Our Thursday posts focus on material from the New Testament. As part of our fourfold priority of history, integrity, truth, and Scripture we consider it important to read and review significant scholarly work with both the Old and New Testaments. Dr. David Scaer observes that communion, like baptism, receives a progressively more sophisticated explanation throughout Matthew’s Gospel. As the reader grows in understanding of Jesus’ life, death, and everlasting presence with his people, the themes which appear in communion become more fully developed.
Scaer, David P. Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church. St. Louis: Concordia, 2004. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 5, “The Development of the Eucharist in the Gospel of Matthew” Loc. 3184-4123.
Scaer observes that, unlike baptism, which appears at the beginning and end of Matthew’s Gospel, the Eucharist (communion) appears only at the end (Scae 2004, Loc. 3184). The primarily Jewish audience of Matthew’s gospel would very likely be familiar with the Passover and the idea of a body and blood given for them Scaer 2004, Loc. 3208). This would lead naturally to a grasp of Jesus dying to take away sins. Therefore, the death of Jesus in Matthew is discussed “within the terms of the Jewish sacrificial system” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3219). Matthew points to Jesus as the priest repeatedly. The idea of “religious eating” is also prominent in Matthew’s Gospel (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3265). These narratives serve as preparation. “Thus the Eucharist does not stand near the Gospel’s conclusion, bare-boned as a divinely instituted rite that requires particular formulas and rituals to meet the qualifications for validity. Instead, the Eucharist is the culmination and embodiment of the Gospel” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3265). This is how Christians are recognized as Christians. In the Eucharist and hearing of the Gospel (from Matthew’s Gospel) in worship the Christian grows in understanding (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3300). Scaer continues by discussing meals, including ceremonial meals, in antiquity. Dining together with the master was a common setting for instruction and discourse. In Jesus’ work with his disciples the Passover was especially important (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3360). Scaer also ties in the practice of priests eating of sacrifices along with the people who were making the offerings as important in this picture. Christians viewed themselves as a kingdom of priests (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3384). “Like the Passover, the Eucharist was intended for everyone in the community, but it resembled temple sacrifice because it was intended to remove sin” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3407). Scaer tus views the Eucharist as central to Matthew’s explanation of Jesus’ fulfilling of the Law, as well as to the process of catechesis into the life of the early church (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3419). This was the special ritual meal in which the church participated in Jesus’ actual life and death. It pointed to atonement and judgment (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3455). Scaer observes that in modern practice the idea of sacrifice and atonement have been bypassed, thus leading to widespread rejection of the sacramental views of the early Christians (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3481).
In light of these concepts, Scaer surveys Matthew’s Gospel, observing “an ascent through the three predictions of the death of Jesus to the pericopes on atonement (20:28) and the Eucharist (26:28)” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3502). The early Christians were aware of the continuity of ritual and sacrifice in the practice of Israel and the Church (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3540). Scaer turns to a pericope by pericope survey of Matthew (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3527), showing that in episode after episode Matthew points to a sacramental view of salvation and life. Scaer sums up the situation as follows. “All the elements constituting the Eucharist have been presented to catechumens before they learn of the meal’s institution: the banquet room, bread, the ritual . . . wine, and Jesus as the bread” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3836). The work of catechesis has led toward participation in the Eucharist. This culminates in the introduction of the Eucharist itself where the catechumen can see the true eternal feast prepared for Christians (Scaer 2004, Loc. 3836). Scaer goes on to discuss the Eucharist as the fulfillment of the participation of Israel in forgiveness.
All the work of Wittenberg Door Campus Ministry, including this blog, is supported by the generosity of people like you. Please consider joining our team of prayer and financial supporters. Read more here!