What does it mean to eat His flesh and drink His blood?

It’s Monday Grace!

It scandalized the Jews.

It disgusted the Romans.

These Christians were blasphemers. They were cannibals. Even to talk about eating someone’s flesh and drinking his blood was so far beyond human propriety that outsiders rejected the believers as crazy. If that’s what it takes to be a Christian, no one would want it.

Yet, for 2000 years believers have gathered together to remember the sacrifice of Jesus by sharing the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion.

The details and meaning of communion are matters of debate among believers. Some think it saves. Some think the elements actually turn into the flesh and blood of the Lord. Some believe that only the priest or some member of the clergy can serve it. Some think it is just a symbolic expression, without meaning except for the tradition. Some celebrate it at home with their families.

In John 6, Jesus says something dramatic:

“Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”” (John 6:53–58, NKJV)

Frankly, if anyone else said that, we would think it was creepy. But this was Jesus. And even His closest disciples found it hard to accept.

You might be in a church where you take communion every week. Or perhaps every quarter. Maybe it has been a long time. What’s the big deal anyway?

I am convinced that the ritual of the Lord’s Supper is not as important as the meaning of Jesus’ words. Yes, He did establish (or ordain) such a ritual for His disciples. Yes, the church has celebrated communion for its entire history. But sometimes the ritual gets in the way of the message.

What do flesh and blood represent in your mind? If you sacrificed your flesh and blood, as Jesus did, what would you be giving? Your life! Isaiah said that the Messiah would be poured out for His people. His life would flow from Him to them. All of it. His very flesh and blood.

When we came to Jesus for salvation, we accepted the exchange He offered us. We might not have fully understood, but the Scripture is clear that we died to sin and this world at that time. Our life was taken away with His on the cross. We died with Him, the text says.

And then we rose with Him. The life in us from that point on was His life. We are still us, but the life in us, the very flesh and blood, is His.

How would you illustrate taking someone’s life into yourself? Jesus used this idea of eating and drinking. It is a very human and fundamental idea. We all eat and drink. That’s how life comes into us. So, Jesus says, eat and drink Me! Take my life, He says.

Yes, it is odd. Communion has always been odd. The church has made it a matter of disagreement and formal ritual. That’s unfortunate. It is supposed to remind us where real life comes from. It comes from Jesus.

I should stop there, but I want to suggest something that might get me into trouble. If you have not been to church for a while, if your church practices only the ritual without the message, or if communion became something negative for you, you could do it on your own at home. I know some will think that’s improper, but it is important to remind yourself that the life in you comes from Jesus.

Find a quiet time. Find some bread and grape juice or wine. I wouldn’t use coke and potato chips as some do, simply because it seems to trivialize what Jesus did. He did not just take common things. He transformed an already serious and special celebration that was full of meaning for the people. He took the ritual and made it a personal thing between Himself and His disciples.

As you eat and drink in this way, remember what Jesus did for you. Remember that He was the Passover lamb, the sufficient sacrifice. There is great mystery in all of this, but the message is important. Jesus took away your old life and separated you from it forever. Then He gave you His life, His eternal life. Now the two of you are forever bound, never to be separated.

If communion reminds you of the presence and love of Jesus and the life He gave to you, then you get the message!

2 Comments

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2 responses to “What does it mean to eat His flesh and drink His blood?

  1. jo ann hartley

    This is the best explanation I’ve read in my 76 years. I don’t go to church but read, listen, and watch on tv and online.
    I believe every bit of how you ate teaching this. I will enjoy having communion with Jesus in this way.
    Thank you so much for sharing this ,

  2. I am in awe. I will never ever trivialize communion again! My goodness that explains it so well! Thank you so so much!

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