The Bread and Wine From Christ

Good Friday is the day each year we commemorate Christ’s crucifixion. There are many questions that fill our minds during this season. One of the most prominent is, “Why did Jesus have to die?” Couldn’t God have simply forgiven sin and gotten people into Heaven if that is what He wanted to do? The Bible tells an amazing story. A story of rebellion, intrigue, mystery, unconditional love, death, and eternal life. The Bible’s story is God’s story. God told this story through the crucifixion. When Jesus gathered with His disciples during the Passover feast, He taught them about one of the story’s climaxes—His own death. He explained why He had to go to the cross, have His blood spilled and body broken to redeem His people.

Luke 22:14-20

When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

Passover meal (v. 14-18)

When the hour had come, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…”

When the hour comes on the Thursday night leading up to Christ’s crucifixion to observe the Passover meal, Jesus reclines at the table with His 12 disciples and shares His earnest desire to eat this particular passover meal with them before He suffered. The Passover meal Jesus observes with His disciples in this text becomes the example we now follow when we observe the communion ordinance. Communion (also the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist) is packed with the meaning of Jewish Passover. To understand communion, which Christ’s uses to teach about His own crucifixion, we must return to the Old Testament story.

Pharaoh has refused to free the Hebrew people from slavery. God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart. After each plague over Egypt’s landscape, Pharaoh has refused again and with more conviction to free the Hebrew people. Now, the final plague is upon Egypt. Whereas God provided a substitutionary atonement for Abraham (Genesis 22), the Egyptians did not believe God and did not have any righteousness credited to them. Their firstborn would be required of them as a testimony about God’s just wrath—a wrath that would later be revealed against His own firstborn son, Jesus Christ. In Exodus 12:1-17, we read,

Now the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be the beginning of months for you; it is to be the first month of the year to you.”

Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, “On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household. Now if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his neighbor nearest to his house are to take one according to the number of persons in them; according to what each man should eat, you are to divide the lamb. Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight. Moreover, they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that same night, roasted with fire, and they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled at all with water, but rather roasted with fire, both its head and its legs along with its entrails. And you shall not leave any of it over until morning, but whatever is left of it until morning, you shall burn with fire. Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover. For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. On the first day you shall have a holy assembly, and another holy assembly on the seventh day; no work at all shall be done on them, except what must be eaten by every person, that alone may be prepared by you. You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.”

Observing the Passover meal as a nation was a permanent ordinance for the Hebrews. The Hebrew people did nothing to be chosen by God. In fact, they were entirely insufficient (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). God delivered Israel because He chose Israel and for no other reason. He did so for His own glory. Like He did with Abraham’s firstborn son, Isaac, God provided a substitutionary atonement for Israel on the night He would require the hardened Egyptians to make atonement for themselves. The lamb’s blood was a sign that God was passing over His people rather than revealing His wrath against the people He had chosen for Himself.

This is the Passover Jesus eagerly desires to observe with His disciples before He suffers as the perfect substitutionary atonement for a people God has chosen for Himself from among the nations. Israel is a pictorial prophecy. God chose a physical nation for Himself so we might see how He relates to His eternal people, chosen from before the foundation of the world. So, Passover was a purposeful pictorial prophecy concerning the final atonement for God’s chosen people and the passing over of His wrath. His chosen people will not receive His just wrath because His justice was accomplished in Christ’s crucifixion. For those whom God did not choose, they are not under Christ’s final atonement and, therefore, must atone for themselves. God’s just nature demands such. If anyone is to insist that God could have done things a different way if He wanted, he or she ignores Scripture (cf. Matthew 26:39) and assumes God is not just. He must punish high treason against Him—a crime of which all people are guilty. Our only hope is that Christ chose us and justifies us as justice is carried out against Him on the cross.

“…for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.”

Jesus reveals that this is the last time He will observe Passover until the kingdom of God comes. In one sense, the kingdom of God came in Christ’s incarnation (Cf. Matthew 4:17). In another, not everyone who has been atoned for by God’s choosing has come into the kingdom. Until all those for whom He made atonement throughout time are brought into the kingdom, Jesus is abstaining from the Passover celebration because God’s wrath has not yet passed over all of God’s chosen people.

Meaning of communion (v. 19-20)

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

Jesus took the unleavened bread according to the instruction given in Exodus. The unleavened bread represents the spotless atonement—the lamb without blemish fulfilled in Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness without sin. He broke the bread from a single loaf, representing the broken lamb fulfilled in Jesus’s broken body on the cross. When we eat the bread, we do so remembering Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Because God’s justice was carried out against Christ, His chosen people are justified. The deathly wages due us were given to Christ instead. Those who are in Christ live. God’s just judgment passes over them like it did the insufficient Israelites in Exodus.

And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”

Jesus adds to the symbolism. His blood will be poured out like the spotless lamb in Exodus. His blood will be the marker by which God’s chosen people are passed over concerning God’s final judgment. Jesus assigns this meaning to the wine He and His disciples share. This isn’t the first time Jesus has used wine to illustrate and signify His work. At the wedding in Cana, Jesus turned water in the feet-washing basins into wine—effectively turning a vessel created for dishonorable use into a vessel saved for honorable use (John 2:1-12). He did this directly before Passover (John 2:13). I don’t think that was a coincidence. The New Testament often symbolizes Christ work using wine imagery. As Christ drinks God’s wrath upon Himself, His people drink of God’s cleansing mercy because of Christ’s blood shed for us.

Christ will not enjoy another glass of wine until everyone who has been atoned for has been passed over. We, who have come to Christ, drink the wine symbolizing the fact that God has passed over us by bringing us into His kingdom.

As we observe communion, then, we declare the Gospel until all of our brothers and sisters have been brought into God’s kingdom by His grace. Since we cannot gather because of our current circumstances, we can understand more Christ’s yearning to eat and drink with us at the fulfillment of His kingdom. I must admit, eating and drinking communion is not the same without physical togetherness. We can’t break from the same loaf. We can’t symbolize the oneness of Christ’s broken body. We barely get the symbolism at all when we are separated. Oh how I long for the day when we can eat and drink together again to celebrate the passing over of God’s judgment. Oh how I am learning to yearn even more for the day when the complete church will be together with Christ eating and drinking at Passover with Jesus Christ. May we yearn for this. God, Your will be done; Your kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.

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