He wrote the story and then submitted Himself to it.
Lesson 52 from The HOPE Study Guide
And 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.”
– Luke 22:14–20
And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”
– Matthew 26:26–28
And so it came to pass, that Jesus, whom John called the Lamb of God, went up to Jerusalem, to observe Passover…Jesus gathered His disciples to celebrate Passover. Taking the Passover bread, Jesus broke it and said, “This is my body, which is given for you.” Then He took the wine, which represented the blood of the Passover lamb, which had been placed over the entrances of the Hebrew dwellings. And He said, “This is my blood which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”
– The HOPE, Chapter 10
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Recall from Lesson 34 that God instructed the Hebrew people to institute an annual celebration called Passover so that they would remember how He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. When the ruler of Egypt refused to let the people go, God sent death to every first–born child in the land, but He “passed over” those in a dwelling with the blood of a lamb over the entrance. They were “covered by the blood.” Many Hebrew people traveled great distances to observe Passover in Jerusalem, the main city of their land. Near the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus took His disciples to Jerusalem to observe Passover.
According to the Biblical account (Exodus 12:5-8, Numbers 9:11-12), the Passover meal included three essential food items: roasted lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Each of these elements was meant to remind future generations about what God had done to deliver their forefathers from bondage in Egypt.1
The lamb would remind them of the unblemished lamb that had to be slain, and its blood placed on their doorposts so that death would “pass over” those inside. The bitter herbs would remind them of slavery under the Egyptians. The unleavened bread had a double meaning. First, because this bread did not require time to rise, it reminded the Hebrew people of their hasty departure from Egypt (Deuteronomy 16:3). Second, with leaven being a Biblical symbol for sin and corruption, this bread would remind them of a life that was not ruled by sin. Against this backdrop of rich history and imagery, Jesus gathered His disciples for a Passover meal and then proceeded to give a radically new spiritual meaning to this sacred tradition.
As the unblemished Passover lamb was slain to deliver the Hebrew people, so also the One who John the Baptist called the Lamb of God would offer His sinless body to deliver mankind… and as He said this, Jesus offered the bread. As the blood of the passover lamb covered the Hebrew families, so also the blood of Jesus would cover all those who seek refuge in Him from the penalty of sin… and as He said this, Jesus offered the wine. Just as God in the Old Testament told the Hebrew people to always keep the Passover tradition, so also Jesus told His disciples to “do this in remembrance of Me.” What Jesus instituted that evening is known today as communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Lord’s Table. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, we see this is something Jesus intended His followers to observe with regularity until His return.
The symbolism and drama of what we’ve considered in this lesson is incredible. Once again, we see that the Bible is not just an amazing collection of wise sayings and spiritual truths. It is the most remarkable story ever written. Think of it – the One who wrote this story wrote Himself into it as the central character and then submitted Himself to the plot, even to the point of death! And though the end of this story has already been penned, its plot is still unfolding today. Even as you read these words, God is offering you a part in this grand, eternal story.
ASK & REFLECT
- Try to put yourself in the place of the disciples when Jesus offered the bread as His body and the wine as His blood. What might they have been thinking and feeling? Would the imagery He evoked have seemed strange to you?
- If you celebrate communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Lord’s Table, what is it like for you? Is it a sacred time or a routine ritual? Explain.
- If the Bible is the greatest story ever written, and if it is still unfolding today, then do you see yourself as a character in the story? Why or why not?
DECIDE & DO
Not one bit of instruction is given in the Bible for the celebration of Christmas, yet Christmas is one of the most celebrated traditions in the world. Most people approach Christmas with great anticipation. The celebration we have studied today is described in three of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and in other verses of the New Testament. This sacred tradition was instituted by Jesus Himself as a rich and timeless drama in which only those who follow Jesus are privileged to participate. Let the significance and symbolism of this tradition invoke reverence, respect, and anticipation in you as you observe it.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
- Arthur L. Farstad, The Lord’s Supper. (© Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, Spring 1991– Vol.4:1, 2005). (http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1991i/Farstad.html). Retrieved November 2, 2006.
- John Piper, Why and How We Celebrate the Lord’s Supper. (A sermon delivered by John Piper on August 13, 2006. © Desiring God, 2006). (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2006/1774_Why_and_How_We_Celebrate_the_Lords_Supper/). Retrieved November 9, 2006.
- Preston Gillham, A Celebration Unlike Any Other. (© Lifetime Guarantee Ministries, 1997–2006).(http://www.lifetime.org/1998/04/a-celebration-unlike-any-other-2/). Retrieved December 1, 2006.
1Margot R. Hodson, Passover – Sacrificed for Us. (©A Feast of Seasons, Kregel Publications, 2001 in the USA). (http://www.hodsons.org/Afeastofseasons/id18.htm). Retrieved November 2, 2006.