Firstly, I can’t help myself when it comes to trying to create a catchy title. Maybe I should have been a headline writer. But on to the serious stuff.
I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking and praying as part of a discussion about the Lord’s Supper(or communion if you prefer) on a post over at The Old Adam blog. It spurred some more thinking on my part about the connections between Passover and the Lord’s Supper. It would be difficult to argue that the Lord’s Supper wasn’t connected in any way to the Passover. The Gospels that give us an account of the Lord’s Supper all make a point of saying that they were eating a Passover meal. When the connection is understood it sheds some interesting light on both the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. Note these verses:
- Jesus the “Lamb of God” that takes away the sin of the world in John 1:29
- And further He is also the “lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” in Revelation 13:8!
- And furthermore, He is our Passover according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:7.
Are you starting to see a connection here at all? Currently, I am working on a research paper that deals with the topic of John’s use of the Feasts in his gospel as a means to show that Jesus is the completion or fulfillment of God’s eternal plan. For most believers, the easiest place to see this is in the Passover.
I don’t know if you have ever seen a Jews for Jesus or Messianic Jewish presentation regarding the Passover, but it is very eye-opening. Near the end of the book of Luke we find two instances of Jesus explaining His part in God’s plan. “He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.'”(Luke 24:44 and see verse 27 for a similar statement) The first time I saw a presentation regarding the Seder, the person mentioned the Afikomen. What is the Afikomen? One Messianic Jewish site explains it like this:
For centuries during the Passover seder in Jewish homes, one of three pieces of unleavened bread, matzah, is broken in half, wrapped in a napkin, hidden, and later retrieved to be served as the last morsel of food eaten at the end of the lengthy observance of this ancient Jewish feast. This bit of unleavened bread is called the “afikomen”. It symbolizes the Passover lamb.
Yes, the middle piece of three pieces of unleavened bread is taken out, broken, wrapped up in linen and hidden to be brought back later. Sounds a lot like the story of someone we might know. Just in case that isn’t clear enough or convincing enough. Check out this bit from www.torah.org for the Jewish perspective:
The Jewish people partook of the korbon pesach, paschal sacrifice on the eve of their Exodus. Upon entering the Holy Land, this would be offered up in the Temple in Jerusalem on the afternoon of 14th of Nissan and eaten after nightfall on first night of Passover. Today, we commemorate the korbon pesach by eating the afikomen after the meal on Seder night.
But note what else they say about this practice, “Evidently, the korban pesach marks the transformation from Golus, “exile” to Geulah, “redemption.”
The afikomen is the passover lamb. It represents the flesh of that sacrifice to this day. It is the telling of the story of deliverance from bondage to freedom. Now look at one of the gospel accounts of the Last Supper. I have chosen Luke, since it is the longer and seemingly more detailed account for this study.
13They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
14When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”
17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
It appears that the bread that he broke and the cup that he gave them came at the end of the supper. When He said, “this is my body,” he was handing them the afikomen, the Passover lamb!!
But the comparison doesn’t end there. The Feasts that the Jews celebrated didn’t belong to them. The Bible plainly calls them the Lord’s Feasts. (Lev. 23; Ex. 12:11 makes this point also) The reason the Jews celebrated these feasts was because God commanded it, but just as importantly, they did this as a testimony or proclamation to the world of God’s plan. This is similar in idea to Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:26. When we observe the Lord’s Supper, we are proclaiming God’s plan yet again. It is unfortunate that so many in the church today are unaware that God’s plan hasn’t changed and His observances are continuous. The early church didn’t dump Passover, they kept it with a completed understanding. Look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8:
7Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
He said that Christ is our Passover and that we should “keep the Festival.” What Festival could he possibly mean? How many realized that Paul instructed us to keep Passover? This is the same book that includes his detailed teaching regarding the Lord’s Supper and that is not accidental. The two are deeply intertwined and separating them invites confusion.
And the insights don’t quit there. Further reading of Jewish teaching about Passover gives another interesting tidbit about the Matzah or unleavened bread:
Matzah, which is the product of only flour and water alludes to both the end result of the refinement process, and the spiritual freedom that results. It is the symbol of Divine simplicity (Maharal, Haggadah), which is crucial for G-d being able to “relate” to us, in order to infuse us with His Da’as, so-to-speak.
They are talking about spiritual freedom being symbolized by Matzah (unleavened or sinless bread as in the Bread of Life that came down from Heaven) and did you see what else. It is crucial in allowing God to relate to us. That word Da’as by the way refers to His Blood. That is a summation of Christ’s mission and even of communion. Isn’t that amazing? What do you think? If you see a hole in my logic or a place that I have overreached the Scripture, please point it out to me. But I see a God who is detailed and didn’t miss a thing. He knew the end from the beginning and placed His plan with His people for all to see and know that He is God. And if you have questions about what I have written, feel free to ask.