Summary: A re-enactment of the the Last Supper and an explanation of the Lord’s Supper’s roots in the Jewish Seder.
Christ in the Passover
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
Introduction: ¡§For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ¡§This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.¡¨ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ¡§This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.¡¨ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord¡¦s death until he comes.¡¨ (1 Cor. 11:23-26 NIV)
With those words the New Testament describes the origin of the on-going practice of the communion or the Lord¡¦s Supper. It began at a Jewish observance of the Passover. Communion has continued through the centuries as an important part of Christian worship. To appreciate the Passover is to better understand the meaning and significance of the Lord¡¦s Supper.
On the night before the cross, Jesus gathered his little family of disciples in an Upper Room to celebrate the Jewish Passover. As they entered, he washed their feet, a humble act of service that confused and bewildered them. During the evening, Jesus spoke of his imminent departure. He promised he would not leave his disciples alone, but would send another Helper, the Holy Spirit. He also shocked them with the prediction that one who sat at the table would betray him. As the Passover meal progressed, Judas dismissed himself to begin his act of treachery.
Because many the details of the Passover observance have changed through the centuries, we know only the general outline of a typical Passover observance in Jesus¡¦ day.
The Passover Background. Passover is an 8 day observance commemorating the freedom and deliverance of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt recorded in the early chapters of Exodus. During a time of family gatherings and lavish meals called Seders, the story of Passover is retold. The Seder, with its special foods, songs, and customs, is the central event of the Passover celebration.
The Seder is steeped in long held traditions and customs. Leading up to the first night of Passover, the home is cleaned and cleared of all yeast foods, called hametz. All hametz is either eaten before Passover begins or "sold" to non-Jewish neighbors and friends. The rules surrounding Passover are strict. Only special foods, utensils, and dishware allowed.
The Passover includes a regular meal, traditionally lamb but in some modern Jewish families more often chicken or turkey. The feast also includes a Seder plate containing foods that have special meaning for this holiday. These are:
„X Matzos: Unleavened bread represents the bread that the Hebrews ate because there was not time for the bread to rise.
„X Haroseth: A mixture of chopped walnuts, wine, cinnamon and apples that represents the mortar the Jewish slaves used to assemble the Pharaoh’s bricks.
„X Salt water: representing the tears of the Jewish slaves.
„X Parsley: Symbolizing Springtime, it is dipped in salt water.
„X Roasted egg: Another symbol of Spring
„X Bitter herbs: Freshly grated horseradish reflects the bitter affliction of slavery.
„X A Shank Bone: from a lamb or in a contemporary Seder a large bone of the turkey or chicken that may be the main course. It is a reminder of the Passover lamb that was slain and whose blood was applied to the doorpost of the homes.
Four glasses of wine or fruit of the vine are poured and drank to represent the four stages of the exodus: Freedom, Blessing, Redemption, and Kingdom. A fifth cup of wine is poured but not drank and placed on the Seder table. This is the Cup of Elijah, an offering for the Prophet Elijah who the Old Testament said would herald the coming of the Messiah. During the Seder the door to the home is opened to invite the prophet Elijah in.
Children play a prominent role in the Passover Seder. The ceremony teaches them the history of the Jewish people, the power of God to deliver his people, and the importance of faith in God. This emphasis on children came in the very first Passover. The Lord said, ¡§When your children ask you, ¡¥What does this ceremony mean?¡¦ then tell them, ¡§It is the Passover of the Lord¡¨ (Exodus 12:26-27).
At the Seder it is the youngest child at the table that asks four questions at Passover:
„X First, how is this night different from all other nights?
„X Why do we eat only matzos or unleavened bread?
„X Why do we eat bitter herbs at our Seder?
„X At our Seder we dip the parsley in salt water and we dip into the bitter herbs and into the apple and nuts. Why do we dip our foods?