March 29, 2013 by Will Ray
Nancy and I had the awesome opportunity to join some friends at their home for a Passover Seder dinner earlier this week.
I mentioned yesterday that Christian communion is a little unusual. Nowhere else in Christendom do we consume things that represent other things to help us remember them.
But this isn’t uncommon in Jewish culture, especially in the Passover meal, which is full of symbolism. Jesus shared this meal with his disciples, the “Last Supper,” and at one point in the meal did this:
He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “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.” – Luke 22:19-20
It’s in the context of the Passover meal that this – our practice of communion – comes to its full significance. There is an order to Passover and a symbolic significance to everything that happens during the meal.
At the beginning the meal, the patriarch takes three pieces of matzah and places them in a three-pocketed piece of fabric. The middle piece is removed and broken in half. The larger half is wrapped in fabric and hidden away, to be found later by the children partaking in the meal.
After dinner, the children go and find the hidden piece of matzah, bring it back, and are given a reward. This piece of unleavened bread – plain, striped, pierced, broken, taken from the set of three and hidden away before being found (sound familiar?!? Jesus was all of these things) – is the bread that Jesus was holding when he said, “This is my body, which is given for you…”
Participants drink 4 cups of wine during the meal, each with a special significance. During the Seder we attended, we had one glass, and drank a sip each time – not four separate glasses of wine, thankfully.
You drink the first two “cups” before the meal, known as the “Cup of Sanctification” and the “Cup of Deliverance.” After the meal, you consume the third and fourth cups, the “Cup of Redemption,” and the “Cup of Praise.”
“After supper He took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people…”
Jesus held the third cup – the Cup of Redemption – in his hand when he said this. This Cup of Redemption that he shared with his disciples, and that we share now, represents the new covenant between God and his people, confirmed with Jesus’ blood.
So Jesus took the two most important elements of this meal, and shared them with his disciples. In the next hours of his life he would fulfill the symbolism of those elements in his death, burial, and resurrection.
I hope this information helps you enjoy communion on a deeper level if you share it tonight at a Good Friday service or this weekend sometime. When I understood this context of where communion came from, it took on a much deeper, richer meaning for me. I hope it does for you as well.
May we remember the incredible sacrifice of Jesus now and always. Happy Easter, friends.