Written Word

The Lord’s Supper – Part 2

Many of us look back on our school days and rate history as one of the more boring subjects we had to study. If you happened to be one of those unfortunates, could I ask you to indulge for a short time in a history lesson about the Passover? I think you’ll be blessed since the institution of the Lord’s Supper takes place within the context of a Passover meal.

The first Passover occurred nearly 1,500 years before Jesus became man and dwelt among us. Here’s the story: The descendants of Abraham, a few dozen people, migrated to Egypt because of the famine in their land. Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was now ruler in Egypt, met their needs. During the next 400 years Abraham’s descendants experienced a population explosion and grew in number to about 3 million people, posing a threat to the Egyptians who reduced them to the status of slaves. God was not deaf to their cries, however. Neither had he forgotten his covenant with Abraham, a covenant that promised them the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. God raised up Moses to lead his people to the Promised Land, but not before sending ten plagues upon Egypt. God’s repeated call to Pharaoh to “Let my people go” failed to move his sinful heart. The plagues were designed to show that God is the one, true God and there is no other God except him. The plagues were the judgement of God “on all the gods of Egypt”. (Exodus 12:12) The tenth and final plague would secure freedom for the Hebrew slaves. On that night they would be delivered from the bondage of Egypt and begin their journey to the Promised Land. In preparation for the final plague Moses gave these instructions to the people:

“Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, ‘Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down. Obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance for you and your descendants. When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony.'” (Exodus 12:21-25)

They did as God instructed: each family killed a lamb and sprinkled its blood upon the doorpost of their home to protect themselves against the coming judgement of God. “At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well.” That night, the Bible says “there was a loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.” (Exodus 12:29-30) That night Pharaoh summoned Moses with instructions to take the people out of Egypt and “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children” left Egypt that night. (Exodus 12:37)

This event was not to pass into the annals of history and be forgotten; the children of Israel would always commemorate this event. “This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD – a lasting ordinance… When you enter the land that the LORD will give you as he promised, observe this ceremony. And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ Then the people bowed down and worshiped.” (Exodus 12:14,25-27)

The food eaten by the Israelites at the Passover is significant: The slain lamb recalled how God’s judgement was diverted by the blood of a slain lamb which was sprinkled upon their doorposts, the bitter herbs spoke of their slavery in Egypt and the unleavened bread was called the bread of affliction. (Deuteronomy 16:3) From the food that was already there commemorating Israel’s deliverance, the Lord takes the bread and wine and speaks of a new deliverance – from the bondage of sin.