March 28, 2013 by Will Ray
When you think about Christian communion out of the context of church, doing what everyone else around you is doing, it could be a little weird. How did we start eating and drinking things that represented someone’s body and blood? Well Jesus did it. Yes, but why would he do that, and why is it a tradition for us?
My friend Ari (tall guy in the back of the picture above) is Jewish and became a follower of Christ not long ago. He and his wife Lara welcomed Nancy and I over to celebrate Passover with a Seder dinner. We hadn’t been to a Passover feast before.
God commanded the remembrance of Passover in Exodus:
“This day is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.” – Exodus 12:14
I had been told about the significance of Passover in relation to Christian communion before, but I had forgotten exactly how vital it was to properly understand communion.
Out of the context of Passover, Christian communion is a little weird, if you really think about it. “This is my body which is broken for you, eat it, remembering my death until I come,” Jesus told his disciples. He continued, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people – an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.” (see Luke 22)
In church, when taking communion, we simply remember “This is my body,” and “This is my blood,” when consuming the communion elements – some form of bread and juice. No where else in the church do we eat things to designate significance. And looking at communion from a new believer’s standpoint (if I were to not have done it my whole life), it would be really weird to eat and drink something representing a body and blood, whatever the reason may be.
But within the context of Jewish history and tradition, communion receives it’s full significance and weight. “The Last Supper” that Jesus shared with his disciples was really the Passover meal. Passover had been a Jewish tradition commanded by God. The nation of Israel celebrated Passover throughout its history following the Exodus from Egypt.
The meal contains all types of symbolism and tradition that takes the participants through the nation of Israel’s history with God.
As you proceed through the feast, you consume bitter herbs, a green leafy herb, a food mixed together to look like clay (charoset), wine, and unleavened bread, each of which have specific significance and call you to remember certain things. A toasted egg and lamb’s shank are also present. You even lean to the side when you drink, to remember how it was once done, like below:
Jesus and his disciples were in the middle of this Passover meal, full of symbolism, when Jesus rose, took a certain piece of unleavened bread, a specific cup of wine, and uttered those words that we remember every week or month or quarter (however often your church does communion). It is in the context of this meal that they have their deepest and truest significance.
What are they? Some of you may already know, but I’ll explain in full detail tomorrow.
Question: Have you ever been to a Passover Seder? What was interesting to you about it?