From the Rector: Part II
Part II of Answer to Letter written in March 2016
5). Doesn’t He rather mean that unless we appropriate to ourselves by faith the value of His death for us on Calvary, we can never be saved?
It is true that the first part of the dialogue concerns faith. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He tells us plainly that “the bread I will give is my flesh” (Jn 6:51). When Jesus explains that the bread of life is literally His flesh, we must accept His clear words. We cannot prefer a different explanation to the one Jesus Himself provides. Believing in Jesus (the teaching of the first part of the discourse, verses 22-47) means believing that He will give us His actual flesh and blood to eat (the teaching of the second part v. 49-51).
6). We must believe on Him, receive Him, trust Him, and make Him our very own.
Amen! All this we do by believing what He says about His Body and Blood, receiving Him in Holy Communion, trusting that He can accomplish what He promises, and making Him our very own in this precious gift.
7). The disciples partook of the bread and wine, but they did not literally eat His flesh and drink His blood.
Compare your commentary to what the Scriptures state plainly.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt. 26:26-28).
Jesus nowhere explains away the obvious meaning of His words. The blood they drank is the same blood which would be shed for the forgiveness of sins the next day on Calvary. If you were at the last supper, and heard Jesus say ‘this is my body, this is my blood’, would you have objected and said “no, Jesus, it is not your body and blood”?
8). We don’t find the first century church celebrating Mass.
You are mistaken. First of all, Jesus commanded them to do so when He said, “do this in remembrance of Me”(1 Cor11:24). The passage you quoted from Acts of the Apostles actually shows that they were celebrating Mass, the “breaking of bread”(Acts 2:42) is precisely the Mass. 1Cor 10:16 says “The bread we break, is it not a participation in the Body of Christ? St. Paul also wrote the first letter to the Corinthians to correct abuses that were cropping up at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which is another name for the celebration of the Mass (1Cor 11:17-34).
One more beautiful account of the breaking of the bread is the appearance on the road to Emmaus. “And it happened that while he was with them at table, he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight”(Lk 24:30-31). It goes on to say that “he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Lk 24:35).
9). It says nothing about eating the flesh of Jesus!
If you want to tell Jesus that the bread is not His flesh, then your argument is with Jesus. After He promised to give them His flesh to eat in the form of bread, “the bread that I will give is my flesh”(Jn 6:51), and “my flesh is food indeed,”. (Jn 6: 56) He gave them this bread, declaring, “take and eat, this is my body”(Mt 26:26), He also commanded them to “do this in memory of me”(1Cor11:24) and warned them that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”(Jn 6:53). Then we find them steadfastly obeying by “devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread”(Acts 2:42).
I pray that you may come to discern His body and come to know him in the breaking of the bread, the celebration of the Mass.
May God Bless you, and may we continue to have a holy conversation about Our Loving Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.
Rev. Matthew Keller