Over the years, there has often been a fascination with the Christian celebration of communion. Early on, those not familiar with Christianity would hear of this celebration and hearing about the bread being the body and the wine being the blood drew the conclusion that Christians were in fact cannibals. This conclusion is in fact far from the truth. The celebration of communion, which goes by many names including Eucharist and breaking of bread has its roots in the Passover feast and represents a time of celebration for having been set free from bondage.
The origins of the Passover feast is in itself an incredible story. You can read about it in the book of Exodus chapter 12 from your Bible in the Old Testament. At the time, the Jews were being held in slavery by the Egyptians. The number of Jews had increased greatly and as the numbers increased the oppression over the Jews grew heavier. Eventually God called Moses to free his people. The move towards freedom begins with a series of plagues the last of which is the death of the every firstborn. To protect against this last plague, every household was to take a one year old unblemished lamb and kill it. They were to feast on it that night, and the blood of that lamb would be a sign so that when to Lord when the final plague came that house would be spared death. Over the years, the meal while still remembered in this context is often remembered in the larger context of Israel gaining its freedom from slavery. The meal represents that point at which the Jews finally were set free from bondage.
With the knowledge of how the Passover got its origins, we can begin to better understand this whole celebration of communion. The last supper, where Jesus sat down to celebrate the Passover is what eventually becomes the Christian communion celebration. Perhaps some of you know this story. Jesus having traveled all around Galilee and now having traveled to Jerusalem prepares to celebrate for the Passover. He makes sure that everything is arranged. He arranges for a party room for all his friends, and all the necessary food and drink. Then at the time of the meal, he shares with them about the future, and talks about he is the bread and that the wine is His blood. For some this may be confusing, but his words were rooted in symbolism. What Jesus was saying was that he was the sacrificial lamb.
So while the people of Israel in sacrificing a lamb would experience freedom from that last plague and ultimately freedom from the bondage of slavery, so also those who choose to follow Jesus, those who receive Him as their sacrificial lamb, would also enjoy freedom from bondage, freedom from the penalty of sin.
In my life as a Pastor, I meet a lot of people who are in bondage. Just a couple of weeks ago I personally met a lady who had literally been held hostage for over a year. Most of those I meet are hostage to alcohol or drugs. Some are held hostage to the feelings of guilt or shame due to some past traumatic event. Some are held hostage by their feelings of anger towards some person. In fact unresolved anger can be a terrible plague in a persons life. It can turn into bitterness and wreak all kinds of havoc. All of us to one degree or another are hostage to sin. Once sin gets into our lives it can really consume us.
This is where the beauty of what Jesus did comes into play. He chose to become a sacrificial lamb. So that any who would seek shelter under his sacrifice would find forgiveness of sins, and freedom from the consequence of sin. So the next time you are in a church, or you see that practice of people passing around bread and wine, know that it has huge personal spiritual significance for those people. It is a time for them to remember and celebrate how they have gone from bondage to freedom. From being held hostage to sin to enjoying a life of hope.