Barry Newman's Blog

October 16, 2012

The Sacraments (part VII)

Filed under: The Sacraments — barrynewman @ 10:08 pm

Remembrance – Do This

The Passover meal was substantially a meal of remembrance.  The people of God remembered God’s great saving act in the deliverance of Israel from the Egyptians and the deliverance of Israel from the judgement which fell upon the Egyptians.  For Jesus however, his disciples were now to see that God’s great redemptive act for his people was to be understood as centered on him.  The remembrance was to be of him and his coming death.

The Greek imperative, translated as “Do this in remembrance of me” is not necessarily to be understood as a kind of insistent demand.  Imperatives can have the sense of advice or, as perhaps in this case, the notion of instruction being given.  They are to see the Passover ceremony in a new light and whenever they celebrate the Passover in the future, it is to be understood in this new way, a way that was a fulfilment of what God had done in the past.  So when should this remembrance of Jesus in this way take place?  Whenever his disciples or understandably whenever any of his disciples to be, would celebrate Passover.

What precisely was Jesus referring to by his use of the words, “Do this” in “Do this in remembrance of me” with respect of the bread and in “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” with respect to the wine from the cup, to quote Paul?  One might suggest that in the case of the wine, the reference is to the pouring out of the wine and in the case of the bread it is the breaking of the bread. Alternatively, it is the taking of the bread and the eating of it and the taking of the cup and the drinking of the wine that is in mind. We are probably trying to be too precise. Jesus had made it clear that the bread was a reference to his body and the wine to his blood. The focus that Jesus introduced was on the bread and the wine and the receiving of them. The bread and the wine, with one being eaten and the other drunk, taken together, were to signify the absolute necessity of his death for life in him to be granted.

It is recognised that in the King James version, 1 Corinthians 11; 24 reads, “”Take eat: this is my body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.”  And one can understand why in the minds of some there was a connection between the bread being broken and in some sense the body of Jesus being broken.  However, it is now recognised that the word, translated “broken” does not appear in the most important manuscripts and is to be omitted when considering a translation. Besides, as indicated above, bread had to be broken in order to be distributed.  Breaking bread was a necessity of sharing in the meal.  Furthermore John makes reference in his Gospel to the fact that the bones of Jesus had not been broken and writes of the fulfilment of Scripture to that effect (John 19: 31-36). The blood being poured out for many certainly would seem to relate to the pouring of wine into a cup – perhaps a reference to the probable mixing of wine with water in a central cup from which individual cups or a common cup would draw their supply or a reference simply to the pouring of the probable mixed wine from a central cup into a common cup.  However given that crucifixions were not known for copious quantities of blood being “poured out”, the reference by Jesus is most probably simply, but profoundly, a reference to his death. He referred to his body at the beginning of the main course and then to his blood at the end of that course.  The blood being separated from the body, in itself, for the Jewish mind, signified death.  It is true that John makes a reference to blood and water coming from the side of Jesus, but this was something which occurred after his death.  Besides the point that John makes is that this was another event that found fulfilment in Scripture – “They shall look on him whom they have pierced”, the piercing being the focus of his interest (John 19: 33-37).

To return to our main concern, though the reports of the Synoptic Gospels relate to an actual Passover celebration, it seems perfectly understandable, appropriate and a blessed thing for believers who do not celebrate Passover to institute a celebration which has some similar elements to a Passover meal, a celebration held more often than a yearly Passover meal.  None the less it is a leap away from the New Testament textual material to claim that what Jesus said regarding how the disciples were to view future Passover meals must be written into a new type of celebration, held, weekly or less or more often, and based, even if only in a token manner, on an ordinary meal.

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