I have been spending quite a bit of time this week working on Sunday School lessons. Lessons which I might not get to teach for three months. Then again, if the Lord comes soon, I may not get to teach it at all. Whatever the case, the subject of this scripture has been on my heart for several days. And rather than wait, I’d like to consider this now.
For several months now, the theme of our 10 o’clock Bible study has been a comparison of our doctrines to that of Roman Catholicism in the light of the Word of God. And the subject that I’ve been working on this week has been the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, the Mass, “transubstantiation.” I’ve been re-reading what took place at the Last Supper and what Christ Jesus teaches us here.
In the observance of the Mass, it is Catholic doctrine that the substance of the bread is miraculously changed into the substance of Christ’s body. Christ is transmitted or transmuted into the wafer – the bread. They say that Jesus did it at the Last Supper when He took the bread, blessed it and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.” And they declare that their priests continue to do what Christ did. The body of Christ is transubstantiated into the bread – the substance is moved across into the bread. The prefix “trans” means to “to cross.” The “Trans-Canada Highway” crosses the entire nation from Victoria to Newfoundland.
By the way, Protestants teach that the body of Christ JOINS with the bread, but the bread is still bread. Roman Catholicism teaches that the bread ceases to be bread once the priest prays over it. Most Protestants believe in “consubstantiation” – the bread and the body of Christ abide together. That is the meaning of the prefix “con” – “with.” In contrast to both, we believe that the bread remains nothing but bread, and the Lord’s Supper is not the ingesting of the body of Christ. The Lord’s Supper is nothing more than an important commemoration of the sacrifice of our Saviour. Is this important? It is extremely important when viewed from the point of the Roman Catholic. To them, the physical eating of the flesh of Christ is the way to salvation and eternal life.
What does the Lord teach us in this scripture?
“Whoso EATETH my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” “Except ye EAT the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” Millions of people believe this means that unless the flesh of Christ passes over their tongue, down their throat, and into their stomach to be digested by the acids there, those people cannot possess eternal life. I have been looking in vain to find a statement in which they describe more fully that flesh of Christ. I am forced to assume they are referring to living flesh – as fresh as if it was pulled or cut off the Lord’s body only moments before. For centuries Catholics, during the Mass, ate the bread and ALSO drank the wine which had miraculously been transubstantiated into the blood of Christ. But today, as I understand it, the people only receive the bread because the flesh is infused with the blood. So I assume they believe they are eating the fresh, bloody flesh of the Son of God. Most of them would be repulsed by the idea of eating the warm, quivering raw flesh of a cow or a chicken, but when they enter their church and eat the equally fresh flesh of Christ it is wonderful. I am not trying to be mean or gross; I am only stating what I think is the obvious.
This Book of John does not go into the details of the Last Supper the way Matthew and Mark do. It is in Matthew 26 that we have the Last Supper, and it’s two chapters from the end of Mark. HERE, when Christ speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood, we are in chapter 6. In John, the events related to the Last Supper take place in chapter 19 – thirteen chapters later. Jesus spoke these words months, if not years, before the Last Supper. In other words, there was not a single person, who heard the Lord on this occasion who gave a moment’s thought to the Lord’s supper – what Catholics call the Mass or the Eucharist. Those things did not exist; they had not been instituted or even imagined. Christ was not speaking of literally eating His flesh in any way shape or form.
And yet “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Consider the words “hath eternal life.” How often does the Lord make reference to “eternal life” and what are the conditions for enjoying it? What does the rest of the Bible, and what do the Apostles say, about these things? Long before the Lord’s Supper, Christ said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so much the Son of man be lifted up, and WHOSOEVER BELEIVETH in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” That scripture from John 3:14-16 tells us that through simple faith sinners may have eternal life. There is not a word there about eating anything. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever
BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Later in that chapter the Apostle John says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Again, John does not say anything about eating the flesh of Christ. Maybe, that is not what the Lord Jesus was saying at the Last Supper or in John 6 either.
Elsewhere in John Christ says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and BELIEVETH on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” – John 5:24. “This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and BELIEVETH on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” – John 6:40. What makes more sense and is more easily understood – faith in Christ is the way to eternal life, or eating and digesting the body of Christ is the way to Heaven?
In John 4 the Lord Jesus had a long conversation with the Samaritan woman. After a blessed evening together, “Many of the Samariatans of that city believed on Christ for the saying for the woman.” You can disagree with me, but I believe that woman was regenerated – she placed her faith on Christ as the Messiah and Saviour. Then upon her testimony others in the town of Sychar were born again as well. But not one of them ate the flesh of the Lord Jesus.
