You missed one way of determining that is how others who are listening understand it When Nicodemus was told he must be born again and misunderstood, Jesus corrected him. When the crowd told Jesus it was a hard saying and walked away He didn’t correct them because they had understood Him correctly.
No… I didn’t see anyone in the narrative try to eat his flesh or drink his blood. So a literal interpretation doesn’t make sense. A spiritual one is in order, in the same way that Jesus is the Vine and I must abide in the Vine. But this does not mean I’m gonna go out and get a Vine so that I can be near it.
No one left when Jesus said He was a vine or a door. They left when He said that they would have to eat His Body and Drink His Blood.
Ah, but read on in that chapter of John…
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?”
Why would the disciples complain that the teaching is difficult? Did they so complain about the “spiritual” teaching of the vine?
Notice what Jesus says next:
But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you?
The disciples were “offended” by the teaching. Were they similarly offended by the vine teaching?
Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?
Jesus then says something rather cryptic, "…what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?“
The disciples ACTUALLY did later see "the Son of Man ascending…” In Acts 1: When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
So, a LITERAL ascension was pointed to by Jesus himself in connection to the disciples complaining about his literal teaching on eating his body and drinking his blood. Ergo, Jesus is stating quite clearly that a literal and NOT a “spiritual” interpretation is in order regarding the eating and drinking of his body and blood.
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Why would “many of his disciples” turn back and no longer go about with him if a “spiritual interpretation” was in order? Jesus certainly would have cleared that up at the time. Why didn’t he?
Why has the Church teaching for the past 2000 years been focused upon the transubstantiation, the essential change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus?
Why do you suppose Paul wrote this:
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Cor 11:27-32)
Here is what the Church Fathers have said:
St. Ignatius of Antioch (c. 110 A.D.)
I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the Bread of God, WHICH IS THE FLESH OF JESUS CHRIST, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I DESIRE HIS BLOOD, which is love incorruptible. (Letter to the Romans 7:3)
St. Justin the Martyr (c. 100 - 165 A.D.)
For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by Him, AND BY THE CHANGE OF WHICH our blood and flesh is nourished, IS BOTH THE FLESH AND THE BLOOD OF THAT INCARNATED JESUS. (First Apology, 66)
St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 140 - 202 A.D.)
If the BODY be not saved, then, in fact, neither did the Lord redeem us with His BLOOD; and neither is the cup of the EUCHARIST THE PARTAKING OF HIS BLOOD nor is the bread which we break THE PARTAKING OF HIS BODY…He has declared the cup, a part of creation, TO BE HIS OWN BLOOD, from which He causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, HE HAS ESTABLISHED AS HIS OWN BODY, from which He gives increase to our bodies.
St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 - 216 A.D.)
“EAT MY FLESH,” He says, “AND DRINK MY BLOOD.” The Lord supplies us with these intimate nutriments. HE DELIVERS OVER HIS FLESH, AND POURS OUT HIS BLOOD; and nothing is lacking for the growth of His children. O incredible mystery! (Instructor of Children 1:6:42,1,3)
St. Athanasius (c. 295 - 373 A.D.)
But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ….Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine – and thus is His Body confected. (Sermon to the Newly Baptized, from Eutyches)
St. Jerome (c. 347 - 420 A.D.)
After the type had been fulfilled by the passover celebration and He had eaten the flesh of the lamb with His Apostles, He takes bread which strengthens the heart of man, and goes on to the true Sacrament of the passover, so that just as Melchisedech, the priest of the Most High God, in prefiguring Him, made bread and wine an offering, He too makes Himself manifest in the reality of His own Body and Blood. (Commentaries on Matthew 4:26:26)
St. Augustine (c. 354 - 430 A.D.)
“The Lord Jesus wanted those whose eyes were held lest they should recognize him, to recognize Him in the breaking of the bread [Luke 24:16,30-35]. The faithful know what I am saying. They know Christ in the breaking of the bread. For not all bread, but only that which receives the blessing of Christ, BECOMES CHRIST’S BODY.” (Sermons 234:2)
We use the word physical to describe what we perceive as real objects in front of us. But the key word is perceive. We look at a desk. We perceive a desk. How? Not by getting the substantial presence of the desk into our head, but by sense perceptions, sight, sound, feel, touch. Those are sense perceptions, not the object itself. We can get sense perceptions into our sensory system. We can’t get the substantial presence of any object into our brain or mind. Whenever we describe any object as physical, we are talking about sense perceptions or appearances.
We don’t perceive Jesus’ appearances in the Eucharist. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have them or that he isn’t fully present corporeally. The only appearances we perceive are the appearances of bread and wine, which do not inhere in any substance after transubstantiation.
If you’re worrying about John 6:63, I think you’re taking the wrong meaning of “spirit.” It does also mean “breath.”
“The breath is lifegiving; the flesh does not help nothing.
My utterances that I speak to you – they are breath and they are life.
But there are some of you who do not believe.”
Without breath, flesh is lifeless. So of course, “the flesh does not help nothing” without the breath being present. Or the spirit, if you like. But where Jesus is concerned, the Spirit is always present.
And where Mass is, Jesus and the Spirit are. As Jesus announced just in the previous chapter (John 4:23-24), “But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father also seeks such to worship Him. God is a spirit; and those who worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Jesus is the Truth, and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit.
If Jesus’s utterances are “breath” or “spirit,” and that is what gives life, then whatever He says is given life. And indeed, since He is God as well as man, we would expect that not a single word would go forth from His mouth without having the commanded effect.
Ezekiel talks a lot about the wheels of God’s throne having the “spirit of life” or “breath of life”, so that they move by themselves. In the Book of Revelation, the two witnesses come back to life when they receive the “spirit of life from God.” Job said that “The spirit of the Lord made me, and the breath of the Almighty gave me life.” In Romans, Paul says, “the Law of the spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, has delivered me from the law of sin and of death.” God’s words don’t figuratively give life, remove sin, and control all things; they really do it. They are doing it even now.
Jesus said that you have to eat His Body and drink His Blood. And Jesus said over a piece of bread that “This is My Body,” and over a cup of wine that, “This is My Blood of the new covenant.”
Of course it has an effect, just as “Let there be light” had an effect.
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