The Body and Blood of Christ

The Body and Blood of Christ

Every week we celebrate Communion and we have a meditation message illuminating some significance of what we celebrate. After all the messages you have heard over the years, could you answer this question from an unbeliever, “Why would Jesus want you to eat His body and drink His blood?”

We might think that is a silly question. However, it is a question that has been asked ever since the time of Christ. Silly or not, if we cannot answer this question, unbelievers will think our faith is silly, or at worse—cannibalistic. Worse than that, if we cannot answer and share the truth of what Jesus said, they will go to Hell.

After Jesus miraculously feed 5000 men, plus women and children, they followed Him to Capernaum. He said to them in John 6:48-63I 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. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

Does Jesus sound cannibalistic? Some Romans thought so and used it as an excuse to execute Christians. The Jews thought Jesus was heretical and deranged and should be crucified.

To further confound the matter, Jesus emphasized that His flesh is bread from Heaven, paralleling it to the manna God sent to the Israelites in the desert.

All of this offended the Jews. To those who did not leave Him, Jesus explained that physical things are no help at all. He is speaking of spiritual things. However, unbelievers cannot understand biblical figures of speech, idiomatic expressions, and above all, spiritual connotations. They make no sense to them.

Yet, we might hear unbelievers say things like, “I will have to eat crow”, or “I’ll eat my hat”, or “Eat your heart out”. Taken literally, those sound silly. If we were unfamiliar with such local colloquialisms, we might assume that the speakers are extremely hungry. So you see, that is how the Bible sounds to unbelievers.

1 Corinthians 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

The Holy Spirit teaches us the language of the Bible and the spiritual things that it teaches. For example, in the Book of Revelation, John the disciple, was commanded to eat a scroll.

Revelation 10:8-11 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So 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.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”

It was an angel who told John to “eat the scroll”. John was in the spirit that day. It is difficult to describe the things that exist in the spiritual realm, which is one reason the Book of Revelation is hard for the natural mind to understand.

Nevertheless, John had to digest a spiritual scroll, which means John had to absorb the knowledge written in it and then tell others what it contained.

In the same light, we read in John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is called the Word. The Word became human. The Bible is His written Word. We are to “eat” and digest the Word of God. It is to become part of us—our thinking and our life. We are to tell others what it says.

The flesh of Jesus or His body is the manifestation of the Word in all perfection and holiness. “Eating His flesh” spiritually means receiving the glory and truth in His Word and His Person so that He is present in us. The grace and the truth that is in the body of Christ, if eaten and digested, will be transferred or reflected in the believer. Eating and drinking of Christ is to nourish ourselves in Christ and satisfy ourselves in Him and His Word.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

This consumption of Jesus springs from hungering and thirsting after righteousness, which is the life of Christ. It is a metaphor for the interior life one should have with Christ. We are to live a life of abiding in Christ, partaking of Christ, and having Christ abide in us.

Let’s look again what Jesus said in John 6:51, “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.”

These words sum up what we just heard. But an inquiring unbeliever might ask, “If the Living Bread is a person, then how does He give Himself so that people might partake of Him?” We must be able to explain the spiritual connotation.

Jesus has declared Himself the Living Bread that came down from Heaven, referring to His incarnation in the Virgin Mary. One eats this Living Bread the decisive moment when he has grace to believe Jesus and is born again of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus, the Living Bread, then abides in the new believer.

Because of sin, we all have an eternal death sentence in Hell. Jesus is giving Himself in order that the world may have eternal life in Heaven. Jesus’s gift of His flesh is nothing other than a blood sacrifice, a substitute for a temple sacrifice, that will benefit anyone who believes in Jesus and obeys His Word.

John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the temple sacrifice in John 1:29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

By Christ’s death, by the sacrifice of His flesh and blood, forgiveness is offered to the world. By His Resurrection, life is offered to those who will believe this, repent of sin, get baptized, and live by the Spirit (making His flesh and blood their life). They receive His life now and eternally.

Unless the Holy Spirit has given understanding, this spiritual truth makes no sense whatsoever. Therefore, the Jews responded dumbly, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Before answering their question, Jesus makes an even more offensive statement in John 6:53-54 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.”

