The primary error that many Christians make when looking up communion (Last Supper) verses is that they start with the preconceived notion that communion is metaphorical or symbolic. Rather than preaching these words of Jesus, they suggest that Jesus didn’t actually mean what He said. This leads to a second problem and that is, just ignoring the verses. For example in John 6, Jesus says His Flesh is “True food and drink,” and because of this preconceived notion, somehow Jesus really didn’t mean what he said. It is not enough just to explain this part of the Bible away. You have to actually explain what the Bible says.
Marcus Grodi, who was a Presbyterian pastor for about 10 years talks about this. “I don’t have in my huge file of sermon notes any sermon on these particular Scriptures.” He went on to say that, “I was so convinced of the symbolic Metaphorical meaning of the Lord’s Supper it never crossed my mind to reexamine what I had presumed all those years. So when I preached on the chapter of John 6 it was about the meaning of believing and the willingness to follow Christ no matter what any of the crowds did, but I still jumped over this passage and its significance which really takes away the significance of the whole meaning of the whole chapter.”
One Evangelical minister explains his great anger at the words of a Catholic priest, when the priest said, “the very words that Protestants take as symbolic the Catholic Church takes as literal.” One of the areas he was speaking of was Communion. After all, from the minister’s point of view, it is the Protestant fundamentalists who take the words of Scripture as literal, not the Catholics. Of course as he checked this out, he found out this was not always the case and this lead to him eventually becoming Catholic.
At my place of employment I had a friend who said that John chapter 6 is symbolic it is not literal. And so asked Joe, if Jesus didn’t actually mean what he said, what did he mean? He said that Jesus was speaking about accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. How could I argue with this; isn’t Jesus a person? Is He not also our Lord and Savior. I explained to him that the words “personal Lord and savior” are true, but they are not in the context of John 6. You cannot disagree with the words of Jesus and then say that Jesus means something that is not even in the context. I went on to say, that if all Jesus meant was to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, this can be said in one verse. You don’t need 35 verses, John 6:25-39. To this he had nothing further to say.
So why is this so difficult for so many to see? The reason this is so difficult is because along with this being the true Biblical and historical understanding, it is also the Catholic understanding. These same people are taught form the time they were little children that the Catholic Church is wrong in all things or at least most things. And so the huge MOUNTAIN in front of them is that if they agree on the actual words of Jesus in John 6, they are admitting that the Catholic Church is right about something. If they are right about this, what else could they be right about? And so the real argument against the true understanding of Jesus words in John chapter 6 is not coming from the Bible. It is coming from a tradition that is not in the Bible. And this tradition says the Catholic Church must be wrong in all or most things.
I was listening to Denise Bossart a former Presbyterian, on the Coming Home Network, and she posed this question. John 6:55, “Can I say it any clearer, for my flesh is true food? How do you say at this point it is not? How do you say at that point, no it is really bread? And my blood is true drink; if Jesus is standing right before you as He did with those disciples and He says it like that, how can you take it as anything, but what it is?
I was talking to a friend who had a little disagreement with her Evengelical pastor because he dismissed some of the words of Jesus in John chapter 6. After quoting the words of Jesus, “My body is true food and my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:55), her pastor said “NO IT ISN’T!” Now she is in a quandary; should she believe her Evangelical pastor and his tradition or should she believe Jesus? In the end she believed her Jesus?
Discourse on the Bread of life, John 6:25-59
25And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. 27Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life,* which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.” 28So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” 29Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” 30So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? 31* Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
32So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
34p So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” 35* Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. 36But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. 37Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, 38because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. 39And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day.t 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.”
41The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” 42and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring* among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets: ‘They shall all be taught by God.’
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; 50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
52The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” 53Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 54Whoever eats* my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. 55For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. 57Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. 58This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” 59These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.