One of the common arguments against the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is the fact that Christ spoke figuratively in many places throughout the Gospels. As the argument goes, if He referred to Himself as “the Door” and “the Vine,” which are clearly figurative terms, then surely He was using figurative language when He referred to the bread and wine as His body and blood, respectively.

This is highly improbable, however, since the Scripture indicates a sharp distinction between the manner in which He taught the general populace and the manner in which He spoke to His disciples privately:

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven. …

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. 34 He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. (Mark 4:10–12, 33–34, ESV)

The indication here is that when Jesus spoke metaphorically, it was to the general populace, but when He was alone with His disciples, He did not use that mode of teaching and communication, because His purpose with the disciples was entirely different. Thus, when He was in the upper room with His disciples during the Last Supper, he was not speaking in a parable when He said, “This is my body” and “this is my blood.” His purpose at that time was not to speak in figurative language “so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven.” Such people were not His audience and company at the Last Supper.

Even if He did speak to them figuratively when He was alone with them, He would have explained the meaning, according to the Gospel account. In our records of the Last Supper, however, He does not provide any explanation for His use of the words body and blood. Therefore, it’s more than reasonable to conclude that He meant those terms literally.

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