Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Bread of Heaven

It is said of Jesus, 'You are a priest for ever, of the order of Melchizedek.' The only time we see Melchizedek in the Bible is in Genesis 14, where it is stated that 'Melchizedek king of Salem brought [Abram] bread and wine; he was a priest of God Most High. He pronounced this blessing: "Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High for putting your enemies into your clutches." And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.'

In this we see the first institution of the concept of an eucharisteo - a beatification in the form of a feast. Melchizedek presents Abram with bread and wine and gives him a blessing. In return, Abram presents the first documented tithe to Melchizedek.

This concept of the blessed feast we see again after the Mosaic covenant is formed. The children of Israel were to be saved from death by the blood of the sacrificial lamb, of the flesh of which they were to feast upon. The children of Israel were to be sustained by heavenly bread, as is told in the account of the Exodus of the Israelites, when Yahweh says to Moses, 'Look, I shall rain down bread for you from the heavens.' This holy, heavenly bread was to feed the Israelites throughout the forty years in the desert.

When Jesus came, He not only fulfilled the Mosaic covenant, but He proclaimed a new covenant after the ancient priesthood of Melchizedek. The Bible says that Jesus 'became for all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation and was acclaimed by God with the title of high priest of the order of Melchizedek.' (Hebrews 5) This proclamation fulfilled the prophesy of David in the Psalms: 'Yahweh has sworn an oath He will never retract, you are a priest for ever of the order of Melchizedek.' (Psalms 110)

We see the direct reflection of this in Jesus's institution of the eucharisteo. When the Pharisees asked for a sign from Jesus equal to the miracle of the manna, Jesus declared that He was that miracle in and of Himself. Jesus said in reply, 'I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that a person may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.'

When all around Him, even His own disciples, were shocked and revolted by this statement, Jesus replied to them: 'In all truth I tell you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise that person up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person. As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will also draw life from me. This is the bread which has come down from heaven; it is not like the bread our ancestors ate: they are dead, but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.' (John 6)

It is later on that we see the full reality of this incredible pronouncement in action. At the feast of Passover, where the children of Israel eat of the sacrificial lamb, Jesus institutes the sacrament. He presented Himself as the new sacrificial lamb which was to be feasted upon: the Lamb of God, slain for the sins of humanity. The Gospels say that Jesus 'took bread, and when He had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples. "Take it and eat," He said, "this is my body." Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He handed it to them saying, "Drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

Thus the Word, who spoke the worlds into existence, declared that the bread and wine were miraculously, mysteriously, and utterly sacredly His Body and Blood, the sacrificial vessel through which we partake of the forgiveness of our sins and become one with Him. The High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek reinstated the sacrament that Melchizedek had so enigmatically given to Abraham, and He commanded us to partake whenever we meet together, so that He might truly live inside of us through our eating of Himself.

Let us remember Jesus's words this Christmas Eve, as we partake of the Holy Sacrament. Let us welcome Jesus into ourselves by our faith in the words of Yahweh, 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in that person.' Let us ask for renewed life, on the promise of Elohim's declaration that 'whoever eats me will also draw life from me.'

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