Passover begins at sundown on April 18 this year. Very few Christians will observe that feast. Is Passover even important for Christians today? This is a debated issue and one in which we can take different sides and still please God. The Apostle Paul seems to speak to this in Romans 14:5-12. Whether or not we celebrate Passover is not the issue here. Whether or not we understand the Jewish Passover and how it relates to our participation in the Lord’s Supper IS at issue here.
The Jewish Passover was/is an annual feast commemorating the exodus of the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage. You can read the specifics in Exodus 12.
For those of us who are Christians, we should note that Jesus inaugurated our Lord’s Supper tradition during the Passover meal. What is often called the “Last Supper” was the Passover. The themes of deliverance, salvation, sacrifice, and covenant that are so explicitly linked to Passover are also explicitly linked to what was happening to Jesus as he prepared to go to the cross the next morning. I think most of us get this.
I think, however, that many of us don’t think of the Lord’s Supper as much more than a memorial. We eat the unleavened bread and drink the fruit of the vine much like we’d look at an old painting. We take in its texture, its shapes and its hues, but we do little more than examine and contemplate it. We may meditate about its beauty and what it means, but we don’t participate in the painting. But we do participate in the body and blood of Christ as we partake of the Supper.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:16, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” When we partake of the communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, we are doing much more than remembering what Christ has done for us. We are proclaiming the Lord’s death until he returns (1 Corinthians 11:26). But how do we do that?
Is our eating and drinking together within the four walls of our church building really an effective proclamation of the sacrificial death of our Savior? Is that all God intends us to do with this weekly remembrance? No. This is a part of it, but it isn’t the whole of it.
Jesus said that to partake of the cup was to partake of his “blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:28). In partaking of the bread and the cup, we are proclaiming that we are living in covenant with God–that we participate, we share, we join together with God in his mission, purpose, and even his passion.
By accepting the blessings of this blood covenant we also agree to its demands. So what do we get from this covenant? Reconciliation with God. Freedom from our sins. Victory over death. The promise of eternal life.
And what do we give in this covenant? Faithfulness and control. We surrender control of our lives to the creator who gave us life in the first place. We forgoe the lusts of this world in order to follow God’s call and live lives led by His Spirit. In our baptism, we promised ourselves–covenanted ourselves–to God, and by participating in the bread and the cup each Resurrection Day (Sunday), we reaffirm our faithfulness to that covenant secured by the blood of Christ.
So remember what you’re proclaiming when you eat the bread and drink of the cup. The Lord who died for you is the Lord who is coming again. And until He comes, we proclaim His death, not in mere words but with our lives. As Jesus showed humility and a willingness to be broken–indeed to die for others– we proclaim as God’s community of faith that we, too, are willing to be broken and poured out in His name so that all may know the gospel and grace of God.