Summary: Jesus used the Passover as the backdrop for communion.
"A New Twist to an Old Tale"
Mt. 26:17-18, 26-30
It’s the Passover. Jesus and His disciples will celebrate a 1500 year old custom. The Lord commanded Moses to institute this feast. On this night Jesus will give a new twist to an old tale as He applies certain aspects of the Passover to our salvation.
The Gospel writers do not let us forget the setting of this meal. During supper Jesus gave some surprising interpretations to the age-old ritual of the Passover. In Exodus we read that the Passover was to be "a memorial ... for ever" observed by people of faith. Their children would ask, "Why this feast? Why the ceremony? Why the ritual?" And Israel would retell the wonderful tale of how God delivered them from Egyptian slavery.
Passover was Israel’s most important feast. Jesus chose to draw from the symbolism of Passover to institute the Lord’s Supper. Matthew delights in showing the fulfillment of an Old Testament picture in the person of Jesus. Jesus could have easily allowed the Passover and all it’s meaning fade with the passage of time. But instead, He chose to cameo this ancient feast. He used some of its symbolism to convey His message of deliverance from sin.
The lamb, herbs, and music are not given much room in the Gospels as they record this event. But four features of the Passover meal are given attention in the New Testament. They are the bread, the cup, the blessings attached to them, and the promise.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
The unleavened bread (bread made without yeast), was also called "the bread of affliction" because Israel left Egypt in haste. (Dt. 16:3) How appropriate for Jesus, knowing all that awaited Him, to identify the bread of affliction with His own body.
Luke records Jesus saying of the bread, "this is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of Me." (Lk. 22:19) May we never forget how He gave Himself for us. May the Church never forget the gift of His life, which He freely gave in exchange for hers. May we never stop preaching the cross of Christ. And may we never forget the price He paid to reconcile us to God. (Rom. 5:10, 2 Cor. 5:17-19)
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds
because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by
Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight,
without blemish and free from accusation- (Col. 1:21-22)
The bread of affliction has come to represent the body of the Lord, the sacrifice given to take away our sins. As you hold a piece of bread symbolic of Christ’s body, remember the One it represents. Remember the cross on which He hung. Remember it was written of Him, "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases." (Mt. 8:17) Be healed in heart, soul, and body. Eat the bread in recognition of Jesus’ sacrifice in our place.
...He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. ..."
The Jews were commanded to catch the blood of the Passover lamb in a basin (bowl). Then they were to dip hyssop into the bowl and strike the door posts and lintel. Doing so marked their house with the blood of the Passover lamb. This told the Destroyer their house was a protected. He had to pass over them without striking their first-born with death.
When Jesus held the cup aloft that evening, He said of it, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you..." (Lk. 22:20) If the cup represents the blood of Jesus, our Passover Lamb, then we are right in our assertion that we, like ancient Israel, must also have the blood applied that we might be saved. Christ’s blood is to be applied to the door-posts of our hearts rather than our homes.
Hebrews reminds us, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Heb. 9:22) We are assured that Jesus is willing to forgive us because He was willing to shed His blood. His blood was the ransom paid to liberate us from bondage of sin. He came to set us free. Paul wrote the Galatians,
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)