To Eat the Body and Drink the Blood of Christ

While speaking to a group of people who had sought him out after hearing that he fed thousands who had come to hear him speak, Jesus tells them that he is the food that comes from heaven which would give and sustain life:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves and were filled. Work not for the food which parishes, but for that food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give to you" (Jn.6:26-27 Para.).

Here, Jesus speaks of the futility of seeking to sustain one's life with physical food, which can only forestall death, not eliminate it. He also speaks of himself as the giver of spiritual nourishment, which gives and sustains eternal life.

John 6:31-35; 47-58 Paraphrased

"Then they said to him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent" (vs.28-29).

These people did not understand the answer Jesus gave concerning what one must do to obtain eternal life; therefore, they began to question his power and authority and wanted confirmation that he was indeed sent by God:

"They therefore said to him, What sign show you then, that we may see, and believe you? what do you work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, he gave them bread from heaven to eat" (vs.30-31).

There was a belief in Christ's day that the greatest work of Moses was the bringing of manna from heaven, and that when the Messiah came, he would also bring down bread from heaven and surpass this great work with greater works. These people were asking Jesus to prove that he was the Messiah by bringing manna from heaven as they believed Moses had done, and then perform an even greater miracle.

"Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven" (v32).

Jesus reminds them that it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven, nor was it because of the works of Moses that bread came from heaven, but it was because the Creator God had mercy on the Israelites that he gave it (Ex.16:11-15; Psa.78:24). Jesus also indicates that the bread given to the Israelites was a prophetic symbol of another kind of bread that would be given by God the Father.

"For the bread of God is he which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. Then they said to him, Lord, evermore give us this bread" (vs.33-34).

In verses 33 and 34, Jesus begins to reveal that the bread he is speaking of is himself who had been sent to bring the opportunity of eternal life to humanity. However, those who stood there did not understand the spiritual implications of what he said. They only understood what he said as it related to the physical existence.

"And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst" (v35).

When the Father calls a person to salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Jn.6:44, 65), and that person truly believes in Jesus Christ and begins to live their life according to his teachings and examples to the best of their ability, several things begin to happen:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he that believes on me shall have everlasting life" (v47).

In verses 35 and 47, Jesus clearly shows that he is the giver and sustainer of life, and that it is through a belief in him that one can obtain eternal life.

It is important to understand that the spiritual nourishment provided through the holy spirit is only available because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

"I am that bread of Life" (v48).

Christ is truly the bread of life without whom we cannot exist, because God the Father has given him all authority over life and death. It is through him that all life is given and sustained. See Jn.10:27-29; 17:22; Heb.1:2-3.

"Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die" (vs.49-50).

During the time of Christ, many believed, at that time, that those of Israel who were condemned to wander and die in the wilderness had lost their opportunity for salvation and would not be able to partake of the afterlife. Therefore, Jesus reminded them that their ancestors who ate the manna in the wilderness did indeed die, but what he came to offer would give life after death for eternity.

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (v51).

Jesus clearly revealed that he is the giver of life, and those who expend the effort to partake of what his Father offers through him will live forever. Jesus foretold the time when he would give all that he possessed (his physical body with its life-blood) in exchange for the life of all humanity.

The Flesh of Christ

"The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (v52).

If those listening to Jesus had understood the prophecies and symbolism of the Passover Lamb, they would have understood that Jesus was not saying he would literally give them his flesh to eat. Instead, they would have understood that he was speaking of himself as the prophetic Passover Lamb of God.

The Lamb of God

As John the Baptist preached the coming of the Messiah, he acknowledged Jesus as that personage and the Lamb of God: "Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world" (Jn.1:29 KJV). See also verse 36.

Eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood

"Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (v53).

Exactly what does it mean to eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus Christ?

Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus does not literally mean to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Jesus was speaking allegorically in reference to the Passover (Pesach) symbols of the New Covenant.

Just as the Passover lamb was the only hope of salvation for the Israelites as the destroyer passed through Egypt, Jesus Christ is the only hope of salvation and eternal life for humanity.

The unleavened bread represents the body of Christ, and the wine represents his blood through which sin is forgiven and eternal life is acquired under the New Covenant.

