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What did He mean?

Matthew 6:53 NIV,  “Jesus said to them, "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

Teenagers, at the most insecure, vulnerable and overly anxious times of their lives, often get acne and facial blemishes, or they find themselves too skinny or overweight.  It’s during the years in our lives that we put so much focus on appearance, that our appearance seems to be so out of control.

It used to be thought that chocolate or greasy foods gave you blemishes.  Others said it was because you did not wash your face enough. So if you have acne or blemishes, you were a dirty kid that had poor eating habits.  And that made the stigma of blemished even worse!!  In our family we spent a small fortune on clearasil ointment and witch hazel pads.

We are learning, more and more, that diet does affect our body—our health, our skin, our brains, our cardiovascular system, and so on.  And I’ve got to be careful here so that no one reading this thinks I am picking on them or passing judgment.  But people that are morbidity overweight often complain about their joint problems, breathing issues, high blood pressure, loss of stamina, and so on; so they  must take medications and work less, move around less and be give up all forms of athletics.  But all of these things make life even worse!  The medication is not good for us long term and neither is a sedentary life. It’s far better  to watch what you put on your into your mouth before you become morbidly overweight, because “you are what you eat.”

Which brings us to the topic today. Jesus did say these precise words: "Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  (Matthew 6:53 NIV). So, is it true or not?  These are the words of Jesus—they have weight and it’s dangerous to ignore them or dilute the intention of His words.  This single sentence bothered a lot of people when He said it so much that many stopped following Him. What about you? Do His words offend you?  He is clear: If you have not consumed Him in your spiritual diet, you will have spiritual acne. You will never, ever, be the man or woman or youth you want to be on the inside or outside. You will always lack the confidence, courage and the security you pine for… until you have fully received Him.

So first, what did Jesus mean when He said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood?"

He says very later: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Upon hearing these words, many of Jesus’ followers said, “This is a hard teaching” (verse 60), and many of them actually stopped following Him that day (John 6:54–57,60, 66 NIV)

Jesus pressed the act of eating His body as food  even further: “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. . . . 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. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. . . . My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. . . . Anyone who feeds on me will live because of me” (John 6:51–56, NLT).  We Protestants dismiss much of communion as being “merely symbolic” or imagery, but I think it’s a lot more.

At the Last Supper, Jesus gives a similar message and one that compliments His words from John 6. This is from Paul: “When the disciples gather to break bread and drink the cup, they “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26, NIV). In fact, Jesus said that the bread broken at the table is His body, and the cup they drink is the new covenant in His blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:26–28). Their act of eating and drinking was to be a symbol and represented the truth of their faith in Christ. Just as physical food gives earthly life, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross gives heavenly life.

Most Christians believe that the bread and wine of communion are somehow transformed into Jesus’ actual flesh and blood, or that Jesus somehow imbues these substances with His real presence. These ideas, called transubstantiation and consubstantiation, are held by Catholics, Orthodox and Lutherans.  All other Protestants believe that Jesus was speaking metaphorically about His flesh and blood and hold that the bread and wine are symbolic of the spiritual bond created with Christ through faith.  But Jesus meant what He said, irrespective of how we choose to interpret those words.

The word “believes” and the words “eats my flesh” and “drinks my blood” are used interchangeably and go together. Therefore, eating His flesh and drinking His blood, in a sense, is believing on Him, which brings eternal life. “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.” —John 6:57 (KJV)  “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”—John 11:25, KJV.

“I don’t know and can’t imagine what the disciples understood our Lord to mean when, His body still unbroken and His blood unshed, He handed them the bread and wine, saying they were His body and blood”  (C.S. Lewis). The idea that these elements are mere bread and mere wine, used symbolically to remind me of the death of Christ, does not seem to be enough.  They are, on the natural level, such a very odd symbol for Jesus to use.…and I cannot see why He would use this particular reminder. There are a hundred other things that  may, psychologically, remind me of Christ’s death, equally, or perhaps more. So why the bread and wine?  Why the analogy of eating His body and drinking His blood for goodness sakes?

But, “I find no difficulty in believing that the veil between the worlds, nowhere else (for me) is so difficult to the intellect, but also nowhere else so thin and permeable to divine operation. This is God’s doing and hard as it is to understand, it is a hand from the hidden country (heaven) that is touching not only my soul but my body….  Here is big medicine and strong magic…the command, after all, was Take, eat: not Take, understand.”   (CS Lewis).  Jesus did not always fully explain things—-neither does God. He expects us to accept by faith.

Communion is a holy rite, ritual, or ordinance—-depending upon your interpretation of what it means.   But all Christians hold the Lord’s Supper to be a holy act—the most holy act in Christendom. Do you?   

You would probably never walk on an American flag or burn it—-it was at one time illegal to do so. Why? Because it represents the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom. That’s what incenses me, for one, when a citizen of this nation refuses to honor our flag or our pledge of allegiance. We dishonor those who died for what that flag represents….. How much more dishonor do we show to God and His precious Son when we consider communion or The Last Supper with a lack of respect to the One who is being memorialized. You don’t have to fully grasp it to accept it… any more than the doctrine of the trinity.  But we should be careful of receiving His Body or His Blood flippantly…

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