Archive for June, 2015

The Core of the Distinction Between the Passover Seder and the Lord’s Supper: National Israel and the Assembly of Messiah Yeshua

 

Priests of the Temple Institute Training for the Passover

Priests of the Temple Institute Training for the Passover

The core of the distinction between the Passover Seder and the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, is the distinction between the Assembly of Messiah and national Israel. Although the Assembly of Messiah is part of national Israel — it is composed of the faithful remnant of Israel and believers from the nations attaching themselves to it — the two are not simply identical. To Israel as a people or nation one belongs first and foremost by natural birth. Who is born a Jew ipso facto belongs to the people of Israel. No one, however, belongs to the Assembly of Messiah by natural birth but only by virtue of the supernatural rebirth of faith. For that reason the Assembly of Messiah is a community of believers and one enters this community by a confession of faith. A person publicly confesses this faith by being baptized in Messiah’s name. Through faith and Baptism one is incorporated into the faithful remnant or the messianic part of the nation of Israel. Hence faith and Baptism are necessary for everyone, Jew and non-Jew, to belong to the Assembly of Messiah. This Assembly is thus a subset of Israel, to which believers from the nations are added.

Those who identify the Lord’s Supper with the Passover Seder confuse the order of faith and supernatural rebirth with the order of nationality and natural birth. It should be obvious that celebrating the Lord’s Supper is the duty and privilege of only those who belong to Yeshua by acknowledging him as Lord and Messiah, and consequently are part of his Assembly. These are the baptized and non-excommunicated believers. Celebrating the Passover Seder, however, is the duty and privilege of everyone who belongs to Israel: this includes all Jews, whether or not they personally believe in Yeshua. Unbaptized children of Messianic Jews, for example, are, like all Jewish children, permitted to participate in the Passover Seder. But unbaptized children and unbaptized persons in general, whether they are Jewish or not, are prohibited from participating in the Lord’s Supper. The Apostle Paul says that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper expresses the unity of the Assembly of Messiah. The many who are eating of the one bread are one Mystical Body (I Cor. 10:17).

Due to the fundamental difference between these two statutes it is reasonable to assume that Yeshua didn’t institute the Eucharist during the celebration of the Passover Seder. An important indicator to this is the fact that Yeshua designated the bread he broke as symbolizing his sacrified body and the wine of the cup after the supper as symbolizing his sacrificial blood. If the Last Supper had been a Passover Seder, however, Yeshua could simply have pointed to the Passover lamb, the Korban Pesach, as the symbol of his body. The blood of this lamb, outpoured at the altar, in that case would have symbolized Yeshua’s sacrificial blood. For why would Yeshua introduce another set of symbols if the ones instituted by the Torah were already at hand?

The Korban Pesach sacrificed in the Temple is indeed a sign of Yeshua’s sacrifice, of his body and blood. In the Millennial Kingdom the Temple will again be functioning and Yeshua’s sacrificial death will be commemorated and celebrated with the required Korban Pesach by all the nation of Israel. At that time Yeshua will openly appear as King Messiah and everyone will have to profess him obedience. This public position of our Messiah as King of Israel, however, differs from his position as head of his Assembly, the Mystical Body. In the Kingdom of the Millennium there will be no Mystical Body, that is to say a special congregation of believers in Yeshua. Persons born during the Millennium will be part of the messianic kingdom from the outset and thus be subjects of King Yeshua. All will have to obey him, without a possibility of choice and regardless of having true faith. Concerning external obedience there will be no longer a distinction between believers and unbelievers. Forming a special congregation of believers will then just be meaningless. For the same reasons, to baptize someone in the name of Yeshua, or celebrate the Eucharist, the defining rites of the Assembly of Messiah, will make no sense anymore.

Nevertheless, during the Millennium as well as in any other period of history there will be both believers and unbelievers on earth. There will be people who will open up their hearts to Yeshua during this time of his reign and there will be those who will refuse. Outright unbelievers, who openly and rebelliously refuse obedience, however, will be removed from the scene by the death penalty. The Kingdom Age will be a theocracy.

The reason why Baptism and the Lord’s Supper will find no place in the Millennium is thus made clear. If they would be maintained, they would become compulsory ordinances enforced upon everyone. However, this would be contrary to their very essence of being instituted for believers only and constituting the community of the believing remnant. The Mystical Body consists only of those who are baptized by their own free will, by reason of their faith in Yeshua, and hence are permitted to partake of the Eucharist, which expresses, maintains and strenghtens the bond of this Body of the faithful.

Now it also clear that the national statutes of Israel, such as the Passover Seder, will remain during the Millennium. For Messiah Yeshua is indeed the King of Israel. He will restore Israel’s national statutes and bring them to their highest perfection. The Passover Seder will be enriched with the fullness of messianic meanings that are today not recognized by Orthodox Judaism. Its celebration will be a solemn and public confession and proclamation of Yeshua’s sacrifice on the Cross. Yeshua’s sacrifice will be recognized and confessed as the foundation of Israel’s national restoration. For all who have true faith this will result in their sharing the gift of spiritual rebirth and eternal life. For non-believers the fruits will be limited to the temporal blessings they’ll receive while living in the Kingdom.

