Body and Blood of Christ



Celine Mangan


I wonder how many people think that Christ is a surname of Jesus? Those who do, miss the point of the early Christian use of an unusual title to tell us what they considered the life of Jesus was about. Christos is a title used about three hundred and fifty times in the New Testament; it translates the Hebrew word, masiah ('anointed one'). The Jews of Jesus' time had many ideas about the coming of a Messiah. He would be a new leader like the great David of old (see Is 11:1-4); a new spokesperson on behalf of God like the prophets (see Is 55:1-11). The Messiah would also bring about a new liberation as in the Exodus of old (see Is 44:1-8). There would be a new birthing of the people; indeed the phrase 'the birth pangs of the Messiah’ was one which was current in the centuries before Christ.

The early Christians mined the Hebrew Scriptures and the Jewish writings of their time to come to an understanding of what had happened in the person of Jesus. It was not long until they portrayed him as the Messiah. He was in reality God's new leader, the new David who would have a care and concern for the poor (see Lk 4:18-19). He was God's new spokesperson, a prophet mighty in deed and word' (Lk 24:19). He had brought about God's new liberation, not anymore by mighty deeds like the Exodus but by going around healing the suffering and preaching a new way of living (see Mk 1:27). This action led him to death on a cross (see I Cor 1: 24). Death freed Jesus from space and time and it is of the Risen Christian that St Paul speaks when he calls on Christians to be 'in Christ'.

The early Christians were clear that though Jesus embodied the Messianic expectations of the Jewish people, his mission was not confined to any one people; in him, all the barriers between peoples, races, sexes and classes had been broken down: 'There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus' (Gal 3:28).



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