Jesus Turns the Celebration of Passover into the Celebration of Communion
As the Israelites prepare to leave Egypt, Moses instructs them to have a special meal with their families and neighbors. They celebrate the first Passover. From then on Passover becomes an annual celebration.
Fast forward a couple millennia. Jesus gives his disciples instructions to celebrate Passover together. As they eat the Passover meal, Jesus adds something new to their tradition and gives it fresh meaning.
Taking the bread they’re eating, Jesus uses it as a metaphor for the sacrifice he’s about to make. Then he repeats this with the wine.
The Bible records this event in Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, and Luke 22:15-20. Paul also gives instructions about this remembrance in his letter to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:22-29.
These passages provide us with the basis for how we celebrate Communion. We may also call it the Lord’s Supper, The Holy Supper, Holy Communion, the Eucharist, or Holy Eucharist. They all mean the same thing.
They all direct our attention on Jesus and what he did for us to reconcile us with Papa.
When Jesus institutes what we turned into the sacrament of communion, he fulfills the Old Testament practice of the Passover. That means he takes something old and adds his own twist to make it something new.
From this we see three key elements of Communion:
Part of a Meal
We see the practice of Passover and Communion in the Bible as part of a meal. Matthew and Mark note that Jesus’s reflections happen as they eat. Luke adds some additional detail. He records a second mention of the cup after the meal.
The key point is that communion is part of a shared meal, not an act separate from it.
Neither Passover or Communion take place in a large church gathering or religious ceremony. Both happen as a private gathering within a community of family or close friends—our squad. The people celebrate Passover in homes with family (or with neighbors).
The Communion Jesus shares with his disciples occurs in an intimate setting with his close friends. This shows us Communion isn’t something that happens at church but apart from it, usually in homes.
As an Annual Celebration
Jesus says we are to celebrate Communion in his honor to remember him. Paul adds to this, writing that Jesus also said, “do this, whenever you drink it” (1 Corinthians 11;25).
Though we may interpret Jesus’s words to mean every time we have a meal, the context is Passover, so a better understanding is every time we celebrate Passover, which is an annual event.
When we observe Communion every week at church, even once a month or quarterly, it can become routine and lose its meaning. Instead we should treat it as an annual celebration that we greatly anticipate and highly revere.
When we add this to the concept of a family meal, Communion could elevate to the level of a treasured family celebration similar to Thanksgiving or Christmas: a special time with family gathered.
The ancient practice of Passover and Communion bears little similarity to what we do today. I can’t ever recall celebrating communion in church as part of a meal. Communion was always a ceremonial representation, included as part of a church service.
The bread was reduced to a small bit of bread or a cracker. The wine was reduced to a mere sip, barely enough to wash down the morsel of food we ate just before it. In doing so we trivialize Communion by making it less than what it should be.
Let’s take back Communion. We can return it to an annual celebration in our homes with our family. And we will do it in remembrance of Jesus.
Discover more about celebrating Jesus and his passion to save us in Peter’s new book, The Passion of Jesus. It is part of the Holiday Celebration Bible Study Series.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.