Updated: Apr 3, 2021
“Source and Summit of the Christian faith.”, “Center of Christian worship.”, “Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity.” The Doctrine of the Eucharist is foreign to most Protestant ears and absolute madness to secular ones. However, it is insisted upon by Christ, taught by His apostles, baked into our salvation story throughout the Scriptures, and echoed by the Church Fathers with absolute unanimity. Salvation history, from the first few pages of Genesis, prefigures and foreshadows how our Eucharistic Lord will save His people. Don’t believe me? I encourage you to read on.
We begin with a tour of the Old Testament, followed by hitting a few core passages in the New. Next, I will list some arguments that even this long article didn’t have space to cover but may be valuable for your explanation. Lastly, everyone’s favorite: an objection and answer section. Prepare yourself. This is long article, but it is broken into smaller sections to make it more manageable as each successive argument and illustration builds on the next.
The Garden of Eden
Adam and Eve were created in union with God who, “walked with them in the cool of the evening.” This unity was not meant to be temporary, but everlasting. The proof was the Tree of Life, planted in the center of the Garden. If they ate of the fruit hanging from this tree, they would live forever and thereby extend their friendship with God and one another into eternity. This means that from the beginning, God’s plan was to offer to mankind a meal granting them eternal life with him.
Unfortunately, our first parents chose to eat of another tree, which is called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. After they did so, they were thrown out of the Garden. An angel with a flaming sword guards the way back to Eden, in order to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life and being trapped in this wretched state forever.
Let us now read Luke 23:44-46, in light of the brief summary above:
“44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last.”
It is almost as if the darkness at the Crucifixion represents the sheathing of the angel’s fiery sword. Before Christ’s death, everything was seen in light of it. All of salvation history until this point was in the shadow of sin cast in the light of our exile from Eden.
Yet Luke tells us the veil was torn. That barrier between us and again walking in communion with our Creator as we did in Eden was removed through Christ’s sacrifice. The Tree, which was taken away as a result of our sin, was dragged up Mt. Calvary and planted by Christ for all to see. Hanging from that tree is Christ’s body, the same body that He tells us in John 6 is, “True food”.
In the Garden of Eden mankind walked with God. Today, through Christ’s sacrifice, that type of relationship is again possible. In the first Garden, mankind was given the fruit of the Tree of Life to eat. Where is that fruit today? If the Cross is the new Tree of Life, as even many Protestant scholars would affirm, how can we eat of the fruit? After all, what allows us to extend this relationship with God into eternity is the fruit of the Tree of Life.
The Eucharist makes senses of this. In the words Christ, “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. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink (John 6:53-55).
The New Creation:
Christ’s resurrection marks the restarting of the creation story, which had ended on the seventh day of Genesis. Matthew 28:1-6 records:
“After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”
The story of creation is brought back on track by Christ on the morning of the 8th day. The terrifying angel that guarded against mankind reentering the garden now beckons them into the place of the resurrection. Where is the place our new creation begins, which angels invite us to see? It’s a Garden. This is more explicit in John’s narrative:
“14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
16 “Mary!” Jesus said.” (John 20:14-16)
In a sense she was correct; the original vocation of man has been returned to us. Our first parents handed dominion over the earth to the serpent. Jesus took it back. The fruit of the Tree of Life is on the altar of churches around the globe. There is no place on earth we can’t walk with God. The whole earth is now Eden.
Why Protestants Lost the Eucharist:
Why do Catholic churches have the Eucharist and Protestant churches do not? This might be hard to hear, but we can only eat the fruit from one tree, and Protestants choose the wrong one. Adam and Eve said, “No”, to the authority of God, and instead imagined they were the ultimate judges of what is good and evil, truth and falsehood, right and wrong. Christ started a Church and gave it authority on earth. Paul refers to this Church as the pillar and foundation of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). Protestants, as the name implies, protest against this Church. Catholics receive the fruit of the Tree of Life because we accept the authority of God on earth. Protestants make themselves the measure of truth...and are therefore denied it.
Surely no Protestant would actually say they make themselves the ultimate authority. No, they believe the greatest authority is God’s Word, found in the Scriptures. Listen again to the words recorded in our Scriptures:
“‘Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?’ 2 The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’’ 4 But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:1-6)
“He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I- commanded you not to eat?’ 12 The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’ 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent tricked me, and I ate.’” (Genesis 3:11-13)
These last words were no mere excuse. Corinthians 11:3 affirms she was indeed tricked by the devil. How did he do it? By taking the words of God and offering a different interpretation of them. Eve didn’t fall because she didn’t know God’s words, nor because she didn’t believe them. In a sense, the first “bite” of fruit was when she decided in her heart that she was the one to determine what God’s words meant, on her own authority.
When comparing Protestant and Catholic churches, you, like Eve, might think you will be better spiritually fed by the better preaching or more engaging worship found at Protestant services. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food”. Let’s face it: Protestant churches are cooler, have better marketing, and less reputation for scandal. “and that it was a delight to the eyes”. Plus, most Catholic priests can’t preach their way out of a paper bag, and most Catholics don’t know a Bible from a ham sandwich. Furthermore, a Catholic has to believe whatever doctrines the Catholic Church tells them, but as a Protestant you can learn and study for yourself. “And that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” The choice is the same today as it was in the Garden. Either accept God’s authority in faith, by obedience, and eat the fruit of eternal life, or make yourself the final interpreter of God’s words and be denied it.
