by Caryn Tennant

Many Christians don’t realize that the Torah is in fact synonymous with the Old Testament. Essentially, more than half of our Bible is shared with our Jewish brothers and sisters! Obviously what makes us Christian is the recognition of Christ as our Saviour and Messiah, but to deepen our understanding of Christ, we need to have knowledge of what came before Him. We need to go back to the Old Testament – the Torah.

All this talk about Jesus being the sacrificial lamb makes no sense if we fail to understand Jewish tradition; if we don’t know that the New Testament is fulfilling the Old.

Ask yourself for a moment: who do you say that Jesus is? Was He some kind of historical figure or myth? If you are a Christian, do you know He is your Saviour because that’s what you’ve been taught; or have you had some kind of inner conviction that He is more than just a wise guy cursing fig trees and making endless supplies of wine?

The disciples themselves were on a journey; a journey getting to know who Jesus was. The revelation that Jesus was God was just as much a mystery to them as it is to us even though He was walking in their midst. All they could go on was their knowledge of their Bible – the Torah.

But knowledge alone isn’t enough. The intellectuals of their time, the Pharisees and Sadducees, knew the Scriptures back to front – and still they couldn’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God. They couldn’t see how He came to fulfil the prophecies they were waiting on. They lacked the personal encounter of Jesus as Messiah that the disciples had – those ordinary fishermen who became Jesus’ closest followers and partakers in His life.

Before I move on to talking about the Old Covenant being made new in the New Testament, I would like to start with the encounter between Jesus and His disciples on the road to Emmaus found in Luke 24.

Here, two of His followers are engrossed in conversation as they are walking – how Jesus, the man they came to know and love, had died and they were hoping that He would be the one to redeem them as spoken by the prophets. Just then, a man draws near to them and asks what they are discussing. They are so in the middle of debate that they don’t bother looking up.

They ask this man, perhaps impatiently, if he is the only person in that town not to have heard the news.

The man, perhaps amused, says to them, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” (Lk 24:25)

He then begins to reveal the links between the prophecies in the Torah and how they are being fulfilled. He “opened” the Scriptures to them in such a way that their hearts “burned within them” (Lk 24:32).

They are so entranced by this charismatic Teacher, this man of Truth that they invite him home to share a meal with them. Around the table, this stranger takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and feeds them.

It is Jesus, the Priest, offering a Sacrifice not of lamb but of Himself.

The Passover in the Old Testament

Before the Israelites make their exile from Egypt, God tells each family to procure a lamb without blemish. They are to slaughter it, apply its blood to their doorposts, roast it and eat it with unleavened bread.

God says, “This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution” (Exodus 12:14).

Why was this such an important day? This Passover sacrifice was a protection against evil, enabling the Israelites to safely return to their homeland. It is in fact a covenant made between them and God as they journey from slavery in Egypt into freedom, passing from death to life. This theme is starting to ring a bell.

Foreshadowing the Eucharist

This Passover is made new in the Christian faith. It is indeed a “memorial feast” celebrated by “all generations” in the Catholic tradition.

In every single Holy Mass, a meal is celebrated and eaten. It is the central part of the service. We begin the Liturgy of the Word with the readings from the Old Testament and then end by reading from the Gospel.

We journey from the Old into the New – every single time.

When the bread is brought up to the altar, it is just a bowl of insignificant wafers.

The priest then takes it into his hands – still a mere composition of flour and water.

He starts to pray.

We, as the congregation, kneel. Now we are celebrating the Last Supper. We perpetuate the feast had between Jesus and His disciples the night before He died. We are the disciples to whom Christ speaks.

The bell rings when the priest blesses the bread saying, “that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The priest lifts up the bread, showing it to us, raising it to heaven. Now the bread takes the properties of Jesus’ flesh and divinity. As stated in the Catechism: “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” (CC 1374). To read more about why we believe Christ is fully present in the Eucharist, click here.

He says the words of Jesus, “Take this all of you and eat it for this is my body, which will be given up for you.” (Luke 22)

The priest is serving the parish to stand in Jesus’ place and do as Jesus commanded at the Last Supper – that we should continue celebrating this Meal until “He comes again” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

Imagery of the Messiah

Throughout the Old Testament, there are prophecies about the Coming of the Messiah.

When I open the Old Testament and read some of the uncanny images that Jesus fulfils, my heart burns within me. It is like a puzzle coming together with too many pieces to include in one article.

But here are just a few:

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14)

“He will come out of Bethlehem” (Micah 5:2)

“By his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)

The New Covenant

A covenant is a family bond. When God makes a covenant it is not just a contract or an agreement; it is so much more. It is God including us into His Divine life and family. Starting with Adam and Eve, through Noah, Abraham, Moses and to David, God makes many covenants with His people in the Old Testament. Each covenant is a relationship of faithfulness and partnership between God and His nation – much like a marriage.

Jesus is the new and final Covenant. In Christianity, the Old is made New through the death and resurrection of Christ. The New Covenant is the final word because it is an act against death and for our Salvation, but it is also illuminated by the Old – a sign that God always fulfils His promises.

Further reading:

Christ in the Eucharist (http://www.catholic.com/tracts/christ-in-the-eucharist)

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Dr. Brant Pitre (audio)


About the AuthorProfile from Caryn

Caryn Tennant
My inspirations are the smell of croissants, Pope Francis and café interiors. I have had too many hometowns, but currently I’m living in Cape Town where I finished my BA degree and am now teaching English at a high school. My bucket list includes studying theology, speaking Spanish in Spain, and running a half marathon.