Summary: A look at Holy Communion from its Jewish Roots
When Jesus was a little boy he had a very special festive dinner every year in the spring. It was called Passover.
In a Jewish home the Passover was the High Holiday of the year. It was the time the whole Nation remembered the time when God supernaturally brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt’s bondage. The time when the Angel of Death passed over each house where blood had been sprinkled on the doorpost.
When Jesus was a little boy growing up in Nazareth Joseph would gather his family and neighbors about the Passover Dinner table. The meal was always the same. Five menu items were served.
2. Unleavened bread.
3. Four cups of wine.
4. Bitter Herbs.
5. Apple and Cinnamon Dip.
They might have other things but these were the essential menu items for the Passover meal. It would not be Passover unless these five things were on the table. And the meal was eaten off of special dishes that were used for Passover only.
The Lamb was to be without spot or blemish. It was brought into the house a few days before the Passover the meal so that in effect it became a family pet. Jesus played with the little fur ball. Perhaps they even slept together.
And then the day came when Joseph would take that sweet innocent little lamb slit its throat and roasted it according to the ancient tradition.
Then every Passover meal contained Matzah bread – unleavened bread. The bread of affection.
The bread was broken to symbolize the poverty of the slaves in Egypt who could not afford to buy a whole loaf. It was unleavened to show that the Jews were a people in a hurry. They did not have time for the yeast to rise. They were pilgrims.
Then they served four cups of wine. The four cups reminded the family of the four promises of Exodus 6.
1. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
2. I will free you from their bondage.
3. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments.
4. I will take you to Me for a people.
After the wine there were the bitter herbs. The Talmud lists a number of vegetables for use as the bitter herb. Romaine lettuce along with horseradish is right at the top of the list. These bitter herbs were served to remind the family of the terrible years of slavery - the awful bondage. This was always the low point of the Passover meal. If your kid was going to give you trouble at the meal this would be the time.
To moderate the taste of the bitter herbs they served a delightful mixture of fruit and nuts. It was a reminder that life is a mixture of the bitter and the sweet. It was a reminder of the bricks and mortar used by their ancestors in Egypt.
When Jesus became a man and the full impact of his destiny became clear he sat down with his disciples one night and ate the Passover Meal.
Out of the five Passover Menu items that he had grown up with as a little boy in Nazareth he picked out two for special mention. Two menu items to remember him by. Just two. Laying aside the long tradition of his culture he left out three of the five items on the Passover Menu. He chose two.
Christ picked the Bread and the wine to become the meal of the New Covenant.
And when he had given thanks, (the common Jewish form of thanksgiving prayer for bread was ‘Blessed art thou, O Lord God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth) he gave thanks, he broke it and said, this is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.
He Took the Bread
• The bread was broken to remind us of that Jesus Christ became poor that we might become rich.
• The bread was unleavened to remind us that He was in a hurry. At 33 years of age he had lived a lifetime. His work was over.
• The bread was without yeast to remind us of his sinlessness. He was the pure Son of God.
He took the cup and gave thanks.
• Remember when you take this cup to your lips there is forgiveness in the shed blood of Jesus.
• Remember when you drink this wine there is healing in the blood of Jesus. By his strips we are healed.
• Remember when you drink this wine that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. The devil is out to destroy our influence for good; to maim our body and fog our mind but we drink this cup. It is better than any food supplement. It protects us body, mind and spirit.