Daily Word

Literal flesh? | John 6:52-59

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, the one who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread that came down out of heaven, not as the fathers ate and died; the one who eats this bread will live forever.”

59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

John 6:52-59 (NASB)

Literal flesh?

Yesterday I shared that this next passage trips up many people. The Catholic church even builds their whole understanding of communion on this. The question is: do we take this passage literally or metaphorically? In Bible study, we always default to literal interpretation unless the context dictates otherwise. The Catholic church chooses to take this passage literally. When they celebrate communion, they believe that the bread and wine literally become Jesus’ body and blood (they call it transubstantiation) as this passage says – literally. You can see how it’s easy to come to this conclusion.

Some concerns

As we read this passage, there are some concerns with a literal interpretation (click for more):

  • From verse 53 & 54. What would happen if a person “ate Jesus’s flesh and drank His blood” for a few years then stopped? Would they then lose their eternal life? No, it is a one-time action (at the time of saving faith) which we remember at communion.
  • Related to that, how often must it be done? How do you know if you’ve eaten and drunk enough? Yet Jesus is clear that we can know we have eternal life if we believe. (John 6:40)
  • Verse 58 states a fact: those who eat only physical bread will eventually die. We need spiritual food (and blood) to live eternally.
  • It could be understood that Jesus is sacrificed again at each Catholic communion – which is clearly against scripture. “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust,” (1 Peter 3:18; see also Romans 6:10).
<- Reflection ->
  • Are you from a Catholic background? We encourage you to review the real doctrine of the church, in the catechism, and evaluate it against scripture. 
  • If you haven’t yet trusted in Christ, this may sound quite gruesome. Please read tomorrow’s post (and the link above) to know this is metaphorical, not literal.
Communion elements in Catholicism. Image from Pxfuel.com

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