Eucharist Reflections 2

Brant Pitre, in his new book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper, examines what Jews were expecting when it came to the Messiah. This may seem like an odd place to begin in understanding Eucharist, but if you are a 1st Century Jew it is the only place one could have begun.

While it is common to think Jews were expecting a political Messiah, Brant sketches four themes that were at work in 1st Century messianic hopes:

1. The coming of a New Moses.

2. The making of a New Covenant.

3. The building of a New Temple.

4. The journey to a New Promised Land.

For the first, consider Deut 18:15-18:

15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. 16 For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”17 The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.

Brant then points to a (much later) rabbinic text that speaks of the New Moses entering on a donkey, as Jesus did.

Then consider the New Covenant. Israel was delivered from Egypt to become God’s worshiping community. Exod 4:22-23; 24:5-11 — finishing in a meal of eating together. Then we get Jeremiah 31:31-33.  And the later rabbis connected the final days with a glorious banquet.

Two themes important for Eucharist, today, wherever we are and whatever view we have of Eucharist: our Lord is the New Moses who leads us into the New Exodus, and our Lord has created the New Covenant so long anticipated.

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  • John W Frye

    The use of the word “departure” (NIV) is the word Greek “exodus” when Jesus talks with Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration. The new liberation is coming!

  • Susan N.

    Interesting. I wonder what you think of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 miracle from a messianic perspective? Cross-referencing OT prophecy in Ezekiel 34, and also anticipatory of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb?

    In these Eucharistic words — “And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes” (blessed, broke, gave) — are echoes of covenant/communion.

    Was meditating on this earlier in the week and found new and fresh meaning in this passage…

  • John W Frye

    Susan, I think you are correct. The feeding of the five thousand sets up John to record in his Gospel the bread of life discourse–the manna from heaven–connecting to the Exodus/Moses events.

  • Travis Greene

    Interesting place for a Catholic to start, considering that Zwingli, of all people, linked Eucharist to Passover.

  • DRT

    Sorry for being tangential, but with the transfiguration and Elijah and all…

    In one of my Bible studies it was asked why in Matthew’s gospel they say “he is calling Elijah” after he quotes psalm 22. I don’t have a good answer, does someone here?