In addressing this subject I place myself between my Messianic brothers on one side who hold up the Torah of Moshe and say, “This is where we find life, in Keeping the Commandment given by God” and on the other side I draw the wrath of my Christian brothers because I have dared to molest the sacred cow of Christianity, the Eucharist.
It is like the story from the Jewish sages which says:
There was a man who had two wives. One was young and the other was old. When he was with the younger wife she would pluck out his gray hairs because she liked him to look young. The older wife, when she was with him plucked out his black hair because she liked his gray hair which made him look distinguished. In the end, neither wife loved him because of his bald pate.
The truthful answer for both of these is found in John Chapter 6 where Yeshua compares His minitry to that of Moshe:
John 6 I am that bread of life.  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
In discussion with Christians over the issue of Eucharist it is clear that there is some variations in what different churches really believe. The variations among Catholics and Orthodox is small and in regards to the ritual itself they seem to pretty much agree. They believe that the Lord commanded us to “eat his flesh and drink His blood” based largely on John 6 where Yeshua was speaking to the crowd who had followed him around the region after he had fed the 5000 the bread and fishes. In the Catholic belief the priest who is a bishop or presbyter recites sanctifying prayers over the bread (wafers) and wine and they become the actual flesh and blood of the Lord. Consuming them is the method of transmission for salvation and eternal life. According to their teachings, if you have consumed the flesh and blood of the eternal life of Jesus that life remains in you and therefore you can not die, for immortality resides within.
There are obviously some real problems with this. Although I admit that the practice is very old showing up in early writings of the Church fathers and the Didache, there is really no scriptural support for it outside of revising what the Lord said in John 6 and a few other passage placing modern Christian understanding into the mouths of the Lord and Apostles. The ritual is totally missing from Church instructions from by the Apostles. It is missing in places like Acts 15 where the Jerusalem council is discussing what a Gentile needs to do to be saved and enter fellowship.
Some of the most basic problems is that the early church was a sect of Judaism and still very much a part of the greater body of Jewish sects. They pray in the temple at the time of the daily sacrifice and meet also in the synagogues. The Church of James is called a Synagogue in James 2:2 although the English translations have hidden this fact by changing the word “Synagogue” to “Assembly”. In Judaism the consuming of Blood in any form even symbolically and the eating of human flesh would both be Taboo of the worst kind and something that the Lord calls an Abomination. Additionally it adds a required ritual to the process of being saved through faith alone. Now one must believe in God and his salvation through Messiah and also believe in the eating of his flesh and blood in performing this ritual. It also adds a level of judgment which is given to fallible men; for the priests are the only ones who can change the bread and wine into the flesh and blood of Jesus and he also has the authority to decide who is worthy to receive these mysterious elements and the eternal life they supposedly provide. This really borders on Spiritual witchcraft and is yet another violation of Gods commandments for man. For a long time the Church used this leverage of having control of the Eucharist and who could receive it, to control nations and Kings, and to extract money when they wanted it. By their doctrine a mans eternal soul was in the hands of the priest!
In the Gospels when Messiah identifies himself in the bread and wine it is clearly in the context of the Passover Seder meal. He is showing that it is his life and his blood that is about to purchase for us a great deliverance and redemption. He tells us to remember him each time we keep the Passover meal, to remember that it was He himself who saved us.
In 1 Corinthians Paul is speaking to them about the approaching Passover and instructing them in order to correct some errors in the way they have been observing the Seder allowing it to become a party event with disorder and not focused on the Lords salvation. He refers to the Passover in Chapters 5, 10 and 11 even quoting the Passover of the Lord and says “Let us keep the feast”.
Yet most Christian brothers have taken all this to be evidence of the Eucharist being practiced. This happens because they have taken the scriptures out of their first century context and inserted their own modern rituals into the events recorded there. When I have tried to speak to our Christian brothers about this Eucharist issue the usual arguments from their side is:
“The Orthodox church believes”
Or “The Catholic Church believes”
Or “our pastor said”
or “In our Catucism”
My question is “What do the scriptures say?”
