Communion – Literal?

For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:55-56)

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:19-20)

There has been a serious debate in church history about what happens in the communion act – real body and blood (transubstantiation) or symbolic in some nature. However, it should be noted that through-out the majority of church history the belief that something literal to eating and drinking the body and blood of Jesus was suspected to be happening…as cooky as that sounds.

I don’t think the passages at all show a literalism in the communion act – in fact in Luke (which is also in Paul’s Corinthians letter) – they speak of ‘rememberance’. Jesus just broke some bread and was passing it around the table – and likely did the same with the wine (this is a passover meal). In the gospels there is no grotesque idea of eating the literal body of Jesus and drinking his blood – as if this was even logistically possible anyways. The reveal the symbolism of the event and the meaning of it (rememberance of Jesus).

As for John’s gospel – which depends on how one reads it – I see a type of symbolism being used again (although some will argue for literal – again no one can literally drink Jesus’ blood or eat his body – cannibalism is against Christian morality – even Jesus would not support it).   

In this chapter of John, Jesus is referring to the ‘manna from heaven’ and the wilderness experience in Exodus. He makes the leap to say ‘he is the bread of life’ and then this piece quoted above. Yet, it seems when Jesus talks about this mystical experience of abiding in one another…well it cannot simply be actual food or drink (both will be digested and then discarded as waste at some point). He must be referring to something a little more intimate than ‘food’ or ‘drink’…maybe symbolism about how what Jesus is teaching and doing are ‘life giving’ (since they are blessed by God). In this way, by sharing in the same lifestyle we enter in some experience that is ‘blessed’.

Either way one looks at this subject – if it is taken literal – God is seriously mocked.


2 thoughts on “Communion – Literal?

  1. “The act of what we call communion was to the writers of the NT a simple evening meal to be held when ever the Jesus people gathered to share companionship” (Which bible)

    I tend to think so also – like an actual meal (passover was a real meal also). I lean towards this type of thinking because what we have now in many churches is just ridiculous – wafers and grape juice or bread and some wine…and the idea we are literally eating someone’s flesh is beyond absurd.

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