7-1 The Passover and the Breaking of Bread

If we can establish that the breaking of bread service is intended as a similar feast to the Passover, we can look back to the details of the Passover in Exodus 12 and get deeper insight into the true nature of the memorial meeting.

1. Jesus instituted the breaking of bread in the Upper Room instead of the Passover; as the Jews physically associated themselves with the body and blood of the Lamb, so we do the same in symbol in our service.

2. In doing so, He pointed out that the bread represented His flesh, and as He said earlier " except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you" . To a Jew, the phrase 'eating flesh' would immediately take them back to the Passover, where the flesh of the lamb was to be eaten; thus in the new Passover, we eat the flesh of the lamb as we eat the bread.

3. In advising the Corinthians to withdraw their fellowship from the wrongdoer, Paul says that " Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us...let us keep the feast not with the old leaven (the wrongdoer- 'deliver such an one to satan...purge out the old leaven...I have written unto you not to keep company if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator'), neither with the leaven of malice.." ; therefore Paul is likening the breaking of bread service at which the wrongdoer should not be present to the Passover, with the unleavened bread representing error in practice or attitude.

General Points

In Lev. 23 we learn that on the morning after the Passover Sabbath a sheaf of firstripe barley must be waived (i.e. passed to and fro) before the Lord; this represents the resurrection of Christ and the fact He is a firstfruits of us; but so encouragingly, a few weeks later at Pentecost the corresponding wave offering before the Lord was two loaves baked with leaven. Leaven always represents sin or corruption. They represent Jews and Gentiles who because of Christ's resurrection and triumph can come into the presence of God despite their leaven, our natural wretched man of the flesh, not having been completely purged out of them. Personally I feel that the N.T. indicates that it is God's desire that we should break bread weekly; if so, then the seven days of unleavened bread afterwards then represent our restrained lives in the coming week until we come to break bread again.

We each come to keep our Passover with different feelings and needs. But because the Passover incorporates every kind of sacrifice, all our needs ought to be able to be met by our memorial meeting. The eating of unleavened cakes was like the meal offering, the total burning of the remains of the meal was like the burnt offering, the eating of the lamb as a holy meal was like a peace offering, and the smearing of the blood, which in Hezekiah's time seems to have been replaced by the priest sprinkling the people with the blood, corresponds to the smearing and sprinkling of the blood of a sin offering. So whether we feel a great need for forgiveness (cp. the sin offering), personal rededication (burnt offering), fellowship with God and our brethren (peace offering) or expressing our thanks to God (meal offering), our breaking of bread, Christ our Passover, is designed to have all that we need. Whether our experience of the breaking of bread is indeed this fulfilling is a question we need to meditate upon. If our taking of the emblems is like eating the Passover, then the intensity of the actual meal should be seen amongst us as we partake of the emblems. All distractions should be removed as far as possible.

The Exodus Record

Ex. 12:10 implies they spent the whole night eating the meal as zealously as possible, because the aim was not to have any left by the morning. So we must make the maximum possible use of the spiritual help and forgiveness given in Christ, before the morning of His coming is here and it is too late to gain help. Dt. 16:7 also indicates the whole night was spent eating: " Thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the lord shall chose; and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy tents" . On this first occasion, they literally left Egypt that same night. The sense of urgency and intensity is hard to miss, yet so difficult to replicate in our own experience. And yet we are either in Egypt, or redeemed. At this moment in time, your name is either in the book of life or not. You either have unforgiven sins hanging over you or you don't. Now is the time as soon as possible to repent, to gain full forgiveness, to gain full freedom with God. They ate the feast standing up, terrified of Egypt as we are of sin, awed by the sense of the presence of God, as we should be the presence of Christ Himself in the midst of us gathered here. Likewise Hezekiah's people ate the feast with their minds prepared, or standing up. The very meaning of the words used in this chapter indicate the sense of intensity; they were to strike the blood on the door, to 'lay hand on' the blood, to grasp; the word is used in the Law about a rapist ceasing or kidnapping his victim. That's the intensity we must have in seizing Christ's sacrifice, or as the N.T. puts it 'apprehending' that for which we are apprehended, taking our place in the Kingdom almost by violence, taking hold of it by force. And that's just what the phrase in v.21 means- " draw out a lamb" - seize hold of one. And so like the drowning men and women we are, we grab hold of the lifebelt of Christ and cling to Him. He is the only way to save us from our sins, from the bondage and death of Egypt.

