Sometime back, I gave a talk based on my little book This is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers the Real Presence here in Seattle.
One of the things I noted is that there are only two moments in the gospels where Jesus says something that baffles his disciples and he does not take them aside and explain that this was just a parable or figure of speech. Mark, in fact, tells us that when he spoke in parables he always explained his meaning privately to his disciples.
But on two occasions–his announcement of his Passion, Death and Resurrection (reiterated three times) and his announcement in John 6 that he will give his flesh for his disciples to eat–he does not explain what he “really means”. My point is that it’s because he is saying what he really means: he will die and rise, the bread he will give is his flesh.
This occasioned this observation from a friend:
Of the two events when Christ did not resort to parables–the announcement that he must die in Jerusalem, and then the consecrations at the Last Supper–what about this takeaway——-
In the first instance, not only does He not cover his tracks with a parable, instead, He says to the waiting Peter: “Get behind me, Satan.” WHAT! No parable to smooth things over?? And then this Satan thing. Ouch!
In the second instance, after the consecration of the bread, now let’s hear a parable for sure….But wait, there’s more; in this moment for sure clarification what does Christ do? He clarifies–He repeats himself with a second consecration. This repetition IS the clarification, and before those around the table can catch their breath, He then commissions them all to go and “[YOU !] go and do this in remembrance of me.” Double whammy!
And what’s this remembrance thing? They surely wondered if this has something to do with His impending departure, already announced a few days earlier. In place of a clarifying parable during dinner, a consecration, and not once but twice. (Why not just a two-by-four across the side of the head?)Reality time! Real Presence.
Interesting and astute.
I think it was the realization that it simply never occurred to anybody to speak of the Eucharist as “just a symbol” for nearly a thousand years that killed my belief in the Evangelical crackers and grape juice “It’s just an audio-visual aid to remind us of the Passion” view of things more than anything. The idea that everybody in north, south, east, and west across a dozen different languages, tribes, and tongues could get something that simple that catastrophically wrong was just unbelievable to me. It’s like saying Jesus said “pass the salt” and everybody in the entire Church somehow accidentally all concluded that he meant that “Everybody would grow wings” or something. It’s an absurd misunderstanding, if misunderstanding it was. Some people may be that dumb. But everybody without exception for a thousand years?
Give thou me a break.
The Church believed in the Real Presence in the Eucharist from the start and still does for one simple reason: It’s what Jesus taught about the Eucharist, it’s what the apostles believed, and it’s what they taught their Churches to believe everywhere they went.