Oddly enough, John’s Gospel does not record the institution of the Lord’s Supper, but it does contain an extended speech by Jesus that evokes the Lord’s Supper —
(John 6:53-56) Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”
Most believe Jesus is speaking of the Lord’s Supper. Leon Morris, in the New International Commentary on John, argues that Jesus is telling us what the Lord’s Supper communicates. It’s not that eating the bread and drinking the wine gives eternal life. Rather, the Lord’s Supper symbolizes that which gives eternal life —
(John 6:29) Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
(John 6:36) But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe.
(John 6:40) For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
(John 6:47) I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.
(John 6:63-64) “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.”
Scattered throughout Jesus’ discourse on eating flesh and drinking blood are a series of statements about the necessity and sufficiency of faith.You can’t miss the Hebraic parallelism: faith is parallel with eating and drinking.
Morris quotes Strachan,
The primary reference of flesh and blood is not the sacrament, but to the demand for faith in a Christ who became ‘flesh and blood.’
Morris notes that “body” is the language used of the Eucharist, while Jesus speaks of “flesh” in John 6. He also quotes Westcott —
To ‘eat” and to ‘drink’ is to take to oneself by voluntary act that which is external to oneself.
Thus, Jesus is speaking metaphorically of faith, and so John is telling us that the Lord’s Supper also speaks metaphorically of faith.
(1 Cor 11:26) For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Paul got it.
We eat together and declare that we believe! And it’s not just the eating. It’s the eating together. You see, the community formed by Jesus — the community that is Jesus on earth — declares by its very existence as a united body bound together in love that Jesus was resurrected — and that his resurrection changed the world. After all, it changed us.
When we eat, we eat in such a way that the world sees that we have been changed by Jesus. The communion must be a manifestation of the love and unity for which Jesus prayed — and it must be an act of faith, not in the bread and juice, but in Jesus as the bread of life.
Bread is what keeps you alive. Bread is what causes you to grow. And eating bread as an act of faith is to declare our utter reliance on Jesus for our lives — all our lives. Do this and you proclaim Jesus’ death to a lost world.