When my friends or family gather I know there are subjects that I should avoid discussing. Some are political, some are of a sexual nature, but most center around religious beliefs. Since the beginning of time, people have separated themselves by what they believe and how they act on those beliefs.
This issue of flesh and blood has caused arguments in the church like nothing else. Next week we will celebrate Holy Communion—why do we do it? What happens during those few minutes? What do we think about? What does God do in and through us? How should we do it? Who should or shouldn't be involved? How often should we do it? What kind of bread should we use? Should we use juice or wine?
Few things have divided Christians, the church as much as this topic and these verses.
The idea of eating flesh and drinking blood was abhorrent and expressly forbidden by Jewish law even as it is in our day. Orthodox Jews still drain the blood from their meat before cooking it. It put Jesus squarely outside the bounds of civilized society. The only way to make these words respectable is to read them as symbolic.
Many people were confused, even those very close followers of Jesus. Many turned back and walked with him no more. This drifting away continues. People reject Jesus, not because he baffles and puzzles their intellect, but because Christ challenges us to do things that are simple but difficult.
Without God’s spirit they couldn’t understand Jesus' words about promised life—Peter was asked by Jesus if he too would leave? He responded, “To whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. You are the holy one of God. Who else can teach us as you teach us and give us what you give us and be to us what you have been? You have made life new and far better for us and more exciting vistas have opened up before us not to be seen apart from you.” Peter spoke for the group and acknowledged that he had heard and learned. They have come to believe and know through God’s spirit.
In scripture we have three gifts from God dealing with bread, the miraculous gift of actual food given to the Hebrews in the wilderness, loaves and fish and the gift of God’s word and spirit.
When Jesus said that his flesh is the living bread that came down from heaven he is saying that he himself is what gives life, not the manna or the multiplied loaves. It is through eating and drinking, symbolic elements through Holy Communion that we partake of his food which is him.
You must take the life of Jesus into the very core of your being. Drinking his blood means to take his life into the very center of our lives and our hearts as we absorb his teaching, his character, his mind, and his ways, this happens as we base our life on how someone else lives; as we do like, be like and act like.
Jesus was God in the flesh. God became a person with real skin and flesh and blood, facing human situations, struggled with our human problems, battled with our human temptations, and worked out human relationships.
We are called to feed your heart, feed your mind, and feed your soul on the thoughts of God in human form. When you are discouraged and in despair, when you are tired of life and beaten down to your knees and disgusted with life and living, remember that God took on life just like us and can understand what we are going through.
Holy Communion is not a gift to a select few who then mediate the gift to others, it is a gift to all who believe, it is a gift from Jesus to each believer not to the church. All of Jesus’ life is given to each believer when we eat the bread and drink the juice we remember the life and death of Jesus and what his sacrifice and resurrection are all about for us.
Jesus talked about abiding in him and him abiding in us. This happens when we are obedient, when we allow his words to fill our minds, direct our wills and transform our affections; and when we care about things God cares about. Christ’s word dwells in us and his spirit feeds our hearts and souls and minds on him. He was telling us to revitalize ourselves with him until we are drenched and permeated and saturated and filled with the life of God.
By eating bread and drinking the wine or in our case juice, we abide in him and he in us. This sacred food keeps our souls alive and strengthened.
It is Christ who alone can tell us what life is, can put into us the spirit in which life must be lived, and who can give us the strength and the power to live it.
Eternal life is the possession only of those who have passed beyond reliance upon the physical senses into the experience of spiritual perception.
I believe we can celebrate God’s power and presence in anything that we do. The communion table, and dinner table and picnic by the lake or the hillside are alike in that all of them we can taste and touch and handle the power and presence that comes from Jesus. Christianity would be a poor thing if it was confined to churches. I am not belittling of the sacrament but we can meet Christ anywhere that people meet to enjoy the gifts of God.