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A heated controversy has existed for hundreds of years regarding the proper understanding of ‘the Lord’s Supper.’ Is it a symbolic act, as some Christians say, or is it the hidden miracle of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus? Let’s take a few moments to read what the Scriptures reveal on this subject, and sample early Christian writing to see what clues they provide for resolving this dispute.
‘‘During the meal Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples. ‘‘Take this and eat it’’, He said, ‘‘this is My body.’’ Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them. ‘‘All of you must drink from it,’’ He said, ‘‘for this is My blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.’’ (Mt. 26:26-28; see Mark 14:22-24).
Luke relates the Last Supper similarly: ‘‘Then, taking bread and giving thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying ‘‘This is My body to be given for you. Do this in memory of Me.’’ He did the same with the cup after eating, saying as He did so: ‘‘This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which will be shed for you.’’ (Luke 22:19-20).
‘‘Covenant’’ is a term often found in the Old Testament. It means an agreement that was ‘cut’ or made during a ritual when an animal was severed in two, and the parties to the agreement passed between the severed halves (see Gen. 15:17-18; Jer. 34:18). Bizarre to the ‘modern’ mind, it was very solemn to the ancients: thus a word not easily understood in a metaphorical sense, but in a literal way.
This ‘New Covenant’ was prophesied (see Jer. 31:31-40), for the Old Covenant was but a copy, a shadow of things to come (cf. Hebrews 9: 23-24). For: ‘‘According to the law (the Old Covenant) almost everything was purified by blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.’’ (Heb. 9:22). Thus the sacred writer of Hebrews clarifies what the Lord’s words mean, and that is why he encourages his readers’ thus: ‘‘Brothers, since the blood of Jesus assures our entrance into the sanctuary...let us draw near in utter confidence...Let us hold unswervingly to our profession which gives us hope...We should not absent ourselves from the assembly (gathering for the Lord’s Supper) as is the custom of some..." (Heb. 10:19, 22, 23, 25; as an interesting side note: recent medical research indicates that those who attend church regularly are generally healthier than others who do not).
Paul gives us even greater insights in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29: ‘‘I have received from the Lord what I handed on to you, namely, that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and after He had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you. Do this in memory of Me." In the same way, after the supper, He took the cup, saying, "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood. Do this, whenever you drink it, in memory of Me." Every time, then, that you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes! This means that whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily sins against the body and blood of the Lord. A man should examine himself first; only then should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. He who eats and drinks without recognizing the body eats and drinks a judgement on himself.’’
''Recognizing'' means: ''knowing, acknowledging or identifying.''
One must 'see' the Lord in the Eucharist (a Greek word meaning 'thanksgiving'), just as the disciples on the road to Emmaus recognized the risen Jesus only in the ‘breaking of the bread,’ and as soon as they did, all they saw was the Bread (cf. Lk. 24:30-31). A sincere seeker of Biblical truth should see that St. Paul believes that the bread and wine aren’t ‘symbols,’ but Christ’s own body and blood! Some translations of 1 Corinthians 11:27 read: "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord."
Do you know someone guilty of opposing this literal meaning of this verse? Those who doubt should consider: "with God, all things are possible!" (Mt. 19:26); "As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are My ways above your ways, My thoughts above your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9)
The Scriptures give even further evidence of the proper understanding of the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper. In John’s Gospel, the sixth chapter begins with the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves of bread. The people, recognizing the miracle, declare in verse 14: ‘‘This is undoubtedly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’’ Though Jesus leaves, they follow Him. Upon their finding the Lord, He says: "I assure you, you are not seeking Me because you have seen signs but because you have eaten your fill of the loaves. You should not be working for perishable food but for food that remains unto life eternal, food which the Son of Man will give you"..."So that we can put faith in You," they asked him, "what sign are You going to perform for us to see? Our ancestors had manna to eat in the desert; according to Scripture, ‘He gave them bread from the heavens to eat.’ Jesus said to them: ‘‘I solemnly assure you, it was not Moses who gave you bread from the heavens; it is My Father who gives you the real heavenly bread. God’s bread comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’’ ‘Sir, give us always this bread,’ they asked him.