Eucharist and John 6 by the verses
John 6. First lets look at the setting. Jesus feeds 5000 people in a great miracle. They see this event as a miracle that points to the anointed one, (Messiah) who Moses had told them to watch for. Moses delivered the people from Egypt, and now they need to be delivered from Roman oppression. Moses fed them with manna from heaven, so now this man Jesus has fed them in a great miracle. So the next day they are looking for him. And when they find him they are looking for the free lunch deal.
Yeshua identifies the people’s reason for following after him.
 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.
They wanted the free lunch program like Moses had provided. Jesus advises them about this:
 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
He is telling them not to pursue him for common bread that sustains the flesh life but instead to receive from him that which produces Eternal Life.
 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
Now they ask, Eternal life, yes, how do we receive such a gift, what must we do for God in order to receive Eternal life?
 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
OK. They will receive eternal life by believing in Him, the Lord Messiah. No mention of any Eucharist, just faith, believing in him, trusting in his means to save them. Nor does he mention perfectly keeping the Laws given through Moshe.
This completes the initial conflict of the conversation. Now Jesus is going to tell them what faith in him does, and how important it is that they trust totally in him and to order their lives according to their faith in Him. They need to be filled with his nature. But the people are still not going to give up easily on the prospect of free food for life like Moses supplied for them for 40 years.
 They said therefore unto him, What sign showest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?  Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
They are saying if you are the one Moses said would come then do at least what Moses did, give us bread from heaven. Jesus has already told them that bread only feeds the body, but by believing in him, they will receive eternal life.
 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
Now Jesus is comparing himself again to being the true source of eternal life, better than the manna that Moses gave when the people eat it and died, if they will believe in him more than Moses they will through their faith have eternal life.
 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
If you have bread that gives eternal life we want it. Give it to us!! But Jesus has already told them that the work they must do is to believe in him who God has sent.
 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.  And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
Remember that in the sermon on the mount Jesus said Blessed is he who hungers and thirsts for righteousness, for he shall be filled. With food? No with the righteousness of God. He is teaching that same thing here. Jesus tells them that not everyone is hungry and thirsty for righteousness but those who are, the ones that the father has given to him he will not refuse and they will receive him. And through their believing faith they will receive eternal life from God. He identifies himself as the one who came down from heaven, as the manna did, only he will not fill their stomachs like the manna, he will fill their souls with the glory of the Lord.
 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not.  All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.  For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
He has made it clear that it is was the father who sent him and he will not loose any and those who have faith will receive eternal life and he will raise them up alive on the last day. Always the connection is on believing and receiving eternal life. Not through a ritual of Eucharist, but by believing, through trusting faith.
 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
And he repeats with more emphasis on their faith
 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Nowhere in this is there a mention of a need to eat his body or drink his blood in a ritual. This answers all the questions in a literal way presenting the sequence in a straight forward fashion.
There are those in the crowd who are already a bit confused and so Jesus will take another approach to explaining the importance of trusting in him. He has made the statement that He is the bread which came down from heaven comparing himself with the manna from God in the days of Moses, but has said that faith in him will not fill their bellies but will give them eternal life. That is the entire meaning of this teaching, that we must have faith in him and be filled with his spirit. We will continue into the blood and flesh portions next but I want to be sure that we are still together on this and that you are seeing the literal meaning before going on to the metaphorical portions.
Next we see some detractors in the crowd as there always are. And they are missing the point. First off they question his statement of having come down from heaven. They know him as the local man in town perhaps since he was a child.
 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven.  And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?
Jesus tells them that they do not believe and therefore they do not understand. And he tells them that it is by Gods election who should believe in him or not. He verifies his authority.
 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves.  No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.  Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
Now he tells them again what the bread from heaven means and how superior it is to the manna from Moses. He begins to make a point using metaphorical language, still emphasizing their need to have faith in him. This expression to eat of him, is a well used Hebraism meaning to be immersed in someone, to be filled with their doctrine. In several places we see a prophet being given a scroll to eat. They do not literally eat it, but they make it a part of themselves, by believing the words of the scroll. In this case Yeshua is saying to them that they must eat him, that is trust in him. The eating of his flesh in this equates to the literal explanation he has already given, that they must believe in him. Believe in me and you will have eternal life,, eat my flesh and you will have eternal life. Be filled with Me, My doctrine, my words.