Maybe you, like myself, were born into the Protestant faith. Does this give us an excuse? Let’s consult Scripture:
“The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’”
Maybe you didn’t make the initial choice to leave Christ’s church, but if you received that fruit and ate it, you still bear a certain amount of guilt.
Don’t be Like Korah:
Some Protestants might say their ultimate authority is not their own personal interpretation of God’s Word, like Eve thought, but rather it is the Holy Spirit. Practically speaking, this clearly isn’t working, as can be seen by the multitude of ever fracturing denominations. How can so many opposing denominations, churches, and movements be lead by one Holy Spirit that only speaks truth? Salvation level issues have rampant disagreement, even among those Protestants who put every effort to be faithful to the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Nowhere in the history of God’s people was doctrinal authority vested in “the people”, writ large. Nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, the idea did come up:
“And they confronted Moses. 3 They assembled against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. So why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’” (Numbers 16:2-3)
This is how that whole situation ended:
“The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, along with their households—everyone who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they with all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 All Israel around them fled at their outcry, for they said, ‘The earth will swallow us too!’ 35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred fifty men offering the incense.” (Numbers 16:32-35)
God was clearly not pleased with this idea. Three chapters later, Moses refers to the people as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Numbers 19:6). Korah wasn’t wrong in saying that, in a sense, all of God’s people are priests. He also wasn’t wrong that God was truly with that people.
Protestants aren’t wrong to say the Holy Spirit is with us and we’re all priests. Yes, that is all true. What is desperately, get-sucked-into-the-earth or consumed-with-fire levels of wrong, is concluding God did not establish an authority here on earth.
This isn’t an article on Church authority; that will be coming soon. Here, we are making the point that whether your ultimate authority is your private interpretation of God’s word spoken through Scripture, or if it is your private interpretation of God’s word spoken through the Holy Spirit, in either case, you have become the ultimate arbiter of truth and therefore have plucked from the wrong tree.
Undoing the Curse:
Plucking the fruit of the wrong tree had devastating consequences for our first parents, taking them from the Garden into a desert. After Adam’s sin, God gives him a penance, or a redemptive punishment. It’s a recipe for redemption.
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree
about which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
No man until Jesus could carry out this penance. It was His toil under the crown of thorns, humiliated and betrayed, that brought forth our food. It is by the sweat of His face, dripping blood at the garden of Gethsemane and pouring sweat under the weight of the cross, that “We shall eat bread”. The labor of Christ’s love undoes the curse of Man’s sin.
When I was a Protestant Christian, I, too, thought the Scriptures were all I needed. In fact, studying them lit my heart on fire with the love of God. How could I have been missing something so monumental as the Eucharist, if it were really true and littered throughout the Bible I studied? Luke 24 tells us how:
“28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us[k] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!’ 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:28-35)
They met Christ and invited Him into their lives. They knew the Scriptures. They had those Scriptures explained to them by Jesus Christ Himself. However, it took the Eucharistic meal, which Jesus first offered in the upper room, to open their eyes so they could recognize Him in the breaking of the bread. Jesus vanished afterward because His human form was no longer necessary; He had given them Himself.
Moving up to Genesis 14, we see recorded an unlikely group around the dinner table. In one seat is the king of Sodom. Also in attendance is the King of Salem, who is also the high priest, named Melchizedek. Finally, we see Abraham, father of the Hebrew people. Today is a happy day for all of them, so they make a sacrificial meal in celebration. The Septuagint records the meal of bread and wine as a Eucharist (Thanksgiving) meal. The three characters (roughly) represent:
God - Melchizedek
The Devil - King of Sodom
Mankind – Abraham
To give some background to this celebratory meal: Abraham’s nephew Lot had decided to go and live near Sodom at a particularly bad time. Some rival kings attacked the city and took Lot and his family captive. Abraham, and 300 or so men, plan a rescue operation in the middle of the night. He splits the men into two groups and ambushes the camp from both flanks. Amazingly, outnumbered as he was, Abraham decimates the opposing army and rescues everyone.
The King of Sodom is grateful for what Abraham did in rescuing his people and wants to make a deal. He proposes Abraham keeps all the wealth while he takes all the people. Basically, he asks Abraham to sell out the freedom and flourishing of others in return for wealth and comfort.
Let me channel my inner ancient middle eastern potentate for a moment and imagine what he may have said to Abraham:
*Heaping up the flattery* “Abraham, that was incredible! You and your bravery saved my whole city. You deserve to enjoy the fruits of you own labor, in thanksgiving for what you have accomplished. I’ll take the people...you don’t want them anyway. They aren’t like you, brave and powerful. So don’t worry about them; go and enjoy the spoils of victory.”
Abraham had three choices:
1) Give into the flattery, make an alliance with the evil king, and become wealthy and honored by him.
2) Go back to a normal life. Take what is fair for his trouble and continue as he always has.
3) Out of thankfulness, look outside of himself and give away what he has to share his joy with God and others.
Abraham credits God with this victory, not himself. He knew everything he had was given to him by God. This is why his act of thanksgiving and celebration doesn’t turn inward, into hoarding and indulging, or selfishness and betrayal of others. Nor does it embrace the second option and simply maintain the status quo. Instead, he accepts from the king of Sodom only what is necessary to provide for his men. Then he turns to the king of Salem and gives him a tenth of everything he has.
