I’ve heard that we are what we eat. This saying has an interesting history ranging from being a metaphor to a literal idea. Certainly the energy in food is translated into energy by our bodies. It seems this is the parallel Jesus had in mind when He said,
"Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:56–60)
To feed on Christ is to believe in Him and rely on Him for everything. Because He lives in those who believe in Him, His strength becomes our strength. He even promised His strength to Paul (and all Christians) when it is most needed.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7–9)
As I come to Jesus each day, the more helpless I feel, the more strength He gives. He is my life and resource, wanting to give me everything I need to help others, speak truth, fight spiritual battles and win victories over sin.
This idea of feeding on Christ has confused some who think that the bread and wine of the Eucharist or communion service are changed into the body and blood of Jesus, an idea called transubstantiation. For them, this is how to receive Jesus. The Bible does not support this idea, but confusion is no surprise. His followers were confused also, perhaps taking Him literally.
But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. (John 6:61–63)
Eating His flesh and drinking His blood is not about cannibalism or transubstantiation. It is a spiritual reality that happens when the Holy Spirit grants life to those who believe. Our flesh, or human efforts, or even mere wine and bread cannot do that. Only Jesus gives life and that life comes through faith, not food and drink.
Actually, believing in Jesus and feeding on Him for strength is far more difficult than taking bread and wine. When those who followed Him understood what Jesus meant, this is what happened:
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66–69)
Peter had it right. He knew that the words Jesus spoke were spirit and life. There was no other way to get His life but by believing and knowing this Holy One of God.
Lord, the spiritual discipline of feeding on You involves absorbing Your Word and letting it become part of who I am through prayer and obedience. Even when I feel weak and unable, Your strength is sufficient for whatever You ask me to be and do. I rejoice that Philippians 4:13 is true, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”