To understand communion we need to look at where it came from. The scripture provides us with a very direct clue “As they were eating…” (Matthew 26:26). The question is what were they eating? And the answer is the Passover meal, something which Jesus said, “With desire (strong desire) I have desired to eat the Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15).
To find the real meaning then we need to go back to its origin in the Old testament in Exodus 12. In this chapter we come to the climax of the spiritual battle that was taking place. Every demonstration of God’s authority and power over the gods of Egypt had been resisted – Pharoah would not let God’s people go.
This last demonstration was going to involve the death of the firstborn in every Egyptian home – but there was a problem: God is holy and just. How could God be true to himself, and save some and yet judge others, after all his own people were sinners?
Fo justice to be done God instructed the selecting, keeping and slaughtering of a perfect lamb, and the eating of its flesh. This lamb was to take the eldest son’s place – to be his substitute. They were to take the blood and put it on the door posts and lintel because as God said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” It was there for God, and for them. It changed first of all the way God felt about them, secondly, it would be the cause of the eldest son’s deliverence (I would encourage you to read/reread the story and put yourself in the eldest son’s place, consider what he and his family felt).
This was the “Lord’s Passover” and they were to keep it as a memorial feast to the Lord every year (12:14). This passover not only looked back, but it became part of the promise and anticipation of Messiah, the hoped for Deliverer.
Jesus said he strongly desired to eat this passover with them before he died.
Why? He wanted to invest it with new meaning, he wanted to transform it and give it new significance, and as he does so it becomes his story; he is the Passover Lamb, the fulfilment of Israel’s Story, the promised Messiah – as Paul was later to say, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor. 5:7-8).
“All” says scripture “have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory,” and it is no easy thing for God to forgive sinners – he is utterly holy, and we have fallen completely short. I believe it was Carnegie Simpson who said,”Forgiveness to man is the plainest of duties, but to God it is the profoundest of problems.”
God cannot simply ignore our sin or turn a blind eye to it. God must be true to himself. The only thing God can do is to take our place, take on human flesh himself, be tempted in everyway as we are, then go to a cross as our substitute bearing our sin. He must bear our judgment, he must die our death. His death as John Owen put it would be the “death of death in the death of Christ.”
A Lamb who would be our substitute. Judgment. The shedding of blood. Passover!
This is the meaning that that Jesus invests the passover with. This was not the Last Supper, but the Last Passover!
More to come…. next time a key word….