One of the things Christ said to that woman, parallels what He says in our text in John 6. John 4:14 – “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The Lord didn’t tell her to eat His flesh; He didn’t tell her that eternal life was given to dead souls when they drank His blood. Rather He said, “Everlasting life is my gift when people drink the water that I provide.” She thought He was speaking about actual water, but He had no bucket, canteen, water bottle or ladle. He corrected her, by pointing out that He was speaking metaphorically. And He didn’t give her anything to physically drink. Believing Christ – putting faith on Christ – is like drinking the water of the Lord’s salvation. And, that is what the Lord was saying when he referred to eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
“Not so,” says the man who is convinced of Catholic dogma and who refuses to connect the logical dots. He reminds us that Jesus said, “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life.” He says, “That means we must literally eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood.” Okay, please tell me who was there that night when Christ blessed the bread and passed it around? The only people present were Christ and His disciples. None of the lady believers, those who had been following Christ for months were permitted to eat. According to Roman Catholicism, these ladies were excluded from possessing eternal life until some undetermined time during the Book of Acts when the Lord’s supper was observed by the church.
But more importantly, someone who DID receive the bread and wine that night was Judas Iscariot. Either that man who betrayed Christ, committed the mortal sin of self-murder, and went to “his own place” rather than to Heaven when he died – possessed eternal life.… Or the promise of Christ that eating His flesh failed when it came to Judas.
Actually, neither one is true. Probably, when the disciples ate that bread and drank the wine, they did not understand what they were doing. But there is no evidence they thought they were being saved. Eventually they came to realize they were symbolically illustrating their faith in the sacrifice of Christ. That Judas was a liar and a hypocrite in joining them in their symbolism, did nothing to nullify the illustration. And that is all it was – an illustration.
There were dozens of New Testament believers who did not participate in the Lord’s Supper who nevertheless possessed eternal life. Not one of them ate Christ’s flesh, and yet they were saved by the grace of Christ. And what about the thousands of saints in the Old Testament? Did God have another plan for them? What about that thief on the cross next to Christ? “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” I believe that he drank of the water which Christ gave, and it became “in him well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Furthermore, I believe he “ate Christ’s flesh and drank his blood,” thereby possessing eternal life. How did he do those things? By placing his faith in Christ.
What is it to eat the flesh of Christ and to drink His blood?
The context of John 6 began with the Jew’s proud statement – “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.” Jesus replied that the bread they ate may have been ordained in Heaven, but it was eaten on earth. And after a few hours those people got hungry again, making it necessary to eat more bread and more. “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.” When they said that they wanted that bread Christ replied: “I am the bread of life.”
The Catholic priest points to Christ and demands that his flock physically eat Christ – “the bread of life.” But the Jews didn’t see it in the same way. And besides, what precisely did Jesus say? “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that BELIEVETH on me shall never thirst.” Christ did not say anything here about “eating this bread.” It was not until He extended the illustration, did He mention “eating his flesh and drinking his blood.” Because the eating was not literal – any more than the bread was literal.
But why did the Lord use this kind of language? What was He trying to conceal and convey? Obvious to the Jews, and to His disciples standing behind Him, Christ Jesus was real person. Furthermore, the cross upon which died was real – and His death was as sure a death as any other man’s. The blood which poured down His face and back was real blood. The pain caused by those nails through His hands and feet was excruciatingly genuine. Besides what was felt spiritually, His body bore the brunt of the Jew’s and Roman’s anger and God’s wrath for sin.
The people who are given eternal life all know and believe that Jesus Christ gave Himself as a sacrifice for sin – completely and entirely – body, blood, soul and spirit. He offered His flesh and blood; His earthly life and a violent death that we may have eternal life. “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.” We must eat by faith, because that is all we can do, but we must believe that Christ died a man’s death on the cross, complete with agony and blood. He didn’t die as a martyr or example, but as an act of expiation of sin – an atonement for sin. He died making a propitiation, satisfying the demands of God’s law against the sinner. “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
We are to “eat” his flesh. We are to take direct steps to make His death our own. At this point I must stop and commend the truly sincere Roman Catholic. I assume that he actually believes what he professes – he thinks that he is eating the Son of Man. There are thousands of Protestants, who somehow think that eternal life is “transubstantiated” to them. By their simple presence in church or their membership in some religious denomination, they are granted eternal life. No sir, they must make the body and blood of Christ their own, by personal application. This afternoon when I eat my lunch I will nourish no one but myself; I cannot eat on your behalf. Neither can I or anyone else become the means of your salvation – receiving eternal life for you. As Jesus said, “Except YE eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, YE have no life in you.” YOU must repent before God; YOU must believe that Christ died, pouring out His atoning blood for you.
Why does Christ call Himself “the bread of life?” Because bread has been at the foundation of human food from the beginning; it is foundational to life. And Christ is as needful to the soul as food is to the body. Christ is our meat and our drink; He is “the bread of life” and He is “the water of life.” He is our everything, and without Him there is nothing but death, because He is life.
You may eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood; you must in order to have eternal life. But your eating and drinking must be done by faith, not by bites and sips. “BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Believe in anything else – no matter how religious-sounding it might be, and you shall be eternally doomed.