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Catholic Apologetics


Chapter 15 -- Eucharist


 
John 1:29 - The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God". What did he mean by that? What is the Scriptural background behind the name? We shall see the Catholic understanding of Jesus' role as Paschal Lamb, which leads to the Eucharist, is one of the most decisive factors that separate us from our Protestant brethren. Most Protestants believe Jesus' body and blood are not really present in the Eucharist. Catholics believe in the real presence. You must understand this core concept before you can truly make an educated decision to leave the faith.

Passover

This next passage is lengthy, but be patient and read it once carefully. We will refer to it often.

Ex 12:1-28 -

THE PASSOVER LAMB

Now the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, this month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you. Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb.

'Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it.

'They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire.

'Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste--it is the LORD'S Passover.

'For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments--I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

FEAST OF UNLEAVENED BREAD

'Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.

'On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you.

'You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.

'Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.'"

Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning.

A MEMORIAL OF REDEMPTION

"For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever.

"When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children say to you, 'What does this rite mean to you?' you shall say, 'It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes '" And the people bowed low and worshiped.

Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

I know, it is a long passage, but crucial to understanding Jesus' role as the Paschal Lamb. (Paschal means pertaining to Passover.)

In the time of Moses, God chose to kill the first-born of every household in Egypt. God required every household who was with Him to perform the protracted ritual described above. When it was all done properly, "the destroyer" passed over the house and the first-born was spared. If the ritual was done improperly, or not done at all, the first-born of that house died that night.

To Christians today, much of the ritual is bizarre. Each Israelite household had to take an unblemished male lamb on the tenth of the month and keep it until the fourteenth. At twilight on the fourteenth, they were to kill the lamb, and using hyssop branches, spread the lamb's blood over the doorposts of the house. That night, they were to roast and eat the flesh of the lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Nothing was to be left of the lamb; if any remained by morning, it was to be burned with fire. They were to eat unleavened bread for seven days after.

Again, if any of the ritual was done improperly, your first-born died. If the lamb was blemished, your first-born died. If you didn't take it on the tenth and keep it until the fourteenth, your first-born died. If you didn't kill the lamb at twilight, your first-born died. If you did not eat the flesh of the lamb, your first-born died. Thereafter, for seven days, you were to eat unleavened bread.

Abraham and Isaac

Let's skip back several hundred years to the time of Abraham and Isaac.

Gen 22:7-8 - Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.

Abraham and Isaac walked up Mt Moriah, where, as yet unknown to the lad, Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac. Isaac took note there was no lamb for a burnt offering. Abraham knew Isaac was to be the sacrifice, but prophetically, Abraham stated God would provide for Himself the lamb for the sacrifice.

Isaac was spared by God, and a ram (not a lamb) appeared, stuck in a thicket, which Abraham took to replace Isaac as the victim of the sacrifice. But the true sacrifice was never completed.

Jump ahead to the time of Jesus. God did provide for Himself the sacrificial lamb, and on the same Mt Moriah, where we find Golgotha. As we shall see, Jesus was the sacrificial lamb.

Ritual of Four Cups

In the traditional observance of the Passover meal, and the way it was likely performed in Jesus' time, Jews would celebrate with a ritual of four cups.

At the proper time, they said a blessing over the festival and drank the first cup, called the Kaddesh, or "Cup of Sanctification". All participants then washed their hands. Maror (bitter herbs) were passed around, along with haroset (fruit sauce) to cleanse the pallet. They read the Haggadah to tell the story of Exodus, and Psalm 113, called the "Little Hal-el" song, was sung. Then they drank the second cup, the "Cup of Plagues".

After saying Grace, they served the main meal, consisting of roasted lamb, unleavened bread and more herbs. Prayers followed, and they said after-dinner Grace before drinking the third cup. This third cup was known as the "Cup of Blessing".

They then sang the "Great Hal-el" songs, Psalms 114-118. (Hal-el means give praise; Yahweh is God. Thus, we get the word 'Hallelujah' [Hal-el u ya], which means give praise to God.)

