TO EAT THE BODY AND DRINK THE  BLOOD OF CHRIST

While  speaking to a group of people who had sought him  out after hearing that he fed thousands who had come to hear him speak,  Jesus tells them that he is the food that comes from heaven which would give and sustain life:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw the  miracles,  but because you did eat of the  loaves  and  were filled.  Work not for the food which parishes, but for that  food which endures  to everlasting life, which the Son of  man  shall give to you" (Jn.6:26-27 Para.).

Here,  Jesus speaks of  the futility of seeking to  sustain  one's life  with physical food, which can only forestall death,  not  eliminate it. He also speaks of himself as the giver of spiritual nourishment, that gives and sustains eternal life.

John 6:31-35; 47-58 Paraphrased

"Then  they said to him, What shall we do that we might work  the works  of God? Jesus answered and said to them, This is the  work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent" (vs.28-29).

These people did not understand the answer Jesus gave  concerning  what one  must  do to obtain eternal  life;  therefore,  they began  to question his power and authority and wanted confirmation that he was indeed sent by God:

"They  therefore  said to him, What sign show you then,  that we may see, and believe you? what do you work? Our fathers did  eat manna in the desert; as it is written, he gave them bread from heaven to eat" (vs.30-31).

There  was  a belief in Christ's day that the  greatest  work  of Moses  was the bringing of manna from heaven, and that  when  the Messiah  came,  he  would also bring down bread  from  heaven and surpass  this  great work with greater works.  These people  were  asking Jesus  to prove that he was the Messiah by bringing  manna from  heaven as they believed Moses had done, and then perform an even greater miracle.

"Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Moses  gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father gives you the  true bread from heaven" (v32).

Jesus reminds them that it was not Moses who gave the  bread from heaven, nor was it because of the works of Moses that  bread came  from heaven, but it was because the Creator God  had mercy on  the  Israelites that he gave it  (Ex.16:11-15;  Psa.78:24). Jesus also indicates that the bread given to the Israelites was a prophetic symbol of another kind of bread that would be given by God the Father.

"For  the  bread of God is he which comes down from  heaven,  and gives life to the world. Then they said to him, Lord,  evermore give us this bread" (vs.33-34).

In verses 33 and 34, Jesus  begins to reveal that the bread he is speaking  of  is himself  who had been sent to bring the opportunity  of  eternal life to humanity. However, those who stood there did not understand the spiritual implications of what he said. They only understood what  he said as it related to the physical existence.

"And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me  shall  never hunger; and he that believes on me  shall  never thirst" (v35).

When the Father calls a person to salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Jn.6:44, 65), and that person truly believes in Jesus  Christ  and begins to live their life  according  to  his teachings and examples to the best of their ability, several  things begin to happen:

"Truly,  truly, I say to you, he that believes on me  shall  have everlasting life" (v47).

In  verses 35 and 47, Jesus clearly shows that he is the giver  and sustainer  of life, and that it is through a belief in  him  that one can obtain eternal life.

It  is  important to understand that  the  spiritual  nourishment  provided through the holy spirit is only available because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

"I am that bread of Life" (v48).

Christ  is truly the bread of life without whom we cannot exist,  because  God the Father has given him all  authority  over life  and  death. It is through him that all life  is  given  and sustained. See Jn.10:27-29; 17:22; Heb.1:2-3.

"Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is  the  bread which comes down from heaven, that a man  may  eat thereof, and not die" (vs.49-50).

During the time of Christ, many believed that those of Israel who were  condemned to wander and die in the wilderness had lost their opportunity  for salvation and would not be able to partake of the afterlife.  Therefore, Jesus reminded them that their ancestors who ate the manna in  the wilderness did indeed die, but what he came to offer would  give life after death for eternity.

"I  am the living bread which came down from heaven: if  any  man eat  of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread  that  I will  give  is my flesh, which I will give for the  life  of the world" (v51).

Jesus clearly revealed that he is the giver of  life, and those who expend the effort to partake of  what his Father offers through him will live forever. Jesus foretold the time  when he would give all that he possessed (his physical body  with  its life-blood) in exchange for the life of all humanity.

The Flesh of Christ

"The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" (v52).

If  those  listening to Jesus had understood the  prophecies  and symbolism  of the Passover Lamb, they would have understood  that Jesus  was not saying he would  literally give them his flesh to eat. Instead, they would have understood that he  was speaking of himself as the prophetic  Passover Lamb of God.

The Lamb of God

As John the Baptist preached the coming of the  Messiah, he acknowledged Jesus as that personage and the Lamb of God: "Behold  the  Lamb of God which takes away the  sin  of  the world" (Jn.1:29 KJV). See also verse 36.

Eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood

"Then Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Except  you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (v53).

Exactly what does it mean to eat the body and drink the blood  of Jesus Christ?

Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus does not  literally  mean to eat his flesh and drink his blood. Jesus was  speaking  allegorically in reference to the Passover   symbols of the New Covenant.