The military victory was already won, but it was only at this Eucharistic meal of bread and wine with Melchizedek that Abraham completes his rescue mission of saving his family and the other captives from the rule of the evil king.
Jesus is revealed in Hebrews 5:6 as a priest in the order of Melchizedek. He, too, lays out a Eucharistic meal of bread and wine. In this meal, we, like Abraham, complete the rescue mission and reject the evil king, in favor of sharing in the joy of the Lord.
Here is a short argument for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist:
Premise 1: Christ is both the priest and the sacrifice
Premise 2: Christ is a priest in the order of Melchizedek
Premise 3: Melchizedek's sacrifice was in the form of bread and wine
Conclusion: Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself is in the form of bread and wine.
Joseph Saves His People With Bread:
Joseph in the Old Testament might be the clearest picture of Christ in all of the Bible. Here is a far from exhaustive list of similarities:
Jesus: 12 Disciples, Descends to earth and Hell- the prison of souls, Betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, Sits at the right hand of God and saves His people, Provides Eucharistic bread for His people so they can live forever
Joseph: 12 Brothers, Descends into a pit and a prison, Betrayed for 20 pieces of silver, Sits at the right hand of the ruler and saves his people, Provides bread for his people so they can live
“Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. 6 He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: 7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.’”(Genesis 37:5-6)
Speaking of Himself, Jesus says this:
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)
Spoiler alert: Jesus died and rose from the dead. If you will, “suddenly his sheaf rose and stood upright”. We believers have been described as a field of wheat (Mathew 13:24-30). Let’s put all of these puzzle pieces together.
Joseph is a type of Christ. His prophecy relates to himself proximately, but like many, or possibly most prophecies, it has a double fulfillment. Therefore, this dream relates to Jesus also. In His resurrection, Jesus rises up out of the ground. We, the other stalks of wheat, fall down in worship of Him. Is this telling us we are to be worshiping wheat? Of course not; clearly in the dream wheat is seen, but it actually relates to Joseph- and later on to Jesus. Just like in Joseph’s dream, in the Eucharist we see wheat (made into bread) and we are to bow down to it, precisely because it isn't actually wheat but rather Jesus Christ. Let’s move on to the fulfillment of this prophecy:
“Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?’ 39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.’ 41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.’” (Genesis 41:37-41)
After enduring earthly betrayal, humiliation, and punishments, Joseph is found worthy of sitting at the right hand of the ruler. This parallels Jesus, ascending to the throne in Heaven, from whence the Eucharistic bread of Heaven comes. Let’s see how Joseph saves his people in contrast to Christ:
“13 Now there was no food in all the land, for the famine was very severe. The land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. 14 Joseph collected all the money to be found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, in exchange for the grain that they bought; and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 When the money from the land of Egypt and from the land of Canaan was spent, all the Egyptians came to Joseph, and said, ‘Give us food! Why should we die before your eyes? For our money is gone.’ 16 And Joseph answered, ‘Give me your livestock, and I will give you food in exchange for your livestock, if your money is gone.’ 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph; and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the herds, and the donkeys. That year he supplied them with food in exchange for all their livestock. 18 When that year was ended, they came to him the following year, and said to him, ‘We can not hide from my lord that our money is all spent; and the herds of cattle are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our lands. 19 Shall we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land in exchange for food. We with our land will become slaves to Pharaoh; just give us seed, so that we may live and not die, and that the land may not become desolate.’” (Genesis 47:13-19)
Yes, this sounds brutal. Yet, it is foreshadowing something beautiful:
“Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’” (Matthew 5:2-12)
Both the Egyptians and Joseph’s own family ultimately came to Joseph with empty hands, asking for mercy with nothing to offer but themselves. Both Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament are called to do the same. Listen to Christ’s words in the Beatitudes: we to are to be stripped away of our wealth, power, pleasure, and honor in order to receive beatitudo, or the happiness that comes from entering into a union with God. Why? Because the Christian faith is about Christ reproducing his life, death, and resurrection in each of us.
The salvific analogy is clear. So where is this bread that is given from Christ’s storehouse to save the world from certain death? The simpler question is this: what saves us from spiritual death? If you answered the Gospel, then you are almost right. If you answered Jesus, then congratulations, you are right. The Gospel didn’t die on the cross for our sins. Jesus did, and the Gospel invites us to participate in His death so we can participate in His resurrection. Directly before the Bread of life discourse in John 6 comes this passage in John 5:39-40 where Jesus is arguing with the Pharisees:
“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
In light of Jesus’ unequivocal declaration that His body is the bread come down from heaven (in John 6), it is just as clear that Jesus’ body, broken and given to us in the Eucharist, is what saves us from spiritual starvation. The Scriptures don't save us, but they point us to the one who's incarnation does.
The Passover’s parallels to Christ’s sacrifice are numerous: no bone was to be broken, it was roasted (representing the descent to Hell), the lamb had to be without blemish, and male. Even the use of hyssop, at the Passover and at the Crucifixion, pictures the cleansing power of His blood. The Egyptians viewed sheep as divine. Killing one was a capital offense in Egypt. Ironically, our Lamb is divine and, though killing Him was mankind’s greatest offense, God uses it to spares us from death. Furthermore, it feeds us on our journey away from slavery and the dominion of the devil, and toward the Promised Land.
