Dear friends,

Does the Bible teach, that when you take communion, you are eating Christ’s real flesh and drinking His real blood? Roman Catholics appeal to John 6 to support their belief that this is the case. In fact, I have heard it said many times by devout Roman Catholics that, Protestants like me, interpret the Bible “literally” except when it comes to John 6. Then it is the Roman Catholics who are truly Biblical.

In my two sermons on John 6 I am going to ignore this issue, but I want to use this blog to briefly address the issue. In short, I believe that Roman Catholics misread the text.

First, there are four times in the Bible when the institution of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, is talked about. Three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) record Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper in the context of the Passover meal. Paul just records that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. In none of these four accounts is the notion of literal flesh and blood being consumed taught.

Second, it is very significant that in John’s Gospel there is no record of Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper. A natural way to read John’s Gospel as a whole is to say that John did not include a story of Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper precisely so that we would not mistakenly connect John 6 to the Lord’s Supper.

Third, Roman Catholics claim that John 6 is John’s version of the Lord’s Supper. But there is no evidence for this and all the evidence points against the idea. In the other three Gospels Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper at a Passover meal on the night He was betrayed. The events of John 6 take place a year before the Last Supper and John makes this clear by making a passing reference to events taking place near a Passover (not on a Passover) and that has to be a year before the Passover when the Lord’s Supper is instituted. As well, John does not connect the teaching of John 6 to communion, but to the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand men and an unknown number of women and children from five loaves and two fish. Note this. It is in a context of a meal of bread and fish that Jesus talks about Him being the bread from heaven. As well, there’s a very clear Old Testament reference in John 6 but it is not the Passover. It is a reference to God providing manna in the wilderness!

Fourth, when we read John 6 itself and when we read it in the context of all of John we see very clearly that Jesus is not muddying the water by providing another way to be saved (taking Holy Communion) apart from faith in Him. John has a very consistent message using a variety of Old Testament references and natural images which he tells us in his summary statement near the end of his Gospel: Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20: 30-31 (ESV)

Friends, please pray that I will listen and learn from the Bible well. Pray I will preach well for the good of people and the glory of God. Pray I will always lift Jesus high!