This was the climax of the celebration. This signified the point when the Israelites of the original Passover completed the ritual. Everything that needed to be done was done. Their first-born were safe. At the end of the last note of the last Psalm, it was finished, the bloody sacrifice was over and they could drink the fourth and final cup, known as the "Cup of Consummation".

Thereafter, for seven days, they ate unleavened bread. The Festival of Passover was over on the seventh day, when the unleavened bread was all consumed.

The Last Supper

Let's look at this ritual at the Last Supper. Jesus celebrated the ritual of the four cups with his disciples in the Upper Room on Holy Thursday.

Luke 22:14-18 - When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it (again) until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

Mark 14:22-26 - While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Here we have verses of the Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples before his death. The first cup was drunk, followed by the washing. It is likely this was the point in the ritual Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles. See John 13:5. The second cup was drunk, then Jesus lifted the bread. Mark says He took bread and said the blessing. This agreed with the Passover ritual. Then He took the wine, gave thanks and they all drank from it. That was the Cup of Blessing. This agreed with the Passover ritual. Then they sang a hymn, presumably the great Hal-el song. This agreed with the Passover ritual. To all Jews and early Christians, the steps of the Passover meal were very apparent.

But then a strange thing happens-before they drink the Cup of Consummation, the final cup, Jesus specifically says, in both Mark and Luke, He will not drink wine again until the Kingdom of God comes, and they "went out to the Mount of Olives".

This is odd.

The first day of the Passover celebration, the bloody sacrifice of the lamb, is not over until you drink the fourth cup. That is the climax of the entire first-day celebration. Yet, at the time they were to drink the cup, Jesus refused to drink until some non-distinct time in the future. To put it in modern terms, that would be like the priest leaving after the reading of the Gospel at Catholic Mass. It was very unusual. Again, Jews and early Christians would notice this. Why did Jesus do it this way?

The Agony in the Garden

They go to the Mount of Olives, and Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Mark 14:35-36 - He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will."

What did He mean by "take this cup away from me"? What cup? What does that mean? If He's talking about His suffering and death, what does a cup have to do with it?

Some say Jesus was speaking of the cup of God's anger found elsewhere in the Bible. See Isa 51:17, Jer 25:15, Rev 14:10. This is possible, and there may be a secondary reference to those verses, but God was not angry with Jesus. Looking a little deeper, how might it relate to the events of the evening thus far?

Linking it back to the Upper Room discourse, Jesus did not drink the fourth cup at the Passover celebration, and now He asks God to remove this cup from Him. The fourth cup of the Passover liturgy is the climax of the celebration, after the lamb is slain, after the bloody sacrifice is over. Jesus asks God to spare Him from the fourth cup.

Jesus is the Paschal Lamb, about to be sacrificed to establish a new and everlasting covenant. Only when the lamb is sacrificed will He drink the final cup.

The Crucifixion

Mark 15:23 - They gave him wine drugged with myrrh, but he did not take it.

While Jesus was made to carry the cross up the hill to Calvary, they offered Him wine with myrrh. Wine drugged with myrrh is a pain-killer. Jesus refused, keeping His promise not to drink until the Kingdom comes.

John 19:28-30 - After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I thirst." There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, "It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

The other times Jesus was offered drink, He refused. This time He asked for it in order that the scripture might be fulfilled. He was undoubtedly thirsty before this point, but the time was not right. By drinking wine now, the Scriptures would be fulfilled.

In some translations, rather than "it is finished", Jesus said "it is consummated". When Jesus knew everything was finished, He finally took wine. He drank the fourth and final cup, the Cup of Consummation. And the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb was finished.

Incidentally, a hyssop branch was used to offer the wine to Jesus. As you recall from above, Hyssop branches were used to spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts on the original Passover in Moses' day.

Comparing the Passover to the Passion

Let's review the lengthy passage above where the ritual for the original Passover was established and compare it to the events surrounding Jesus' death.

In keeping with the requirement for unblemished lambs for sacrifice, Jesus' legs were not broken, as were the other two crucified with Him. See John 19:32-33. As we all know, Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. (Some say that certainly the bones in Jesus' hands and feet were broken when the spikes were driven through them, but that was in the act of sacrificing--not incidental to the act itself. Had His legs been broken, that would not have been part of the act of sacrificing Him, rather it would only be to hasten His death.)

