In my daily Bible Reading this week, I came across John 6:35 where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” This is a familiar verse to many. We are used to referring to Jesus as the Bread of Life, but we never really believe He is bread – literally. I admit, it does not help when Jesus later says in verse 53, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you.” However, still, is He saying we are supposed to literally “eat” His flesh and blood? Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters believe this to be the case. In 1563, the Catholic Council of Trent summarizes it like this. “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.”
In other words, the Catholic Church teaches that once an ordained priest blesses the bread of the Lord’s Supper, it is transformed into the actual flesh of Christ (though it retains the appearance, odor, and taste of bread); and when he blesses the wine, it is transformed into the actual blood of Christ (though it retains the appearance, odor, and taste of wine).
I always wondered about that interpretation. It is interesting to note that Jesus said all of this prior to instituting communion at the Last Supper. So, He could not have been referencing communion here. Besides, in John 10:9, Jesus said, “I am the gate for the sheep.” In John 15:5, He said, “I am the vine.” Yet, we have never thought He was literally a gate or a vine. Why do we get stuck on, “I am the bread?” I mean, He followed that with, “Anyone who comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Not, anyone who eats me. Yes, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood” goes a step further, but I believe Jesus is talking about how important it is to accept Him beyond words. Just as physical bread must be eaten in order to enjoy its nourishing benefits, so too must Jesus, the bread of life, be taken internally (eaten if you want to continue the “Bread of Life” analogy) in order that we might enjoy salvation through faith in Him. Truly believing in Jesus means being changed – internally. As God said to Ezekiel, “I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ezekiel 36:26).
When you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, you are changed. The next time you celebrate communion, just think about what Jesus did – His body was broken and His blood shed so that your change could happen.
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