 I am that bread of life.  Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
In the verse above he says the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. So how did he give his flesh to the world? By having the world eat him literally or by giving up his life on the cross to cleanse us from sin? You easily see that this is the Gospel that the Apostles will take to the world, that if we believe in Jesus that he died for us on the cross to wash away our sins, then we shall have eternal life. They never mention a Eucharist ritual, only faith in the finished work on the cross. And that is what Jesus has just said, he is giving his flesh (his physical life) so that the world might live. But once again the dim minds of those in the crowd is confused by this metaphor.
 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
Jesus comes back to them emphatically telling them that they must believe in him, they must be absorbed with his doctrine and receive his spirit allow Jesus to become one with them. Again eating is the metaphor used in Hebraisms to denote coming into a union with someone and making their words a part of yourself, like the scroll of words they are eaten. You totally trust and believe the words, in this case the word that his death will bring life to the world for those who trust in him by faith.
 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
Metaphorical: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.Eating his flesh is symbolic of believing in him and trusting his words. And he repeats again that believing his words making them a part of yourself will bring to you eternal life. How so, not because the literal flesh of Jesus is absorbed into you but because you have believed his words and they have become part of you, central to your life, they fill your heart. You are therefore in unity with him. He lives in you and you in him. He does not eat your flesh for you to be in him, and he does not eat the fathers flesh to be in the father. Unity comes from believing and being filled with the others nature, just as Jesus said I do only what the father says, and I am obedient to him and therefore we are in unity. (See John 14-15)
 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.  As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.  This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.
Two more verse I want to bring out here from this section:
 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life…
 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
Please notice again that he is telling the disciples that his words are spiritual in nature and that trying to understand the metaphor in a flesh literal meaning is worthless. And that is what the Church has done, taking the spiritual words and like the dull minded Jews and detractor tried to understand it in terms of a literal eating of the flesh and blood rather than accepting that the Lord was talking about their need to believe in him and to be filled with his words and doctrine. It is his words that are key to eternal life, not his flesh body. Yeshua’s words and instruction not those of Moshe and not a mystical religious ritual. He is relating believing in him and being filled with his doctrine to eating him, and dwelling together with him?
Let’s look at some other sayings in John.
John 5:  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
John 7:  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)
John 11:  Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
John 12: JN 12:44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.  And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.  I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.  And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.  He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.  For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.  And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.
JN 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;  Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
John 14:  At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.  He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
John 15:  As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.  If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
Can you see it yet. The way we receive eternal life which comes from the spirit is by abiding in Christ, being at one with him which comes from believing in him and being obedient to him. When we do this we are also being obedient to the father. Today people have a mixed ritual that is part faith and part works because they did not understand the spiritual nature of the metaphor. It would be the same thing to go around wearing a branch on your head as a hat because Jesus said I am the vine and you are the branches. So wearing a twiggy hat would build your faith and give you eternal life.
How sad for Christianity that they missed the metaphorical meaning and instead of being filled with Christ and his words and his doctrine they reduced it to a ritual of eating and drinking and remained without the spirit until the Pentecostal revival many years later. And because of their ritualizing they did many things that I believe would never have happened if they had been filled with Messiahs life instead of bread and wine and the mysteries of religion. They merged with the politics of Rome and became an army who ruled over kings and nations by force and by religious coercion to try and bring about by military might that which God wanted to bring about by spiritual life, that being, the Kingdom of God. Moshe had the instructions that established the foundation for the coming Messiah who would save the world. Yeshua is that Messiah. Eternal life is bound up in our being filled with His spirit , His nature, living as He lived. The ministry of Yeshua our High Priest is greater than the ministry of the Levites given by Moshe.
"When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness." -Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Jewish adventures in the diaspora.
Scripture, ethics and spiritual formation