Jesus had His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the day we now celebrate as Palm Sunday. The Jewish priests and scribes then plotted to kill Him. In the original Passover ritual, one had to take the lamb on the 10th and keep it for four days. In keeping with the original Passover ritual, they had Him for four days in Jerusalem until Good Thursday, when they took Him to be slain. Then He was crucified, just as the Passover lamb was slaughtered. His actual death was at the same hour prescribed to kill the lamb.

All that is left in the Paschal Lamb analogy is we must eat the flesh of the Lamb.

In the Old Testament sacrificial rituals, the victims were always eaten. This consummated the sacrifice. This restored communion with God. It was the way God wanted it done.

God did not just want blood and death, He wanted restoration. He wanted to be a family again. He wanted to eat the family meal together. It was crucial to God it be done this way. In the case of the original Passover, if you didn't eat the lamb, you didn't restore communion with God, and your first-born died.

When Jesus said "it is finished", the bloody, death part of the Paschal sacrifice was finished. Now comes the restoration with God. Now comes the communion, the family meal. We must eat the lamb with God. And just as in the original Passover, everyone must eat, or the restoration is not complete.

This was apparent to the early Christians. They knew the significance of all of this to a much greater degree than we now understand. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

1 Cor 5:7-8 - For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Paul says Christ, the Paschal Lamb, has been sacrificed. Paul doesn't say it is now over. He says we must now celebrate the feast. What feast? The Feast of Unleavened Bread. Christ began the feast with his bloody sacrifice, now we must finish it with unleavened bread, with the Eucharist.

The Bread of Life

John 6:48-69 - I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?"

Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. These things he said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?" Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

But there are some of you who do not believe." Jesus knew from the beginning the ones who would not believe and the one who would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?" Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Jesus says He is the bread of life. He is the living bread. The bread He gives is His flesh. Unless we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we have no life in us. Whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life. His flesh is true food and his blood is true drink. Whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood remains in Him and He in them. This comports perfectly with the concept that Jesus is the Lamb of God, as discussed above.

Jesus says He is the bread of life, the living bread. The ancient Israelites had the manna from heaven to sustain them, and they ate daily. Jesus is the living bread, which likewise is eaten daily to sustain eternal life.

He states specifically that the bread He will give is His flesh. This caused consternation among the Jews. It was a hard thing for them to accept. Was Jesus kidding? Was He speaking metaphorically? The Jews that were present didn't think so. Through His words and actions, His body language, they sensed He meant what He said. They quarreled among themselves trying to figure it out.

They took Him literally, and Jesus knew it. If He was speaking metaphorically, this was His chance to explain things a little. He could now clear up their misunderstanding. But no, He does not confirm that He is speaking metaphorically, He repeats Himself and takes it one step further. He states "Amen, amen", which means "That's right, you got it!" He then states one must eat His flesh and drink His blood.

Now things are really getting out of hand. It is bad enough Jesus claims one must eat His flesh, but He also demands we drink His blood-something specifically forbidden in Leviticus 3:17. To the Jews of the day, this was beyond repulsive--it caused them to wonder if indeed he was the Messiah, or a demonic imposter. It would be as if Jesus appeared to us today, and demanded we all sacrifice our first-born. It would cause us to pause and reevaluate the situation. Maybe we are following the wrong guy? Maybe, if I sacrifice my first-born in obedience to His command, I may discover later He was a fake, and I would have foolishly killed my child. Similar thoughts went through the minds of the Jews present during Jesus' discourse. Up to this point, they wondered about this new revelation of His, the requirement to eat His flesh. He showed such great promise as a prophet and teacher, but He wants them to eat His flesh and drink His blood? Upon reevaluation, this was just too much. He is a mad man.

Again, Jesus can clear things up here, but He does not. He reinforces His stance. He states whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood has eternal life; for His flesh is true food and His blood is true drink. He states it again-whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood remains in Him and He in them. He states over and over we must eat His flesh. And John explains what Jesus means by "remain in me":

John 15:4 - Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me.

