by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
Everywhere I have been, in Africa, Europe, and the United States, there are some Adventists who shy away from the Lord’s Supper. This has been a great burden for me. I wondered if some of you visitors who came in this morning and looked at that table and said, “Oh, my, today is the Lord’s Supper.” I hope that when you leave here you will have changed your mind.
There are two passages that I would like to study which I hope will destroy this idea that you should shy away from the Lord’s Supper. One is found in John 6 and the other is 1 Corinthians 11. The statement that Jesus made in John 6:50-51, 53-58 was one of the hardest statements that Jesus made in His ministry:
“But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
...Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
After the Jews heard this statement we read in John 6:66:
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
They couldn’t take it. In fact, in verse 60 we are told:
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Many today find the Lord’s supper a hard thing. So Jesus here had to explain to the disciples when He said (John 5:53):
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
The words are not inspired but the thoughts are inspired. We, as a church, believe in thought inspiration. Jesus is teaching a truth here. If you take his words literally, then you have to accuse Him of teaching cannibalism because He said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood.” That’s what cannibals do. So we need to know what Jesus meant. Look at verse 63 [of John 6] where Jesus is correcting their misunderstanding of His teaching:
“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you — they are full of the Spirit and life.”
What Jesus is saying is: “I was not referring to the soft part of my body. The flesh counts for nothing. It is the words that I speak,” or “the truth that I speak to you, they are Spirit and they are life.”
Now what did Jesus mean when He said you must eat His flesh and you must drink His blood if you are to live? Let’s start with the beginning. The context in which Jesus spoke these words was the feeding of the 5,000 by the Sea of Galilee. In the beginning of chapter six you will notice that Jesus fed 5,000 people with only five loaves (small little buns that the Jews eat) and two pieces of fish (“Tasty Bits” [a vegetarian fish substitute]). People talk of it as being his lunch. I question that it was his lunch. It is still quite common in these days that a big crowd will find a boy who will bring bread and other things to sell. Whatever it is, it was not enough for 5,000. That we are sure of. Jesus performed a miracle — He fed 5,000.
The next day Jesus disappeared because they said, “If this man can feed 5,000, He deserves to be our king.” They were trying to take Him by force and when Jesus perceived that they would take Him by force as shown in John 6:15:
Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
He did this because He had not come to be our King at that time. His first earthly mission was to save us from sin. When Jesus and the disciples left, the people couldn’t find Him so they searched for Him and found Him.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
“You have looked for me, not because of the miracles but because I fed you. You are coming for the loaves and the fishes.” We have this expression in English today. “But I tell you, what I gave you is no value because tomorrow you will be hungry. And the food that God gave through Moses in the wilderness, manna, that also did not feed you. What I’m offering you today is the true bread. This bread is Me: my flesh and my blood.”
What did He mean when He said, “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you?” The word “flesh” has more than one meaning in the New Testament. In this context, it refers to the humanity of Christ. John 1:14:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
“The Word became flesh — human — and dwelt among us.” What Jesus did in that humanity is life to you and me.
In Hebrews 10:5-9, Paul is telling the Jewish Christians that, when Jesus came to this world, He did not come to perpetuate the sacrificial system since there was no salvic value in it. It was only a shadow of good things to come. But when Christ came, in verse five I read:
Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me....”
God prepared Jesus a human body in the womb of Mary and that body represented the human race. It represented the Second Adam. It was the humanity that needed redeeming that Christ assumed in the incarnation. He took this humanity for this reason — Hebrews 10:9:
Then he said [that is Christ speaking in His inmost being], “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second.
What was the will of God for Jesus Christ? Why did God send His Son here? John 3:17 says that God sent His Son “not to condemn but to save us”:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
In John 6:29, Jesus was trying to guide those people in those days to realize that He was the fulfillment of prophecy — the promises of the Messiah:
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
In John 6:28 the Jews who heard Him make this statement said to Him:
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
The Jews were raised up by a false doctrine. God was not to blame. It was the Jews who had perverted the truth. They were teaching that you had do a certain amount of works before God could accept you. Now they are asking Jesus — whom they were convinced was a prophet, because He had performed this miracle — “What are the works that God expects of us so that we may qualify for life?” Notice the answer that Jesus gave them in verse 29:
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
This is what God wants from you that you believe on Him whom He has sent. That is what God says He wants of us.
In John 6:33-35 we read:
“For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” [They did not know what He was talking about.]
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Jesus is not talking of physical hunger here. He is talking of spiritual hunger. There is in every human being a hunger for salvation. Every human being has that. That hunger can only be satisfied through Jesus Christ. Every other method has failed.
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
“Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
When the young man in Matthew 19 came to Jesus and said, “What must I do to have eternal life,” he was simply saying to Jesus, “What must I do to satisfy this hunger?” He was taught that the way you satisfy this hunger is to keep the law. So he answered Jesus Christ, “I have kept this law, but I’m still hungry. I have not satisfied my spiritual hunger.” Jesus said to him, “You can never earn salvation through good works, through law obedience.” He is talking here of the law as Christian living, as a fruit of salvation, as a means of salvation.
