A New Kind of Passover Feast
So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. Matthew 26:20
The disciples had celebrated Passover all their lives. Its rituals were as familiar to them as Christmas rituals are to us. The paschal lamb was slaughtered in the afternoon; some of its blood was taken to the temple where a priest offered it on the altar. At home, the lamb was roasted whole, then served for supper with unleavened bread, wine, and bitter herbs. The meal celebrated the fellowship with God that had been restored by the lamb’s substitutionary death.
Imagine the disciples’ surprise when Jesus broke the bread and said, “This is my body, given for you” (Luke 22:19). Those words had never been part of the Passover readings. A few minutes later, after another cup of wine was poured, Jesus again added to the traditional readings, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (v. 20).
With those two sentences, Jesus forever changed the meaning of Passover. No longer was it a feast relevant only to Jews, a remembrance of their exodus from Egypt. On that evening, Jesus transformed Passover into a reminder of the deliverance God offers everyone—freedom from sin, permanent forgiveness, and eternal fellowship with Him.
The disciples didn’t fully understand Jesus’ words that night. But later Peter wrote, “It was not with perishable things such as silver and gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect (1 Peter 1:18-19). And John wrote, “The blood of Jesus Christ … purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
In a way, Christians celebrate Passover—the deliverance from sin and restored fellowship with God—when we participate in communion. As the slaughtered lamb and the death of the firstborn son of every Egyptian reminded the Israelites of the cost of sin, so the wine and the bread remind us of redemption’s price tag. And, as the lamb’s blood on the doorposts protected the Israelites, so Jesus’ shed blood protects us from eternal judgment.
Both Passover and communion remind us of what God is willing to do to redeem the people He loves. Have you thanked Jesus recently for becoming your Passover lamb?
Psalms 113-118, also known as The Hallel, are read during the Passover meal. Read some or all of them and note how they celebrate the redemption God provides for His people.
Read Revelation 5:9-10. In what ways does this “new song” celebrate the “old” story of Passover? How is it connected to the “new covenant” Jesus spoke of in Luke 22:20?
Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-32. What warnings does Paul give about taking communion “in an unworthy manner”?
One way to keep the significance of communion fresh in our minds is to read “The Great Thanksgiving.” Download a copy of it: The Great Thanksgiving. You might also want to read Communion under Dig into Easter.
Denise K. Loock
Source for information in first paragraph: Merrill F. Unger. “Festivals.” The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985) p. 410.