Jesus now lost all hope of persuading them. Many left in disgust. Jesus, the Great Rabbi, the Savior of mankind, just convinced the majority of those present to abandon Him. God wants that all men will be saved, and yet Jesus let a good portion of His followers walk away. Note: these weren't innocent passers-by; these were His disciples, many of whom had been with Him for a long time. He didn't yell "Wait, come back, I was only speaking metaphorically!" He let them go. If He was speaking metaphorically, His actions showed no love or compassion. If He was speaking literally, His actions showed remorse they would not accept His teaching.

An argument can be made that the Bible speaks metaphorically of eating flesh, and Jesus was borrowing the idea from Scripture.

Ps 27:2 - When evildoers come at me to devour my flesh, These my enemies and foes themselves stumble and fall.

Here, David does not suspect his enemies and foes will actually eat his flesh. He compares these evildoers to rapacious beasts. See also Ps 7:3, 17:12, 22:14.

Micah 3:1-3 - And I said: Hear, you leaders of Jacob, rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not your duty to know what is right, you who hate what is good, and love evil? You who tear their skin from them, and their flesh from their bones! They eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from them, and break their bones. They chop them in pieces like flesh in a kettle, and like meat in a caldron.

Here, the prophet likens the rulers to those who tear skin from people and eat their flesh. Micah knows his words will not be taken literally. He does not imply flesh is actually eaten.

Is 9:18-20 - At the wrath of the LORD of hosts the land quakes, and the people are like fuel for fire; No man spares his brother, each devours the flesh of his neighbor. Though they hack on the right, they are hungry; though they eat on the left, they are not filled. Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh; together they turn on Judah. For all this, his wrath is not turned back, his hand is still outstretched!

Isaiah metaphorically has fellow Israelites eating each other. So how do we know Jesus was not being metaphorical?

In all these cases, the argument is made that Jesus was likewise borrowing from Scripture and speaking metaphorically. It is as if Jesus was recognizing he had to suffer and die at the hands of the very people who would then benefit from his sacrifice. They had to "eat his flesh" (kill him) in order to have eternal life. If it didn't happen, if Jesus was not sacrificed on Calvary, then none of them could have been saved.

This argument does not justify the response of the Jews present at the time Jesus spoke the words. His audience was His followers. They believed in Him. They wanted to be with Him, hear Him speak, live His life. Then Jesus spoke this discourse and made them think.

If the Jews knew Jesus was using scriptural terms to create a spiritual understanding, they would have been more defensive. They would have denied any of them could ever treat Jesus that way. They would have threatened to defend Jesus against any who would do Him harm. But, if they took Him literally--if they knew He was not borrowing phrases from Scripture to put the audience in the right frame of mind, but meant what He said literally--they would have been aghast. John's gospel shows they were aghast.

Furthermore, if He was speaking metaphorically, the Jews were right to leave. If Jesus did not mean what He said literally, then He was demanding the Jews metaphorically eat His flesh and drink His blood. If it was improper to do literally, it was improper to do metaphorically.

In the verses shown above, Jesus could not be more obvious. There are not many other ways to say it. He repeats many times in many ways one must eat his flesh and drink his blood.

After many Jews left, His disciples were left incredulous, murmuring to one another. Jesus desperately tries to persuade them, but to no avail. They just can not accept His teaching. Many of them leave also.

Finally, Jesus turns to His apostles, asking if they, too, intend to abandon Him. They don't. They knew He was speaking literally, and they believed Him.

Here is where Protestants differ greatly from Catholics. Most Protestants believe Jesus was speaking figuratively when He said these words. They believe He did not really mean His body and blood is present in the bread and wine. They believe they know the true meaning behind Jesus' words, moreso than all the Jews who were present to hear the words in person, moreso than Jesus' own disciples who abandoned Him because of those words.

Some say when Jesus states "[i]t is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life", He means He is speaking in the Spirit, not in real words, but metaphorically. If you consider what Jesus says just prior and just after this statement, you see He could not be speaking figuratively.

Just prior, Jesus said "Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?" Jesus is saying that whatever shocks them is greater than witnessing the Son of Man ascending to Heaven. Is metaphorically eating His body and drinking His blood greater than His ascension into Heaven? On the other hand, is transforming His flesh into real food and His blood into real drink so we may consume it and obtain eternal life greater than His ascension into Heaven?

