Barry Newman's Blog

May 26, 2010

Christ Centred Communion – Further Thoughts (part V)

Filed under: Christ Centred Communion — barrynewman @ 10:59 pm

Do this in remembrance of me – Luke 22: 19

Recapping

In the previous blog series, “Christ Centred Communion” I maintained that Passover meals were essentially remembrance events and that Jesus in saying, “Do this in remembrance of me.” was indicating that in the Last Passover meal the remembrance event was to be understood in a new way.  In past Passover meals, Jews remembered God’s deliverance from slavery and the judgement meted out to the Egyptians who had enslaved them.  Now, the disciples of Jesus were to understand that by his death, they were to be delivered from the judgement of God upon them.  I also suggested that the description of the Last Passover meal pointed to the death of Jesus in a number of ways. I will elaborate upon these here. He referred to his body given “for you” and his blood poured out “for you”, as an indication of whom his death would benefit.  The separation of the references to his body and blood by the main course, reflective of body and blood separation at death, was suggestive of his death.  Finally, the main course, consisting of the Passover lamb sacrificed earlier in the day, bracketed by his two interpretative statements, could also be understood as a pointer to his death and the purpose of that death.  I also argued that the words of Jesus should be understood as a heart-felt request rather than as a severe command.  Furthermore I claimed that in all future Passover meal celebrations, the disciples could do nothing other than see in such meals remembrance events that focussed on the death of Jesus rather than on the Exodus event.  Of course, these Passover meals were once a year events.  I also maintained that as with circumcision, food laws and the observance of special days, there was no compulsion for either Jews or even Gentiles to participate in future Passover meals though they could if they wished to.

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2 Comments »

  1. This may be off topic to some extent, but you suggest that the eating of the bread and the drinking of the wine was separated by eating the Passover Lamb killed earlier in the day. If they were eating the Passover Lamb, and this was the night before Jesus died, then you are saying that Jesus did not die when Passover Lambs were killed, which ruins the symbolism to some extent. An alternative is that the Last Supper was not a meal where they ate the Passover Lamb, it was part of the whole Passover festival, but not that meal. Any comments?

    Comment by Andrew Amos — May 31, 2010 @ 9:45 pm | Reply

    • Andrew,

      You have raised some very interesting points. I think it is almost certain that in the time of Jesus, the Passover Lamb was sacrificed on the afternoon or thereabouts, prior to the beginning of Passover (a term which could be used to include the Passover meal or the whole of the week of unleavened bread including the Passover meal). The Passover meal was then eaten on the evening of that day, which by Jewish reckoning was the beginning of the next day. As you indicated, if Jesus was crucified some time later but on that day, he was not crucified on the same day as the day when the lamb had been sacrificed. Again, as you say, the symbolism of the death of Jesus, being as it were the Passover lamb, would have been lost to some extent. However some symbolism would have been gained. His words of remembrance, however they are to be understood, symbolically associate partaking of the meal (at least some bread and some wine)with his death. The Passover meal was a remembrance of God’s salvation in the past. Jesus, through the symbolism he attached to the bread and wine was proclaiming that God’s ultimate salvation event was to be gained through associating oneself with his death. You lose one symbolic association but gain another. Because the lamb was sacrificed on a different day to the day of the Passover meal which was held on the same day as his death, one can not have both symbolic elements present. By the way, we should keep in mind that the eating of the Passover lamb is not mentioned in the N.T. texts dealing with the Last Supper. Jesus may have made something of it but it is certainly not recorded for us.

      However you raise the possibility of another understanding, namely that “the Last Supper was not a meal where they ate the Passover meal”. This would actually mean that it was not in fact a Passover meal because it was at that meal, that the lamb was eaten. This position has been adopted by many. Their view is that whereas the Synoptic Gospels claim that it was a Passover meal, they were in error and only John is correct, his Gospel indicating that it was not a Passover meal. There have been many attempts to solve the problem in such a way that all four Gospels can be seen to be describing the Last Supper as the Passover meal. For what it is worth, I think all four Gospels can be understood to be in agreement and that the meal was indeed a Passover meal. Don Carson in his commentary on John’s Gospel deals with some of the theories and believes that that Gospel can be understood to be in agreement with the Synoptic Gospels and that the lLst Supper was indeed a Passover meal. (See pp. 455-458, 460, 589, 590, 603, 604, 622, 627 of his commentary). Carson indicates that some of the arguments for the Last Supper not being a Passover meal stem from the desire to have Jesus crucified on the same day as the slaying of the Passover meal. He rightly believes that the desire for a specific type of symbolism should not determine what actually happened and when. Hope these comments are of some interest.

      Comment by barrynewman — June 1, 2010 @ 3:40 am | Reply


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