I understand and believe in the Real Presence, but WHY did Jesus want us to eat him?


I have been a member for 9 years, but have never posted, I mostly just perused the forums. In fact, apologetics has never really been a main concern (on a practical level) of mine having gone to Catholic school through college, however, for the past 10 months I have been delving so much deeper into it and having such an appreciation for it than I ever did in my apologetics and religion courses in school.

10 months ago I got assigned a new job within the military (I’m in the Coast Guard), and I quickly found out that two of my coworkers are pretty hardcore Bible Christian fundamentalists, at least in the way that I understand that term to mean. I have had many discussions back and forth with them, and of course, several about the Eucharist.

So, recently I had a conversation with one of them, and he heard my arguments (again) about John 6 and about the literal meaning, and about how it isn’t actually cannibalism etc., and then he just asked, “okay, well supposing all that is true, WHY would he tell us to do this?” He was specifically questioning the reasoning behind us having to eat the Lord. Now, I know that Jesus says that, if you do not, you shall not have life in you, that we will abide in Him and He in us, that we will have life everlasting, etc. So my most basic answer is simply that He told us to do this, and so we obey. But coming from my friend’s more literal basic sort of understand, I don’t really know exactly how to answer him, at least in a way that he might understand more. What exactly is it about the eating of His flesh that is so necessary? If God is everywhere, and we as Christians are full of the Holy Spirit, why does Jesus’ Body and Blood need to physically be ingested by us? Or what is the difference/benefit between his spiritual presence within us as Christians and his physicality being consumed? Trying to explain it to them makes me think more about it and (trying to think from their perspective) makes me understand their confusion with the seeming illogicality of it.

Any help/suggestions with it would be appreciated.

  1. Covenants are how people become a member of a family (they aren’t contracts). To enter into a covenant, there was an initiation (circumcision/baptism) and there was a meal offered that was eaten to show you have become family that eats at the same table. We see when a covenant was made between God and man, a sacrifice/meal was offered (Noah, Moses, Melchizedek, David, Jesus). You participate in the covenant by your participation in the sacrifice/meal. That is why the Old Covenant had the Passover, and Jesus transforms this into the New Covenant with the Eucharist.

Here’s an excellent primer on covenants.


  1. We become His Body. REALLY think about this for some time. You become what you eat, and we consume Him. By worthy reception of the Eucharist, we BECOME the Body of Christ.

  2. Communion. The root of that word, commune, means to come into union. You come into union with God by worthy reception of the Eucharist.

  3. At the Mass, we are present at Calvary, present at the foot of the cross. We are present at the Last Supper. So when we receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, we receive the graces poured out at the Last Supper and on the Cross.

Those a just a couple off the top of my head.


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I am certainly no expert on this topic but my understanding is that the Jews would take a lamb to the temple once a year as an offering for the forgiveness of their sins. The priest would lay his hands on the lamb and say prayers to transfer the guilt of the person onto the animal. The lamb would be slaughtered, it’s blood sprinkled about as an offering, then the lamb would be eaten by the family who brought it, thus concluding the sacrifice. Jesus is the Lamb. Our guilt is transferred to Him, He was sacrificed on the altar, then He was eaten. Amen.

Besides what has been already said here: When we eat Jesus, He dies for us and resurrects in us.

Think about the word communion. Jesus wants and desires to commune with us. We need a physical reminder that Jesus lives in us, and that we are close to him.

I wonder if anyone could have come up with a better way for us commune with God in such an intimate way?

There are several different theories. Scott Hahn has a good explanation.

From what I recall: during the Passover, families took a lamb, killed it, ate it and were saved. Yet, they needed to continue to provide sacrifices as someone else mentioned.

The reference to the blood, Exodus 24:8 Moses sprinkled blood on the Israelites to represent God’s Covenant with them. Jesus said “this is the cup (blood) of the New Covenant which is poured out for you (for many)”.

Remember, the New Testament fulfills, or completes, what God began in the OT. Jesus’ sacrifice completed the sacrifice once and for all. Interestingly enough, the Temple, which was where the sacrifices were conducted was destroyed a few decades after Jesus’ death. No more need for a sacrifice.:thumbsup:

I like it! :slight_smile:

Now here’s a connection with the OT! Wonderful… and it makes sense to me… Thanks!

In addition to the obvious connections with the Mosaic covenant and the Passover lamb, and the not-so-obvious connection with the marital bond, there is a simpler reason. Food is what nourishes our bodies. We cannot live without food and drink. By transforming what nourishes our bodies into Himself, Jesus is able to nourish our souls.

