Eucharist Reflections 3

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. I said this very thing but repeat it because we are looking at points 3 and 4.

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.

Last week we looked at #1 and 2, this week at #3 and 4.

The original Exodus involved the Tabernacle, that developed eventually into the Temple. The New Exodus also involves a New Temple. This sacred place is the place where God meets his people, cures their sins, and evokes gratitudinal worship. Micah 4:1-2 and Isaiah 56:6-7 and 60:1-7 anticipate the New Temple in the final days. And here again the rabbis, and he appeals to Numbers Rabbah 13:2, touch on the same theme.

The fourth theme concerns the New Promised Land. The exodus led to the Promised Land; so the final days would be a new promised land. The Land figures prominently in the Bible and in Judaism, and you can’t talk about kingdom or anything important in the 1st Century and neglect Land. So esp Isaiah but also Ezekiel 36:33-35 says,

33 “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35 They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.”

So here it is: the anticipation of an Eden-like Land. Non-biblical sources touch on this same anticipation. The hope was for God to make all things new.

Jesus too expected and enacted New Exodus themes: baptism, wilderness temptations, making water into blood (Moses in Egypt theme), new covenant, etc.

In Eucharist, we celebrate Jesus as building a new temple and configuring a new land. The word “exodus” is actually used at Luke 9:31.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • John W Frye

    It is fun, Scot, to follow these posts with you. I am doing a sermon series on Exodus titled “Exit Strategies: How God Leads His People to Freedom.” I am enjoying the parallels between Moses and the Exodus and Jesus (new Moses) and his “exodus” work. Thanks!

  • http://garyfeister.blogspot.com Gary Feister

    I am currently reading Brant Pitre’s book and find it to be the best solid, biblical explanation of the Eucharist. I say “biblical” because he provides context from verified extant writings and traditions.

    For example, in the beginning verses of John 6, the scriptures says that Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee and a great crowd was following him because they had seen the signs that He had done (namely, healing the sick). He went up on a mountain and sat down with his disciples. Then, as if the writer had a glitch in his train of thought, it reads: “Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.” Then, it goes right in the feeding of the 5,000. I used to read that line about the Passover being at hand and wonder, “Why did the Holy Spirit lead John to drop that in at this point?” Thanks to Mr. Pitre’s explanations, I now understand the significance of that statement – and so much more!

    I’ve just discovered your post based on his book and look forward to reading them as well.

  • gingoro

    Scot

    Even though there are few comments on your Sunday posts or on the weekly prayers that does not mean that they are not appreciated. Thanks
    Dave W

  • scotmcknight

    Thanks Dave.


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