Is there a food that we can eat which will let us live forever? There is. It is bread from heaven.
Let’s discern the body of Christ.
Let’s discuss what John 6:51-581 has to say.
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” 52 Then the people began arguing with each other about what he meant. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked. 53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”
That’s the Gospel of our Lord.
There are two popular views of Holy Communion: symbolic and sacramental. Many people view these ideas as mutually exclusive when they really are not. Yet, even those who see it as entirely symbolic, admit there is a divine grace associated with taking of communion, the very essence of a sacrament. And those who see it as sacramental, do not deny the rich symbolism associated with the bread and wine. As is so often the case when there are two opinions, the two views are not mutually exclusive, but are compatible parts of a complete picture. Some have claimed that John 6 is entirely symbolic and has nothing to do with communion, because it was mentioned before Jesus instituted communion. This contradicts Jesus’ own method of instruction where he often taught things that would only be fully understood after the cross.
Communion and More
A principle of biblical interpretation is that the plain meaning is the main meaning. The disciples only fully understood the bread of heaven once communion was instituted and after the cross. Are we patient with what Jesus is teaching us? It too may not be evident to us until later in our lives. Do we see the connection between eating the Passover Lamb and eating the bread of communion? John 6 means that the teachings of Jesus satisfy our spiritual hunger and it also prepared the disciples for the institution of communion. In Jesus, God again provides for spiritual Israel in a spiritual wilderness. Holy Communion, the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper is also a sacrament and an ordinance? Sacrament simply means that in the symbols are a spiritual blessing. Ordinance simply means it was commanded by Jesus to do this in remembrance of him.
The Lord’s Body
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Paul chides the people for not discerning the Lord’s body. The bread is Jesus’ body and so are we. After the walk to Emmaus only in the breaking of bread did the disciples recognize Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). The early church celebrated “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship…the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This set the basic outline for Christian worship of Word and Table, preaching and the breaking of bread with thanksgiving at the Lord’s table. As we take, bless, break and give communion we remember the mighty acts of God throughout history. The prayer of thanksgiving in the service of Word and Table is called the Great Thanksgiving. It has always been a prayer that included thanks by all to the Father, remembering the Son and inviting the Holy Spirit.
Benefits of Communion
Does communion have benefits? There are two benefits of communion: forgiveness and power. Rather than over-interpret the word “is” or under-interpret it, when Jesus said this “is” my body, perhaps the best explanation from Christian history is to simply call it a divine mystery too unfathomable for mere mortals. In the bread and wine, we taste of God’s love, his forgiveness, the Christian community, and power from the Holy Spirit to serve the world. Why do some churches have closed and others open communion? Closed Communion invites only those who are baptized, and in some churches only those baptized in that denomination or that local church. Open Communion invites all who desire to live a Christian life to partake, even those who are not yet baptized. Open communion pictures Jesus sharing a meal with sinners as well as the righteous.
Are We Worthy?
Sometimes people feel like they are not worthy to take communion and refuse it. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 reminds us that though we are never worthy, we are to take communion in a worthy manner. We do so by taking time to recognize our unworthiness. We examine ourselves, look at our unworthiness, discern the one who died for our unworthiness, then as we see our need for God’s grace we will be partaking in a worthy manner. It was the practice of the early church to celebrate communion every time they came together. Not only are the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ, but he is also present in the community of believers. So, communion is best taken in a community of believers as a response to the proclamation of the word, an invitation, confession and pardon.
The Lord’s Supper and Eternity
In verse 51 Jesus says this bread I will give is my flesh. He used similar words at the Passover, this is my body which is given for you (Luke 22:19) and Paul wrote of the bread broken for you (1 Corinthians 11:24). What of the two statements from Jesus in verse 47 and 54, that anyone who believes has eternal life, and that anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life? How do we contrast that with the rest of verse 54 that Jesus will raise that person at the last day? Do we have eternal life or will we only have it in the future? There need not be a contradiction, but an understanding that a fact today is culminated in the resurrection.
Is there Wisdom too Deep for Outsiders?
What is the living bread? This is wisdom too deep for outsiders. As the Holy Spirit is life-giving living water, so living bread gives eternal life. There is wisdom only available to insiders in professions as diverse as the investment world, computer programming, medicine and automobile repair. The same is true of Christianity. Elementary concepts of Christianity are understood by those who just nibble on church teachings. But, deeper wisdom comes to those who chew on Christ as the original Greek says, implying a total involvement in the faith. Those who do not chew on Christ but merely nibble around the edges of his teachings cannot have this wisdom. Eternal life is within us as we remain in Jesus and him in us. We chew his flesh and drink his blood in communion and how we live what he taught.
Eating and Drinking and Believing
How can we take communion and study Jesus and have life forever more? Jesus said in verse 29 “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” And in verse 35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” And then in verse 40 “For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” Just as today, Jesus said then in verse 64 “But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) Eating and drinking Jesus’ body and blood involve faith.
Because we eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, we have eternal life within us, and Jesus will raise us at the last day. We remain in him, and he in us. Let us feed on Jesus and live forever.
1 Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.