Christ's Faithful People
Before I begin a discussion of Eucharist in John 6, I want to show some parallelisms with the Passover in Johns Gospel. We read in the prologue of Johns Gospel in John 1:14 "14The Word became flesh(savrx), he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth." In the greek, the word for "he lived among us" is that he pitched his tent among us. John emphasizes that the Word became flesh and came to dwell with His people as Yahweh did in the desert in the Tent of Meeting. In Jn 1:29-31 John the Baptist makes the following statement:
[Jn 1:29-31] The next day, he saw Jesus coming towards him and said, Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.30It was of him that I said, "Behind me comes one who has passed ahead of me because he existed before me."31
John calls to mind that Jesus is the true Lamb that is to be sacrificed for the Passover so that we may be truly saved from death, death to sin. He bears witness to Jesus divine origin and existence. At the wedding feast at Cana, John notices a certain phrase that Jesus uses and will use throughout the Gospel of John:
[Jn 2:3-4]And they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the feast had all been used, and the mother of Jesus said to him, They have no wine.4Jesus said, Woman, what do you want from me? My hour has not come yet.
Jesus makes the statement "My hour has not come yet" which indicates that he was not yet to offer himself as the sacrificial Lamb when his own blood(the new wine) will be poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Wine was understood as the blood of the grape. The next passage in John after the wedding feast at Cana is the Passover in Jerusalem where Jesus chases out the money changers. The 2nd time that Jesus celebrates the Passover is in Jn 6 where He gives his Bread of Life discourse. I will go into more detail about this Passover later on in this paper. The 3rd time Jesus celebrates the Passover is in the upper room with his disciples as he begins His Passion. In Jn 13:1, this Passover meant that his hour had come.
In the NT the firstborn Son and Lamb of God fulfilled the Old Covenant Passover in Himself as a holy sacrifice for our sins. However the Passover link involved more than just the Eucharist. This is seen in Johns Gospel where the entire succession of events which began with the Last Supper and ended with Jesus crucifixion, reflects various themes of the Jewish Passover.
a) For example John mentions in Jn 19:14 that as Jesus stood before Pilate; it was the day for the preparation of the Passover and it was about the 6th hour. The 6th hour was the time that the priest began to slaughter the lambs for the Passover. An interesting note: in the greek the word for "day of preparation" is paraskeuh; which is also the word for Friday.
b) John also makes a connection between Jesus on the cross and the Passover Lamb by mentioning that Jesus bones remained unbroken just as Moses stipulated for the Passover Lamb in Ex 12:46.
c) Another connection between Jesus passion and the Passover is found in Jn 19:29 where " A bowl of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth." Hyssop was the branch used to sprinkle the blood of the lamb which was prescribed in the Passover Law as is seen Ex 12:22.
d) Finally John calls attention to the garment that Jesus wore when the soldiers stripped him: a seamless linen tunic (see Jn 19:23-24). The same word for garment chiton(citw;n) is used in the OT to refer to the official tunic worn by the high priest when sacrificing (see Ex 28:4; Lv 16:4). This seems to point to Jesus as our High Priest as well as being the Passover Lamb.
The seder meal, also known as the Passover meal, celebrated by the ancient Jews was well established before the 1st century AD. Johns Gospel seems to use the basic structure of the seder for the Passover meal. While many deny that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, all the synoptic Gospels explicitly assert that it was (See Mt 26:17-19 , Mk 14:12-16 , Lk 22:7-13). The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms this idea: "By celebrating the Last Supper with His Apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning." Normally in the seder meal there are 4 different cups that are served.
a) 1st Cup: This consisted of a solemn blessing(Kiddush) pronounced over the 1st cup of wine which was followed by a dish of bitter herbs. (This reminded them of their bitterness of Egyptian bondage)
b) 2nd Cup: The Passover narrative is recited after which the "Little Hallel" Ps 113 was sung. This cup is then drunk following the psalm.
c) 3rd Cup: The main meal was served consisting of lamb and unleavened bread which preceded the drinking of the 3rd cup known as the "cup of blessing".
d) 4th Cup: Finally the climax of the Passover came with the singing of the "Great Hallel" Psalms 114-118. This is succeeded by the drinking of the 4th cup of wine called the "cup of consummation."
The cup that Jesus blessed and distributed is identified as the 3rd cup of the Passover meal. This is apparent from the singing of the Great Hallel which immediately follows (see Mk 14:26). Paul identifies this cup of blessing with the cup of the Eucharist (see 1Cor 10:16).
It seems that as we look through the Gospels, Jesus skips drinking the 4th cup during the course of the Passover meal. This is the equivalent of the priests omitting the words of consecration at Mass or forgetting communion. After the singing of the Great Hallel Jesus then proceeds to the Garden. In the Synoptics Jesus prays for a cup to pass by, but yet prayed that his Fathers will be done, not His. However, in Jn 18:11 Jesus says to Peter "Shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?" Raymond Brown comments on this passage by saying "In Jn 18:11 Jesus said that he wanted to drink the cup the Father had given him; when Jesus drinks the offered wine, he has finished this commitment made at the beginning of the Passion Narrative." When was Jesus to drink the 4th cup? I believe that the clue to this answer is found in Jn 19:28-30:
[Jn 19:28-30]After this, Jesus knew that everything had now been completed and, so that the scripture should be completely fulfilled, he said: I am thirsty. 29A jar full of sour wine stood there; so, putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth.30After Jesus had taken the wine he said, It is fulfilled; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit.
The last time that Jesus drank from the blood of the grape was on the cross. Jesus finally drinks the offered wine and finished the Passover of the Old Testament and transforms it into the Passover of the New Covenant. I believe that the connection between the Passover sacrifice on Calvary and the Passover sacrifice of the Eucharist can be found in John 6. We will look at this connection in the next section.