Our Passover Sacrifice
The setting for the last supper eaten by Jesus with His apostles was in contest of the Passover feast. In Exodus 12, the Passover is instituted as salvation from the Angel of Death that would pass through the land of Egypt. Each household was to select a lamb, sacrifice it, and spread the blood of the lamb over their doorways, signaling them as God’s people. The sign of blood saved them from death, and this feast was kept as memorial of that great deliverance from the bondage of Egypt.
As Jesus approaches His death, Peter and John prepare for Passover – procuring a sacrificial lamb, securing a location and preparing that lamb. The head of household would bless the cup and speak about the meaning of this meal. Psalms 113 and 114 would be sung, proclaiming Jehovah’s glory and majesty and commemorating Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Then a second cup and the unleavened bread would be blessed and partaken of, followed by the lamb. Then a third blessing and cup would be offered, accompanied by the singing of Psalms 115-118. Finally, a fourth cup was taken, and the feast would conclude.
In Matthew 26:26-29, Jesus acts as the household head, distributing the unleavened bread and blessing it – adding the detail that the bread represents His body and the cup of blessing representing His blood. His referencing the blood of the covenant refers to Exodus 24:3-8 where the people of Israel dedicate themselves to the Lord’s service, and Moses sprinkles blood on the alter and the people, sealing the covenant between them and the Lord. This blood was not for the cleansing of the people. It sealed a pact. The parallel for us is that the cup of the Lord’s Supper represents the new covenant entered into with Christ.
In I Corinthians 11, Paul reiterates the scene of Christ’s last supper with His apostles, and, in verses 24-26, he reminds us that this continued practice is a perpetual memorial of the sacrifice our Lord. We proclaim His death, and we do so in our presence (Matthew 26:29). It is an affirmation of our belief in His sacrifice, in His resurrection, and in our hope for His return.
Acts 20:7 records that this is practiced on the first day of the bread, and in Acts 2:42 records they broke bread (worshipfully) steadfastly. This is a consistent practice, and it is reasonable to take this as meaning we partake every Sunday after this model. In fact , Paul, in I Corinthians 11, while warning Christians to take this memorial seriously, refers to it as the central focus of Sunday worship. It is the primary reason for our assembly, and it is worship to Jehovah God. In this, our focus is to be on God and the sacrifice He put His Son through.
We have all attended memorial services, whether it is a funeral or some larger scale gathering for an event. We prepare and plan for these events. We take them seriously – even more so if we are asked to participate. How much more should we be prepared for the memorial of our Savior’s death. Would we memorialize the death of a loved one with the same casualness with which we sometimes commemorate Christ? Paul calls us to examine ourselves in I Corinthians 11:28-29, warning us of behaving unworthily in this event. In Exodus 12:15, the Lord strongly prohibits any leaven at all throughout the Feast of Unleavened Bread, keeping pure staying worthy, and, in Hebrews 10:28-29 cautions us to never treat Christ’s blood as something common or taken for granted. If we treat the memorial casually, we treat the sacrifice casually.
The Bible tells us we come together on the first day of the week with the purpose of memorializing Christ’s death. It is anything but commonplace. Christ has become our ultimate Passover lamb. His blood saves us from death – the consequences of sin – and delivers us from the slavery of sin. He delivers us as no other could. We memorialize His sacrifice on that cross and reflect on the terrible sin that put Him on that cross, and we remember our redemption in Him.
lesson by Tim Smelser