Jesus repeated what He had just said to make Himself perfectly clear. Then added another aspect that was even more repulsive to the Jews: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood.”

If what Jesus said before was nonsense, this statement bordered on gross sin. The Law of Moses expressly forbids any drinking of blood on penalty of being cut off from the people (Lev. 3:17; 17:10-14). At that point, Jesus lost most of the audience. They were offended and went away grumbling.

There is a lesson in that for us. Don’t quit reading or listening to things in the Word that you initially don’t understand. The Holy Spirit will eventually give understanding as we hear Him speak from other Scriptures.

In this case, Jesus was speaking of His making atonement by His death and giving life to those who personally believe Him. To eat His flesh and drink His blood is a graphic way of saying men must take Christ into their innermost being. Jesus explained about His Body and Blood more fully at a later date to His twelve disciples.

Luke 22:17-20 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

To eat and drink indicates a voluntary act of taking that which is external and making it part of oneself. We are challenged to partake of, to enter into, the closest and most intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. We must receive Christ in such a way that He truly becomes part of our life, if we are to enjoy His life.

Jesus points out that He is the only true food that gives life in John 6:55-56,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.”

What Jesus is talking about is as real to Him as are the physical counterparts that His opponents had in mind. They had the wrong idea what constituted the true bread of life. Just as good food and drink sustain physical life, so Jesus, the real (true) spiritual food and drink, gives real, spiritual, eternal life. This verse is an emphatic statement that true food and true drink, for man’s true need, is found in Christ alone! He is the real food and drink of life. He is the only food and drink that produces real life, if He abides in us and we abide in Him.

Of course, Jesus was not talking about His literal flesh and blood. He was saying that we have to partake of His life, that His life has to become our own, which forms an abiding relationship. It is real communion, real fellowship, and a real relationship of oneness like Jesus has with the Father.

When we take the bread and cup from the Lord’s Table, Jesus said to remember Him. We are to seriously remember that it represents the flesh and blood of Christ—His life and His covenant with His Bride. We are to partake of the life of Christ and make it our own.

The partaking of Jesus’ life is at the center of the Father’s will as seen in John 6:57As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.”

God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the source of all life. He is therefore called the living God, in opposition to idols which have no life. Jesus, the Son, lived and died on this earth at the will of the Father. He could lay down His life and take it up again because He is God and His life is eternal. Likewise, Jesus will give His life to whoever consumes Him; that is, whoever makes Christ his life. That person abides in Christ and Christ abides in Him by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus concludes His discourse with a statement in John 6:58,This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Jesus reminds the Jews that as wonderful as the manna from Heaven had been in the desert, there had been no eternal quality in it. Those who ate it died like other men. But the bread which He is speaking about is different. The man who eats of Him will not die like other men. The believer will pass through the gateway of death like Jesus did, but like Jesus, he will live eternally because he was born again of the Spirit of God.

John 6:59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

This difficult message was delivered in the synagogue. These teachings were intended for people who came to worship. As Jesus spoke these difficult words, their graphic and shocking character stunned the audience. Instead of fulfilling the selfish desires of these followers for daily physical bread, He speaks offensively to them. His hearers desired another miraculous meal and Jesus told them to eat His flesh and drink His blood. He was not the dream-fulfilling Messiah they had expected or wanted.

Such is the case today. People still rebel at this teaching. They still scoff at what they don’t understand. They want nothing to do with Jesus or His Word. They don’t want to make Jesus their life. They are only interested in Jesus if He will give them what they want. They want to live life their way, ignoring the eternal consequences of their decision.

The wonderful life Jesus offers is found only in radical obedience to His Word, which is contrary to our sinful nature. The way of Jesus is not always appetizing or easy, but only by partaking of His Word can we partake of the Bread of Life. Other bread, even religious bread, does not address mortality. Only His bread, His flesh and blood, His sacrifice, can give eternal life.

If you desire the Living Bread of Jesus Christ, publicly confess your faith in Him as the Son of God, who atoned for your sin on the cross and rose from the grave as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Make Him your Savior and Lord by repenting of your sin and dying to yourself in water baptism. The Holy Spirit will give you a new birth with the life of Christ. Christ will abide in you as you abide in Him.

   December 2018   
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