“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28, NIV).
Many who are in the process of doubting the validity of Yeshua as Mashiach have pointed to this passage and condemned it as a pagan rite, foreign to Judaism, recalling the Torah’s prohibition against eating unclean meats and consuming blood. My question is this: Is Yeshua telling us to literally partake of his flesh and blood? My answer is an adamant “no” (no matter what the Roman church says about transubstantiation). Yeshua is not cutting himself or doing any kind of bloodletting ceremony in which his disciples will actually participate in some form of cannibalism. If this is not the case, then it would be good to search for any similar language in Torah that might help us to better understand his intent for these expressions. We have such an expression in parashat Shelach.
“Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.” (Numbers 14:9, NKJV)
In this passage, the New King James (as well as the KJV) preserve the idiom for us by saying “for they are our bread.” The Hebrew attests to this with the phrase כִּי לַחְמֵנוּ הֵם (literally, “for your bread are they”).
How is this passage intended to be understood? The NIV renders it as “we will swallow them up.” The NASB says, “they will be our prey.” These hit on the basic meaning of this phrase. Just as this phrase is not to be understood literally, neither are the words of the Master. When he tells his disciples to “eat his fleash” and “drink his blood,” he is telling them that they must “consume” him—that he must become their all. He is their connection to the Father. He has become their spiritual sustenance by which they receive their spiritual nourishment. Modern chasidism is replete with correlations to this concept, for which there is too little time to spend explaining here. However, if you would like to understand more about this concept, check out this excellent audio teaching by R’ Manis Friedman for an incredible insight into the relationship between a rebbe and his chasid, and think about your relationship to your rebbe – The Rebbe, Yeshua HaMashiach.
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