread. Anyone who will eat the bread of heaven and drink the blood of Christ will have the eternal life.
The Gospel of Rome: Investigating the Claims of the Roman Catholic Church, Mark Edward Sohmer
The Gospel According to Rome, James G. McCarthy
Explaining the Heresy of Catholicism – John MacArthur
Fundamentals of Catholic dogma by Ludwig Ott
Catechism of the Catholic Church – Vatican publication
Various teaching, Dr. John MacArthur, Dr. John Piper