Just after the "spirit and life" verbiage, Jesus states "But there are some of you who do not believe". If Jesus was speaking metaphorically, they would be right not to believe Him. They would be correct in assuming He didn't mean what He was saying, but was implying some other, perhaps spiritual meaning. But, if He spoke literally, then some of them would truly not believe.

And Jesus said those who did not believe could not come to Him unless it was granted by the Father. Jesus said those who did not believe His words did not receive the grace of faith by the Father. What does that say of those today who do not believe His words?

When Jesus said "[i]t is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life", He is saying that it is God--in the third person of the Trinity as the Holy Spirit--who gives eternal life. Human flesh is nothing by itself; the Spirit transfigures it into the bread of life. The words Jesus spoke were from the Spirit, not the flesh.

John 4:21-24 - But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth."

Here we see John's "God is Spirit" verbiage used again, in a similar context.

Consider also that if Jesus were speaking metaphorically, then He deliberately deceived everyone. That doesn't make Him the greatest teacher that ever lived; it makes Him a horrible teacher. Four times He had an opportunity to explain the 'spiritual' meaning behind His words, and four times, not only did He fail to do so, He went deeper into the 'metaphor'. No, Jesus could not have been speaking metaphorically. He had to be speaking literally. He meant what He said.

The Jews took Jesus at His word; it even says so in the verses. "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?' They knew He meant what He said. It was a hard thing for them to accept.

His disciples took Him at His word. In the verses preceding those shown above, the disciples saw Him feed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and a few fish and they saw him walk on water. Previously, they saw him change water into wine, cast out demons, heal the sick and raise the dead. They even cast out demons with the power Jesus gave them. They saw all these things and were with Him all that time, and yet they rejected Him. They heard what He said, and it was so repulsive to them, they rejected Him. Jesus did not explain that He was only speaking in metaphors, He repeated Himself time and time again. They knew He meant what He said.

His Apostles took Him at His word. Jesus asked if they, too, were going to leave. Peter said "where would we go? You have the words of eternal life." It was almost as if Peter was ready to leave if there was someone else he could turn to, but there wasn't. The Apostles did not know how Jesus was going to give them His flesh to eat, or why He insisted on this bizarre course of action, but they knew He meant what He said and they were ready to stick with Him to the end.

And once there were only a few of His followers left, Jesus didn't change His stance. He didn't reveal some alternate meaning behind His words. After He bared His soul to them, He was ready to lose even His Apostles if they could not accept what He said.

This is why we are to eat the flesh of the Paschal Lamb. Jesus says so. Paul says so. God says so.

Refer once again to the original Passover. What would happen if the lamb was killed, but the family didn't eat the lamb? Say they made unleavened bread in the shape of a lamb and said it signified the lamb because they thought God didn't mean it when He said to eat the lamb, they thought He was speaking symbolically. Say they then ate the symbolic bread in place of the actual lamb. When they awoke in the morning, their first-born would be dead. God meant to eat the lamb at the original Passover just like Jesus meant to eat his flesh.

Celebrating the Feast

Paul says we are to continue celebrating the feast.

1 Cor 11:23-29 - For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.

Note the first line. Paul received the instructions for the Eucharist directly from Jesus, not the other Apostles. Also note Paul says "for as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes." This is why we are offered the Eucharist daily. That is why we celebrate the Mass daily, to proclaim the death of the Lord, to proclaim the Gospel.

Paul then warns whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. In ancient times, that was another way of saying you would have to answer for the death of the Lord. That is why Pilate washed his hands to absolve himself of Jesus' blood. That is why even today we say "His blood is on your hands" to mean you are responsible for his death. So Paul is saying we must answer for the body and blood of the Lord if we eat and drink unworthily. How can you be made to answer for the body and blood of the Lord if it is not the body and blood of the Lord?

Again, Paul warns anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. How can you eat and drink judgment on yourself by not discerning the Lord's body if it isn't the Lord's body?

1 Cor 10:16 - The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

We partake of the one loaf of the bread of life. Paul states clearly the cup is a participation in the blood of Christ and the bread is a participation in the body of Christ. Paul calls it the Cup of Blessing, the third cup of the Passover Feast.

