The Lamb's Supper

Author: from a talk by Scott Hahn

One of the most important ways that the Old Covenant foreshadows the New is in its use of the image of the sacrificial lamb. Let's see how this relates to the Eucharist in Scripture.

First, take a look at Revelation 5. In Revelation 5, there is a scroll with seven seals that nobody can break open and everybody is really upset. In fact John almost begins to cry. In 5, verse 2, "A strong angel proclaimed with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?' And no one in heaven and on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it." What is the scroll? The word is biblion. Most likely it's a reference to a covenant document, the New Covenant document that nobody is worthy to break open. "And I wept much, but no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it," because this scroll would consummate and fulfill the promises of the Old Testament.

"Then one of the elders said to me, 'Weep not. Lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, he has conquered so that he can open the scroll and seven seals.'" You could almost feel the hallelujah rising up from within your soul. The Lion of the tribe of Judah! You turn. You look and John turns to look and what does he see in verse 6, " And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw," what? Aslan, the lion? No. David crowned with glory? No. You'd think so, a lion and a king are the words used to describe it. "I turned and I saw a lamb standing, looking as though it had been slain."

Jesus Christ is the son of David and the king of the new and heavenly Jerusalem. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah and He is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, as it said elsewhere in Revelation. But here in heaven on the throne of glory, after His crucifixion, Hs resurrection, His ascension, His enthronement, He still looks like a lamb. He still looks as though He had been slain. Why not clean up the body? Why not wipe away the wounds? Why continue resembling a lamb? Because He's continuing the Passover offerings, the sacrifice. Not by dying, not by bleeding and not by suffering but by continuing to offer up Himself as the firstborn and as the unblemished lamb, as the perpetual, timeless, everlasting sacrifice of praise to the Father.

And what do the people do? They rejoice and they break out into a song. And what is the song, "Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals for thou was slain." Past tense, "And by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." And what has he done? He's become a priest to be sure, but for what purpose? "He has made them a kingdom and priest to our God." He has made those whom he has saved priests. And what do priests do? They offer sacrifice.

Has Christ's sacrifice ended all sacrifices? No. Christ's sacrifice has ended all ineffective, bloody animal sacrifices that never did anything anyway. Now for the first time in history we can really begin to offer sacrifice to God. Romans 12 says, "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God." And it wouldn't be holy and acceptable except that it's united to Christ's perpetual sacrifice. He's not bleeding. He's not dying. He's not suffering, but he is offering a sacrifice as a lamb does, as a priest king does continually, forever.

And that's what it's all about. John wouldn't see a lamb looking as though it had been slain if the whole kit and caboodle was completed and done. Yes, it's completed and done, but it's still going on, and it's going to go on forever in the future. Why? Because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, as Hebrews tells us.

Now, is this strange? Is this teaching novel? Well, let's take a look at 1st Corinthians and see how natural it seems to the apostle Paul. We have already looked at 1st Corinthians 5, "Christ, our Passover," that's in verse 7, "Christ, our Paschal Lamb has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." What's he talking about? Is he talking about leaven being like sin. No. He's saying let us celebrate the feast with unleavened bread. What feast? The Eucharist! The sacrifice continues because communion must be celebrated. We've got to eat the lamb, the resurrected, glorified, enthroned lamb that still looks as though he'd been slain because he's still giving himself to us.

Turn over with me now to Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 13. He says, "Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings in the same way the Lord commanded. That those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel." Now we might be tempted to read Corinthians 9, 13 and 14 and say, "Well, back in the Old Testament they did temple service and altar service and sacrifice, but now in the New Testament they only proclaim the word."

The problem with that is that Paul goes on to say, Corinthians 11, as we will see, how Christ's death is proclaimed. Take a look with me at 1st Corinthians, 11:23-26. "For I received from the Lord what I shall deliver to you." Interesting, he received it not from Peter and the apostles. When Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus or perhaps at some other time, what did Jesus deliver to Paul? Instructions for the Eucharist. "I received from the Lord what I also deliver to you. That the Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup after supper saying, 'This cup is the New Covenant in my blood. Do this." Commandment, imperative tense. "As often as you drink it in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes."

