In my previous article, I mentioned that Jesus is the Passover Sacrifice (1 Cor 5:7) and that God instructed the Jews to eat the Passover sacrifice (Ex 12:8) and to keep the Passover feast forever (Ex 12:14). In this article, we will examine why we must consume Jesus in the Eucharist by reviewing a few Old Testament (OT) types of Jesus and Jesus’ fulfillment of them. We will begin in Exodus.
Early in the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh enslaves and oppresses the Israelites. Eventually, God, working through Moses, provides a means of escape; he sends plagues upon the land of Egypt. Pharaoh ultimately ignores God’s demands to let the Israelites leave Egypt and God sends a final plague; he kills all of Egypt’s firstborn. Before sending this plague, however, he tells the Israelites to kill spotless male lambs, one for each household. He then commands them to spread the lambs’ blood on the doorposts and lintels of each household, and to roast and eat the lambs in haste. God then refers to this action as the “Lord’s Passover” and adds that the Israelites must observe this sacrificial feast forever. After the Israelites did as God instructed, God sends his angels to slay all Egypt’s firstborn, but he “passes over” the houses with the Passover lambs’ blood on them. Therefore, the Israelites were saved by the blood of the lambs. They also communed with God and with each other by eating the lambs’ flesh. Alhough many lambs were slaughtered, they were one sacrifice.
In the New Testament (NT), Jesus is called “Lamb of God” or “Lamb” over 30 times and, as I previously mentioned, Paul refers to Jesus as our “Paschal (Passover) Lamb.” Clearly, Jesus is the OT Passover lamb fulfillment. We are slaves of sin, just as the Israelites were slaves of Pharaoh, and we are saved by the blood of the Lamb, just as the Israelites were save by the blood of lambs. Furthermore, we commune with God and with one another by eating the flesh of the Lamb. In fact, just as God instructs the Israelites to eat the Passover lambs’ flesh, Jesus, God the Son, instructs us to “eat my flesh and drink my blood in order to have life” (Jn 6). Also previously discussed, Jesus adds the provision, “drink my blood.” God instructed the Israelites not to drink the blood of animals, because an animal’s life, which is inferior to human life, is in its blood. Jesus’ blood, however, is divine and, thus, infinitely superior. Therefore, when we drink the blood of Christ, we receive his life. Protestant churches excepting, this has been the constant teaching of Christianity for the last 2000 years. Now, let us return to the Exodus.
Ultimately, Pharaoh released the Israelites from bondage and they made their way to the Red Sea. After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and their evil oppressors, the Egyptians, were washed away by its waters (foreshadowing of baptism), they wandered in the desert for forty years before arriving in the Promised Land. Early in their wandering, the Israelites complained to God and Moses that they did not have food and would soon perish. Then God says to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law or not” (Ex 16:4). God continued, “I have heard the murmurings of the people of Israel; say to them, ‘At twilight you shall eat flesh, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; then you shall know that I am the Lord your God.’ In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning dew lay round about the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoarfrost on the ground” (vs. 12-13). “Now the house of Israel called its name manna…” (vs. 31). “And the people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land; they ate the manna, till they came to the border of the land of Canaan” (vs. 35), Thus, the Israelites were saved by eating manna during their time in the desert. After reaching the Promised Land, however, this provision ended, as the Promised Land had all they needed.
In John 6, Jesus describes how he is the manna’s fulfillment and that we must eat the true manna, which is Jesus. In John 6, after Jesus walks on water and multiplies the fish and the loaves, Jesus tells the Jews to labor for the food that endures to eternal life. The Jews respond to Jesus saying, “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’ Jesus then said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ They said to him, ‘Lord, give us this bread always.’ Jesus responded, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’”
“The Jews then murmured at him because he said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 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. Not that anyone has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living breadwhich came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.’”
“The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”
After telling the Jews over half a dozen times that he is the true bread/manna, that his flesh is true food, his blood true drink and that they must consume him in order to have life, many of his disciples withdrew from him citing the difficulty of his teaching. Please note that this teaching is only difficult if Jesus’ disciples understood that Jesus was speaking literally. If he were speaking symbolically, his disciples would have had no reason to turn away. After many of his disciples expressed their repulsion at Jesus’ teaching, Jesus did not clarify his remarks, rather, he emphasized them and said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Meditate on this verse and if you do not believe the Eucharist is the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, ask the Father to grant you this knowledge. This teaching is so fundamental to historic Christianity, that to reject Christ’s perspicuous teaching on the Eucharist is to deny Christ.
Finally, we will turn to the first fruits mentioned in Leviticus 23:9-14. The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, when you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, that you may find acceptance; and on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the cereal offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, to be offered by fire to the Lord, a pleasing odor; and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” God commanded the Israelites to offer him their first fruits with an unblemished (innocent) male lamb, bread and wine, and to keep this ordinance forever.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” Christ is the true first fruits. At the Last Supper, he began that sacrificial offering of the true First Fruits offered with bread and wine and the Unblemished Lamb.
There can be no mistaking Christ’s teaching on this matter. He is the true Lamb of God and we must eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have life in us. He is the Manna and we must eat this Bread while wandering through the desert of this world on our way to the true Promised Land. He is the true First Fruits and we must consume him as an ordinance forever.
In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus says, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ gives himself to us in the Eucharist, thereby fulfilling these Old Covenant teachings. To reject the Eucharist is to reject the New Covenant fulfillment, Jesus Christ. Catholics know this teaching so intimately that we fall down on our knees and worship Jesus in the Eucharist, because we believe his words.