Rev 5:1-5 - I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?" And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals."

The Apostle John, during his great revelation, saw God on a throne, holding a book sealed closed. Who was worthy to break open the seals and open the book? John was about to find out.

Rev 5:6 - And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.

The elder said "behold the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David". John saw it was a Lamb looking as if it were slain. Jesus is the Lion from the tribe of Judah. Jesus is from the Root of David. Jesus appeared as a Lamb looking as if He were slain.

Why did Jesus not appear in all His majesty and glory? Why did He not appear as a Lion, at least? Why a slain lamb? He appeared as a slain lamb because He is the Paschal Lamb and the feast is not yet over. We are still eating the Lamb. Paul just said so, and John confirmed it.

Rev 5:7-10 - And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth."

Jesus was slain. Jesus purchased, with His blood, "men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation". Jesus is still purchasing people. That has not yet finished. All of them must yet eat of the Paschal Lamb to have restoration with God, to have communion with God.

In the Order of Melchizedek

When the Israelites worshipped a golden calf while Moses was on the mountain, they broke God's covenant with them. God then required bloody animal sacrifices (starting with calf sacrifices) to restore communion with Him.

Jesus paid the final price of redemption. He was the perfect sacrifice. He defeated the calf. Bloody animal sacrifices are no longer necessary. The priests of God no longer have to kill animals to have communion with God. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice--no animal sacrifice could compare.

And Jesus "made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God". Jesus ended the need to overcome the sin of the golden calf. We can go back to the way it was before the Israelites broke the covenant. Before animal sacrifices, priests offered bread and wine, not animals and blood.

Gen 14:18-20 - Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram with these words: Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand." Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

Where have you ever been blessed after giving an offering (tithe) and ate bread and drank wine? It sounds like the Mass. We don't do bloody sacrifices any longer, we now do bread and wine, just like it was done long ago.

Priests in the order of Melchizedek celebrated as a kingdom of priests in communion with God. Priests in the order of Aaron, who came after Melchizedek, celebrated as God commanded with animal sacrifice. Through Jesus, we have returned to a priestly people, a nation of priests. We return to those days with the Eucharist.

The Sacrifice of the Mass
Proclaiming the Death of the Lord

Jesus is represented as the perfect sacrifice at every Mass. Several centuries before the birth of Christ, God spoke an oracle through Malachi. God was displeased with the priests. They were not honoring the requirement to bring the best animals for the sacrifice.

Mal 1:10-11 - I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts; neither will I accept any sacrifice from your hands, for from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; And everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering; For great is my name among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

God said, centuries before Christ walked the Earth, from the rising of the sun until its setting, His name is great among the nations. Everywhere they bring sacrifice to My name, and a pure offering.

What is the only pure offering ever made in all of history? Jesus Christ's Paschal sacrifice is the only pure offering ever made. In the Mass, we re-present Christ's sacrifice to God. Note, we do not sacrifice Jesus at every Mass, we re-present His sacrifice to God. As Paul put it to the Corinthians, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord". See 1 Cor 11:26

We continue the feast, as Paul said. We eat the Paschal Lamb in the Eucharist. We drink of the cup of blessing, the cup of the new and everlasting covenant. And we do it every hour of every day all over the world-in all the nations." Today, God's name truly is great among the nations.

Centuries before Christ, God's name was not great among the Gentiles. God was not saying all the nations of that day brought sacrifice to His name. God was comparing the disappointment He experienced with the priests of that day to the joy He experiences with the priests of another time. The oracle through Malachi was a prophesy of things to come.

Parting Comment

We see why Jesus was the Lamb of God. We see why He had to be sacrificed. We see why we still have to eat His body and drink His blood. We see how this pleases God.

You follow Jesus. You believe in Him. You know He is the way to salvation. Now you are at a turning point. Now you know what the Jews and His disciples and His Apostles were thinking on that fateful day in the synagogue in Capernaum. Now you know the choice they had to make-whether to accept His requirement to eat His flesh and drink His blood, or to reject Him. You now have to decide for yourself.


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