You proclaim the gospel. Let's go back then to Corinthians 9, verse 14, "In the same way the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel." How does Paul proclaim the gospel? Just by preaching? Or by celebrating the Eucharist? "As often as you do this, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." That's the gospel. Paul is talking in verses 13 and 14 about how he should be supported as an apostle and he does so in conjunction with temple service at an altar where there is sacrificial offerings which he as an apostle has the right to receive from. What's he talking about? A New Covenant temple? A New Covenant altar? A New Covenant sacrifice where he proclaims the gospel by celebrating the Eucharist.

Now let's go on to Corinthians 10 and get things straight really quickly here because Corinthians 10, gives us a proper warning. In the first ten verses of Corinthians 10, Paul says that back in the Old Testament with Moses, verse 3, "They all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink." The water from the rock and the manna in the wilderness and both, Paul says in a sense, were signs of Christ's presence among them. Nevertheless, verse 5, "with most of them God was not pleased for they were overthrown in the wilderness."

In the next three verses he describes the Golden Calf incident where thousands of them died. In other words just because you receive supernatural food and drink doesn't mean you've got it made in the shade. You have to set things right with God and keep things right with the Lord. Verse 11, "Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction upon whom the end of the ages has come." We now have a greater and much more supernatural food and drink. So we can relax? No. We've got to be even more circumspect in searching out our hearts and making sure we are right with God.

He goes on in verse 16, "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a coenia, a communion, a participation in the blood of Christ?" Not a symbol. But a share, a communion. The bread which we break , is it not a coenia, a communion in the body of Christ. "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body for we all partake of the one bread." He doesn't mean to say that there's one enormous loaf that we all take a piece from. There are many loaves of bread. There are many breads in that earthly sense, but there's only one bread in the heavenly sense, and that's Christ. Because we receive from one bread Christ, the Bread of Life, we who are many become one body, namely, the Body of Christ. He's suggesting that we become what we eat.

He goes on to contrast our sacrifice with other sacrifices and he says, verse 18, "Consider the people of Israel. Are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar?" What he is saying is back then when you eat the sacrifice, you have a communion in the altar of those animals. Now we have a communion on all of our altars in the New Covenant with Christ, the Lamb of God. Verse 21, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord with jealousy? Are we stronger than he?" For some reason God takes this with the utmost seriousness. Why?

Corinthians 11, he spells it out even clearer. We've already read verses 23 through 26. Now we can conclude with verse 27 where he says, "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the Body and the Blood of the Lord." Now that language is actually like civil judicial language. Somebody who's practically guilty of murder or capital offense is guilty of the body and blood. Now if it's only a symbol, he might be guilty in some lesser sense, but when you profane the Lord's Supper, you actually become guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of the Lord. "Let a man examine himself, therefore, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning," -- the symbolism? No. "...the body, eats and drinks judgment upon himself."

Now is he just speaking metaphorically? He couldn't be because in the next verse he says, "That is why many of you are weak and ill and some have died." To receive the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is playing with fire of the worst sort. He goes on in chapter 12, verse 12, "For just as the body is one," the Church, that is, "...and has many members and all the members of the body though many are one body, so it is with Christ for by one Spirit we were all baptized in the one body." When we received the water of Baptism, we received the Spirit of God. "And all were made to drink of the one Spirit." When we receive Eucharist, Communion, we receive the Spirit as well as the flesh and the blood and the body, soul, humanity and divinity of Christ.

This is significant, very significant. This, in fact, gives us the whole interpretive key to the Book of Revelation. Many non-Catholic as well as Catholic scholars have noticed that the whole structure of Revelation is a big Passover liturgy where Christ, the Priest King, the firstborn Son and the Lamb looking as though it's been slain conducts and celebrates the heavenly liturgy. And the earthly liturgy is meant to be a reflection in that, a participation in that, and the early Church took it for granted. There is the Lamb looking as though it's been slain and making all of the people in heaven priests so they can assist in the offering of the firstborn son of God to the Father and join themselves with it.


Abridged from Scott Hahn's audio and video tape presentation,
"Eucharist: Holy Meal" as it appears in the "Catholic Adult Education on Video Program" with Scott and Kimberly Hahn.