“The Sacrament — Leaving Egypt and the World Behind”
By: Dave Hadlock
In Matthew 26:26-29, we find the institution of the rite that we refer to as the sacrament. I believe that as we understand the context in which it was initiated, we will better understand the meaning and purpose of the ritual.
In verse 17 Christ’s disciples approached him saying, “where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?” Christ then gave his disciples on instructions for finding a private location where they could partake of the Passover meal. It was during this Passover meal that Christ instituted as a sacred ordinance the sacrament. I believe it is the new law fulfillment of the Old Law Passover ritual. This article will examine the similarities between the ancient Mosaic law of the Passover and the New Testament sacrament.
1) New Creation — As the Lord prepared Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, the Lord spake unto Moses saying, “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you”. The Passover feast was celebrated at the first of the year. That is the time in which all things are created anew. Similarly, the sacrament is partaken the first day of the week, representing the idea that by partaking of the sacrament, there is a new creation…old things are done away with.
2) Blood of the Lamb — As the Lord was preparing the Israelites to escape from bondage, He commanded them to “take to them every man a lamb.” This lamb was to be kept until “the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening”. Then they were to take the blood of the lamb and “strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses.” (Exodus 12:3-7). Later that night when the Lord passed through the land of Egypt, he would smite all the firstborn in the land, “and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you.” (Exodus 12:13)
During the last supper, Passover feast, Christ took a cup, “gave thanks and gave it to them, saying Drink ye all of it; For this is the blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins”. (Matthew 26:27) The wine of the last supper was instituted as a fulfillment of the blood on the posts. By partaking of the wine/water of the sacrament, they disciples would have understand that the blood of the Passover lamb was protecting them from the destroying angel. The death of the Firstborn Lamb, Christ, protects from eternal destruction all those who symbolically partake of his blood.
3) Unleavened Bread — After spreading the blood of the lamb on the door posts, the Israelites were instructed to eat unleavened bread with bitter herbs, “with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste.” (Exodus 12:8-12) The unleavened bread was prepared so that they could eat quickly and escape. They were to eat of the unleavened bread for seven days as they fled into the wilderness. The bitter herbs spoke to the bitter nature of their bondage to the Egyptians and the bitter nature of sin. The leavening agent would have typically been a lump of the dough from the previous batch of bread. This dough would then be added to the new bread to make it rise.
The eating of unleavened bread had a practical and a doctrinal purpose. The practical purpose for partaking of unleavened bread was that it would require less preparation time allowing them to leave at a moments notice. However, Jehovah was also trying to teach them a deeper underling principle by forbidding the use of leaven. The prohibition would have suggested to the Israelites the need to distance themselves from the corrupting practices of the Egyptians. The leavened dough was the belief system in which they had been indoctrinated during their time in bondage. Christ taught that leaven in His time represented the false belief systems of the Pharisees. By not leavening their bread, the Israelites were being instructed to leave behind the false beliefs and practices of the Egyptians. They were to leave the corrupted leaven behind, hopefully never to return to them.
The sacrament bread was the New Testament fulfillment of the unleavened bread. Jesus blessed the bread, broke it and then said to his disciples, “Take, eat; this is my body”. Christ is the Bread of Life. In a sense, He is the uncorrupted/unleavened bread. Like the ancient Israelites partaking of the unleavened bread, when we partake of the sacrament bread, we are promising to leave Egypt, its practices and its doctrines behind. It is His broken body represented on the sacrament table.
By applying the blood of the lamb to their doors and partaking of the unleavened bread, the ancient Israelites were freed from the bitter bondage to the Egyptians. They were born again as new creatures, a peculiar treasure…an holy nation. Likewise, as we partake of the bread and water of the sacrament, we are freed from the bitter bondage of sin. Christ partook of the bitter cup so that we do not have to. He gave us the sweet sacrament cup in replacement of the bitter cup of sin. By partaking of the cup, We (like the ancient Israelites) promise to leave the world (Egypt) behind and to become new creatures, sanctified and pure. The ability to leave the world behind is only possible through the blood and body of Christ, the Lamb of God…the true Bread of Life.