The Eucharist as The Lamb's Supper
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
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
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.
Full text available in our library.
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Electronic text (c) Copyright EWTN 1996. All rights reserved.