Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Last Supper And Messianism

At the Last Supper, Christ reveals Himself as the Messiah, both Kingly and Priestly. This is important due to the notion among some sects within Judaism and the Essenes of a dual messianic expectation: a messiah of Aaron (Levitical priestly messiah) and a messiah of Israel (Davidic kingly messiah). The Davidic Messiah is the most common messianic expectation as it is the oldest, prophesied by Jacob in Gen. 49:8-12. The Aaronic Messiah comes from the passage in Jer. 33:18 which states, “and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burnt offerings, to burn cereal offerings, and to make sacrifices for ever.” This prophecy, however, is not fulfilled in the Messiah, but rather in the conversion of Levitical priest to Christianity (as seen in the Acts of the Apostles) who in being baptized continue in the universal priesthood of believers, which is distinct from the ministerial priesthood of Christianity.

Although there are clear priestly and Davidic allusions in the Last Supper accounts, they are missed by many scholars, both Catholic and Protestant.

The implications of Christ as the Davidic (kingly) Messiah are the most obvious. Davidic imagery is prevalent throughout the institution narrative:

-He will not eat the Passover before it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. (Lk 22:16)
-Nor shall He drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes. (Lk 22:18)
-The Father has appointed a kingdom to the Son. (Lk 22:29)
-Christ’s sharing in a meal with the Apostles corresponds to David’s tradition of sharing in a meal at the royal table as a reward for obedience. (2 Sam. 9:9-13)

The Priestly images are the ones that often get overlooked. Yet, they are of the utmost importance. For if Christ is not in fact a priest, then He has no authority to offer up the sacrifice which He begins at the Last Supper and ends on the Cross. The priestly images are as follows:

-The washing of the Apostles feet before the celebration of the Passover meal (Jn. 13:1-12) corresponds to Aaron and his sons washing of their feet before service in the tabernacle (Ex. 30:19-21).
-With Christ’s blessing of both the bread and wine (Mt. 26:26-28), He is performing a cultic action. Besides the obvious Melchizedekian allusion with the bread and wine, we see a parallel in the Qumran document called the Manual of Discipline, VI, 3-6:

“When they prepare the table to eat and wine to drink, the priest must be the first to extend his hand to bless the first portions of the bread. And if wine is being drunk, the priest must be the first to extend his hand to bless the first portion of the bread and the wine.”

This has even more significance when it is remembered that Christ celebrates the Passover in the Synoptic Gospels according to the Essene calendar!

So we can see here that Christ, at the Last Supper, fulfills both Messianic expectations presenting Himself as a priest-king after the order of Melchizedek, which St. Paul describes in more explicit terms in his Epistle to the Hebrews.

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