Feed on Christ

Meals are important. Jesus taught you to pray for your daily bread, But, remember that Jesus not only gives you bread, he is the bread of life who offers you eternal life as you feed on him, as you see in John 6:52–59.

Be sure that it is Christ on whom you feed. This hard teaching is connected with the Lord’s Supper. It would be simplistic to say that this message that Jesus gave is only about the Lord’s Supper (though some evidence leans that way). Jesus presents himself as the Passover Lamb (John 1:29; 6:59 [cf. 6:4]), which had a focus on eating and drinking. The Jesus who speaks in John 6 is the Jesus who has his eye on the suffering and death on the cross by which he would redeem you. As Jesus preaches in the synagogue he presents himself as the One on whom his hearers must feed. You need to be united with Christ in the kind of closeness that involves eating and digesting. He talks about the same reality that he seals as he institutes the Lord’s Supper.

“It is certain, then, that he now speaks of the perpetual and ordinary manner of eating the flesh of Christ, which is done by faith only. And yet, at the same time, I acknowledge that there is nothing said here that is not figuratively represented, and actually bestowed upon believers, in the Lord’s Supper; and Christ even intended that the holy Supper should be, as it were, a seal and confirmation of this sermon.” (John Calvin, Commentary on the Gospel of John, at John 6:54)

Christ is truly present as you come to his table. Jesus is not talking about cannibalism! Some view Christ as physically present (transubstaniation or consubstantiation). Some move to a real absence view, the Supper is nothing more than a memorial. The biblical view is real Spiritual presence. Calvin puts it well when he says that it is not that we bring Christ down, but he draws us up to heaven to feast with him there. And the Christ with whom we feast and, using the language that Jesus himself uses, on whom we feast, is the God-man, the Word made flesh. God feeds his people. He did so with manna, but, also with his word of salvation, Isaiah 55. All of these point forward to Jesus’ great self-identification, another of his “I am” sayings recorded in Gospel of John, “I am the bread of life,” John 6:35.

“Now Jesus says that he is that bread. The intent is not primarily to describe the salvation granted by Jesus (as, e.g. in 14:6), namely that aside from other things he is and gives also the bread of life, but rather that anyone — as those in vs. 34 apparently were — in search of bread that does not perish should accept Jesus. He not only grants that bread but is that bread.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Gospel of John, p. 239)

Feed on him! Eat Christ! Eat his flesh and drink his blood. Don’t dismiss the language as only figurative (and thus unreal). Jesus pushes the language. He had the opportunity as the crowd objected to say, you misunderstand, I’m just talking figuratively. But the Gospel uses the term sarx, a rough, bold term, rather than soma, a more refined term (and the one used as the institution is recorded in the other Gospels). And at v. 54 Jesus switches the verb translated “to eat,” from phago, a polite term, to trogo, which could be translated “munch.” It is almost a crude term. Why does Jesus use this language? Perhaps partly for the same reason that he used real food and drink, bread and wine, in the Lord’s Supper. Your Christian life is not just something that happens in your head or deep inside you (though both are true). It involves the practical, physical things you say and do in your daily life. You devour a book. While the language that Jesus uses about himself can’t be reduced to the figurative use in that, do you have that kind of burning focus on Christ? Parents, looking at when your child is ready to profess his faith before the congregation and be admitted to the Lord’s Table, look for him devouring Christ. To that end, be faithful in teaching and praying for your child.

“Added to the benefit of forgiveness is that of eternal life. The Lord’s Supper is a spiritual meal at which Christ feeds our souls with this crucified body and shed blood. Eating and drinking them serves to strengthen our spiritual, is, our eternal life, for those who eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood have eternal life and are raised up on the last day (John 6:54).” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4, p. 579)

Feed on Christ by faith and through the Spirit. Only as you are united with Christ by faith can you feed on him. The feeding happens by the mysterious and powerful working of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit uses the Word. Use the ordinary means of grace (which are extraordinary!) to feed on Christ. Don’t just use quiet time as good work you can check off, or something to assuage guilt. Immerse yourself in the Word, turn to Christ in prayer–and feed on him. Use the sacraments. Improve your baptism. Feed on Christ in the Lord’s Supper (inextricably connected with the Word proclaimed). Don’t miss the connection with the body. Christ is truly life-giving. The Father is living. Christ lives because of the Father. As you feed upon Christ you live and you will live. Jesus is not talking just about eating bread. He is not talking just about observing the Lord’s Supper, though we certainly can lean about that from this passage. Jesus is inviting, even commanding, you to receive him, to trust in him.

Have you fed on Christ today? Will you feed on him as we come to his table? Will you continue to feed on him this week, and live as someone who is that closely connected with him?