First, the Hebrews had to find a spotless lamb, kill that lamb, spread its blood on their door post, and finally eat the lamb. Every one of those parts is essential. If they sacrificed something other than a spotless lamb, the Angel of Death killed their firstborn. If they didn’t kill the lamb, death visited their home. If they didn’t spread the blood over their door? Death. And guess what, like pretty much every sacrifice in the Bible, it was not complete until they ate the sacrifice. What happens if they chose not to eat the lamb? Death.
“They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 9 Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. 10 You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.” (Exodus 12:7-10)
How can you fulfill the command “take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it”, unless they eat the lamb? It’s crystal clear the saving power of this sacrifice will not be in effect without the meal.
1 Corinthians 5:7 reads: “Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.” Clearly, Paul considers Christ as our new Passover Lamb.
John the Baptist took care of our first step: find the lamb. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
The Crucifixion is where the Lamb was killed, but where is the meal? Celebrating the Passover is called “eating the Passover”. The meal was the whole point of killing the lamb; it was killed in order to be eaten. The Angel of Death only passes over homes that are marked with the blood, houses in which they eat.
Hear is Luke's account of the Lord’s Supper:
“When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ 17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ 19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” (Luke 22:14-20)
Premise 1: The Passover lamb must be eaten (Exodus 12:7-10)
Premise 2: Jesus is our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7)
Conclusion: Jesus must be eaten (John 6:30-59)
You may be thinking this consumption of Christ as the Passover Lamb is spiritual and not fleshly. Here is the problem: Jesus came in the flesh, suffered in the flesh, died in the flesh, and was resurrected in the flesh, in order to give His flesh for the life of the world.
1 John 4:3 tells us: “And every spirit which does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God; and this is the spirit of Antichrist.”
If you think the new Passover meal is spiritual and not incarnate, I ask you this: was the sacrifice of Christ on the cross spiritual, or incarnate?
If you say spiritual, then you are denying the second Person of the Trinity came in the flesh to atone for our sins. That is the spirit of the Antichrist.
But you probably said incarnate, and you are correct. How then can the new Passover meal be only spiritual, when the new Passover Lamb is incarnate? Here you are not denying Christ, come in the flesh at the cross, but rather at the Passover meal. Again, denying Jesus as God, come in the flesh, is the spirit of the Antichrist.
Premise 1: Jesus came in the flesh as our new Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 John 4:3)
Premise 2: Jesus institutes a new Passover meal (Luke 22:14-20; Mathew 26:17-30)
Conclusion: Jesus institutes a new Passover meal where He comes in the flesh as our Passover Lamb.
To reiterate, denying Jesus coming in the flesh is the spirit of the Antichrist. If we really want to cling to a symbolic reading of the Eucharistic meal instituted at the Last Supper, we have to show that, somehow, our Passover Lamb ceased being incarnate! By law, we must eat of the Passover lamb to participate in the Passover. If we claim that our meal is now only spiritual or symbolic, then we need to prove when and where the hypostatic union ended and Jesus, our Passover Lamb, stopped being both God and Man.
The charge of Antichrist has been lobbed at the Catholic Church since the beginning of the Protestant Deformation. Martin Luther claimed the Pope was the Antichrist in the “Bull against the Antichrist”, among other places. John Calvin did the same in “The Necessity of Reforming the Church”. Today, plenty of churches hold the same view and accuse the Church, which has stood for 2,000 years, of being the new Babylon and headed by the Antichrist. Even the mild-mannered Presbyterians, who still profess the Westminster Confession of Faith, state this as doctrine: “There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.” (Chapter 25.6)
Catholics ought to go on the offensive: the Protestant denominations, which have called the Catholic Church Anti-Christ for generations, are the ones denying Christ came in the flesh in His Passover sacrifice, as shown above. Their completely a-historical, man-made, and symbolic reading of the Eucharist makes them guilty of one of the most damning heresies possible.
How much clearer can God make this in Scripture? Jesus, our Passover Lamb, was born in a stable surrounded by livestock. Jesus, our bread of heaven was born in Bethlehem, a town meaning “House of Bread”. Jesus, whose flesh is true food was born in a manger, another word for a feeding trough. It seems like God is telling us something.
Some have objected that Jesus could not have been giving His flesh at the Last Supper. After all, He didn’t slice off a piece of Himself. However, directly before the famous Bread of Life discourse in John 6, Jesus performed one of two multiplication miracles. What exactly did He do? He took bread and flesh, and gave it out without loss. In fact, in its division it was multiplied. Yes, Jesus can give us the bread that is His flesh without loss. He is after all, God, the one who made the universe out of nothing.
Others have objected that the timeline doesn’t work. You don’t eat the flesh before the Lamb is sacrificed; therefore, Jesus could not have been giving out a piece of a sacrifice that hadn’t been sacrificed yet.
