Communion and Passover
What the Bible Says About... | Communion and Passover
"And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever." (Exodus 12:14).
Since the redemption and exodus of the Hebrews from bondage in Egypt, the people of Israel have celebrated the Passover as a memorial to God's intervention for them. For over four hundred years were the Hebrews enslaved and oppressed by the Egyptians. God came down and saw their oppression, and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and determined to deliver them from bondage. God raised up Moses to be the one who would lead them out of Egypt, and who would stand before Pharaoh with the decree, "Let my people go." On nine occasions, God would smite Egypt with a plague and Pharaoh would promise to let the people of Israel go, only to renege on his promise once the plague was lifted. But the tenth plague God would send upon Egypt would be the one which would break Pharaoh's spirit and force him to beg the Hebrews to leave.
Exodus 12:12 begins the account of God sending forth the death angel to destroy all of the firstborn in the land of Egypt of both man and beast. God gave specific instructions on what the Hebrew people should do to prepare for the coming of the death angel that their firstborn would be spared. Each family was to take a year-old male lamb without any spot or defect and kill it in the evening of the fourteenth day of the month Abib. Then some of the blood was to be taken and placed on the top and sides of the doorposts of the house. When the angel of death went through the land, he would pass over the homes which had the blood sprinkled upon the doorposts, sparing the Hebrews from the judgement coming upon Egypt.
There were three important principles which came from the Passover:
(1) the blood identified God's people and distinguished them from the Egyptians;
(2) the importance of obeying God and following His plan to the smallest detail was stressed; and
(3) the blood caused the Hebrews to escape judgement and God's wrath.
It is only fitting the Jesus would be slain during the time of the Passover celebration. The bleating of thousands of sheep being brought to the sacrifice was heard throughout Jerusalem as Christ suffered upon the Cross. The Passover was thus a foreshadow of the blood of the Lamb of God who would take away our sin and free us from bondage, who's covering would spare us from judgement, and who's mark separates and distinguishes us from the world. Paul taught us in his writings that the sacrifices and rituals were a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 10:1).
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you," Paul told the church at Corinth, "that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."
At the heart of the Passover is the redemption of man from bondage through the shedding of blood. The Hebrews were saved, not because they were worthy, but because God loved them and was faithful to His covenant. This same grace of God applies to us today. Like the Hebrews, we were trapped in bondage and there was nothing we could do to save ourselves, "For by grace are ye saved through faith." (Ephesians 2:8). Like the Passover, partaking of the Lord's Supper is a memorial to be celebrated of Christians for generations to come, and is to be done "in remembrance of me," Jesus said, and to "shew the Lord's death till he come."
Partaking of the Lord's Supper is a solemn and serious affair, and should not be taken lightly. It should be a time of reaffirming our commitment to Him and examining our hearts, and seeking forgiveness of sins and transgressions. It is a time of looking forward to Christ's return, for each time we partake we remember His death "until he come." Paul taught us that men who celebrate the Lord's Supper holding sin in their hearts and walking unworthily of the Lord become guilty of His body and blood and drink damnation to themselves. Many Christians, then and today, are sick and even perish for showing such disrespect for Jesus' sacrifice. Paul said, "Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).
To the Hebrews, Paul declared, "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?" (Hebrews 10:29). "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened", Paul told the Corinthians, "For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
This New Testament teaching echoes God's commands in the Old Testament, "And the Lord said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof." Servants among Israel could not take the Passover meal unless they first where circumcised, thus identifying themselves with Israel and God's covenant (see Exodus 12:42-50).