In John Mark Hicks’ book, Enter the Water, Come to the Table, he rightly identifies the importance of Jesus’ life and ministry and how the gospel writers liken both to the Exodus event. When Jesus was born, his family was forced to flee to Egypt. Through the Father’s grace and intervention, he led Jesus up out of Egypt and back into the promised land. Like Moses who spent 40 days and nights on Sinai without food or water, Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. The gospel writers, and Luke especially, record Jesus’ “table ministry” and link these meals both to the Exodus event and to the Last Supper.
The feeding of the 5,000, the Last Supper, and the Sunday meal where the risen Jesus presents himself as the Christ are all linked in content and form. Jesus is host of both the feeding of the 5,000 and the Last Supper. As when God miraculously provided food for the Israelites in the wilderness, Jesus miraculously provided food for the 5,000. Luke clearly links all three meals together when he repeats the liturgical message, “Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it” (page 49).
In these meals, Jesus welcomes the crowds, feeds them, and proclaims the kingdom of heaven. Hicks says, “At table, Jesus receives sinners and confronts the righteous. At table, Jesus extends grace to seekers but condemns the self-righteous. Jesus eats with ‘others’ to introduce them to the kingdom. . . The table is missional, communal, and hospitable” (page 48).
Jesus is still present at his table, and he longs to recline with us as we participate and remember: “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer'” (Luke 22:14-15).
Each week we have the opportunity to commune together, breaking bread and drinking the fruit of the vine that represents Jesus’ blood that was poured out for us. Paul tells us that, when we take communion, we proclaim Christ’s death until he comes again. Jesus himself said to “do this in remembrance of me.”
When Jesus ate the last supper with his disciples, it was the Passover meal that they were celebrating. Jesus gave new meaning to the Passover meal, because he was now the lamb whose blood was poured out to rescue mankind. The Passover first appears in Exodus 12 when the Israelites were in Egypt. The tenth plague was that the firstborn of all people and animals in the land of Egypt would die. The only exception was for the Israelites who sacrificed a year old lamb or goat and painted their doorframes with blood. That night, God would “pass over” the houses with blood on the doorframe and the firstborns would be spared. They were to use unleavened bread and were told to eat this “last supper” in haste.
In this same story, God institutes the Passover–to be observed every year: “You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever” (Exodus 12:24 ESV). The Passover was to be celebrated both as a family (in the home) and as a congregation (all of Israel was to observe). And it was to participate in the Exodus event and instruct children: “And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped” (Exodus 12:26-27).
In order to understand the Lord’s Supper (communion), we need to understand Passover and how Jesus gave it new meaning under the new covenant. Each week we get to remember Christ’s broken body and the blood he shed to cover our sins and rescue us. And when our children ask “what is the purpose?” we get to teach them about Christ’s love for us!