However, we must remember who kills the lamb at the Passover. Originally, it was the father of the house. After the golden calf incident, post-Passover, the primogenitor priesthood was taken away and given to the Levitical priesthood. That’s why in Jesus’ time, it was the priests who sacrificed the lamb. Who then was the priest that sacrificed Jesus? Jesus was the high priest, not the Romans, not the Jews. When did He give up His body as a sacrifice? At the Last Supper, which was the beginning of His sacrifice. Furthermore, Jesus doesn't seem to have a problem with the timeline at all, He says, "this is my body that will be given up for you and for many" (Luke 22:19)
Manna From Heaven
Numbers tells us:
“17 Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, then the Israelites would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the Israelites would camp.” (Numbers 9:7)
“The Lord spoke to Moses and said, 12 ‘I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’’
13 In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. 14 When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. 15 When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.’” (Exodus 16:11-15)
There is a parallel between the Passover sacrifice that is sacrificed at twilight, the Last Supper that began at twilight, and finally the meat that God gave from heaven, also at twilight. Notice that in the same breath God tells them He will send them flesh from heaven, He also tells them to expect bread from heaven. In this way the Eucharist is prefigured: both bread and flesh are sent from heaven to feed His people prior to entering the Promised Land, which for us is heaven.
The first verse points out they followed a cloud by day and camped next to the cloud. At night, the dew would condense and form manna. Some scholars have suggested the condensation that became manna came from the giant cloud next to which they were camping. In this case, the presence of God in the cloud literally becomes their bread. It should comes as no surprise that when God “comes into our camp” in the incarnation, it is again as the bread from Heaven. Jesus even identifies himself as the our new manna:
“Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:47-51)
Exodus 13:33 commanded some manna to be placed inside of the Ark of the Covenant.Like all of the items in the Ark, it prefigured Jesus. Christ is Prophet, Priest, and King. Inside of the Ark was suitably placed the rod of Aaron. In Numbers 17, God showed His people that Aaron had priestly authority over the other tribes by making his rod the only one to blossom. Christ is foreshadowed as the rod of authority brought from death to life. The tablets of stone represent the prophetic office of Christ. There was no more definitive message sent to man from God than the tablets of stone given to Moses. Christ coming into the world is foreshadowed by the tablets, but Jesus is an even clearer revelation of God’s will. Like the tablets, Jesus is smashed and broken. However, like the tablets, He too is restored, whole and entire. And finally, the manna represents the kingly role of Christ, who feeds and provides for His people.
Take note, the parallels in this case are not Jesus and Aaron, nor Jesus and Moses. Instead, Jesus is foreshadowed by the rod of resurrection because He will be literally resurrected, the tablets of the Law given by God because He literally is the divine Word smashed and rejected, and the manna because He literally is the Bread from Heaven, as He clearly said in John 6. Being the new manna, it comes as no surprise that God’s people are ungrateful and, despite the enormous miracle done on their behalf, unimpressed.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we were taught to pray: “And give us this day our daily bread”. The reason for the translation ‘daily’ is long and complicated. The literal word is “epiousios” and it appears nowhere else in the New Testament. The Douay-Rheims Bible follows St. Jerome’s translation and reads: "give us this day our super-substantial bread" (Matthew 6:11). Early Church Fathers taught this is our prayer for the super-substantial bread of the Eucharist. Yet we can also see that “daily” bread hearkens all the way back to the manna. Exodus 16 makes clear the manna was to be gathered daily, except on the Sabbath, so they could rest. Instead, they collected twice as much the day before the Sabbath.
Often the objection is raised that the Eucharist can’t be God, simply because what is seen appears to be bread and wine. However, this is not the first time God appears in a physical way for our sake. If Moses were standing by the burning bush and asked to point to God, where do you think he would point? If the Hebrew people, guided by God in the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, were asked to point to God, where would they point? In both cases, God made Himself present to them in these forms. Does this mean God is a bush? Or that God is a pillar of cloud/fire? Of course not. In each of those cases there was no Incarnation; these were powerful symbols of His presence where He was present in an intensified way, but not an Incarnational one. In each case of God coming to His people, He steps a bit closer to the Incarnation.
The Meal at Mt. Sinai
It is hard to overstate how momentous this occasion was for God’s people. Nothing this important happened again until the Incarnation of Christ. Here the representatives of all the people of Israel came and saw God! What were they doing with Him? Any guesses?
“Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank.”(Exodus 24:9-1)
When God ratified the Old Covenant at Mt. Sinai with His people, He did it in the context of a shared meal. When the New Covenant in Christ’s blood is formed later in salvation history, it is again in the context of a meal, at the Last Supper.
Gideon’s Sacrifice and the Dream:
Gideon is well known for the story of the clay pots and torches and for choosing his fighting men by how they drank water. However, plenty of other eventful things happened to this fellow, not the least of these is meeting God:
“19 So Gideon went into his house and prepared a kid, and unleavened cakes from an ephah of flour; the meat he put in a basket, and the broth he put in a pot, and brought them to him under the oak and presented them. 20 The angel of God said to him, ‘Take the meat and the unleavened cakes, and put them on this rock, and pour out the broth.’ And he did so. 21 Then the angel of the Lord reached out the tip of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the meat and the unleavened cakes; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened cakes; and the angel of the Lord vanished from his sight. 22 Then Gideon perceived that it was the angel of the Lord; and Gideon said, ‘Help me, Lord God! For I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.’ 23 But the Lord said to him, ‘Peace be to you; do not fear, you shall not die.’” (Judges 6:19-23)
Normally, fire coming down to consume the sacrifice only occurs at the temple. Here, Gideon sees God face to face during the sacrifice. This reminds me of the road to Emmaus and “how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread”. In both cases they had been talking to God, but only in the flesh/bread sacrifice are their eyes opened and they understand God is present with them in the sacrifice.
