Previously, we have looked at the facts that the Eucharist is a mystery. If a Christian can accept the Trinity and the Incarnation then the Eucharist should be acceptable as well. We also looked at the Gospel of John to see that Jesus was very explicit in his requirement that we literally eat his body and drink his blood. If you haven’t read the previous two posts, please do so here before reading this one.
Today we will talk about the Passover. The Passover was first celebrated by the Israelites as recorded in the book of Exodus and was the cause of their escape from slavery in Egypt. One requirement of the Passover was to eat an unblemished, male lamb. Christians of all denominations agree that Jesus Christ is the Passover lamb for all mankind. He fits both the requirements for the lamb, and for the priest offering the lamb, perfectly!
So how is this further proof of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?
Most non-Catholic Christians believe that Jesus’ fulfillment of the Passover abolishes the Passover. They believe that participating in Jesus sacrifice requires only faith that Jesus is the son of God and that his sacrifice removes our sins. They believe faith is the requirement to participate in Jesus’ sacrifice; not action.
But Jesus said to his disciples that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mt 5:17). He didn’t come to make the Passover part of history. He came to transform it into something all people can participate in. Let me explain.
The Passover signaled the creation of a new covenant with God and his people. This is when they became a “royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.” The Israelites entered God’s family through the Passover. Jesus’ sacrifice created a new covenant with all people, not just the Jews. Jesus didn’t end the old Passover; he recreated it for the whole of humanity so we may all be in God’s family. He didn’t abolish; he fulfilled.
The old Passover didn’t require merely faith, it required action. A Jew had to participate in the Passover, with the climax of eating the unblemished lamb. They couldn’t eat the lamb metaphorically or symbolically. They had to eat the lamb. Jesus is the lamb in the new covenant. Like our Jewish ancestors we can’t simply have faith; we need to act. We need to eat the lamb.
We discussed John 6 previously where Jesus says in very literal terms we must eat his body five times! When did he say that? “The fest of the Passover was near” (Jn 6:4). I bet the disciples wondered how they would be able to eat Jesus body and drink his blood. I know I’d be curious!
Then in the upper room at the Passover two years later, we see Jesus saying the bread and wine are his body and blood. Can you imagine how relieved the disciples must have felt? Did the disciples think Jesus was speaking symbolically or figuratively? If they did, why did they forget to eat the lamb? The Gospels tell us they ate the bread and drank the wine, sang a hymn, and went out to the Mount of Olives. What Jew would forget to eat the lamb? The only reason they wouldn’t is that they believed they already had eaten it; in the bread and wine. Was it still bread and wine? No, it was the flesh and blood promised by Jesus in John 6.
The Passover lamb must be eaten. How is this possible if not for the Real Presence in the Eucharist?