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The Theological Distinction between the Lord’s Supper and the Passover Seder

 

One Bread, One Body

One Bread, One Body

The distinction between the Lord’s Supper (or Eucharist) and the Passover Seder is of theological significance. These two meals should not be identified, because they have a different function and meaning. The Passover Seder is a national celebration of all Israel; the Supper of the Lord is an exclusive celebration of Yeshua’s Assembly, his mystical body. The Passover Seder is basically tied to the Temple. Its main ingredient is the Passover lamb or Korban Pesach, which can only lawfully be eaten within the boundaries of Jerusalem in a state of levitical purity; the Supper of Yeshua requires no Levitical purity and can be held anywhere.

The Passover is held only once a year. The lamb is to be slaughtered on the 14th of Nisan shortly before sundown and it is to be consumed in the night immediately following. The Lord’s Supper is not tied to particular dates. The Passover Seder is celebrated since its establishment in Egypt until the end of the world, as an everlasting statute of HaShem. The Lord’s Supper is celebrated since its establishment in the night when Yeshua was betrayed (I Cor. 11:23) until the day of his Second Coming (I Cor. 11:26). In the Kingdom of the Millennium this Supper will no longer be observed, the Passover Seder, however, will. It will be fully restored, and the Passover lambs will again be slaughtered in the Temple court (cf. Ez. 45:21).

The Lord’s Supper or Eucharist is thus a distinctive celebration of the Assembly of Messiah, the mystical body. National Israel as a whole is never called the Body of Messiah.

The Chronological Place of the Lord’s Supper in Connection with the Passover Seder: A Liturgical Argument

 

Bedikat Chametz

Bedikat Chametz

Some messianic congregations have the custom to commemorate the institution of the Lord’s Supper, which is also called Eucharist (i.e. thanksgiving), on the evening of Bedikat Chametz, which starts on 14 Nisan — or 13 Nisan, if the 14th falls on a Shabbat. This is the evening prior to the Seder. Others celebrate the institution of this Supper at the Passover Seder. Although choosing between these two liturgical and calendrical options may seem complicated, because there’s an ongoing scholarly debate on the question whether the Last Supper was a Passover Seder or not, yet I think that the problem of the commemoration of its institution can be easily solved if one considers the liturgical context of Passover, the feast of the Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMazot) and the Omer count.

While the custom to celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper isn’t based on a direct commandment of Yeshua or the Apostles, it well fits in the entire observance of Passover, and the memorial of our Lord’s death and resurrection which is closely connected to it. On the 10th of Nisan — or the 11th if the 10th happens to be a Shabbat  — we remember Yeshua’s entry into Jerusalem by waiving palm branches during Shacharit. A few days later follows the evening of Bedikat Chametz, which is full of deep messianic symbolism.

At the beginning of halachic ‘night’, we search for chametz by the light of a candle (symbol of the Torah or the word of G’d). We wipe the last crumbs with a dove’s feather (symbol of the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh)) on a wooden spoon (symbol of the Cross), binding them together in a linen cloth (symbolizing Yeshua’s priesthood) and set it aside for the ceremonial burning of chametz (Biur Chametz), the next morning. It seems thus very fitting and reasonable to celebrate the institution of the Supper of Yeshua during or after the Maariv service of this evening.

The next morning, after Shacharit, the collected chametz from the previous night is burned (Biur Chametz, symbol of the crucifixion). The commemoration of Yeshua’s passion, death and burial are concluded with the Minchah service of that same day. Shortly thereafter the solemn celebration of Passover starts with Kabbalat Yom Tov and the Maariv service, which anticipate the Seder.

During the Seder Messiah’s death and passion are mainly considered or remembered for their redemptive results or effects.

This short outline shows that the celebration of the institution of Yeshua’s Supper fits entirely into the observances immediately preceding and anticipating the Passover Seder.

The remembrance of Yeshua’s resurrection is closely connected to this liturgical schedule and starts with an extended Havdalah ceremony after the weekly Shabbat of the Passover week. The day of the resurrection thus always falls on the first Sunday after the 14th of Nisan. That day is the starting point of the Omer count, which lasts until the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) and marks a festive period of fifty consecutive days.

By reason of these considerations the commemoration of the Last Supper should be properly distinguished from the Seder. It simply doesn’t fit liturgically to celebrate its institution during the Seder night, and this is an important indication that it wasn’t instituted in that night, but probably in the night preceding. This in accordance with the chronology of the Gospel of John, which says that Yeshua was crucified on the Preparation Day of the Passover, the day the Passover lambs were slaughtered.

Congregations which celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper at the Passover Seder face the awkward consequence that they have to commemorate Yeshua’s passion and death on 15 Nisan, the feast day of the Unleavened Bread. Doing so, however, heavily conflicts with the mood of this day, which celebrates the Exodus from Egypt and thus the end of Israel’s sufferings. This is an important reason why it should also liturgically mark the end of Messiah’s sufferings. It should be considered incompatible with its atmosphere to commemorate Yeshua’s suffering and death during the Shacharit and Minchah services of the feast day itself. A feast day is not a proper occasion to display a mood of mourning or affliction (cf. Nehemiah 8:9).