This past week at Ephesus I taught on Communion. If you’ve been in church a long time like I have, Communion can have the tendency to get blase, or if you are new to the Christian faith, you perhaps don’t have a full understanding of why we have snacks in church. Either way, you can check out the podcast at EphesusChurch.tv on iTunes or through our website here in the next day or two. Below, is something my dad, Jacob Eige, compiled, explaining the depth of connection between Communion and Passover as celebrated by the Jewish people for thousands of years in remembrance of their Exodus from Egypt. Hope you enjoy and thanks Dad!
Communion, The Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, Last Supper, Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or even Passover they are all the same, a remembrance all point to a meal Jesus and the disciples had on the night He was betrayed. And just like many titles there are many thoughts, teachings, books and sermons on it as well. However, there is an overlooked aspect to this important part of our faith, the symbolism found in the Lord’s Supper. Not the symbolism handed down by the church but the symbolism of the elements and Jesus’ words. God has always used symbols to help us so let’s look at the ones the Disciples would note on that Passover eve with Jesus.
While we don’t have the space or the time to look at the whole picture I would like to focus on the two elements of Communion, the Matzo and the Cup. The bread of Passover is what we call unleavened bread. First, bread is considered symbolic of life L’Chaim. In John 6:48 Jesus says He is the Bread of Life. He was born in the City of Bread, Bethlehem. Next Matzo is unleavened bread. Leaven at Passover symbolizes sin and before Passover every trace is removed from the home. Jesus warns us about the Leaven of the Pharisees in Matthew 16:6. Next if we look at a large piece of Matzah we see that there are numerous brown spots all over the Matzah. For us it symbolizes the bruises and stripes that the Messiah bore as prophesied by Isaiah 53:5 that we deserve for our pesha, our rebellion against GOD and our healing both physical and spiritual. Next we will notice the numerous holes in the bread, symbolizing the three nails and a spear that pierced Jesus for our sins. Now we must note that Matzah is not widely used in many Churches for the Lord’s Supper and the ones who do seldom make note of it’s important symbolism before partaking.
Paul in I Corinthians 11:23-26 says in verse 25 that after supper Jesus took the cup. What cup are we seeing here? The Passover table at which Jesus and the Disciples reclined had 14 places set. Now at the beginning of the Passover meal there were 13 people present so why 14 places? Early on in the formation of the whole Passover, Haggadah or Pasach, a place was set for the expected Messiah. During the remembrance part of the meal the youngest person at the table would get up and go to the door, open it and see if the Messiah was there. As the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah and the sect of Christians, most of whom were still Jewish, grew, the Rabbis decided to change the empty place to that of Elijah reasoning that he had to come before the Messiah so he would be the one at the door. It was not a sudden change but an evolution of the meal, the Seder. Also when we reach the 3rd cup the Haggadah has the leader lifting up the cup at Elijah’s place as the youngest goes to the door. This is also called the Cup of Redemption. Jesus, I am convinced, picked up this cup from not Elijah’s place but from the Messiah’s place and said: “In this Cup is the New Covenant in My Blood which is poured out for you.” The symbolism of this was not lost on the Disciples that the Messiah had indeed come and that HE was lifting up the Cup of Redemption and saying to remember not just the exodus of Passover, His death on the Cross but that He would be coming back. I do believe, though, the full import of all this was yet to be realized by them.
What wonderful symbolism if we look at the Jewish roots of the Lord’s Supper. When we move past just the usual words of the Institution we uncover the desire of GOD for us to come deeper into HIS Love and what Jesus did for us as the Passover Lamb. It is good for us to take some time not only to examine ourselves but also to think again on
all the symbolism designed by GOD to draw us closer to HIMSELF and to remember what Jesus did as the Passover Lamb, which was no small thing.
This symbolism is GOD’S special tool to help us not only remember the past but to have promise in the present of forgiveness and healing and that The Messiah will one day return both as the Passover Lamb and the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Then we will drink with HIM from the 4th Cup, the Cup of Hallel, The Cup of High Praise which Jesus did not appear to drink from that night. Why? Because in Matthew 26:29 Jesus says, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
I pray that the next time you partake of Communion, aka Passover, that you will remember and rejoice that we have a special way to remember one simple truth: Abba, GOD, loves us so very much.