Just a chapter later, before a huge battle, Gideon is encouraged by overhearing a conversation:
“13 When Gideon arrived, there was a man telling a dream to his comrade; and he said, ‘I had a dream, and in it a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell; it turned upside down, and the tent collapsed.’ 14 And his comrade answered, ‘This is no other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, a man of Israel; into his hand God has given Midian and all the army.’ 15 When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped; and he returned to the camp of Israel, and said, ‘Get up; for the Lord has given the army of Midian into your hand.’” (Judges 7:13-15)
Like almost every other prophecy in the Old Testament, this has a double fulfillment in Christ. Gideon is a type of Christ, and his victory prefigures Christ’s victory over the enemies of Satan, sin, and death. In this dream, bread is seen, but what is the bread? Its true identity is understood through interpretation to be a person. In Joseph's dream earlier, wheat is seen, but through interpretation is understood to be a person. All of this prefigures Christ, in whom the dreams are fulfilled and the bread of heaven is seen. The interpretation of what our eyes see as wheat/bread is the same: it is a person, Jesus Christ. When we, like Gideon, know the interpretation, we are to do like he did and worship.
The Bread of the Presence and the Table of Showbread:
Showbread literally means “bread of the face”. Whose face? The face of God. Three times a year, it would be held up in the sight of the Jewish people and the priest would proclaim, “Behold how God loves!” Elsewhere, it is called the “bread of the Presence”. Whose presence? God’s, of course. In the Mass, the Eucharist is held up. Christ is the fulfillment of the table of showbread, for He is the perfect image of God’s love for us, held up on the cross as our sacrificial victim and then in the Eucharist as our sacrificial meal. The showbread was just a glimmer of how the true showbread would in fact be God’s presence, in a way that we can be with Him face to face.
Catholics, and our brothers the Orthodox, have always practiced Eucharistic adoration. Adoration is from Latin roots literally meaning mouth to mouth, but conveying the same meaning as our idioms “Eye to eye”, or “Nose to nose”. In Eucharistic adoration, we come face to face with God in the new “bread of the face”.
Christ is specifically referred to as the new David. One of the numerous reasons is David’s special role as a priestly king, best exemplified here:
“‘Now then, what have you at hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.’ 4 The priest answered David, ‘I have no ordinary bread at hand, only holy bread—provided that the young men have kept themselves from women.’ 5 David answered the priest, ‘Indeed women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition; the vessels of the young men are holy even when it is a common journey; how much more today will their vessels be holy?’ 6 So the priest gave him the holy bread; for there was no bread there except the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away.” (1 Samuel 21:3-6)
Here David prefigures our King giving out the Showbread as our meal, as we join Him in the creation of His kingdom.
If there is any one passage that ought to convince any Christian the Eucharist is in fact the body of Christ, it is this passage. There is a significant percentage of Protestant Christians who believe in a literal 6 day creation 6,000 years ago, because the Scriptures tell them so. While I disagree with the interpretative paradigm leading to this conclusion, brought to what I consider an allegorical text, I definitely admire the resolve it takes to privilege the words of Scripture over and above any scientific evidence. Certainly John 6 is far more clear than Genesis, so why don’t the same Christians that hold fast to other passages as literal hold also to this one as literal? Listen to the words of Jesus in John 6:31-69, with a bit of commentary along the way:
“Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’’ 32 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ 34 They said to him, ‘Sir, give us this bread always.’” (John 6:31-34)
His audience was expecting the Messiah would bring back the manna. Jesus makes clear that He is the manna, because He is the bread that comes down from heaven.
“35 Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.’” (John 6:35-40)
Jesus tells us we are supposed to believe in Him. But what are we supposed to believe, such that we get this eternal life? We will find out in verses 47-48. Before that, let’s read how the Jews reacted to His words:
“41 Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ 42 They were saying, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?’ 43 Jesus answered them, ‘Do not complain among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.’” (John 6:41-46)
We are not the first ones to have questions and doubts about this teaching. Jesus backs up His message in the strongest way possible: “they will be taught by God”. There is no higher authority than this. To accept His message, we must first be drawn by the Father and learn from the Father’s message.
“47 Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:47-51)
What are we to believe in order to have eternal life? Here is our answer. “I am the bread of life.” If we accept this teaching, then we can come to the table and be given eternal life. “Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
“52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” (John 6:52)
No one disputes this teaching is hard to accept. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we accept it. It is important to note the Jews listening were not at all considering this language to be symbolic. Just look at their objections:
“53 So 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.’” (John 6:53)
This makes it very clear that the Eucharist is not optional. It is a necessary part of salvation.
“54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:54)
Read that again and tell me with a straight face Jesus really doesn’t mean His flesh and blood will become food for us. Can you think of a sentence He could have possibly spoken that would have been more clear?
“56 ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.’ 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.” (John 6:56-59)
Here is the rationale behind the Eucharist: God is one with Jesus, and Jesus becomes joined to human nature through the hypostatic union with His physical body. We then get connected back to God by consuming Jesus’ body, so that we are connected into His spirit that is one with God.
