Passover or Communion?

During one of our family Shabbat studies, my daughter asked, “Why do some churches drink wine first and then give you bread while others offer the bread first and then drink the wine?” What a powerful question from an eight-year-old child.  We wanted to answer her question honestly so we read Luke 22 and the account of Yeshua and ‘communion.’  

“Then, taking a cup of wine, he [Yeshua] made the blessing and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on, I will not drink the ‘fruit of the vine’ until the Kingdom of God comes.’ Also, taking a piece of matzah [unleavened bread], he made the blessing, broke it, gave it to them and said, ‘This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in memory of me.’  He did the same with the cup after the meal, saying, ‘This cup is the New Covenant, ratified by my blood, which is being poured out for you’ (Luke 22:17-20 CJB).

After reading Luke’s account of Yeshua’s last supper, we saw there were two cups of wine, one before eating the bread and one after. Backing up to read the verses from Luke in context,

“Then came the day of matzah [unleavened bread], on which the Passover lamb had to be killed. Yeshua sent Peter and John, instructing them, “Go and prepare our Seder, so we can eat.” They asked him, “Where do you want us to prepare it?” He told them, “As you’re going into the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house he enters, and say to its owner, ‘The Rabbi says to you, “Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the Pesach [Passover] meal with my disciples?” ‘He will show you a large room upstairs already furnished; make the preparations there.”  They went and found things just as Yeshua had told them they would be, and they prepared for the Seder.  When the time came, Yeshua and the emissaries reclined at the table, and he said to them, “I have really wanted so much to celebrate this Seder with you before I die! For I tell you, it is certain that I will not celebrate it again until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God” (Luke 22:7-16). 

By putting the two cups of wine and bread in context, we noticed more details. Yeshua was celebrating a Passover with all of its traditional preparations.  It was a unique Passover and Yeshua desired to celebrate it with his disciples because he would not celebrate the feast again until wt was fulfilled in the Kingdom.  Understood in its context, Yeshua wasn’t instituting ‘communion;’ he was officiating a traditional Jewish seder. 

The Hebrew word seder means ‘order.’   In a Passover seder there is an order to telling the account of the Exodus from Egypt.  It includes remembering the plagues, the blood of the lamb, and the death of the firstborn.  While celebrating this memorial to God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt’s darkness into His Light, Yeshua instituted the new covenant.   Since our family had already been celebrating the Passover for several years, we understood the significance of the two cups of wine and the unleavened bread.  

The first cup of wine was shared among the disciples which unified them and set them apart as Yeshua’s beloved Bride.  This is known as sanctification and the first cup of wine in a Passover seder is called the Cup of Sanctification. 

Along with some unleavened bread or matzah, a second cup of wine is consumed after the meal.  This is known as the Cup of Justification.  It is through the broken body (the unleavened bread of affliction) and the blood of Yeshua that we are justified and redeemed back to God.  This is the ‘cup and bread’ used in communion.

From my daughter’s initial question came other questions: Why doesn’t communion include two cups of wine when it’s recorded that Yeshua used two cups of wine? Where did the idea of communion come from when Yeshua was specifically celebrating a Passover seder and we are told to do the same by Sha’ul:

“Get rid of the old hametz [soured dough], so that you can be a new batch of dough, because in reality you are unleavened. For our Pesach lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed. So let us celebrate the [Passover] Seder not with leftover hametz, the hametz of wickedness and evil, but with the matzah of purity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).

Origins of Communion or the Lord’s Supper

“Because Christ himself is present in the sacrament of the altar, he is to be honored with the worship of adoration. “To visit the Blessed Sacrament is … a proof of gratitude, an expression of love, and a duty of adoration toward Christ our Lord” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1418). 

The Blessed Sacrament is a devotional term used in the Roman catholic church that refers to communion.  It is further delineated as eucharist  which specifically means the bread and wine transubstantiates into the body and blood of Christ.  The key term here is ‘transubstantiates’ which means that the bread and wine actually turn into the substance of the body and blood of Christ and only the appearance of bread and wine remain. 

According to the catholic church, the eucharist or communion is not a memorial to the work of Christ on the cross, but a repeat of his sacrifice each time the eucharist is taken. First Corinthians 10:16 is often used as the proof verse:

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Messiah? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Messiah?” (1 Corinthians 10:16).