The eating of the meal with girded loins (Ex. 12:11,13) is seen by Peter as meaning we should have our minds girded, gathered up, in place and order (1 Pet. 1:13). Note how 1 Peter is replete with Passover allusions (1:17 cp. sojourning with fear in Egypt; 1:18 silver and gold taken from Egypt; 1:19 the Passover lamb; 1:23 corruptible seed= leaven; 2:9,10 cp. leaving Egypt at night, led from darkness to the glory of Sinai, where they became a nation.

Yet it was not all fear and intensity. Ex. 12:11 says they were to eat in haste. The Hebrew word translated " haste" is only ever used in the context of the Passover; it comes from the word for the weasel, because of its sense of quick, smooth, gliding motion. There was to be no panic in their leaving Egypt, but calmness. It is a different word to that used in Ex. 12:.33, where we read that the Egyptians sent the people out in haste; this is a different word, implying fear on the part of the Egyptians, a desire to rush the people out in panic. So in our leaving of the flesh, we must not be driven by a sense of panic and fear of rejection, but above all by a gliding, ever flowing love of God's commands.

The meal was followed by the seven days of unleavened bread: " no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must necessarily do to eat, that only may be done of you" (Ex. 12:16 LXX). So our daily work should be limited to providing for ourselves the necessities of life, so that the rest of our thoughts and desires can be directed to the meditation and service of God. To live up to the teaching of all these types is hard mental work; thus in Ex. 12:25 Passover is called a " service" , a word which normally refers to hard physical work, tillage, bondservice, as if to say that the battle for spiritual alertness is just as hard work as the physical labour from which they were freed. Similarly in Dt. 16:3 the unleavened bread is called the " bread of affliction" , whilst in 1 Cor. 5:8 it is called the " unleavened bread of sincerity and Truth" , as if being sincere and true and not having malice and bitterness in our hearts is a result of much mental affliction and exercising of the mind. So to keep the feast we have to search our houses, our lives, for anything like leaven- anything that puffs us up, that distorts us from the true smallness and humility we should have, that corrupts our sincerity. By nature we have so much pride in us, so much that puffs us up. We should always find some leaven in us every time we examine ourselves. The Jews used to search their houses with candles, looking for any sign of leaven. So we too must look into every corner of our lives with the candle of the word. Similarly before the great Passovers of Hezekiah and Josiah there was a searching for idols which were then thrown down.

Passover was intended as a personal looking back to their beginnings, both as a nation and individually . It was to remind them of the day they came out of Egypt, all their lives (Dt. 16:3). This was written in the 40th year of their wanderings, as they were about to enter Canaan. Those who had literally come out of Egypt were largely dead; this verse is a general command to Jews of all generations. So God wanted them to see that in a sense they personally came out of Egypt at that time, even though they were not then born. So with us, while we were yet sinners, before we were born, Christ died for us. On the cross all God's people were as it were taken out of Egypt, in prospect delivered from sin. So we look back to the slain lamb in our feast, to us there in God's plan and delivered from sin, the power of the devil, sin in us destroyed by Christ's death in prospect on that cross. There is so much to personally meditate upon in this feast; the physical organization of the breaking of bread should never be rushed. It's better to allow ample time for meditation rather than, e.g., insist on doing long Bible readings which may not be directly relevant.

