John 6 and the Lord’s Supper

I am a believer from a Protestant church in Germany (which is not in fellowship with WELS) and I have been reading your Q&A for some years. Not only have I learned a lot from your answers, but may I say that many of your answers are spiritually uplifting, they have strengthened my faith and are consoling for me. Thank you for that! - Now I have two questions concerning Holy Communion: 1) At first glance I would think that John 6:53-56 is a strong proof for the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the bread and wine. I suppose Lutherans think that this particular Scripture is not a proof for the real presence. Why is that so? - 2) When Lutherans say that Jesus’ body and blood is in, with, and under the bread and wine, what does the "under" mean? - Thank you for your answer, and may our Lord continue to give you strength and joy for your job. Greetings from Germany.

Thank you for your kind words! It is encouraging to know that readers near and far find the question and answer service beneficial.

There is no question that John 6:53-56 (“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.’”) calls to mind the Lord’s Supper. The reality is that Jesus did not institute the Lord’s Supper until Thursday of Holy Week.

When it comes to John 6:53-56, it is important to keep context in mind. In verses 35, 48 and 51, Jesus used figurative language, calling himself “the bread of life” and “the living bread that came down from heaven.” Jesus used those metaphors in the context of believing in him (verses 29, 35, 36, 40, 47). Believing in Jesus is compared to consuming the bread of life.

In verse 51, Jesus changed the metaphor from “bread” to “flesh.” Verse 54 adds “blood” to the picture language. The context still points to the intended meaning that Jesus was emphasizing the importance of believing in him as the promised Savior.

If John 6:53-56 were speaking of the Lord’s Supper, then verse 53 would make the reception of that sacrament an absolute necessity for salvation. We know that cannot be the case, as the Lord’s Supper was not available for God’s Old Testament believers. What is an absolute necessity for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16; John 14:6).

Another thing to keep in mind is that the original Greek uses one word for “flesh” and another word—concerning the Lord’s Supper—for “body.”

The formula “in, with, and under” is a way Lutherans confess the real presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. “Under” states that we only sense the bread and wine. The body and blood are truly present, but they remain hidden from us.

Thank you again for your words of appreciation for this service. May it continue to be a blessing to you and others. God’s blessings to you.