When I was thinking of this several years ago I came up with this personal opinion…
Why would Jesus tell us to eat his flesh and drink his blood???

He wants us to be like babies, dependent upon him for our very existence… babies can’t live without nourishment and he wants to nourish us. It takes trust as an adult to accept Jesus’ words, but with an infant–they have complete trust in the one who wants to feed them. So to me, I don’t understand all the ins and outs of it (but I thoroughly enjoy the conversation from credible sources) if Jesus’ said it, I believe in Jesus and I trust what he said is true…

Yep. You HAD to eat the lamb to be part of the Old Covenant. Otherwise you were not part of the Old Covenant. Today we eat the Lamb, participating in the ONE sacrifice, the ONE new Passover.

It occurred to me this past Christmas, how would I respond to meeting the newborn Jesus in the manger like the shepherds? God came down to us in a completely helpless state, allowing us the INCREDIBLE honor of caring for Him, ministering to Him.

And then it clicked. In the Eucharistic prayer, the words the priests says, “we minister to You”. He comes to us like He did at Christmas, He comes completely helpless in the form of bread and wine. He raises no defenses or protection. He places Himself COMPLETELY at our mercy to either treat Him properly and minister to Him reverently, or to treat Him with disdain.

Point your bible-believing friends to Paul’s words:

[INDENT]The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.[/INDENT]
-1 Corinthians 10:16-17

There is something meaningful and unitive about sharing a meal. Here Paul indicates not only the real presence (the Eucharist is PARTICIPATION in the body and blood of Christ), but that by sharing a common bread, the Body of Christ, we become absorbed into the Body of Christ. In a sense, in the Eucharist, it is Christ who consumes us, making us a sharer in his own nature, and therefore uniting us with Christians everywhere – his body on Earth.

We are physical creatures, so naturally God comes to us in physical ways. That’s the whole point of the Incarnation. That’s why Jesus instituted Baptism; regardless of one’s view on the regenerative nature of baptism, it’s a fact that Jesus commanded water to be used in our initiation in the faith. That wasn’t necessary, but your Christian friends cannot deny this. Similarly, the Eucharist: They cannot deny that Christ commanded it — regardless of their understanding of it. He didn’t have to command it, but he did.

And why would Christ command us to celebrate him with a meal of bread and wine? Because we are physical! We eat. We drink. Bread and wine were staple foods of Jesus’ day. They gave people physical life. SO why shouldn’t it make sense that Christ would choose to give us life, sacramentally, in this way? Very suggestive if you ask me! We cannot live without food and drink, or else we will die biologically. Similarly, we cannot live spiritually without Christ, the true Bread of Life, the Living Water.

John 6 is pretty clear that his own flesh and blood gives us spiritual – even eternal – life:

[INDENT]Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
John 6:53-56[/INDENT]

And in case anyone doubts the clarity of the realism the Gospel of John here presents, I would turn to the early 2nd century bishop of Antioch who personally KNEW John and so surely understood not only what early Christianity taught, but what John the Apostle taught:

[INDENT]“Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. . . . They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes”
Letter to the Smyrnaeans 6:2–7:1, A.D. 110[/INDENT]

We can speculate more and more about why God gives us Christ’s flesh and blood to eat in a sacramental way (and note it is the ENTIRE Christ, whole and complete, soul and divinity that is given to us). But the first question should be: What did Christ teach? What did the Apostles teach? What did the early church teach? The answer I believe is clearly the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, as expressed above. :thumbsup:

Wow. I’m going to give this some thought… thanks for sharing…

My sentiments as well. That was quite beautiful. I never thought of the Eucharist in quite that way before.

The condescension of God to us pitiful creatures. Jesus is truly Emmanuel!

so that we might have eternal life, at least that is what He said.

The whole purpose of Jesus’s coming was to reveal and reconcile man with God, so that we may *know *Him, intimately, directly. “Apart from Me you can do nothing”, Jesus tells us in John 15:5.

“They will no longer teach their friends and relatives, “Know the LORD!” Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me—oracle of the LORD—for I will forgive their iniquity and no longer remember their sin”, Jer prophecies in chap 31 of his book.

