Most of us probably know what an object lesson is. We use an object lesson to try and demonstrate a truth or to help us make a point. Why do we do that? We do that because it is hard for many of us to think entirely in the abstract. But if we can visualize it, if we can see it then we can better understand it. For instance we all know that you can’t take back words once they are spoken. One of the ways that we can help people understand this simple truth is through the use of an object lesson. Here is one of my favorites. Spoken words are like toothpaste that has been squeezed from the tube. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it is next to if not impossible to get the toothpaste back into the tube. Such it is with words once they leave our mouths. You can’t take them back!
Does God use “object lessons” to teach us spiritual truth? Yes! The Scriptures are filled with visual images and lessons designed to convey the meaning of spiritual truth, many times those images convey spiritual truths of great richness and vast spiritual depth.
The Lord’s Supper is one of God’s “object lessons” that He has designed to teach us some deep and significant spiritual truth. But unfortunately for many in the church today the significance has been lost. It has been lost out of ignorance, many have never been taught the truth that lies behind the symbols. For others the Lord’s Supper has simply become another religious ritual, it has just become another part of the worship service. Don’t misunderstand I believe that every part of the worship service should have significance attached to it. The danger lies many times in how frequently we do things. We sing every week, and if we are not careful that simply turns into another ritual. We hear the Word of God preached every week and if we are not careful that simply turns into a vain and useless ritual. That’s why we must be on guard to make sure our hearts have been properly prepared each week as we participate in corporate worship.
This morning I want to take the time to begin to explore the spiritual truths that God has designed the Lord’s Supper to communicate to us. Let’s begin by reading from the gospel of Matthew the very first time the Lord’s Supper is mentioned in the New Testament.
“While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins. “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29, NASB95)
Here in Matthew 26 we have the very first mention of the Lord’s Supper. The timing of when this took place is very significant and will aid us in understanding the spiritual significance of the Lord’s Supper. When did this take place? Do the Scriptures give us a point of reference? Yes they do and that is found in verse 17 of the same chapter.
“Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?”
(Matthew 26:17, NASB95)
The feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover are the same event. So don’t let that confuse you. The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover took place at the same time, and we will see here in few moments that they were instituted at the same time. So when did the first Lord’s Supper take place? It took place during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, during the yearly observance of the event that was known to the Jewish people as the Passover.
Why did Jesus wait until this particular time to institute the Lord’s Supper? Part of the reason was the fact that it wouldn’t be long – it wouldn’t be more than just a few hours before the Lord would be arrested, tried, convicted and crucified. His passion was just hours away. Literally this would be His last opportunity to teach these things to His disciples. Also Jesus waited until this moment because of the connection between the Passover feast and His impending crucifixion. I believe Jesus was using this opportunity to teach the disciples the reality of what the Passover feast symbolized. This was the perfect opportunity for Jesus to flesh out the object lesson that the Nation of Israel had been observing for centuries.
To aid us in our understanding of the Lord’s Supper I think we should go back and try and understand what the Lord was teaching His people Israel through the Passover. I believe once we have a better understanding of the significance of the Passover we will better understand and appreciate the spiritual richness of the Lord’s Supper.
Take your Bibles and turn to Exodus 12. Exodus is the second book in the Bible. Let’s read the first 13 verses of Exodus 12. (READ SCRIPTURE HERE)
Let me remind you of the context, the setting of the verses we have just read. The Jewish people through the providence of God have been in the land of Egypt for over four hundred years. When they first went to Egypt they were honored guests. After all it was a Hebrew, a Jew who had literally saved their country from starvation. This small family grew and prospered in Egypt. In fact they grew so large that a family had turned into a nation. The people of Egypt were afraid of the Hebrews and so they enslaved them. When they could no longer stand it they began to cry out to Jehovah. They were after all His chosen people. He had selected them to be His very own possession. God heard their cries for help and he sent them an unlikely deliverer. Moses was his name; he was a reluctant deliverer at first. He was God’s spokesperson to the Pharaoh. He went into Pharaoh and asked Him to let the nation of Israel go so that they could worship and serve the one true God. Pharaoh refused not once but nine different times. God sent one plague after another to not only convince Pharaoh to let them go, but each plague was a judgment on the land of Egypt and each plague demonstrated God’s power over the false gods of the Egyptians.
Finally God informs Moses that one final plague is about to be unleashed on the land. On a certain night God would visit the land of Egypt and he was going to take the life of every firstborn child and the life of every first born of the livestock. Every house in the land would be affected. You may say wait a minute not every house in the land was going to be affected; this plague wasn’t going to touch the Israelites was it? Yes it could have and I’ll show you why in a few moments. The Israelites were in danger of experiencing the judgment of this plague unless God provided some means of protection for them.
