[1] What is Communion, is it the Passover Meal?

Some churches celebrate Communion by the congregation walking up to the front of the church and each person is given a very thin wafer, or a piece of bread.
Then this is followed by sipping from one communal cup or chalice.

In other churches the congregation remain in their seats and bread is brought round, either this is already cut into pieces or each person tears off a piece.
Then very small individual glasses of wine or juice are brought to each person.

Covid 19 has changed these practices so that the bread and wine are not touched by every person.

Communion, or Holy Communion, is also known as the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist.

So Communion is using the bread and wine as symbols of Jesus’ body and blood.
It is celebrating that Jesus died for us, that he willingly gave his body and spilt his blood as a sacrifice for all our wrongs and sins so that we could be forgiven by God.

In eating the bread and drinking the wine it symbolises that we are taking part in his life, that we are a part of him and that he is in us by his Spirit.

Table Of Contents for: What is Communion, is it the Passover Meal?

Part 1 Communion meaning and the Passover meal meaning:

a) What is Communion and how did Jesus introduce the concept of the Communion?

So what is Communion, well in John’s gospel the setting was an evening meal:

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.”

John 13:2

In the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke we are told that it was at a Passover meal with his followers:

I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”

Luke 22:15
A horned sheep on rocky hillside. What is Communion, is it the Passover Meal?
A horned sheep on rocky hillside.

Presumably, because Jesus as a man, lived His life in obedience to the Law, He and his disciples would have visited the Temple that afternoon to slaughter their Passover sacrifice.

Then later that evening, they would have consumed it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs, as required by the Book of Exodus.

That may be difficult for us to accept that Jesus was following the Law of Moses (the Old Covenant), even at the point he was going to establish a new Covenant.
But think back to when Jesus wanted John to baptise Him.
John the Baptist didn’t want to do that.

People went out to him (John) from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.
Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”

Matthew 3:5-6

Why should John baptise Jesus, he wasn’t sinful!
It didn’t make sense – the people were confessing their sins and were being baptised.
Yes Jesus had no sins to confess because he is the Son of God, so why should he get baptised?
Well, Jesus said:

Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.”
Then John consented.

Matthew 3:15

So going back to the Passover meal that was going to be changed into a Communion meal.
Jesus knew that He was going to finish the meal in a different way, but He did want to eat the old Passover meal with his disciples.
In initiating the Communion meal, God wanted certain things in this Passover meal to point to the Jews leaving Egypt, but also, and more importantly, to point directly to Jesus.
And this helps us in answering our question: What is Communion.

The Passover Meal is full of symbolism of Jesus and the Communion meal and we will look at this shortly in more detail.

b) The history of the Passover meal and the Jewish Seder Meal:

Passover was started 3200 years ago, when the Israelite’s left their slavery in Egypt.
From then until 70AD (about 40 years after Jesus was crucified), the Passover meal was informal:

  • Each head of a family would in his own words explain the four Biblical rituals:
  • the eating of the paschal lamb
  • the bitter herbs
  • the eating of matzah which is unleavened bread
  • and telling the story of the escape from Egypt.

After the destruction of the temple in 70AD the Jews were unable to sacrifice the Pascal lambs.
The Passover meal became more formalised and it became the Passover Seder Meal.
There is an order to the Seder meal and ‘Seder’ actually means “order”.
On the table they had a lambs bone instead of the Pascal lamb.

c) How did Jesus’ disciples prepare for the Passover Meal?

Jesus sent Peter and John, saying,
“Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

Luke 22:8
Little fingers in the food mixing bowl! What is Communion, is it the Passover Meal?
Little fingers in the food mixing bowl!

Remember this is initiating the Communion meal.
We may think preparing for this meal is setting up a table and chairs and preparing a meal, but it involved something much more important than that.

It was mainly about getting rid of all the yeast.
It was a deep clean – like in hospitals to remove all the germs.
There mustn’t be a single crumb lying around.
A crumb of bread would contain yeast and yeast makes the bread rise.
It is a symbol of sin, it puffs up.

Jesus at this Passover Meal, this communion, held up the unleavened bread and said:

This is my body given for you.”

Luke 22:19

He was saying in effect that he had no yeast, no sin.
He is sinless, pure, he had not failed in one thought, action, or word, because he is the spotless Pascal Lamb (the Passover Lamb).

Jesus came to set us free from our worldly, self centred life so that we can live with Jesus and be children of God.

A good on-line Bible is at Bible Study Tools

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