Two recurring, atmospheric suppers

  1. Participation in the meal

Israel’s Passover instructions contain clues to the meaning of ‘the Lord’s Supper’ – both meals would involve each participant’s whole being.

  1. Action – with one’s hands

Moses explained that this Spring festival would include symbolic action: ‘And it shall be to you a sign on your hand because ‘with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt’ (Exodus 13:9). Israel was released from the land of slavery because each slave put his/her toil-worn hand into the liberating grasp of God’s hand. For that reason I prefer, when breaking bread, that each communicant breaks off a chewable amount and passes the rest from hand to hand to one another, than have a ‘minister’ put a disc of wafer on each participant’s tongue!

  1. Vision – through one’s eyes

Moses also intended that the food items of Passover should be a spread to look at – ‘a memorial between your eyes’ (Exodus 13:9). He had marked the original date as ‘a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations’ (Exodus 12:42). But the New International Version paraphrases this as ‘a reminder on your forehead’ – the Pharisees’ excuse for wearing ‘phylacteries’ [leather boxes with this text inside] (Matthew 23:5). But the Hebrew for ‘between’ implies ‘understanding’, as when we say: ‘It hit me between the eyes’ – an ‘Aha!’ moment when we cry out, ‘Yes! I get it! Now I realise who/what this reminds me of!’ Similarly, Jesus asked us regularly to break bread together so that we ‘bring me to remembrance’ with the eyes of our hearts (see Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

  1. Conviction – of one’s heart

Hebrews 11:28, referring to Moses, tells us, ‘By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.’ Earlier the writer had warned his readers to ‘hear [God’s] voice’ and ‘not harden your hearts as in the rebellion’ against God and Moses ‘in the wilderness,’ because they went ‘astray in their heart.’ We must ‘take care … lest there be in any of [us] an evil, unbelieving heart, leading [us] to fall away from the living God’ (Hebrews 3:7-15).

  1. Confession – from one’s mouth

Moses concluded that the ‘sign on your hand and … memorial between your eyes should provoke praise and testimony: ‘that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth(Exodus 13:9). In Hezekiah’s reign, ‘Israel … kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with all their might to the Lord’  (2 Chronicles 30:21-27).

  1. Preparation for sharing in the meal

At Hezekiah’s Passover (2 Chronicles 30:13-22) the worshippers rid themselves of idolatry (2 Chronicles 13-15) and ‘set their hearts to seek the Lord’ (2 2 Chronicles 30: 19) for ‘pardon’ (2 Chronicles 30:18), and ‘the Lord … healed the people’ (2 Chronicles 30:20). By contrast, although Peter ‘prepared the Passover’ (see Luke 22:7-13), yet, despite his protest (Luke 22:33, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death’), he himself was very unprepared! So Pauls’ counsel will always be relevant: ‘Let us … celebrate … Christ, our Passover lamb, … not with the old leaven … of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth’ (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). ‘Let a person examine himself … and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup’ (1 Corinthians 5:11:28).

This entry was posted in Around the Lord's Table. Bookmark the permalink.