Holy Communion – 6

§ 3 The Lord’s Supper as an Event within Covenant/Salvation History

3.1 The inauguration of the new ‘covenant’ in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The antecedents of the Lord’s Supper can be located in the history of redemption as portrayed through Israel:

i. the Passover meal (Passover Haggadah) with its commemoration of the exodus from Egypt, with its meal of unleavened bread;

ii. the assimilation of the covenant meal (Kiddush) at Mt. Sinai which took account of the mighty events of Israel’s redemption to the Passover, with the addition of the rite of sanctification using a cup of wine (Exod 24:11);

iii. the rite of thanksgiving (Chaburah meal), or blessing, along with the breaking of bread at the start of the meal along with the cup of wine at the end.[1]

Jesus seems self‑consciously to draw these elements together in his own identification with the messianic implications of these rites.

Jesus must have followed the Jewish custom of passing round a cup of wine in token of thanksgiving to God; but before that was done, a piece of bread and a cup of wine were set aside for the Messiah in case He should suddenly come to His own in the midst of the feast. Then at the end of the meal, fully charged with pascal and covenantal significance, Jesus took the bread and wine set aside for the Messiah, and said, ‘This is my body broken for you. This is my blood which is shed for you.’ By breaking the bread and giving it to the disciples, by passing round the cup, He associated them with His sacrifice, giving their existence in relation to Himself a new form in the Kingdom of God, indeed constituting them as the Church concorporate with Himself.[2]

[1] Cf. Torrance, Conflict, 134‑5.

[2] Torrance, Conflict, 170.

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