Facts About the Lord's SupperQUESTION: What are the facts about the Last Supper from a Jewish perspective?ANSWER:
Instituted by Jesus on Thursday night of His final week on earth and destined to be one of Christianity's distinctive ordinances, the Last Supper sank its roots into a 1500-year Hebrew tradition.
The facts about the Last Supper from a Jewish perspective began in Egyptian darkness. On the tenth day of the month, God called Abib (Exodus 13:4), He ordered each household to select a perfect year-old male lamb from flock or herd; small households would join larger ones. The lamb would be slain at twilight on the fourteenth day and its blood splashed on the sides and top of their door frames. Wherever blood protected the occupants, God's angel would PASS OVER when He passed through Egypt at midnight with death in His eyes and blood on His sword.
With sandals on, staff in hand, fully dressed and ready to move, the Israelites ate the meal hurriedly (Exodus 12:11). The lamb, roasted whole, with no broken bones (Exodus 12:46), was to be completely consumed, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread as side dishes. Any leftovers were to be incinerated (Exodus 12:10).
The facts about the last supper from a Jewish perspective continued with Joshua's renewal of the Passover when Israel occupied Canaan. At God's command, Joshua circumcised the males, who had gone uncircumcised throughout the 40-year wandering (Joshua 5:2). Then, on the 14th day of the month, Israel celebrated the Passover (Joshua 5:10). A day later, they ate produce from the land. They put God first by circumcising all their males, then celebrating the Passover, both occurring in enemy territory. In turn, God protected and provided for them.
The facts about the Last Supper from a Jewish perspective was renewed in Israel under righteous Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30:1-27) and Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:1-19) after notorious apostasy under previous kings. Both kings extended invitations to all Israelites, north and south, to congregate in Jerusalem. Whenever observed, the Passover celebrated deliverance from Egypt. That inspirational certainty cheered and animated every generation of Jews and became as consistent with national identity as kings, prophets, priests, and temple.
The facts about the Last Supper from a Jewish perspective was finalized in Christ's institution of His communion table. Born of a Jewish mother, into Jewish culture, a spiritual child of Moses and heir of Old Covenant prophecies, Jesus necessarily began with familiar articles in the Upper Room, then filtered them through Himself. This is clear from the symbolism forecast in Egypt and completed in Christ. First, the original Passover represented God's judgment on Egypt's pantheon as it brought Israel deliverance from political bondage; Christ's Table signed Satan's death warrant as it celebrated believers' deliverance from spiritual bondage.
Second, that no bone of the lamb was broken was realized in Christ at the cross. After breaking the thieves' legs, the soldier thrust a spear into the corpse of Jesus (John 19:34). Third, leaving nothing of the lamb till the next morning symbolized Christ's resurrection from the dead. As Peter said in Acts 2:24, Jesus defied corruption because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.
All of this was forecast by Jesus when He emphasized both the cup and loaf. Had He wanted to merely reinforce the original Passover, He would have used only the cup as His blood. But Jesus never merely augmented anything in Moses. He re-constituted everything, including the Passover, in reflection of His own life and purpose. Indeed, Christ's cup and loaf had meaning Moses could never have known. The cup predicted the immediate as the loaf the ultimate result of Christ's sacrifice. As the cup forecasts forgiveness of sin for all who believed in Him, the loaf promised His bodily resurrection, then glorified body; and our resurrected life, then glorified body.