Living bread The Body and Blood of Christ: John 6:51-58 51 “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he will live for ever. The bread that I will give him is my flesh, which I give so that the world may live.” 52 This started an angry argument among them. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they asked. 53 Jesus said to them, “I am telling you the truth: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in yourselves. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them to life on the last day. 55 For my flesh is the real food; my blood is the real drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them. 57 The living Father sent me, and because of him I live also. In the same way whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This, then, is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the bread that your ancestors ate. They later died, but those who eat this bread will live for ever.”
John Chapter 6 opens with Jesus miraculously providing physical bread (and fish) for more than 5,000 people. In the synagogue the next day Jesus teaches extensively on the living bread sent by God to give eternal life.
Today’s Gospel reading comes at the end of this teaching and focuses on the “Eucharist”. Strictly speaking, the term “Eucharist” means “giving thanks” and it refers to the ceremony held on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) when the consecrated bread and wine is received. Catholics believe that when the words of blessing or consecration are pronounced over the bread and wine they become the Body and Blood of Christ. Other Christians understand it differently, seeing this as a symbol of remembrance of the Last Supper.
Catholics describe the change of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ as “transubstantiation”. It is a “mystery of faith”. The Gospel accounts do not enter into these theological discussions. It was St Thomas Aquinas who first gave the interpretation used by the Catholic Church.
The overall teaching in John 6:25-59 remains more general. Jesus declares, “I am the bread of life” (verses 35 & 48). Jesus contrasts the manna that God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness – which met their physical needs – with faith in the Son of Man, which meets their spiritual need for salvation. Jesus refers several times to “coming down from heaven” (verses 38, 41, 51, 58) to show his message has its origin with God, who lives in heaven.
Verse 40 sums up God’s heart in this teaching: “For what my Father wants is that all who see the Son and believe in him should have eternal life.”
Reflect on the significance of Jesus describing himself as the bread of life. Is Jesus your bread of life? What practical difference does this make to you?
How important is celebrating the Eucharist or Holy Communion in your Christian life?
Humbly come before God in prayer.
Give thanks to God for sending his Son as “the bread of life” so that we can live in fellowship with the Trinity and, through faith in Jesus, inherit eternal life. Marvel at this wonderful gift.
“While they were eating, Jesus took a piece of bread, gave a prayer of thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. ‘Take and eat it,’ he said; ‘this is my body.’ ”
“Then he took a cup, gave thanks to God, and gave it to them. ‘Drink it, all of you,’ he said; ‘this is my blood, which seals God’s covenant, my blood poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ ” (Matthew 26:26-28). Take time each day this week to give thanks that Jesus’s death paid the price so you can receive forgiveness.
Lectio Divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word
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