Just  as  the Passover lamb was the only hope of  salvation  for  the Israelites  as  the destroyer passed through  Egypt,  Jesus Christ is the only hope of salvation and  eternal life for humanity.

The unleavened bread  represents the body of Christ, and the  wine represents  his blood through which sin is forgiven  and  eternal life is acquired under the New Covenant.

The Passover Meal

"Whosoever 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 that eats, my  flesh and drinks my blood, dwells in me and I in him" (vs.54-56).

Only those who have availed themselves of the sacrificial body and blood  of  Jesus Christ can have eternal  life  through  Christ's spirit that dwells within them.

Only those who have been called by the Father, repented, been  baptized, received the holy spirit, and have  a  covenant relationship with the Father are allowed to eat of the Passover.

"As  the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father:  so that  he  that eats me, even he shall live by me.  This  is  that bread  that  came down from heaven: not as your fathers  did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live forever" (vs.57-58).

The symbolic eating of Christ's flesh and the drinking of his blood pictures  the total acceptance of Christ into one's life.  When  a person  truly  allows Christ to rule their life  and  strives  to practice what he taught,  that person becomes one with Christ.  See Phil.2:5; 1.Jn.2:6.

QUESTIONS, ANSWERS AND COMMENTS ABOUT THE PASSOVER

Q. Did everyone in Israel have to go to the tabernacle ( later, to the temple) to keep the Passover?

A. When God instructed Israel to keep his annual observances and festivals, he addressed  these instructions primarily to the males, because it was the males who represented Israel before him. Although it is clear from the scriptures that all  Israelites were to keep God's commanded observances and annual festivals,  it is also clear that God only required males to keep these observances and festivals where he placed his name and  presence. See Ex.23:14- 17; Deut.16:16.

Q. Who must observe the New Covenant Passover?

A. Today, just as it was with ancient Israel, so it is today, only those who have a covenant relationship with God may observe the Passover. All who have been called by the Father to salvation, repented of their sins, been baptized,  and received the holy spirit must  observe  the Passover.

The Passover and Unleavened Bread

Q. Is the Passover separate from the Days of  Unleavened  Bread?

A. Yes! although it is separate in symbolism and ceremonial aspects, both  observances share some of  the  same physical  time  period. Under  the covenant with ancient Israel, the Passover began with the sacrifice of the lamb at the end of the 14th day of the 1st sacred month on the sacred calendar. The  lamb was then eaten after sunset on the 15th day which was the first  day of Unleavened Bread (Lev.23:5-6; Num.28:16-17).

The Jews and Passover

An important point to note is that the Passover  belongs to  God. Many  mistakenly believe that the Passover belongs to the Jews. However, it does not belong to the Jews. It is God's Passover, which is  to be kept by all those who are serious about obeying his law and way of life.

The Lord's Supper

Is the Passover The Lord's Supper? Some believe that the new Passover  should be called "The Lord's Supper" and that it has no relation to the Passover as observed by ancient Israel. But, is this true?

To discover the truth on this subject, it is necessary to understand what Christ himself said about it. Surely, if Christ called  his last meal the Passover; it was indeed the Passover.

In  Matthew  26, verses 17 and 19, the disciples asked Jesus where they should prepare for him to eat the Passover.  Jesus told them to  go to a certain city and prepare the Passover. This event  is recorded in Luke 22:7-13 and Mark 14:12-16. In all of the  scriptures where  Christ and his disciples speak of this event, it  is called  the Passover, not the "Lord's Supper."  From  these accounts,  it  is obvious that this event was not a  supper  or  a banquet  meal; it was a Passover service,  which  is  a very solemn occasion.

It is true that Christ partook of the Passover one day before the Jews did; however, that particular year the Calendar Court  sanctioned two consecutive Passover observances.

Paul severely criticized the Corinthians for abusing the  Passover service  (2.Cor.11:20).  From what Paul says, it appears that  the Corinthians  were observing the Passover in a party  type  atmosphere by eating a festive meal and getting drunk during  the Passover service.

An error some make in explaining the Passover  memorial is  confusing the fellowship meals of the sacrificial system  with the service involving Jesus' memorial symbols. During  times of rejoicing, an Israelite would bring an animal  to the  Temple where the kidneys and the fat would be burnt  on  the altar.  The meat would be returned to the offerer and he  would prepare a feast for family and friends.  This meal of  rejoicing was part of the peace offering symbolism.

The new Passover that Jesus instituted and shared with his disciples  was not a time of rejoicing.  It was a memorial commemorating  his  death  as the perfect sacrificial lamb.   As we  read through the accounts of this event, we do not find any levity  or rejoicing  during the partaking of those symbols. To symbolically eat  and drink of a man's body and blood creates a very sobering experience.

The  mistake  that  some theologians have made  in  mingling  the memorial  supper  and  a joyful feast is a  grave  error indeed.  The Passover is not the Lord's Feast or Supper, it is the Passover.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w28