Lord's Supper Is A Memorial Offering, A New Spiritual Sacrifice Commanded By Jesus
Leviticus 2,1-3: "If anyone offers Yahweh a cereal offering, his offering must consist of wheaten flour on which he must our wine and put incense. 2 he will bring it to the priests descended from Aaron; he will take a handful of the wheaten flour, some of the oil and all the incense, and this the priest will burn on the altar as a memorial, as food burnt as a smell pleasing to Yahweh. 3 The remainder of the cereal offering will revert to Aaron and his sons, as an especially holy portion of the food burnt for Yahweh."
Psalm20,3: "May he remember all your sacrifices and delight in all your burnt offerings!"
The earlier gospels at Mark14,22 and Matthew26,26 do not command us to celebrate the Lord's Supper as a memorial (or "in rememberance") whereas the later Luke22,19 and 1Corinthians11,24 do.
This likely has something to do with Luke and Paul's fuller and later awareness that the supper was a new spiritually sacrificial memorial, a community- wide celebration, not a home celebration like Passover. This is not to say that Passover isn't important for all God's people, even now, just that the Christian scriptures developed a slightly different and more public celebration known as the Lord's Supper.
We recall that Mark and Matthew are depicting "the last supper" more in terms of the Passover seder gathering of the 12 apostles. This was prior to his death and resurrection, whereas Paul is describing, and Luke clearly hinting at ("he took the cup after" the seder had finished Luke 22,20) the new post resurrectional spiritual sacrifice of Christianity (1Peter2,5). This sacrifice was not meant for just once a year, at "home", or only with Temple priests present, or only the first twelve Apostles, but for frequent celebration, in public, with the entire community (1Corinthians11,18 and 25).
This fuller sense is also seen in 1Corinthians10,16 which explicitly emphasizes the actual blessing of the cup by the whole Christian congregation who are all now priests, made holy, ie priestly, by the Spirit inside us (cf Exodus 19,6 and Isaiah 66,20-22). By our salvation in Christ Jesus, from the fruits of Calvary, God got what he always wanted- one holy and royal priesthood comprised of both Jew and gentile, 1Peter2,5 and 9.
Scripture tells us that Jesus "gave thanks" for the cup, ie when he held it up, seeking the blessing and presence of the God "above", and offerred it up, Mark14,23.
Going back to the recited blessing for the four (or five) cups of the annual Passover Seder also helps us better understand the full New Testament sense of the Lord's Supper: "Blessed are Thou, Lord our God, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine." (www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays?Spring_Holidays/Pesah).
This recitation by all the folks at the Seder, while a leader holds up the "blessing cup", is a blessing of God. It is not an actual blessing of the cup and contents. So, here at the Jewish Passover the cup and contents remain symbols of the lamb's blood on the lintels of the Jews protecting them from the Lord's avenging angel in Egypt, and the unleavened quick and flat bread that allowed them to escape Pharoah's army.
This is contrasted to the particular emphasis of 1Corinthians10,16 whereby the entire priestly people explicitly blesses the cup, as if the blessed contents are way more than symbols.
Some learned expositors such as KJ Went from Studylight point to the seder blessing cup blessing above and claim that Jews, in contrast to Greeks, didn't bless the things they ate or the vessels upon which and in which they were placed. They bless God for providing the food and drink, especially by way of thanksgiving, a type of blessing, after meals (Deuteronomy8,10-11):
"Part of the growing desire to bless and sanctify the Eucharistic elements arose out of Hellenistic dualism. This saw the world divided between matter and spirit, secular and sacred, unholy and holy etc. Thus, the material elements of bread and wine, and indeed the vessels themselves required sanctification and blessings to make them holy, according to the Greek view. This process later spread to all kinds of relics and religious objects but this has nothing to do with biblical or Jewish belief." (studylight.org/language-studies/difficult-sayings/index.cgi?a=454. 2014)
Br. Ware and others make an arguable point in relation to Hebrew beliefs regarding blessing things (but see Oxford Dictionary of Jewish Religion, Ed. Wigoder, "Messiah" entry says that both people and things can be anointed) 1Corinthians10,16 depicts a situation whereby the elders and Apostle Paul and the congregation in pagan Corinth went out of their way to bless the cup and contents to distinguish them, and the actual communion with God from faithfully taking the cup, from the cup and contents and table of demons and actual communion with demons of false pagan sacrifices right there in Corinth (1Corinthians10,20-21).
