I stand at the door and knock…(Rev. 3:20)
Jesus asks us to allow Him into our hearts, over our
tongues, and down into our belly.
Our Lord Jesus tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). As Catholics, we believe we receive Our Lord Jesus (Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity) in the Eucharist (from the Greek Eucharistos) or the Lord’s Supper. Here Jesus asks us to dine with Him and Him with us. The backdrop for the Book of Revelation is the Mass. John was exiled on Patmos so he couldn’t celebrate the Mass on earth, but since it was the Lord’s Day (Sunday), Our Lord Jesuslet John witness the Mass going on in heaven. Even Protestant scholars such as David E. Aune (Word Biblical Commentary), Massey H. Shepherd, Jr. (The Pascal Liturgy and the Apocalypse), and G.K. Beale (The New International Greek Testament Commentary), etc. have commented on this. Shepherd writes,
theory about the structure of Revelation was provided by the use of the Hallel
Psalms (113-18) in chapter 19, immediately preceding the “marriage supper of
the Lamb”. The association with
the Jewish festivals, and in particular with Passover, suggested at first that
this chapter reflected the Paschal Eucharist of the Church.
By working backwards through the book from this point, we became
convinced that an entire Paschal Liturgy could be reconstructed.
And this in turn fits in with the Seer’s statement that his vision was
experienced “on the Lord’s Day” (1:10).
The Mass is divided into two main parts, the liturgy of
the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist.
During a Sunday liturgy of the Word we have an Old Testament reading, a
Psalm, a reading from Acts or a New Testament Epistle, and a reading from one of
the four Gospels. After this we
hear a sermon. During the liturgy
of the Eucharist we celebrate what some non-Catholics refer to as the Lord’s
Supper. The prayers throughout the
Mass are taken from all parts of Scripture.
In the Book of Revelation, we find the opening of the scroll followed by
the reading of the Law, the Prophets, the Gospel, and the Psalms.
This is followed by the marriage supper of the Lamb.
In Rev. 5:5, John tells us, “And one of the elders saith unto me,
Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath
prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.”
What does the Lion look like? He
looks like a Lamb as it had been slain. “And
I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the
midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and
seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth”
In the beginning of John’s Gospel, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” John 1:29. This evokes image of the Passover. If you remember reading Exodus (or perhaps you saw the Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston), you will remember that the Jews had to kill a Lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts. If they didn’t, their firstborn sons and animals would be dead in the morning. Not only did they have to kill the lamb, every member of the household had to eat it and none could remain until morning (Ex. 12:10). If they did this the Lord would pass over them, otherwise their firstborns would be dead. This was to be a memorial forever. In the New Testament the Church is called the household of God (Gal 6:10, Eph. 2:19, 1 Tim 3:15). And every member of the household must partake of the New Testament Lamb. As Paul writes, “For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth.” (1 Cor 5:7-8). Paul tells us that Jesus is our Passover and therefore we must keep the feast. But what does he mean by the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth? We know Jesus is Truth and Sincerity, and in John chapter 6, He calls himself the “Bread of Life.”
It is no coincidence therefore that John 6 starts
out telling us, “And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh”
(John 6:4). “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. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and
giveth life unto the world.” (John 6:32-33). Jesus promises to give them this bread which is “He
which cometh down from heaven.” At
this point they don’t understand what Our Lord Jesus is saying.
We read, “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. 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. 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 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.”
Was Jesus just saying that this means just to believe in Him? Apparently the Jews did not take it this way. “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?” (John 6:42-42). Now Jesus has the perfect opportunity to clear up the confusion. “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. 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” (John 6:43-51). Not only does Our Lord Jesus not clear up the confusion, He now says that the bread He is talking about is His flesh!
Now the listeners are really upset. “The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” (John 5:52). Does Jesus correct their misunderstanding? No! “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. 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.” (John 6:53-58). Jesus says the same thing in even stronger language. They must eat His flesh and drink His blood or they have no life in them. His flesh is called “real meat” or “meat indeed.” His blood is called “real drink” or “drink indeed.” This isn’t figurative language.