“60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you?’” (John 6:60-61)
Yes, this is offensive to hear. It is hard to accept.
“62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” (John 6:62)
The fact is, although this is strange and revolutionary, it is nothing compared to the radically transcendent Otherness of the Blessed Trinity. God gives us these common elements for our sake. We can’t handle God in His infinite form.
“63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (John 6:63)
If Jesus meant that He would die and His corpse ought to be eaten, how would this help anyone? That is what flesh without a spirit is, a corpse. We already have dead flesh inherited from Adam, this dead flesh profits us nothing! What is needed for eternal life is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a resurrected body that is alive with the Spirit of God. When we are joined with this body, we are joined with Christ’s spirit, and our bodies will receive resurrection into eternal life, like His did.
Some Protestant theologians attempt to twist this verse into a giant “just kidding”, undoing the countless affirmations of Jesus’s body and blood being actual food for us. One common method is to imagine that spirit means symbolic. This is ludicrous. If that were true, then 2 chapters earlier, when John wrote that God is Spirit, would mean God is a symbol. This not only undoes Christianity, but theism itself. It’s an objection that proves too much.
A spirit is what gives life to a body. The prohibition against eating blood in the Old Law explained that life is in the blood. Humans aren’t to mingle our lives with animal lives, because that would debase us. But if we drink the blood of Jesus the God-Man, then the opposite happens. For this life is given to us in order to carry us higher and give us union with our Creator.
“64 ‘But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’
66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’” (John 6:64-67)
“Do you also wish to go away?” These words are for you, reader. Jesus is asking what kind of disciple are you? Will you be one that turns back after hearing this hard teaching?
“68 Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:68-69)
This is the bottom line. If Christ is truly present to us in the Eucharist, where else should we possibly go instead?
The Last Supper
The Last Supper is repeated in all four Gospels and 1 Corinthians. Clearly the Apostles thought this was a major event.
“17 On the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’” (Matthew 26:17)
Note two things here. First, Christ is giving us new bread for the perpetual Feast of Unleavened Bread. Second, we once again see that the Passover, while being a sacrifice, is also a meal. To participate in the Passover means to have a meal by way of a sacrifice. Christ, of course, is our new Passover Lamb and to participate in His Passover means to be invited to a meal.
“18 He said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is near; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’’ 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover meal.” (Matthew 26:18)
Today, our Teacher speaks through His apostles and tells us that He wants to celebrate His Passover in our house. That is, in us. Each Mass, we echo the words of the righteous centurion in Luke 7:6, when we say together, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”Continuing with Matthew’s account of the Last Supper:
“20 When it was evening, he took his place with the twelve; 21 and while they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 22 And they became greatly distressed and began to say to him one after another, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’ 23 He answered, ‘The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’ 25 Judas, who betrayed him, said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?’ He replied, ‘You have said so.’” (Matthew 26:20-25)
At a Passover, it was evening when the life of the lamb was given up in order to feed God’s people. Here, we see Jesus “taking His place” among the disciples as the One who is given up for them in the new Passover.
The Jews had to take the lamb into their home and care for it prior to the Passover. It must have felt like a terrible betrayal to then kill this lamb you have lived with when evening fell. Jesus announces His betrayal at the time of the lamb’s betrayal.
“26 While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” (Matthew 26:26-29)
Let’s zoom in on the cup He blesses and gives. “Drink from it, all of you”. This reminds me of the passage earlier in Matthew:
“Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 21 And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom’ 22 But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ 23 He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup.’” (Mathew 20:20-23)
We get the picture of youthful optimism here: “They said to him, ‘We are able.’” I imagine them with their chests puffed out in confidence. The cup He is referring to is His rejection, torture, Crucifixion and death. You can imagine Jesus admiring the readiness and excitement, while excusing the naivety, when He asks, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” It is a rhetorical question. No, they can’t. This would be like a kid watching his father head off to war and wanting to go with him to help fight. Jesus, maybe with a knowing chuckle, responds, “You will indeed drink my cup.”
In a way, it seems like He reverses himself. He is staring with an eyebrow raised and a rhetorical question and yet ends with an affirmation. It’s only a few chapters later in Matthew that we understand. The disciples participate in the cup that Jesus drinks at the Last Supper. “Drink from it, all of you”, means that Jesus is giving Himself to them in a way that Christ can recapitulate His life, death, and therefore His resurrection in them! They can’t carry the cross, nor can they drink the cup of Christ’s passion by themselves. That is only possible if the incarnate Christ lives in them, and this Christ gives them.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
He doesn’t say “is like the” blood of the covenant, or “is a symbol of” the blood of the covenant. No, He holds up the cup of wine and declares with the same voice that said “Let there be light, and there was light”, that what He was holding is what makes the New Covenant and truly forgives sin.
1 Corinthians 11:27-30
Let’s see if out theological instincts match what the Scriptures tell us.Try to fill in the blank: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for _______________.”
If, contrary to all of the history of Christian worship, Scripture actually means the Lord’s Supper is symbolic, we would expect to see this verse end with something like this: “The desecration of the sacred symbol of Christ.” Or how about, “Witnessing falsely to Christian unity.” Or maybe, “sinning against thy neighbor.”
