When Jesus declared that He is the Bread of life, He was identifying Himself as the all-sustaining One, the only sustenance for our very souls. Ultimate satisfaction, fulfillment, and nourishment for our body, mind, heart, and soul is found in Jesus Christ alone.
During that discourse to the large crowd in Capernaum, Jesus also said that one would need to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have eternal life.
The Jewish audience made the mistake of taking Jesus literally rather than metaphorically, and interpreted His statement to refer to physically eating and drinking with the mouth rather than spiritually eating and drinking with the heart through belief. For obvious reasons, this was a gruesome consideration, not to mention a major violation of the Law (Leviticus 17:14). No wonder people mistakenly accused the early church of cannibalism! This teaching sifted the crowd that was present—the people who were stuck interpreting Jesus literally rather than metaphorically stopped following Christ.
No wonder people mistakenly accused the early church of cannibalism!
The audience at the time of Christ has not been the only group of people to misinterpret Christ’s words in John 6. There is a widespread doctrinal teaching and practice in the faith world known as “transubstantiation.” That’s basically a fancy word for the teaching that the elements (bread and cup) taken at Communion/Eucharist/Lord’s Supper literally turn into the body and blood of Jesus. Transubstantiation doctrine puts forth the teaching that once an ordained priest blesses the bread and wine, it supernaturally transforms into the literal body and blood of Jesus, even though the elements still look, smell, and taste as they originally did before their “consecration.” Once consecrated, the belief is that the priest holds the real presence of Christ in his hands, which is the reasoning behind why they alone can administer communion.
This teaching is not biblical nor is it supported by Scripture. When Jesus says to eat His flesh, He is referencing the offering of His flesh on the cross, and that believing in His death for sin and forgiveness is “eating.” When Jesus says to drink His blood, He is referencing His blood being shed on the cross as the atonement for the sins of man and that believing in the power of His blood to forgive sins is “drinking.”
This language is symbolic and metaphorical. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). Understanding that His words were “spirit” helps us understand that Jesus was using physical examples of eating and drinking to teach spiritual truths. Jesus never said that the elements literally became His body and blood and, at that point in time, the crucifixion hadn’t even happened yet.
Here are the primary biblical reasons we reject the view of transubstantiation:
- If the bread and wine literally turn into the flesh and blood of Jesus, then we are in fact participating in cannibalism and violating what God commanded in Leviticus 17:14.
- Transubstantiation is an actual sacrifice of Christ again in order that we can maintain salvation. Hebrews 10:10-14 lays the theological framework for the sufficiency of Christ’s one time death on the cross for the atonement of the sins of mankind. Therefore, we do not need repetitious sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood.
Verse 18 confirms that we no longer need offerings for sin, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:10-14)
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:18)
We stand before God forgiven for sin by faith and belief in Jesus as Savior, not by relying on physical elements to be transformed to transfer or maintain God’s grace to us. God’s grace was applied to us once we repented of our sin and placed our faith in Jesus Christ. This faith, this belief, is “eating” the body of Christ and “drinking” the blood of Jesus. Have you partaken of the Bread of Life?
Have you abandoned all other counterfeit saviors (that offer life yet eventually disappoint us deeply) and fed on Jesus, the Bread of Life? Have you quenched your soul’s thirst by drinking in Christ, the only source of nourishment for our soul and our life? If not, today can be that day! Contact us if you are ready – firstname.lastname@example.org