While you mull that over in your mind, let me walk you through God’s instructions as to how the Passover was to be kept. First of all each family had to have their own lamb. If the family was so small that they couldn’t use an entire lamb themselves they could share it with another family. The reason behind this was that God did not want any of this Passover lamb to go to waste. The lamb that they selected had to be perfect, it couldn’t have any visible defect, and it had to be a year old. Each family was to pick out their lamb on the tenth of the month and they were to bring this lamb into the house, it would literally become part of the family for the next four days. On the 14th day of the month the lamb was to be killed at twilight. The blood of the lamb was to put on the sides and the top of the door frame. The same night the lamb was killed it was to be roasted over a fire and eaten with unleavened bread (bread without yeast in it) and bitter herbs. They were to eat all of the lamb and whatever they couldn’t eat they were to burn it the next morning. Not only did God tell them what to eat he told them how to eat it. They were to have their loins girded, which simply means they were to be dressed for travel, they were to have their shoes on and their staff in their hand and they were to eat it in haste.
Finally after all the instructions had been given the verse closes with this “it is the Lord’s Passover”. I believe that is put there to emphasize that if they were going to be saved from death that salvation had to be accomplished God’s way.
What I want to emphasize is that the Passover was more than symbolic. The shedding of the blood of the lamb and the application of the blood to the door posts was absolutely necessary for God to pass over them while He was judging the Egyptians for their sin. Does this mean that the children of Israel were sinless? Not at all, even during the time that God was in the process of delivering them they went against the Word of the Lord, they were idolaters, no sooner had they been delivered and they made a golden calf and worshipped it as their god. They were not sinless; they were just as guilty as they Egyptians, why were they spared? They were spared because they were God’s chosen people and as such He provided what He required for their salvation!
What did God require and what did God provide? God required the death of a lamb. God required the shedding of blood! Think about it for a minute. What did God require of Cain and Abel? He required the death of a lamb!
Abraham and Isaac arrive in the land of Moriah; they have the wood and the knife for the burnt offering but not a lamb. Isaac asked his father, “we have the fire and the wood but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” What did Abraham say to his son? He said Son, God will provide himself the lamb for the burnt offering.”
Each year the nation of Israel on the day of Atonement were required to sacrifice a goat and they were required to take the blood of the goat and sprinkle it on the mercy seat thereby making atonement for the sins of the people.
Finally the ultimate Lamb was slain. John the Baptist said in John 1:29 upon seeing Jesus “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
What God required God provided!
Did you notice the progression? First a lamb was sacrificed for an individual – Abel. Then a lamb was sacrificed for a family – Abraham and Isaac. Next a lamb is sacrificed for a nation – Israel. Finally THE LAMB is sacrificed for the world!
When God announced the tenth plague is was a sign of God’s judgment against all humanity. The reason that God was going to visit their homes was to teach them about salvation. Even though they deserved judgment God was going to save them by grace through faith. What God’s people needed was an atonement and God provided that atonement in the form of a lamb. Make no mistake about it the lamb was offered as a sacrifice for sin.
What is the significance of the blood?
1. The blood represented the taking of a life. The Passover teaches us that the penalty for sin is death! Romans 6:23 says “The wages of sin is DEATH!” In the Passover God was teaching the Israelites that the penalty for sin, their sin was death! That is a lesson that still today even us as Christians need to remind ourselves of. It is a message that the world needs to hear today. The penalty for sin is death!
2. The blood taught the Israelites that they had a substitute. The blood taught them that a lamb had died in their place. Are you beginning to see that in the elements of the Passover God was teaching both them and us some deep spiritual truths?
3. The blood of the lamb was the expiation for their sins. What does that mean? Expiation means to cleanse from sin. Think about this folks, what was the only difference that night between the people of Israel and the people of Egypt? Only one thing – that was the blood of the lamb!
4. Finally because of the blood of the lamb the firstborn did not have to die. Why because another – a substitute had died in its place. Again foreshadowing the atoning death of Christ on the cross.
On that fateful night when God came to the home of an Israelite he could see the blood on the door. When he looked at the blood he said in effect, “Someone has died in this house, the penalty has already been executed.” When God saw the blood the wrath of God was turned away from all of those who were under the blood!
What a tremendous object lesson the Passover was.
When we observe the Lord’s Supper we are recognizing the reality that the Passover was pointing too.
We are no different from the children of Israel. We are sinners; because we are sinners a death is required as the penalty for our sin. We too are to follow God’s instructions if we are to be saved. Our sins like the children of Israel must be under the blood. What is it that separates the Christian from the non-Christian still today? The blood of the Lamb. We like the Hebrews must have a substitute to die in our place if we are to be saved.
This morning when you hold the elements of communion in your hand you are holding in your hands God’s symbols of grace. The juice represents the blood of the perfect Lamb of God – the Lord Jesus Christ who was our atoning sacrifice. The communion wafer represents the body of the Lamb of God who like the Passover lamb was sacrificed for the people.
The communion service is not a ritual, it is a powerful reality, it is a visual revelation of the grace of God, and when you partake of the juice and the wafer let it be a powerful reminder that what God required God provided.