Later on in the synagogue at Capernaum, Jesus disciples were even having trouble with this teaching. “Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard [this], said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? “ (John 6:60-61). These were Our Lord’s disciples. They had given up everything to follow Him. Surely Our Lord Jesus would not allow them to leave Him over a misunderstanding. “[What] and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, [they] are spirit, and [they] are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:62-65). These disciples heard Our Lord Jesus say this in their native language. They heard His inflections and observed His body language. Did they think He was explaining away His previous words? No, they left Him and He let them go. “From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66).
Wouldn’t it have been immoral for Our Lord Jesus to let His disciples leave over a simple misunderstanding? Every time in Scripture people misunderstood Our Lord, He corrected them. In verse 63, He doesn’t say “my flesh profith nothing.” It was His flesh and blood sacrificed on the cross that won the redemption of the whole human race, to all who would come to Him. Jesus says, “the flesh” which throughout the New Testament is used for our carnal way of looking at things. When He says His words are “spirit and life” that can’t mean figurative. His disciples certainly didn’t take it that way and He let them go. Nowhere in Scripture does “spirit” mean figurative. The Scripture tells us “God is Spirit” and angels are called “spirits.” These things are very real.
This was called a “hard saying.” If Jesus was just saying, “believe in me,” that would be nothing for these disciples who had left everything. Some had been following Him for a couple of years. John 6 is about faith. But what takes more faith, to look at what appears to still be bread and wine and say, “That is the Body and Blood of the creator of the universe” or to say that is just bread and wine? It certainly would take faith to look at the little baby in the manger and say that is the God that created everything. It would take faith to look at the man dying on the cross and believe He was God. So it is with the Eucharist.
Sure there was other times that Jesus used metaphors. He said He was a door, He said He was a vine. Everyone understood those metaphors. We know that a door means an entrance. Nobody said, “This guy doesn’t have hinges and a doorknob” or “This guy doesn’t have leaves.” Here they thought He really meant what He said and He didn’t correct them. If He wanted to tell them they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, there was no clearer way to tell them.
Suppose Jesus was using “eat My flesh” in a
figurative sense. In the Semitic
world this would be saying “to attack or persecute” him.
This was the figurative meaning in this culture (Isaiah 9:20, Psalm 14:4,
Psalm 53:4, Ezek 29:8, Gal. 5:15, Rev 19:8, etc.). Would
this make sense?
Rather than correct to disciples, Jesus let them leave Him. Jesus then challenges His Apostles. “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot [the son] of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve” (John 6:67-71).
Peter didn’t understand what Jesus was saying either, but He trusted Jesus as did all of the other Apostles except Judas Iscariot. Here we first learn of Judas’ undoing. Judas could not accept this. Is it a coincidence that at the Last Supper they were celebrating a Passover with Our Lord Jesus this happened? “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed [it], and brake [it], and gave [it] to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave [it] to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28, cf. Mark 14, Luke 22, 1 Cor 11). When Our Lord Jesus told the Apostles that the bread was His body and the wine was His blood, was when Judas went off to betray Our Lord. Judas could not accept the Eucharist. In the Byzantine liturgy, before the Eucharist, they sing, “May I not betray you with a kiss as Judas did.”
Here again Jesus says that they are to eat His body and drink His blood. The blood is called the blood that would be shed for us. Jesus was very specific about what blood it is. In Luke 22:19 and 1 Cor. 11:24 it says, “Do this in remembrance of Me” or as a “memorial.” Does that mean that we only remember Jesus, but He isn’t really present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity? Well if it was negating the statements “This is My Body” and “This is My Blood,” then certainly the first two Gospels would use this phrase. Luke (who probably got it from Paul) and Paul who said he got it from Our Lord were written much later. If someone asks you to do something as a memorial, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t to do the thing they ask. If I ask you to plant a cherry tree when I die as a memorial, it doesn’t mean just remember me and don’t plant the cherry tree. Jesus told them it was His body and it was His blood. The word “memorial” is the Greek word “anamnesis” meaning a memorial sacrifice. Whenever the word is used in the New Testament or the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament where 2/3rds of the New Testament quotations come from) in Protestant Bibles it means this. The Jews did not just remember how their ancestors sacrificed lambs, they had to kill their own each year. This ended in 70 A.D. when the temple was destroyed. No Orthodox or Conservative Jew will eat Lamb on Passover now since the Temple is gone. They substitute something like chicken. But the Passover is to be forever. We keep it in the Church. We eat His flesh and drink His blood.
