The Lord's Supper Is A Test Of Faith In Jesus As Our Eternal God In The "Flesh"
Job 19,23-26: "Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever. For I know that my redeemer liveth, and he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in the flesh shall I see God." (emphasis added)
1Corinthians15,39: "Not all flesh is the same..."
1Corinthians15,42: "So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable."
John6,53-4: "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day."
Exodus29,19: "Next you will take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons will lay hands on the ram's head. You will then slaughter the ram, take his blood and pour it against the altar all round..."
As New Testament priests (1Peter2,5 and 9) ordained by Holy Ghost baptism, we have the power to effectively bless the bread and wine at the table (1Corinthians10,16).
The priestly blessing of the ram at Exodus 29,19, and the sprinkling consecration of the altar with its blood (at v. 20) corresponds to our offering and blessing of the bread and cup at the supper, a living memorial, a spiritual sacrifice to the risen Jesus (1Peter2,5;Luke22,19 paralells Leviticus2). Then the risen Jesus, in his eternal heavenly "flesh", eternally consecrated by his death and resurrection, blesses the bread and wine by sprinkling down the Holy Ghost on the bread and wine (Isaiah52,15, "Spiritual" Blood, John19,34, a vision of his everflowing Spiritual blood, compare Exodus29,19) and we then enjoy the only "flesh" and "blood" He now has, eternal "flesh" and "blood." 1Corinthians15,39 and 42 and Job19,23-26.
Having recently taught about the stumbling block of Jesus as God in the flesh in 1John2,18-27 (one of the first gospel truths announced at Pentecost, Acts2,36), it became clear that a fuller biblical understanding of Lord's Supper is built on the incarnational premises of John 6.
This insight came after reading Sam K. Williams' "The Lord's Supper" entry in the Harper Collins Bible Dictionary (1996). The supper is part of Jesus' "bread of life discourse" which begins with folks hunting for bread that fills their bellies (v.26) and moves on to Jesus teaching about Himself as "true bread from heaven" (v.32) to "bread of life" (v.35) to "living bread that came down from heaven." (v.51).
These are all incarnational descriptions, not physical descriptions of eating.
But then Jesus goes on to prophesy about His flesh and blood at the table, as real food and real drink (John6,55). These later supper terms have all been built on the prior "bread" of the incarnation, especially "living bread that came down from heaven." This latter description seems not to far from the supper in that Jesus' goes back and forth throughout the whole discourse from literal and figurative bread terms challenging his hearers to pay attention, first to the bread of his incarnation, right in front of them, and then to his bread-flesh of the prophesied supper.
Many folks hearing this bread of life discourse couldn't understand the radical and miraculous physical and Spiritual nature of the incarnation. So they started arguing among themselves at v. 52: "How can this man give us his [physical] flesh to eat?"
They were arguing because they rightly knew, as Jews, that they couldn't eat flesh with physical blood still in it per Genesis9,4-5 and Leviticus3,17.
Jesus then pinpoints their similar failure to see Spiritual "flesh" and "blood" come down from heaven at the supper.
"Jesus speaks of eating his flesh and drinking his blood as a means of attaining eternal life (6,53-58). At least three interpretations of these words are possible. First, the language is sacramental: when believers eat the bread and drink the wine they are partaking of sacred food and drink that gives eternal life. (Compare the view of ignatius of Antioch, who in the second century described the eucharistic bread as "a medicine of immortality" [Ign. Eph.20.2].)
Second, the language of eating Jesus' flesh and drinking his blood dramatically suggests that one must appropriate God's salvation, made available through Jesus' death, by being spiritually united with the Crucified and Risen One.
Third, in light of the emphasis at John 6,63 ["The Spirit gives life, the [physical] flesh counts for nothing..."] the shocking and offensive [physicalistic] langauge in John 6 (eg., vv.51,52-57; cf v. 60) points to the scandal of the incarnation: to have eternal life one must committ oneself to Jesus as the revealer sent from God, the word become flesh (John1,14).
Interpretations one and two carry biblical weight (although "sacramental" is more a denominational than a biblical word).
But it's Williams' third interpretation that helps us see why Jesus' co-religionists are so scandalized and confused by both the incarnation (Spirit taking flesh, bread come down from heaven) and by eating His risen flesh at the supper (bread and wine, physical things, becoming His Spiritual flesh and blood by the blessing at the table) after His resurrection.
At the time of John 6 and later within the Christian community at the supper they haven't seen, like many of us, that they are eating his risen flesh and blood after the bread and wine were offerred (Luke22,19) and blessed (1Corinthians10,16) as part of a spiritual sacrifice (1Peter2,5), a living memorial of Jesus as their new passover.
Their threshold problem is with God in the flesh, right before their eyes, who reminded them that they were all being taught by God, by Him! v.45, Isaiah54,13.
In other words, if they hadn't even begun to understood God in the flesh, right in front of their faces, how could they understand the "unless... phrases" that pertain to the supper.
v. 55 clearly and prophetically pertains to the post resurrectional Lord's Supper: "For my [risen] flesh is real food and my [risen] blood is real drink." Not "physical" food and "physical" drink but real or spiritual food and spiritual drink, which does not have to be physical to be "real."
This parallels the language of the miraclous and actual manna from heaven and actual miraculous drink from the rock that sustained God's people in the desert, which the Apostle Paul, in the opening context of the Lord's Supper, at 1Corinthians10,3-4, perfectly describes as "spiritual food" and "spiritual drink."
Here at John 6 Jesus wasn't overly surprised at their ignorance or their taking offense at either his incarnation and His supper. It was going to take the grace of God the Father to know and believe in Jesus, as God in the flesh, let alone what happens at his table (cf John6,65).
I don't think his 12 apostles here in John 6 knew anymore about the Lord's Supper than those who were departing over this hard teaching (v. 60) which they wrongly thought included some form of eating Jesus' physical flesh (v.52).
They couldn't begin to understand eating his risen flesh and risen blood at a post resurectional Lord's supper (v.63 "The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing"), until they could by way of personal faith accept his incarnation, as "living bread from heaven" in physical flesh, as the savior of Israel, who died for each their sins, and rose on the third day, for their and our eternal life, all to write a new covenant with his blood-Spirit, a covenant commemorated at the faithful celebration of the supper.
But once we begin to understand God voluntarily coming down in human flesh, and then voluntarily offering and consecrating Himself in the flesh in death, and then that flesh resurrects and ascends as eternally risen, the fact that He would choose to Spiritually descend again into bread and wine offerred to him and faithfully blessed by Him and us at a living memorial-spiritual sacrifice (Luke22,19), done at his command, so that we might receive real food and real drink, is not that difficult to believe.
The folks of old in the desert had to pass the manna test (Exodus16,4), faithing that God would feed then every day, faithing on all the instructions of God.
We Christians have to pass the test of Jesus as God in the flesh, "as living bread from heaven" according to John 6 before we better understand that he feeds us now with his eternal risen flesh at the table, with the bread of eternal life, and the cup of salvation, the only "flesh" and "blood" he has now.
For a short video of the supper: http://vimeo.com/63572579
If you or your church would like coaching as to a revived and biblically based Lord's Supper, please contact us.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...