God is so good to us. He knows us, how we learn, how quickly we forget, how prone we are to wander away from the truth and lose heart. He not only knows us, he loves us and does much to help us remain faithful to him. Here at the Lord’s Table we have one of God’s wonderful gifts to his people, a treasure entrusted to the church from the night on which Christ was betrayed until the day on which he returns
A sacrament is a symbol of a Christian mystery: baptism, of the mystery of regeneration; the Lord’s Supper, of the mystery of substitutionary atonement. Baptism is the sacrament of initiation, the Lord’s Supper the sacrament of nourishment and growth for the faithful in Christ. In baptism, washing with water symbolizes God’s cleansing the believer from sin. In the Lord’s Supper, the bread and wine are both symbols of the body of Christ which was given for our salvation. There are further aspects to the symbolism contained in the Supper, but more of that later.
The work of the sacraments is the same as the Word of God, to offer and present Christ to us, and the spiritual treasures of grace which can be found only in him. The Lord’s Supper represents the promise of God portrayed in a picture, in tangible form which we can experience with our senses, teaching and confirming spiritual truths with visible emblems. The presence of Christ in the soul of the believer accompanied by the believer’s perception of the spiritual truth symbolized makes the Supper a means of grace, an activity within the life of the church by which the Holy Spirit works to convey spiritual blessings to the believer.
The Lord’s Supper is not the original institution; another observance came before, one which similarly had a two-fold significance looking both to the past and future. As you remember, it was at the close of the Passover meal (Matt. 26:17-19) that Jesus gave example and instruction to his disciples as he instituted the Lord’s Supper. It will greatly help our understanding of the Supper to become familiar with that prior meal, the Passover. What was represented and signified by the sacrifice of a lamb, the sprinkling of its blood, and the eating of the Passover meal? What are some of the connections between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper?
selection and sacrifice of the substitute Ex. 12:3-6
sacrificed and roasted whole – presented on the table appearing as a lamb, not generic meat
prepared and eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs Ex. 12:8
The bread that the Jews used contained no leaven (yeast), which made it like a cracker rather than cake in its consistency. Constable
herbs perhaps endive or chicory, to remind them of bitterness of life in Egypt
eaten in haste, garbed as pilgrims Ex. 12:11
no time for the bread to rise, for the leaven to work
perhaps, since they were not to be a mixed multitude, God’s people mingled with others but rather distinct, so the bread was not to be mingled with leaven
of the blood Ex. 12:7
with hyssop on the doorposts and lintel
not on the threshold to be trampled
represents the life of the substitute
the “merit” of a sinless substitute
accepted by God
an act of cleansing
doorway represented the entire house
an act of faith
The application of the blood as directed was a demonstration of the Israelites’ faith in God’s promise that He would pass over them. Constable
had to look beyond the “simple” act to see any significance
how could an animal’s blood on the doorposts protect from the God who had sent 9 other plagues?
only because that God had made a promise
from death of the firstborn Ex. 12:12-13
God, coming in judgment on the Egyptians and their gods
could this be considered God’s justice for Pharaoh requiring the life of Hebrew newborns 80 years before?
certainly God’s just wrath poured out on the sins of the Egyptians
for their disobedience
for their idolatry
when I see the blood, I will pass over you
evidence of faith in God’s promise – the substitute was killed
life of the firstborn spared in exchange for the life of the sacrifice
from slavery in Egypt Ex. 12:17
deliverence from death accompanied by deliverance from slavery
hence the need for eating in haste (see v. 11)
not to linger in the land of bondage
to follow God’s leading as soon as deliverance was made apparent
to be observed from day of deliverance until animal sacrifice was no longer required
symbolism Ex. 12:13
nothing magical about the lamb, the blood, or the ritual followed
just as the rainbow was a sign to Noah and his descendants (Gen. 9:12-17) so, too, the blood of the lamb
life of an animal could never by itself satisfy God’s just wrath toward man (Heb. 10:4) – it had to point toward a greater reality
identified by Jesus at the last Supper with his disciples – “this is my body”; “this is my blood” Matt. 26:26-28
John the Baptist – “behold the Lamb of God” John 1:29
the apostle Paul – “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed” 1 Cor. 5:7
It is the Lamb of God who delivers us from the penalty of death, the curse of God’s just wrath against our sin.
It is the Lamb of God by the power of the Holy Spirit who delivers us from bondage to sin, making us slaves to him instead of slaves to sin Rom. 6:18
Although it is the Holy Spirit accompanying the elements that makes them effectual means of grace, to the degree we are able our practice in observing the ordinance should follow that of Christ as closely as possible
sustenance Ex. 12:14
Just as the lamb nourished the bodies of the Hebrew children, so Christ nourishes the faith of true believers. When we are reminded of who we are in Christ and what he as promised us, our faith is confirmed and strengthened. As our bodies need a continuous source of sustenance, so do our souls. As Christ and his treasures of grace are presented to us in the elements of the Lord’s Table, when we partake in faith believing our souls are nourished, our faith revives and grows.
the use of this sacrament was twofold, both to exercise the people in the recollection of their past deliverance, and to nourish in them the hope of future redemption; and therefore the passover not only reminded them of what God had already done for His people, but also of what they were hereafter to expect from Him. Calvin
The Sacraments, however, have also these ends: — to be marks and tokens of Christian profession and (Christian) association, or brotherhood; to incite gratitude (thanksgiving), and to be exercises of faith and a pious life, in short, bonds (sealed contracts) making these things obligatory. But among other ends this one is chief, that by these Sacraments God attests, presents anew, and seals to us His grace. For while they indeed signify nothing more than is declared in the word itself, yet it is no small matter that they are presented to our eyes as lively symbols which better affect our feeling, leading us to the reality, while they recall to memory Christ’s death and all the benefits thereof, in order that faith may have more vigorous exercise; and finally, it is of no little moment that what was proclaimed to us by the mouth of God, is confirmed and sanctioned by seals. Calvin, Consensus Tigurinus