Leviticus Details

There are some fascinating details in the Leviticus record of the Passover. The wood was to be placed in order on the fire (Lev. 1:7), suggesting the use of several bits of wood to be laid in order, with the parts also laid in order upon them. This was as if each part of the Lord's life (and ours) had its own cross. The offerer " shall cut it into his pieces" (1:12)- the pieces of the animal were the pieces of the offerer, so the ambiguous genitive suggests. The offerer was represented by the sacrifice. The parts were washed in the water (of the word) before the final crucifying of flesh. Lev. 1:15 A.V. mg. stipulates that if the offering was a bird, " pinch off the head with the nail" - as if a nail used in the process, perhaps for nailing the parts to the wood (cp. the cross). All this is picked up by Paul in Rom. 7 where he says that he delights in God's law after the inward man, or innards. He sees himself as cut open and offered to God. All this provokes powerful self-examination. Does the zeal of God's house consume every part of the offering of our lives as we lay ourselves before Him at the Passover meal? Does it eat us up? Do our faces and words and way of speaking reflect the crucifixion of every part of our lives? Or does our triviality, our inability to spiritually concentrate our minds, our lack of sustained enthusiasm for the Lord's work reflect the fact that we are not like that animal as it lay dead and still in its parts on that altar, that we are not in the spirit of Christ. Our attitudes to money, holidays, relationships, standard of living, commitment to study of the word, zeal for preaching, all raise question marks in our minds. It is easy to take immediate refuge in the fact that salvation is through the grace of the Lord's sacrifice, not works. But before we go on to those sentiments, let us accept that we do all have an urgent need for improvement. If we face up to this, if our minds are alert to this in everyday life, then are hearts will be prepared, standing erect, the loins of our mind girded. We will be able like the unpurified of Hezekiah's time to acceptably eat the feast. And thus we will be able to rejoice throughout the long night of our lives, eagerly waiting for the call to leave this world and be taken elsewhere. There is a wonder in the whole Passover message; that something as simple as a sweet lamb roasting and spitting in the middle of their home and the blood zealously splashed on the door frame could bring such great deliverance. To cover an average door frame with a small lamb's blood would require all the blood to be used; and so we too zealously take hold of every part and aspect of the Lord's sacrifice, symbolized by our solemn eating and drinking of the symbols of His entire body and complete blood. " Drink ye all of it" recalls how Israel had to eat every part of the lamb, even the repulsive bits which their stomachs would have involuntarily protested at (Ex. 12:9).

Hezekiah's Passover

Hezekiah and Josiah kept very successful Passovers, and the good points from them seem good for us to emulate if we are going to make the breaking of bread a successful spiritual experience. Reflect on the following observations from 2 Chron. 30:

v. 21 They sang loudly and joyfully. That there was singing at most Passovers is indicated by Is. 30:29, which prophesies concerning the joyful time of Israel's salvation that " ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity [a feast] is kept" . Passover is the only feast kept at night, and so this indicates that Israel were familiar with the idea of joyful singing whilst keeping the feast. Thus the reality of our deliverance from sin, or Egypt, should be a cause for true praise and joy.

v. 22 the people were taught " the good knowledge of the Lord" - i.e. they had some lively Bible study.

v. 22 They made confession of their human unworthiness.

v. 23 The spirit of the Passover continued- the people freely decided to " keep other seven days with gladness" . So often we are hardly out of the hall door before the spirit of our Passover leaves us.

v. 26 there was " great joy"

v. 19 Very relevantly to us, although the people were not officially cleansed and therefore technically unable to partake of the Passover, they dared to ask God for mercy that they may be able to partake of it. And so we too in our unworthiness consider the salvation of the crucified Christ, Christ our Passover slain for us, and recognize that by taking the emblems we are committing ourselves to try to rise up to not only His example but also the salvation He graciously offers; to crucify our every desire, every particle of self within us. We are not alone in our nagging sense of unworthiness; for the record stresses that at Hezekiah's Passover " many" , " a multitude" (vv. 16,17) were unfit to take the Passover. But because of Hezekiah's intercession for them and because they " prepared their hearts" , they were able. " To prepare" means literally to erect, to make upright. As we will see later, the commands about how they were to keep the Passover standing upright ready to go were to engender mental awareness, spiritual alertness. So if we are like this, our many failures will be overlooked, and we can keep the feast with joy. " To prepare" also means to face oneself in a certain direction. If our hearts, our innermost motivations, are pointing in the right direction generally, our occasional waverings can be forgotten.

Burnt Offerings

Later references to the Passover show that burnt offerings were offered by the worshippers as well; it seems that the lambs had the skin flayed off them (2 Chron. 35:11), in uncanny prophecy of the Lord's scourging. Dt. 16 says that they were to seethe or boil the Passover in the place God would chose. But in Ex. 12 they were told they must not seethe the Passover lamb; therefore we can conclude that there were other burnt offerings which were included in the Passover. Thus we read that at Josiah's Passover (2 Chron. 35:8,9,13,16) the princes gave 300 oxen- not lambs- " for the Passover offerings.. they roasted the Passover with fire...but the other holy offerings they sod in pots" . The burnt offering represented rededication; these offerings were made in response to that of the slain lamb. So this should be an element of our Passover, renewing our vows to serve God, really meaning it, not just going through a ritual of promising God to love Him more, but really deciding to desperately cling to Him the harder. The burnt offering was cut into parts by the offerer using a knife, showing how we should cut open our lives before God. Therefore although we should mainly examine ourselves at this meeting to make sure we are concentrating on Jesus, the lamb, there is also some place for personal examination. For the sacrifice of the lamb must, inevitably and inexorably, lead us to sacrifice in response.

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