Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. (1 Cor. 5:7)
One of the things that I will tell you many times is that I want you to question the assumptions. You ought to do this when listening to a sermon—even my sermons—or when listening to the news or even hearing something from a friend.
What are the assumptions that underlie the assertion that is being made, and are the assumptions correct? Regardless of how logical the argument is from there, if the assumption is flawed, the entire presentation will be wrong. In a building, the foundation is what really matters. You may have a great structure built on top, but without a solid foundation you are in trouble.
What I want you to do today is to question some assumptions about the Lord’s Supper. What you read here may be new to you, but what I want you to do is to take it to the Word of God and study the issue out for yourself until you are sure of the answer. Go to God’s Word and see what it has to say.
The Last Supper
This is the Last Supper observance. It is a reminder.
The common understanding of this Last Supper—the giving of the Lord’s Supper—in Baptist circles, as well as Protestant circles and even Roman Catholic circles (although these groups would hold to different views of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper)—is that when Jesus came into the upper room and instituted the Lord’s Supper (or communion), He and His disciples were observing Passover. It is believed that Jesus took the unleavened bread of the Passover meal, broke it, gave thanks and instituted the Lord’s Supper as a part of Passover. What we are doing, then, is carrying on a Passover tradition when we use the unleavened bread and the wine of the Passover meal.
That understanding is so universal that it is almost beyond question in peoples’ minds. Of course they were having the Passover—everybody knows that!
But I would like to dig into the Scriptures and allow them to speak to this issue: Was this really a Passover meal?
If it was not a Passover meal, then that will change a number of things.
Our commonly held notion is that they were having Passover at the Last Supper in the upper room. I would like to challenge that notion in this short series.
A Theological Dilemma
If this meal were a Passover, that would raise a dilemma.
First of all, Passover is a Jewish observance. What is more than that, it is a Jewish observance that the Jewish people were commanded to practice forever.
Exodus 12:14 states:
And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
The detailed instructions for celebrating Passover included the command to eat unleavened bread. Part of the reason for this was that on the night of the first Passover the death angel would pass over those who had put the blood of a lamb on the outside of their doors.
We find these direct promises in Exodus 12:23:
For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. (NASB)
The people of Israel were told to “eat [the lamb] in haste” (Ex. 12:11). They were to eat the entire lamb, then pick up their things and go and get out of Egypt. The food that they were to bring with them was unleavened bread. Now, a practical reason to use unleavened bread was that it was easier to take along on the journey than leavened bread would be. It would last longer and not go stale.
We can see much Christian typology in these events, but for the Jewish people living both at that time and in the centuries that followed, the feast of Passover involved taking a literal lamb to sacrifice on the 14th day of the month of Nisan.
God’s miraculous deliverance of His people from Egypt was to be remembered every year by means of the celebration of the Passover. The death angel would not be coming back again, but the Jewish people were to have a perpetual reminder of this marvelous provision of the Lord.
As Christians we do not observe Passover. But many times the Christian observance of the Lord’s Supper almost becomes a replacement for Passover.
I have actually been to some Jewish homes to experience Passover. It is a very rich, meaningful, enjoyable and insightful time. And although we do not celebrate Passover, we may be tempted to think that we are carrying on Passover by having our own time of remembrance around the Lord’s table. But that is a very subtle form of replacement theology. We can have the sense that the Lord’s Supper has replaced Passover.
However, we remember that Passover was to be observed by the Jews forever.
Jesus Took Bread
Jesus instituted something in the upper room that the Jewish Apostle Paul would later tell us we ought to do in the church. Again, by the way that we carry that out, it can appear as if the Lord’s Supper has replaced the Passover.
Do you see the problem with that theologically? We are Gentiles, not Jews, and this Lord’s Supper is not the Passover. The question then is: Did Jesus really replace Passover?
We must remember that that which is of the Jews belongs to the Jews, and we should not take it from them. That which is of the church, which is neither Jewish nor Gentile, is something new that the Lord established or revealed. They are two completely different things.
Let us now turn our attention to Matthew 26:18-30:
And he said, Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.
And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.
Now when the even was come, he sat down with the twelve.
And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?
And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.
The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.
Then Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it;
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into themount of Olives.
The institution of the Lord’s Supper is found in verses 26-29. In the context of verse 17, it appears at first glance as if Jesus and His disciples were having Passover that night, and out of that came the Lord’s Supper. However, we need to look at this very closely.
Notice that verse 20 states that “the twelve” were having this meal by themselves. Do we take it that Jesus borrowed this man’s house but did not invite him to the Passover dinner? This would have been as strange in Jesus’ day as it would be today. You see, Passover is never eaten alone. Normally, people gather with as big a crowd as they can for this festival. So the surface-level view of this event does not appear to be correct. We wonder why they would have Passover at this stranger’s house—with the man who owns the house not being seated at the table.
Part of the answer is that in verse 18, the words “at thy house” are not translated correctly. The verse should read simply, “with you.”
Also, notice that in verse 26 the text says that “Jesus took bread.” The Greek word for bread here is ἄρτον. This is simply the common word for leavened bread. In fact, it always means leavened bread.
We will pick up our consideration of this important and timely topic at this point next week.
In the meantime—especially to all of our Jewish friends—we send you our greetings, praying that you have a wonderful and memorable Passover!
Editor’s Note: This blog article is taken from the following sermon, which you can watch in its entirety here:
(Read Part 2)
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.
Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
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