This is not knowledge about God, but knowledge *of *God, and comes only as a result of communion with Him. The sacramental act of partaking of the body and blood illustrates and effects this communion in dramatic terms, that’s how completely God must nourish and indwell us; that’s how much we depend on Him in order to have life and life abundantly, eternally. Man is in a state of disorder and injustice to the extent that this communion is *not * realized.

I like the Passover Lamb explanation.

Jesus came for our salvation.

A good parallel of course is Moses bringing the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. They were saved by the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts.

Thus Passover dinner was celebrated when a lamb was killed and eaten.

Jesus instituted the Eucharist in the last Passover dinner. Instead of the Passover Lamb which is eaten body and blood in the Old Covenant, Jesus asked his apostles to eat his body and blood in the New Covenant.

As the eating of the Passover Lamb to commemorate their salvation, the eating of the Lamb of God in the New Covenant is Jesus body and blood.

There has been some great stuff already posted. You’ve got to remember that you’re dealing with Sola Scriptura (SS) adherents. Every single debate of every issue that you discuss with them will come down to the central theme of who gets to definitively interpret what Scripture says in order to understand what is meant by what Scripture says. Their theology does not warrant the question they have asked. Their only legitimate question is, “Where does Scripture say we should/must do this?” That’s it for them. And once you’ve pointed it out, it should be the end of the discussion…but it isn’t! They violate the very SS they claim to follow! They are aware that God has given us a rational mind to always question things and that although we can’t understand everything about God’s plans, “Why?” is usually a legitimate question that deserves an answer. But again, their theology of SS basically leaves the “why” question unanswered. For SS adherents, the question is not “Why does Scripture say this?” but, “What does Scripture say?” - and that’s the end of it.
As Catholics, we believe in the infallible authority of the Church (through legitimate means) to definitively declare the truths of the faith - for example, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that this conveys the salvific grace exactly as Christ proclaimed it. They have nothing but each other’s fallible opinions. Don’t ever forget to point out to them that if Scripture is our sole authority, then when Christ says, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you” and then at the last supper said, “This is my body” - then that’s it - Scripture has spoken. This is further confirmed in Scripture when the disciples on the road to Ephesus “Recognized Christ in the breaking of the bread” and the early Church were “devoted to the breaking of the bread”(Acts 2:42). The fact that this teaching was also revealed to Paul (1Cor 11:27) is further confirmation of it’s significance. Lastly, ask them if they are unaware of the Scriptural visual symbolism involved in Christ’s birth in Bethlehem: Christ, the self-proclaimed “Bread of Life” is born in Bethlehem (literally= House of Bread) and is placed in a manger. Do you know what a manger is? It’s what food is placed in for animals! It has the same language root as the Italian word, mangia!, which means, Eat! Ask them - so do you believe Scripture or not?? Do you believe in Scripture when it is silent on the exact “why” of the Eucharist or not??
And also be prepared to discuss that history and the ECFs confirm our faith definitively. If you are not familiar with St.Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to the Smyrnaeans (ca 110 AD), then familiarize yourself with it. He was a disciple of St John (ie the guy who wrote John6!) and was a martyr for the faith. Is there any reasonable chance he didn’t know Johns teaching on the Eucharist?? Hardly. In this letter was a scathing refutation of the Docetists, who weren’t so different from your friends. They doubted that Christ was actually a human being - that he actually had a physical presence. “Why would he?” they asked, which is not so far from the question, “Why would he ask us to eat his body?” The letter is so interesting because in refuting the Docetists (again, they didn’t believe Christ was an actual person, but merely a spirit) Ignatius mentions that they(Docetists) don’t meet with them (ie Catholics) because Catholics celebrate the Eucharist. Now for a fundamentalist, that wouldn’t really make any sense that someone wouldn’t attend their modern, symbolic version of the Lord’s supper. But it makes perfect sense if you understand what this disciple of John in the first century Church believed: the reason they wouldn’t celebrate the Eucharist with Catholics is because Docetists don’t believe that Christ ever physically existed and since Ignatius and the Early Church believed the Eucharist was the literal body of Christ, how could the Docetists attend?!, It’s a powerful testimony to the Catholic faith and the belief in the Real Presence!
They, of course, will circle back to Scripture and basically affirm that they couldn’t care less about historical writings - only Scripture. And so your answer to them should be short and sweet: “Well then the answer is simple: Scripture tells us so.” The only question remaining is, “Why are we so slow to believe?” The “we” here is a reaching out to them; a recognition that we all struggle to believe the fullness of truth taught by the Church and that we are called to build one another up in the faith, not create divisions.

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