The Passover Meal

"Whosoever eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats, my flesh and drinks my blood, dwells in me and I in him" (vs.54-56).

Only those who have availed themselves of the sacrificial body and blood of Jesus Christ can have eternal life through Christ's spirit which dwells within them.

Only those who have been called by the Father, repented, been baptized, received the holy spirit, and have a covenant relationship with the Father are allowed to eat of the Passover.

"As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so that he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread that came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live forever" (vs.57-58).

The symbolic eating of Christ's flesh and the drinking of his blood pictures the total acceptance of Christ into one's life. When a person truly allows Christ to rule their life and strives to practice what he taught, that person becomes one with Christ. See Phil.2:5; 1.Jn.2:6.

Questions, Answers, And Comments About The Passover

Q. Did everyone in Israel have to go to the tabernacle (later, to the temple) to keep the Passover?

A. When God instructed Israel to keep his annual observances and festivals, he addressed these instructions primarily to the males, because it was the males who represented Israel before him. Although it is clear from the scriptures that all Israelites were to keep God's commanded observances and annual festivals, it is also clear that God only required males to keep these observances and festivals where he placed his name and presence. See Ex.23:14-17; Deut.16:16.

Q. Who must observe the New Covenant Passover?

A. Today, just as it was with ancient Israel, so it is today, only those who have a covenant relationship with God may observe the Passover. All who have been called by the Father to salvation, repented of their sins, been baptized, and received the holy spirit must observe the Passover.

The Passover and Unleavened Bread

Q. Is the Passover separate from the Days of Unleavened Bread?

A. Yes! although it is separate in symbolism and ceremonial aspects, both observances share some of the same physical time period. Under the covenant with ancient Israel, the Passover began with the sacrifice of the lamb at the end of the 14th day of the 1st sacred month on the sacred calendar. The lamb was then eaten after sunset on the 15th day which was the first day of Unleavened Bread (Lev.23:5-6; Num.28:16-17).

The Jews and Passover

An important point to note is that the Passover belongs to God. Many mistakenly believe that the Passover belongs to the Jews. However, it does not belong to the Jews. It is God's Passover, which is to be kept by all those who are serious about obeying his law and way of life.

The Lord's Supper

Is the Passover The Lord's Supper? Some believe that the new Passover should be called "The Lord's Supper" and that it has no relation to the Passover as observed by ancient Israel. But, is this true?

To discover the truth on this subject, it is necessary to understand what Christ himself said about it. Surely, if Christ called his last meal the Passover; it was indeed the Passover.

In Matthew 26, verses 17 and 19, the disciples asked Jesus where they should prepare for him to eat the Passover. Jesus told them to go to a certain city and prepare the Passover. This event is recorded in Luke 22:7-13 and Mark 14:12-16. In all of the scriptures where Christ and his disciples speak of this event, it is called the Passover, not the "Lord's Supper." From these accounts, it is obvious that this event was not a supper or a banquet meal; it was a Passover service, which is a very solemn occasion.

It is true that Christ partook of the Passover one day before the Jews did; however, that particular year the Calendar Court sanctioned two consecutive Passover observances.

Paul severely criticized the Corinthians for abusing the Passover service (2.Cor.11:20). From what Paul says, it appears that the Corinthians were observing the Passover in a party type atmosphere by eating a festive meal and getting drunk during the Passover service.

An error some make in explaining the Passover memorial is confusing the fellowship meals of the sacrificial system with the service involving Jesus' memorial symbols. During times of rejoicing, an Israelite would bring an animal to the Temple where the kidneys and the fat would be burnt on the altar. The meat would be returned to the offerer and he would prepare a feast for family and friends This meal of rejoicing was part of the peace offering symbolism.

The new Passover that Jesus instituted and shared with his disciples was not a time of rejoicing. It was a memorial commemorating his death as the perfect sacrificial lamb. As we read through the accounts of this event, we do not find any levity or rejoicing during the partaking of those symbols. To symbolically eat and drink of a man's body and blood creates a very sobering experience.

The mistake some theologians have made in mingling the memorial supper and a joyful feast is a grave error indeed. The Passover is not the Lord's Feast or Supper, it is the Passover.

By B.L. Cocherell          b5w28