But weren’t Jews forbidden to drink blood? Yes, they were, but if one reads the reason why, that makes the case even stronger that we must eat Our Lord’s Body and Blood. “Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh: for the life of all flesh [is] the blood thereof: whosoever eateth it shall be cut off” (Lev. 17:4) and “Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood [is] the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh” (Deut. 12:23). The reason that the Jews could not eat the flesh of animals with the blood is because the cultures around them believed they could get the life and spirit of animals in them by drinking their blood. They would strangle a bull, for example, and slit the throat and drink it while it was still warm to get the strength of the bull. That is why in Acts 15 they prohibited the eating of strangled animals. Jesus said, “Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). That is exactly why we must drink His blood. We don’t want the life of cattle or goats in us, but we do want Jesus’ life in us!
Jesus in heaven? How can His body
be present here on earth? And
wasn’t His blood still in His veins when He said, “This is My Blood?”
Jesus prepared the people for this objection.
How did Jesus prepare them for the Bread of Life discourse?
He prepared them by “multiplying” the loaves and fishes.
Actually He did not multiply them, He multi-located them.
Let me show you what I mean. They
started with five barley loaves and two fish.
After they had all eaten, they filled five barley loaves with the
“fragments of the five barley loaves.”
Notice the five original barley loaves still remained and they filled
twelve baskets. (How many apostles
were there?) After this
miracle he walked on the water. The apostles were still thinking spiritual.
They were afraid and said, “It is a Ghost”
(Matt 14:26). What did Jesus
say? “Take heart, have no fear,
it is I.” What were they thinking
about when they said this? A storm
is going on and someone comes up walking on the sea—what else would they be
thinking about? The loaves, of
course! “But immediately He
spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, It is I; have no fear.’
And He got into the boat with them and the wind ceased.
And they were utterly astounded.”
Mark 6:50-51. What astounded them--that He could calm the storm?
No! “And they were
utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, for their
hearts were hardened.” Mark 6:52. This
was the only miracle Jesus repeated: The feeding of the five thousand, the
feeding of the four thousand. Just
in case they didn’t get the significance Jesus had to keep reminding them of
this miracle: “Having
eyes, see you not? And having ears, hear you not?
Neither do you remember? When
I broke the five loves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments
took you up? They say to him: Twelve. When also the seven loaves among four
thousand, how many baskets of fragments took you up? And they say to him: Seven.
And he said to them: How do you not yet understand?”
(Mark 8:18-21). That is what I mean
by multi-locating. The original
loaves and fishes appeared to each person.
Each person had his fill, but the original remained. So it is with the Eucharist.
Jesus being God can do this miracle, just as He could do it with bread
and fish, both symbolic of Himself.
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we [being] many are one bread, [and] one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor 10:16-17). When Paul talks about the “one bread” he doesn’t mean that the Corinthians all had one big loaf of bread they all ate from, he meant the “one bread” was Jesus. It really was a communion in His Body and a communion in His blood. In the same letter Paul writes, “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink [this] cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body” (1 Cor 11:27-29). To be guilty of the “body and blood” is a Semitic expression meaning to be guilty of murder. If one just disrespects a symbol he is not guilty of this. One would not be arrested for tearing up a picture of the president. Notice what the offense is: “not discerning the Lord’s body.” Discern means to recognize.
Speaking of recognizing the Lord’s body, this Scripture passage was a favorite in the early Church. “And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem [about] threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed [together] and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications [are] these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found [it] even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed [it], and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things [were done] in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.” (Luke 23:14-35). The disciples walked with Jesus, talked with Jesus, their hearts even burned when He explained the Scriptures to them, but they didn’t recognize Him until the “breaking of the bread.” He didn’t eat with gloves on, there is nothing in the text about nail holes, it says “He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
We can have a personal relationship with Christ through prayer. But only through the Eucharist we enter into the most intimate relationship one can be in. We, as the bride of Christ, consummate the marriage supper of the Lamb. And we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven. We can do it at every Mass. As Paul writes, “For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which [voice] they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, [that] Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than [that of] Abel” (Hebrews 12:18-24). Jesus, being fully God and fully man, transcends time and space and allows us to worship Him with all of the saints who have ever lived. Don’t we have a wonderful God?