"It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63)
Do these words, spoken by Jesus after the "Bread of Life" discourse in John 6, prove that He was not promising to give us His actual Flesh in Communion?

This question is deftly answered in The Eucharist, a tract on the Catholic Answers website. The tract aptly shows that Jesus would then be contradicting Himself:

"Are we to understand that Christ, who had just commanded his disciples to eat his flesh, then said their doing so would be pointless? Is that what "the flesh is of no avail" means? "Eat my flesh, but you'll find it's a waste of time"--is that what he was saying? Hardly."1
It goes on to argue that Jesus could not possibly have meant "My Flesh profits nothing", since His Flesh profits a great deal! If His sacred Body were useless (which is what "profits nothing" means), then why did He become incarnate? Why bother to assume a human body if it is really worthless after all?

What does the Bible say about Jesus' Body? Let's look and see:

"We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10).

"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (Hebrews 10:19-20).

"For we are members of his body" (Ephesians 5:30)

"The Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ...shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Philippians 3:20-21).

In light of those verses, how can any Bible-believing Christian think that Jesus' Flesh "profits nothing"?

So Our Lord could not possibly have meant that.  The tract goes on to explain what He really meant:

In John 6:63 "flesh profits nothing" refers to mankind's inclination to think on a natural level, using only what their natural human reason would tell them rather than what God would tell them.  Thus in John 8:15-16 Jesus tells his opponents: "You judge according to the flesh, I judge no one.  Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone that judge, but I and he who sent me."  So natural human judgment, unaided by God's grace, is unreliable; but God's judgment is always true.2
So John 6:63 does not prove that the Eucharist is not Jesus' true Body and Blood.

An Aside:

Some Evangelicals claim that Jesus is really referring to the Bible here; that "eat My flesh and drink My blood" is somehow a metaphor for "read the word of God".  First of all, the reading of Sacred Scripture, though important and recommended, is never referred to elsewhere in the Bible as "eating Jesus' Flesh" or "drinking His Blood".  The only place where we find similar wording is in the accounts of the Last Supper, when Jesus tells His Apostles: "Take, eat, for this is My Body....Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant" (Matthew 26:26-28). He is not handing them a Bible at that moment!

Second, in the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus speaks in a future tense, saying He will give this spiritual nourishment to men in the future:

"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give  to you." (John 6:27)

"The bread which I shall give  for the life of the world is my flesh." (vs 51)

The implication is that His listeners did not yet have this food at the time.  Yet they already had the word of God!  They had the Torah, the Prophets and Writings. . .and yes, they had also heard some of the words of Christ Himself.  For this crowd was composed of His disciples, people who had followed Him for a time - and many ceased to follow Him after this discourse (see John 6:66).

The Twelve Apostles were also present for the Bread of Life discourse (vv 67-71).  They had heard more of Jesus' words than anyone else, yet Jesus speaks as much to them as to the others when He promises this future gift of life-giving food.  They had His words of eternal life already, as well as the Old Testament, yet Jesus promised to give them something more one day - His very Flesh and Blood as spiritual nourishment.  And the only time He did that was at the Last Supper, which was still in the future at the time of the Bread of Life discourse.

So Jesus clearly was not saying "read the Bible", rather He was promising the Holy Eucharist.

Works Cited:

1 The Eucharist, © 1996 Catholic Answers, Inc.


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