Jesus says, I am the bread of life, NIV, v 53 and he says, my Father gives you the true bread from heaven, NIV, v 32 and, I have come down from heaven. NIV, v 38
Bold claims for a human. Not so bold for the Messiah.
If I believe Jesus was sent to earth by God, and I accept Jesus’ words that he is the bread of life given to us by God, is there any choice but to eat Jesus?
In today’s reading, Jesus moves the bread image into new territory. My body is real food and my blood is real drink. The man who eats my body and drinks my blood shares my life and I share his. NIV
There are two important details of the First Century to note in this context. Firstly, for Jews, starvation would come before eating human flesh. (See my earlier comments here.) Secondly, animal sacrifices were an important part of nearly all religions in the Middle East of that time. Nearly all of them believed that the god they worshiped entered the flesh of the sacrificed animal upon its death. Therefore, everyone who ate part of the sacrifice ate part of the god. It is likely that Jews believed this as well, even though it was not formally accepted as doctrine.
Transubstantiation: the formal term of the Roman Catholic Church describing the belief that Jesus’ body is in the Eucharist Bread and his blood is in the Wine.
Proof: Matthew 26:26—Take and eat; this is my body. NIV Mark 14:22—Take it; this is my body. NIV Luke 22:19—This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. NIV 1 Corinthians 11:24—This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. NIV And the more powerful quotes in John.
How then, do we Protestants refuse to accept the words of Jesus? 1 John 4:1-3 helps. Don’t trust every spirit, dear friends of mine, but test them to discover whether they come from God or not. For the world is full of false prophets. You can test them in this simple way: every spirit that acknowledges the fact that Jesus Christ actually became man, comes from God, but the spirit which denies this fact does not come from God. The latter comes from the anti-christ, which you were warned would come and which is already in the world. Phillips
When Jesus said we must drink his blood, he was saying that we must take his life into our own. As William Barclay put it in his commentary on the Gospel of John, When he told us to eat his flesh and drink his blood, he was telling us to feed our hearts and souls and minds on his humanity, and to revitalize our lives with his life until we are filled with the life of God.
Notice that John’s Gospel does not include the Last Supper. Yes, there is a last supper, but without any mention of bread and wine. Instead, Jesus strips down and washes the feet of the Twelve. He then tells them to imitate him.
John said all he needed to say about the Eucharist in chapter 6. Now Jesus shows his Twelve—and us—what it means to eat and drink Jesus.
Eating a small wafer and drinking a sip of wine in church is not magic. The only way transubstantiation can occur is if we believe in Jesus and invite him in. It is faith. But it is important for us to repeat the ordnance and reaffirm our commitment, just as it is important for us to recognize that all meals are Eucharist meals.
Be righteous and do good.