However, this verse only describes what the wine and bread represent symbolically – a connection or relationship with fellow believers and with Messiah.  It is not meant to be given some specific title like blessed sacrament or communion. A more accurate rendering of the verse would be:

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not the fellowship of the blood of Messiah? The bread that we break, is it not the fellowship of the body of Messiah?”

‘communion’ is koinonia which means “fellowship.”   There is no Scriptural basis for the terms ‘The Lord’s Supper’ or ‘Communion’ when describing Yeshua’s last evening with his disciples.  When believers eat unleavened bread and drink wine remembering Yeshua’s sacrificial atonement, the correct Scriptural description is called Passover.  After all, it was the blood of the lamb that allowed the firstborn of Israel to live! The Scriptures also make it clear that Yeshua’s sacrifice was once and for all time;  it is not a repetitive act. 

“For Messiah also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18).

“The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God” (Romans 6:10).

The Proclamation

“For what I received from the Lord is just what I passed on to you — that the Lord Yeshua, on the night he was betrayed, took bread; and after he had made the blessing he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this as a memorial to me”; likewise also the cup after the meal, saying, “This cup is the New Covenant effected by my blood; do this, as often as you drink it, as a memorial to me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.Therefore, whoever eats the Lord’s bread or drinks the Lord’s cup in an unworthy manner will be guilty of desecrating the body and blood of the Lord!” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Sha’ul states in 1 Corinthians 11 that every time we celebrate by drinking wine and eating unleavened bread, we are not only proclaiming Yeshua’s death until he returns, but we are participating in a Passover memorial.   Never once in my years of growing up in the Lutheran church did I understand or know that part of my communion experience.  Not once.  This is because ALL communion sacraments have catholic roots and are always about sacrifice and death, not hope in the resurrection or proclaiming Messiah until he returns.  

The Memorial Goes Deeper

Sha’ul also says that all who drink the cup in an unworthy manner desecrate the body and blood of the Lord.  Could it be the eucharist is really “trampling underfoot the blood of Messiah and insulting the grace of God” and holds  great punishment? (Hebrews 10:29).

So let a person examine himself first, and then he may eat of the bread and drink from the cup; for a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the body [of Messiah] eats and drinks judgment upon himself. This is why many among you are weak and sick, and some have died! If we would examine ourselves, we would not come under judgment” (1 Corinthians 11:27-31).

As a Jew, Sha’ul understood the significance of the Cup of Sanctification.   If we do not examine ourselves and recognize the body of Messiah – both as Yeshua as well as his body of believers – we bring judgment upon ourselves.  How we treat our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom, the Body of Messiah,  has a direct result on how weak and sick we become; how we may even die an early death!  This is a judgment because we don’t examine our motives or our actions within the community of believers.   

As those who have experienced the institutional communion, there is only one cup ever consumed and that is the Cup of Justification, not the Cup of Sanctification.  The concept of becoming sanctified, holy, and set apart for God through introspection and alignment with the commandments of God has become lost in a tradition of the catholic church and is embraced by every Christian denomination.  They drink the cup and eat the bread to be justified,  but they do not drink to be sanctified.

Choose This Day

Yeshua and his disciples

Yeshua never meant for the two cups of wine and unleavened bread of Passover to be relegated into a few minutes of eating a wafer and a sip of wine on a daily,  weekly or bi-weekly basis in a church setting.  In fact, Sha’ul’s admonition to the Corinthians seems as if they had already begun to dismantle Passover into a communion food fest at their weekly gatherings.  This was not the intended purpose of the events in Luke 22. They were to ‘keep the Passover’ as Yeshua did with two cups of wine. They were to ‘keep the Passover’ with the unleavened bread of truth while proclaiming the Lord’s death until he returned.  They were to ‘keep the Passover’ with the matzah of purity in the unity of faith and honoring one another as co-heirs of the Kingdom in Messiah.

Communion, one of the church’s deeply-held dogmas is not found in the Scriptures.  Neither Yeshua, his disciples, Sha’ul or even the early Messianic congregations celebrated a communion service.  Communion is rooted in the catholic eucharist created by Rome centuries ago and embraced for centuries by the institution of the church.

To answer my daughter’s question: Because the church celebrates a communion service, the bread and wine have no ‘seder’ or order. It has nothing to do with the Passover that Yeshua celebrated with his disciples on the night he instituted the new covenant setting apart his disciples as his Bride with the Cup of Sanctification and paying the ultimate Bride price with his body and blood, the Cup of Justification.

©2016 Tentstake Ministries

Leave a Reply

*