Author: Ben Witherington III
Publisher: Baylor Press ISBN: 9781602580152
I am fascinated by the sacraments of the Christian church and the Lord’s Supper/Communion/Eucharist is one that brings much discussion across the various streams and traditions of the Christian faith. I’m always on the lookout for good sources of information on sacramental theology, so I was pretty delighted to get my hands on this work by Ben Witherington III for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is Dr. Witherington’s academic reputation.
I have several books devoted to the subject of the Lord’s Supper; I have even more books with information inclusive of this specific sacrament, and I have a number of loose articles and commentary about the subject saved in various places in my home office. The point to these claims is that I have been collecting information for quite some time. Here is what I have found; Making a Meal of it by Ben Witherington III is one of the best researched and written pieces on this subject that I have found and read to date. There are several points that I wish to highlight in justifying my opinion.
First, for an academic work, the book is not bogged down with academic language. It is easy to read and it is a relatively short read, coming in at one hundred sixty pages. It is also linear in that it follows a timeline of sorts beginning with the perceived history of this sacrament and ending with contemporary interpretation/opinion.
Secondly, while I think no published work is completely unbiased, this one seemed predominantly “fact-based” and relatively easy to fact check. I have read and own several books from the pen of Dr. Witherington and am a regular subscriber to his blog. I think he can be opinionated at times, and being familiar with his writing style, I can report this book is not overly biased or opinionated.
Finally, the book is engaging… it is more conversational, “discussion-like” and less textbook than I would have expected. It can easily be read in an afternoon or two, but in no way is the material “light” of depth or content… facts, figures, and historical content are all present, but in a very readable, attention holding format.
In conclusion, I am still researching and learning about the depth and breadth of all the key sacraments of the church. I do not presume this book to be the definitive voice in my quest for information and understanding, but I will lend my voice to say it is one of the very best that I have found to this date.
Making a Meal of It is one of three books by Ben Witherington III in a series on the primary sacraments of the church. Other titles include Troubled Waters: Rethinking the Theology of Baptism and The Living Word of God: Rethinking the Theology of the Bible. Bible scholar Ben Witherington is Amos Professor of New Testament for Doctoral Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary and on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University in Scotland. He is now considered one of the top evangelical scholars in the world, and is an elected member of the prestigious SNTS, a society dedicated to New Testament studies.
I wrote the following reflection during my recent stay at the Benedictine Monastery. Each day we gathered together to pray the Hours of the Daily Office, Prayers and Songs from the Psalms and readings from the Word of God. Included in this daily gathering was sharing of the Eucharist… sorta. Those of us who were not aligned theologically with the Roman Catholic Church were unable to share in the Table of the Lord although we were permitted to receive a blessing. About ten days into our stay, my heart began to feel the strain of our broken fellowship between my brothers and sisters… while I recognize there are distinct differences in our interpretations of Scripture, I still think the core beliefs we share are strong enough that we should not have such a significant break in our fellowship that we cannot share the bread and wine that should be the unifying elements of our faith. They are, after all, the representative body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So, my heart weeps and my soul cries out in prayer in the echo and shadow of our Lord’s prayer from the Gospel of John chapter seventeen; “May we all be one.”
(A Eucharistic Reflection)
He said to me before I was; “Lo, I will never leave you.” It took me a lifetime to realize He was always there…marking a trail for me to find my way home.
I found The Path marked with breadcrumbs that were my memories. As I traveled backward through time, healing my present and making a way for my future, I relied upon the breadcrumbs He left for me to help me find my way and to physically sustain me. Moment by moment, little by little, I gained strength and renewed confidence… The more breadcrumbs I ate, the more strength I gained and the closer I moved to the Light.
Finally, one day I found myself immersed in and flooded with Light. My meal was complete and my lostness a thing of my past. Standing before me now was the great Trailmaker. On Him He wore a sash that had written upon it Bread of Life.
Suddenly the words of The Book made sense to me. In it He had said that He was the Bread of Life… He had said unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you will never know life. It was at that moment I knew—the breadcrumbs I had found in the memories of my life had been Him.
Indeed, He had never left me: He had been with me always. I had found the way to life by following the path—the trail of breadcrumbs , consuming the life of Himself He had left for me. Out of the dark of lostness I found the Light of Truth that brought me life—Breadcrumbs of saving grace.
Written at the Pecos Benedictine Monastery