So oh happy fault of the Corinthian church, whereby God, at 1Corinthians 10,16, reminds us that the blessed/broken bread and the cup of blessing, are both worthy of consecration, of being most holy (cf leviticus2,3). This is not to sanction a vested or ordained New Testament priesthood. Jesus never ordained anybody a priest. Nor is it Judaizing, or a works based gospel. We are talking about one of the two ordinances of the Lord. It's a matter of faith and obedience to celebrate the supper fully according to the import that scripture give it. So, if the bread and wine are blessed as part of the memorial supper, then why not all the accompanying vessels related to the supper too? (cf Leviticus 8,10-12)
This view of the supper doesn't do violence to our Jewish biblical heritage as Christians, God forbid, it merely recognizes two New Testament principles: that all of us are priests, with the faculty and power to bless, and the holiness of the Lord's post resurrectional supper (Hebrews12,14).
Do you prefer not to bless when you are worthy as a New Testament priest (1Peter2,5 and 9) to bless?
Do you prefer symbols when you can have more than symbols?
This blessing, if done faithfully, ie acceptable to God, presents us a consecrated cup, now containing his risen blood, according to His 'this is my blood' prophecy at the supper, and the vision of his everflowing "blood" of John19,24, and the prophecy that he would sprinkle many nations with the precious Spirit that only His blood could buy, Isaiah 52,15.
This explains why Paul goes out of his way to teach that the supper has an explicit blessing of the one cup by one holy congregation. This is to say that God's priestly people rightly disposed at the table have been made worthy by faith, one by one and as a group, to bless the bread and cup, and partake of what these blessings unleash, an actual Spirit to spirit communion there at the table, by the faithful Spiritually sacrificial celebration of communion itself.
What Difference Does A Priestly Blessing Make?
All the difference in the cosmos, apparently. All the difference of say Moses doing the word of God he was commanded to do, like raise his right hand and part the Red Sea. Like all the difference between blessing our kids or not.
Leviticus 9 tells the story of the newly ordained and the other sons of Aaron who were told to perform various animal or blood sacrifices and, at verse 4, a cereal offering too. After this long list of sacrificial requirements was done, Moses declared to the people that the Lord, that is his very presence, would appear to them that very day (v.4)
After all these sacrifices, including expiations for the priests and people, and after the people's sacrificial offering, and after all manner of preparations (vv5-21), God's presence, prophesied by Moses, had still not manifested to the people. In other words, the sacrifices were not accepted yet, until Aaron and Moses came out of the tent, and did one final and decisive thing- bless the people, consecrate them.
Praise Jesus- all we do in obedient faith blesses us:
"and the glory of Yahweh appeared to the entire people; a flame leapt out from Yahweh's presence and consumed the burnt offering and fat on the altar. At this the entire people shouted for joy and fell on their faces." Leviticus9,24
It was this priestly blessing that unleashed the Holy Ghost, the consuming fire upon the sacrifices and upon the people, who but for not having received redemption by Jesus yet, would have been filled with the very same priestly holiness of Moses and Aaron, what we know as the baptism in the Holy Ghost, that God always desired for all his people (Joel3,1: "I shall pour out my spirit on all flesh.").
The Blessing Of The Bread And Wine Ignites A Spiritual Memorial Between Us And God
The Roman gentile Cornelius, no Temple priest, not even a Christian yet, is lauded by an angel at Acts 10,4: "your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God." This "memorial" is distinctly cultic and sacrificial language, very similar to Jesus' command at 1Corinthians11,24 and Luke 22,19: "do this [supper] as a memorial" of me.
A memorial in terms of Hebrew scriptural sacrifice is something that helps both God and us remember the important and mutual terms of our relationship (cf bzephyr "Memorial offering" of Cornelius- Acts 10,4). agapheseis.wordpress.com 5.1.09).
It refers back to Leviticus 2,2 whereby even though God deserves the entire food-sacrificial offering, he only demands a token (ibid, zephyr). Once we acknowledge that, he generously releases the rest for the consumption or blessing of the offeror(s).
This memorial aspect of the Lord's Supper reminds us that just as Moses promised God's personal and consecratory presence in Leviticus 9, from the sacrificial memorial of the grain offering, so Jesus promised his presence at the last supper when he commanded us to do it "as a memorial of me." That is, by offering up bread and wine, blessing them, and thereby calling down God's fiery blessing, he remembers us, sends down his blessing, and so enables us to eat his risen body, bread from heaven (John 6,53); and [his everflowing Spiritual blood, John 19,34, Isaiah52,15] his risen "blood."
Oh these invisible Spiritual realities help us remember all his mercies, and that he lives inside us, and makes us hungry at the table to share his heavenly and kingdom portion!
A Faithful Memorial or Spiritual Sacrifice Opens Our Faith To Real Food And Drink
When we experience this mutual memorial and the blessings of an actual Spiritual communion with him (1Corinthians10,16), we are not shy to claim and understand that today we shared Spiritual food and drink, real food and drink (1Corinthians10,3-4), miraculous food and drink, by the responsive blessing of God and his memory of our ongoing hunger and thirst for His righteousness and His strength and His kingdom.
For a short video of the supper:
If you or your church would like coaching as to a revived and biblically based Lord's supper, please feel free to contact us.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...