Sunday, November 6, 2011

Response to Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE) Street Evangelists, Part 13 of 24

This is the thirteenth part of a 24-part series of responses to a street evangelist I met from Lighthouse Baptist Church (Newark, DE). Please click here to see the first post, which contains a set of links by topic to all the posts in the series.

13. Do this in REMEBRANCE of me.  Many Baptists with whom I have spoken have turned to this word spoken by Jesus at the last supper to deny the very words that Jesus had just spoken: “this is my body.”

In a nutshell, the Catholic argument is: Jesus said “this is my body.” Jesus said “truly, truly I say unto you, unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you” (John 6) Jesus said it, Christians have always believed it since the beginning (except those in John 6:66 who turned away and did not follow Jesus any longer), and I see no reason to deny the clear teaching of my Lord.

Now, the problem with how many Baptists interpret the word “remembrance” is they look the word up in their Webster’s dictionary and they interpret it within the framework of 21st-century notions of metaphysics.  Doing so, they draw the conclusion that something that is “remembered” is not present, but rather thought about as a past event.  It is only present in the memory and in the symbols we use to remember it, but the thing symbolized is itself absent.  Our 21st-century metaphysics tell us that remembering something does not make it present in any way, shape, or form.

The problem with this interpretation is that Jesus wasn’t using the word with 21st-century dictionaries and metaphysics in mind.

The word for “remembrance” was a special Greek word, anamnesis, that was used in the Old Testament primarily in the context of the Jewish Passover and other sacrifices, the very salvation event that Jesus, the true Passover, was in the act of fulfilling.  So, if you want to understand “remembrance” in context, then turn not to Webster but to the Old Testament Passover ritual and sacrifices.  When you “study this out,” you’ll find that every time anamnesis is used in the Old Testament Hebrew and Greek cultures, it was in connection with sacrifice (see Numbers 10:10, for instance).  Thus, Jesus is connecting what he is doing in the last supper with the “new covenant,” with the “Passover,” and with “sacrifice.”  We know that Jesus is the “Lamb of God,” and John points out how sour wine was offered to Jesus on the cross using a hyssop branch, the same branch used at the original Passover in Egypt to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of those who were “passed over”.  We also see that not a bone in Jesus’s body is broken: he is truly the Lamb of God, offered for our salvation on the cross.  (There are many other connections, John is pointing out, but you probably already know them, so I’ll move on.)

Yet, the sacrifice of Calvary begins in the upper room, where Jesus freely offered his body and blood in the first Mass.  And just like the ancient Jews had to eat the Lamb (or else their first born son would die), we also have to eat the lamb, but not by consuming our Lord’s body and blood in a bloody manner.   Rather, at the last supper, our Lord provides a way that we can commune with him in His fullness: through the Eucharistic sacrifice. 

That is why Jesus didn’t just offer his body and blood, but said, “take this eat…do this as a memorial sacrifice of my offering” which gets us closer to the meaning of anamnesis.  I recommend taking a look at this article for more on this topic:

Even better would be to buy Brant Pitre’s book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.  Or, check out his talks on this very subject here.

I have a LOT more to say on this subject below when I talk about how Catholics understand the Mass, and why the Mass is not a “recrucifixion of Christ.”


Okay, I think that gets us through everything we spoke about.

I’ll try to be a bit briefer with the topics that I believe were covered by the other group. 

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