The Lord’s Supper: Eucharist and wine – body and blood of Christ or analogy?

Christ said we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood. What did He mean?

John 6:26-63

26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

30 So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'”

32 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

34 “Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”

35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

41 At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

43 “Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. 47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life48 I am the bread of life49 Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 Jesus said to them, “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 at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

Notice this passage begins with Jesus just having fed five thousand. He used the fact that he had just fed the crowd bread to move them towards thinking about eternal life. When they responded with the fact that Moses had given their ancestors manna, Jesus told them it was not Moses, but God. Then He went on to say in verse 35, He said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty”. Obviously people who come to Christ still need to eat and drink. So although HE is the living Bread from heaven, He was speaking spiritually. 

We see this in verse 40, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

He picks this up again in verse 47, saying “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”   He continues using the analogy by stating He is the bread of life sent by God (as opposed to the manna sent to their ancestors) and people must eat Him (meaning they must believe in Him) to have eternal life. Jesus used a physical analogy to speak to a spiritual truth. Just as manna was sent by God, so too was Jesus. Just as the people needed to eat the manna sent by God to physically live, they must believe Jesus was sent by God to spiritually live. 

Some want to say that where Jesus said His flesh and blood were real food and drink, He was speaking of phyiscal food and drink. However, notice in verse 63, Jesus said His words were spiritual. Jesus was, and IS, real food and drink, but for the spiritual realm. We must believe Jesus is sent by God to suffer and die for our sins to have eternal life. Eating and drinking Jesus’ flesh and blood is not a physical reality, but is actually relying on Him to fulfill our needs as concerns spiritual life, believing in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, for our salvation. Jesus was using a physical thing to remind us of a spiritual truth.

Recall that in the Old Testament, just before the Exodus began (Exodus 12), God said for each familiy to sacrifice a lamb at Passover, paint their door jams with the blood, then the people were to eat the lamb before morning.  Those who believed God would do so, and God would pass over their home and not kill the first born. Those who did not believe God and obey would loose their firstborn children. The people were commanded to continue to sacrifice a lamb every year, in the same way as was done originally, to be a memorial for what God had done. There was a physical event, with a physical reminder – as is the case in much of the Old Testament. In the New Testament, God uses physical events to teach and remind us of spiritual truths.

Now let us look at the verses associated with the Passover, which have come to be known as the Lord’s Supper. 

First, we see it was indeed the day the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed in Mark 14:12 (cp. Luke 22:7-8),

12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

Second, we see it was the Passover meal in Matthew 26:17 (cp. Luke 22:7-8),

 17 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

Third, we see that Jesus said the bread was His body and the wine was His blood in Matthew 26:26-29 (cp Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:17-20),

 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

 27 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

Note, He called the wine what it was, “fruit of the vine” AFTER He called it His blood of the covenant. If it was truly His blood, why would He call it wine after He said it was His blood? Notice also, at this point, His body had not yet been given in sacrifice, nor had his blood been spilled, for the forgiveness of sins. 

If He had been speaking literally, His sacrifice would not have been necessary. Yet, we know it WAS necessary that he suffer and die, that His blood be spilled and His body be sacrificed. So this was yet another analogy, a symbol, of what was necessary for people who believe to have eternal life. He was telling them that HE was the Passover Lamb, which needed to be sacrificed so that those who believed could have eternal life.

In Luke 22:17-20, we see the reason for the Lord’s Supper,

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

In this version, we see that He added “do this in remembrance of me” in verse 19. This was to be a remembrance of Jesus and what He did for those who believe. This is a physical reminder of the physical death of Christ that was needed so that those who believe could have spiritual life. 

Now, we will look at where Paul calls Jesus Christ our Passover Lamb, 1 Corinthians 5:1-8,

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present.When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. 6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.

Note that Paul is calling the Corinthian church to task for the immorality present among its members. Not only that, they were boasting about it. He tells them they are to remove the old yeast-filled (sinful malice and wickedness) bread and be new bread without sin. Christ is our Passover Lamb, and so we are to keep the Passover with bread without yeast – bread of sincerity and truth.

Note, Jesus was not really a lamb. He did not become a physical literal lamb. He WAS sacrificed LIKE the Passover lamb that God commanded be sacrificed, that we might live; this is why Paul called Jesus our Passover Lamb. The people were not bread. This is an analogy, a physical symbol of the spiritual truth.

Now let us look at the passage where Paul speaks of the Lord’s Supper, 1 Corinthians 11:20-34,

20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment.32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. 

Notice in 1 Corinthians 11:20-22 that He is speaking of propriety. He complains of how the church acts when they come together for the Lord’s Supper – they are thoughtless and getting drunk and not ensuring everyone has the opportunity to participate. Paul reminds them they have homes in which to eat, and this is not a normal meal, but a remembrance of what Christ did. Then he moves on, in verses 23-26, to the reason for the Lord’s Supper, it is a reminder of what Christ did for us. By eating the Lord’s Supper, we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Then, in verses 27-33, Paul tells us that we are to be in a condition of spiritual righteousness to eat the Lord’s Supper, and tells us that we must take it with propriety, waiting for everyone to have the bread to be able to eat it together. No where does it say that Paul converted the bread and wine into flesh and blood, nor does it say the pastor of the local church in Corinth did that. These elements were simply remembrances of what Christ did for us. We must recognize what Christ has done for us.

So, when Jesus said it was His body and blood, He was speaking euphemistically. It was an analogy. His body was sacrificed, and His blood spilled. The bread and wine were used as analogies of the fact that we must remember the need to take in, to believe, the fact that Christ suffered and died for our sins.

Another post on this subject:

One Response

  1. […] Again, this is not a contradiction. Jesus, in John 6:51, when He said His body was living bread was speaking hyperbole, using a physical example of a spiritual truth. The same is true when He said a few verses later that He would raise up who ever eats His flesh and drinks His blood. He will raise those to heaven who rely upon Him as we rely upon bread and water. Jesus spoke in the same way in John 4:10 and John 7:38, where He spoke of living water flowing within believers. He was speaking spiritually, figuratively. But James and the other elders and apostles in Acts 15:29 were giving some simple instructions to new believers, some of whom would have come from religious backgrounds where drinking blood was part of religious worship. As such, they reiterated the provision against drinking animal blood – this was a literal physical concern, so he was not speaking hyperbole. Thus, there is no contradiction.“. […]

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