God prepared a human body for Jesus. That body was the corporate body of the human race that needs redeeming. Every human body from Adam to the last person has sinned and has come short of the glory of God. The only humanity that has perfectly obeyed God — both in terms of the positive demands of the law as well as the justice of the law — is the humanity of Jesus Christ and it is only in this humanity that you and I have hope. That’s why we are told that the humanity of Christ is everything to us.
The same wonderful truth is brought out in Hebrews 2:14-15:
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity [Jesus identified Himself with our humanity] so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Every human being is hungering after salvation because every human being is facing death and nobody likes to face death. There’s a saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes,” because, when we are facing death, that desire for salvation becomes very strong. That is why, if you are an atheist, you cry out to God.
I have a cousin who was traveling in Ethiopia. He worked for the United Nations. In fact, he was one of the men in the United Nations who is working on this special grain called triticale. It is a marriage between wheat and rye with a very high protein content. I notice that many of our health food stores sell it. He is one of the examiners. He was traveling, inspecting some of the sites. He was not a very godly man, but quite a worldly person. He was sitting in the plane and the pilot and the co-pilot were arguing while the plane took off. The pilot was a new man to the plane. He was accustomed to a jet propelled-plane and this was simply one with a propeller. The co-pilot said, “You are going in the wrong direction.”
The pilot said, “I’m the boss; don’t tell me how to fly a plane. They took off and the plane began to shudder and they could not climb. They were heading for a group of trees and the last thing he remembered was curling under his seat and crying out, “God save me!”
Before that, there was no God to speak of but now he was facing death and he said, “God save me” and God did save him by an amazing miracle. The plane hit the trees and the right hand engine broke away from the wing and, of course, the propeller was still traveling at this tremendous speed so the engine took off and ripped off the front of the plane. It actually ripped off his watch but didn’t touch him. He opened his eyes and all he saw was the sky. The people in front, the pilot, co-pilot, and stewardesses were all killed. I said to him, “God saved you for a purpose.”
We all want life. It is easy to say, “I don’t want to take part in the Lord’s Supper.” Do you know what you are saying? “I do not want to take part of Christ.” That’s exactly what you are saying. So Christ will say, “Who is going to give you life if you want no part of Me?”
When the disciples left Jesus, He said to the twelve in John 6:67:
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
“Will you also go away? The others have forsaken me. Are you also going to forsake me?” Note the answer that was given. John 6:68:
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
That is the question I ask you. If you refuse to be partakers of the Lord’s Supper, to whom will you go?
I realize that some people do not come because of that statement that Paul made in 1 Corinthians 11:27:
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.
Paul is not saying that the Lord’s Supper is for good people. What he means is, “Please don’t treat the Lord’s Supper as a common meal.” But we can’t do that today because in the Adventist Church all you get is a taste of bread and a small cup of juice that you can hardly drink. It is just a drop. Paul is not discussing sinners partaking of the meal. The problem in the Corinthian Church was that they were turning the Lord’s Supper into a common meal. We cannot do that; the Lord’s Supper is a sacred service.
The answer to the question, “What does it mean to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ?” is found in John 6:56:
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.
These two phases of salvation were covered in earlier studies. In order to save us, God and the human race had to be linked together. In the incarnation, Jesus and we became one so that, by His life and His death, He redeemed us. The only place that you and I stand holy is in the humanity of Christ. Apart from that humanity, we are all sinners. There is no other hope! But for that perfect life — which was produced in the humanity of Christ — to be ours, there has to be a response. You have to dwell in Christ. You have to accept your position that God gave you in Christ. He will not force it on you. We need to dwell in Him just as He dwells in us.
Jesus is saying, “When you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are simply using this as a symbol confessing that I am dwelling in you and you are dwelling in me and the two of us have become one.” This means that His righteousness is now your righteousness. John 6:57:
Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father [Jesus did nothing apart from the Father; it was by the power of the Father that He received the Holy Spirit and that He was able to live a perfect life], so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.
In other words, the Lord’s Supper is to remind us, “Not I, but Christ.” Whether we talk in terms of our standing before God or we are talking in terms of our Christian living, the principle, the recipe, the formula is the same: “Not I, but Christ.” God needs to remind us that we who are Christians in this world are still sinners. Our only hope is in the humanity of Christ. And Jesus, after living a perfect life and after meeting the judgment on the cross, is offering us His body to be part of us. In the sanctuary service, you will find in 1 Corinthians 10:18:
Consider the people of Israel [that is literal Israel]: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar?
God said to the Jews in Leviticus 17:11:
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
When you say, “I am not good enough to eat the Lord’s Supper,” I have bad news for you. You will never be good enough. The Lord’s Supper is for sinners who are putting their trust in Jesus Christ and His righteousness.
In the Adventist Church, we believe in open communion. The Lord’s Supper is for every believer. It doesn’t matter which denomination you belong to, we want you to be partakers of this Lord’s Supper because we want you to share with us the joy and the hope which we have, which is eternal life in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May God bless us as we partake of the Lord’s Supper.