If, however, this is actually the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we would expect the line that actually comes next: “will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.” Look at that, bread equates to the body and the cup equates to the blood in this sentence. Precisely what a historically Christian understanding of the Eucharist would have predicted, and precisely not what a new and man-made symbolic interpretation would lead us to believe.
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. 30 For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30)
Earlier in this passage, Paul condemns the abuses surrounding the Lord’s Supper. Wealthy people were feasting on bread and getting drunk of copious amounts of wine, whereas the poor went without. Protestant theologians therefore read this condemnation as applying to those who don’t discern the good of the body of Christ, meaning their brothers and sisters in the faith.
There is no doubt this situation is the context, however, Paul uses this instance of sin as a call to examine the states of their hearts prior to coming to the table, “Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” The issue was that people’s hearts were wrong when coming to the table. The question then becomes why is it such a big deal that, “many of you are weak and ill, and some have died”? Let’s read it one more time, this time emphasizing other parts of the passage:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.28 Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. 30 For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
The judgments of sickness and death are due to eating the bread from line 1 that that is explained to be the body of the Lord in line 2. The rational is that those who ate this bread, that was explained to be Christ’s body, did not discern the body of Christ. Seems pretty straight forward.
Things I Didn’t Bring Up
Passages of Scripture:
The Feast of Unleavened Bread was touched on, but not expounded upon. I also ignored the laws about thanksgiving and peace offerings in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, Abraham’s meal with God, Isaiah 55, the great prophecy in Malachi 1, the Tree of Life in Revelation, and more. I mention these because I don’t want the reader to leave with the impression that this article was a comprehensive read of Eucharistic doctrines in the Scriptures. It’s not even close; this was a brief tour.
Early Church Father quotes:
There are many more that could be included, but I think these are some of the clearest and earliest. Please bear in mind the Gospels were written around 70 AD, and when these men speak of the Eucharist, it is referenced as an already established fact.
"Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead."
"Letter to the Smyrnaeans", paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.
"Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ."
-"Letter to the Ephesians", paragraph 20, c. 80-110 A.D.
"I have no taste for the food that perishes nor for the pleasures of this life. I want the Bread of God which is the Flesh of Christ, who was the seed of David; and for drink I desire His Blood which is love that cannot be destroyed."
-"Letter to the Romans", paragraph 7, circa 80-110 A.D.
"Take care, then who belong to God and to Jesus Christ - they are with the bishop. And those who repent and come to the unity of the Church - they too shall be of God, and will be living according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If any man walk about with strange doctrine, he cannot lie down with the passion. Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons."
-Epistle to the Philadelphians, 3:2-4:1, 110 A.D.
"This food we call the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake except one who believes that the things we teach are true, and has received the washing for forgiveness of sins and for rebirth, and who lives as Christ handed down to us. For we do not receive these things as common bread or common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior being incarnate by God's Word took flesh and blood for our salvation, so also we have been taught that the food consecrated by the Word of prayer which comes from him, from which our flesh and blood are nourished by transformation, is the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus."
"First Apology", Ch. 66, inter A.D. 148-155.
"God has therefore announced in advance that all the sacrifices offered in His name, which Jesus Christ offered, that is, in the Eucharist of the Bread and of the Chalice, which are offered by us Christians in every part of the world, are pleasing to Him."
"Dialogue with Trypho", Ch. 117, circa 130-160 A.D.
Moreover, as I said before, concerning the sacrifices which you at that time offered, God speaks through Malachias, one of the twelve, as follows: 'I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices from your hands; for from the rising of the sun until its setting, my name has been glorified among the gentiles; and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a clean offering: for great is my name among the gentiles, says the Lord; but you profane it.' It is of the sacrifices offered to Him in every place by us, the gentiles, that is, of the Bread of the Eucharist and likewise of the cup of the Eucharist, that He speaks at that time; and He says that we glorify His name, while you profane it."
-"Dialogue with Trypho", [41: 8-10]
"So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and build up the substance of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of receiving God's gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ's Blood and Body and is His member? As the blessed apostle says in his letter to the Ephesians, 'For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones' (Eph. 5:30). He is not talking about some kind of 'spiritual' and 'invisible' man, 'for a spirit does not have flesh an bones' (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the bread which is His Body. The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and 'the grain of wheat falls into the earth' (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two then receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ."
-"Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely Named Gnosis". Book 5:2, 2-3, circa 180 A.D.
"For just as the bread which comes from the earth, having received the invocation of God, is no longer ordinary bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two realities, earthly and heavenly, so our bodies, having received the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, because they have the hope of the resurrection."
-"Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely named Gnosis". Book 4:18 4-5, circa 180 A.D.
There is a ton to be said about the manna from Heaven. For instance, rabbis discussed the idea that this bread was in pre-existence with the Father for all eternity. Yep, they were starting to envision the second person of the Trinity- and they identified this as the manna from heaven. There is much more to be said on this topic, such as their beliefs on how the Messiah would bring back the manna forever. Their expectations are fulfilled in the Mass through a participation in Christ’s Messianic high priesthood.
There is a strong and old tradition in Jewish thought that when the father blesses the bread during Passover, it becomes the actual bread their ancestors ate on their way out of Egypt. This parallels the Eucharist since the father- the priest- blesses our new Passover bread and it becomes the life-giving meal on our journey out of the land of slavery.
The Jews had a command that they had to see the face of God three times per year. They fulfilled