Jesus explained to them: ‘‘I Am the Bread of Life. No one who comes to Me shall ever be hungry, no one who believes in Me shall ever thirst. But as I told you, though you have seen Me, you still do not believe."...At this the Jews started to murmur,... "Stop your murmuring," Jesus told them... "I Myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread he shall
live forever; the bread I will give is My flesh for the life of the world." At this the Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can He give us His flesh to eat?" Thereupon Jesus said to them: "Let Me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. He who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is real food and My blood real drink. The man who feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him."
"After hearing His words, many of His disciples remarked, "This sort of talk is hard to endure! How can anyone take it seriously?" Jesus was fully aware that His disciples were murmuring in protest at what He had said. "Does this shake your faith?", He asked them. "What, then, if you were to see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before...? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is useless. The words I spoke to you are spirit and life. Yet among you are those who do not believe."...From that time on, many of His disciples broke away and would not remain in His company any longer. " Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you want to leave me to?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe; we are convinced that You are God’s holy one." (John 6:26-27, 30-35,41,43, 51-56, 60-64, 66-68)
When Jesus tells a parable the people don’t understand, He clarifies it for them, or for the disciples (see Mk. 4:34). In this case, there is NO clarification! In fact, Jesus repeats the same theme over and over, that they must eat His body and blood to live forever. He even lets some disciples leave Him, because the teaching is too hard for them to accept (Jn. 6:66, 71 indicates this is where Judas lost faith).
Peter accepted on faith. Not until the Last Supper and the Road to Emmaus would the Apostles begin to understand HOW Jesus gave them 'the bread' as His flesh: life to the world.
So we have two types of disciples: those that believed, and those like Judas who rejected the literal Eucharistic teaching. Which type of disciple are you? Does your church teach that the bread and wine, when blessed by a consecrated priest, becomes IN FACT the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ? That is the clear lesson of the Scriptures.
The early Christians believed the same, note the following quotations: ‘‘those who hold unorthodox opinions...abstain from the Eucharist..., because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ’’ Ignatius of Antioch, (the Apostle John’s disciple) 110 A.D. ‘‘When you see the Lord immolated...upon the altar, and the priest bent over that Sacrifice praying...are you not lifted up to heaven?’’ John Chrysostom ‘The Priesthood’, circa 386 A.D.
The early Christians knew and believed that only Holy Communion fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi 1:11. 'Maranatha!' 'The Lord Comes!'
‘‘You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.’’ (Heb. 5:6). ‘‘Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine, and being a priest of God Most High, he blessed Abram...’’ (Gen. 14:18).
by Flemish artist Pieter van Mol(b. 1599, d. 1650 A.D.)
In both ancient and modern times, Eucharistic miracles have occured. Among the most famous is the miracle of Lanciano.
In 700 A.D., a priest who had his faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist shaken, was saying Mass. His name is unknown, but an ancient document reported that he was "versed in the science of the world, but ignorant in that of God." With such doubts about transubstantiation (Christ's real presence - His Body and Blood under the appearance of bread and wine), this doubting priest at the words of Consecration ('This is My Body - This is My Blood'), suddenly, the host turned into human flesh, and the wine turned into human blood. This took place in front of his congregation at Mass. The congregation quickly spread the news.
The flesh remained intact, but the blood soon coagulated into five pellets. It was found that these pellets defied normal scientific laws. One pellet of blood was equal in weight to the other four. Three where equal in weight to two. One weight the same as all five. The smallest weighed the same as the largest.
The miracle has been studied off and on for centuries, and remains visible to this day. In the most recent independent modern tests, it was found that the flesh is human heart tissue, looks as if it were sliced from a heart by an expert surgeon, and that the blood type matches that of the coagulated blood. Though the host has not been hermetically sealed, it remains intact, now some 1300 years after the miracle took place. You can learn more about this, and other such miracles, by reading in selections from the recommended book section.
(coming soon :-)
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The entire ABC's of Faith web site and its contents, as well as all original graphics, are copyrighted by L.A.K., FSC & BTNA Consulting. © 1998 by BTNA Consulting, FSC & L.A.K. All Rights Reserved. Contact us for any requests! This page built on 6/14/98 A.D. Last updated on 04/18/06 A.D.