1 The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Congregation: “purify yourselves from the old ferment, that you may be new dough; you have to be unleavened breads because Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed. Hence, celebrate the feast, not with old yeast or leaven of evil, which is a wicked disposition, but with non-fermented breads of sincerity and truth”. (1Corinthians 5:7..8)
These words remind the disciples, that while the first Passover meant for Israel a deliverance from their slavery in Egypt and the opportunity, through the Covenant mediated by Moses, of a new life on the promised land under the blessings of God, Christ, our Passover, means for all who put faith in his words, a deliverance from slavery to sin and death, and the opportunity, through the New Covenant of the Faith he mediated, of a new everlasting life in God’s kingdom.
2 From the days of Moses, the Passover was for the people of Israel a solemn celebration, intended to commemorate the salvation of their firstborn sons through the blood of the lamb sacrificed before their exodus from Egypt.
In the book of Exodus we read: “In the land of Egypt, Yahúh spoke to Moses and to Aaron to tell them: This month will be for you the beginning of months, the first of the year. Then you must say to the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month, every family head must take a lamb, one for each family... you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the month, and in the afternoon, the whole congregation of Israel must sacrifice it and they shall take the blood, and strike it on the two posts and the upper door post of all the houses wherein they shall eat it.
And they shall eat the flesh on that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread, and they shall eat it with the bitter herbs ... and thus you shall eat it, with your waist girded, sandals on your feet and staff in your hand, and you will eat it hastily, it is the Passover of Yahúh. Because I will pass that night in the land of Egypt, and I will strike every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from human and from beast; and on all the gods of Egypt will execute judgment, I Yahúh. Then the blood will be a sign on the houses where you are, and seeing the blood, I will pass over you and there shall not come to a stroke on you to cause ruin when I strike in the land of Egypt. And this day will be for you a memorial day, and you will observe it as a celebration to Yahúh. Throughout your generations shall you celebrate it as an everlasting statute”. (Exodus 12:1..14)
3 The salvation of the firstborn of Israel through the blood of the sacrificed lamb was the result of the faith shown by the Israelites in God's instructions through Moses. Since then, the people of Israel had to commemorate every year, the wonderful liberation provided by God. The roasted lamb, the unleavened bread and the bitter herbs should remind them the hasty exodus from Egypt of their fathers.
Paul declares that “the law has only a shadow of good things to come, not the reality of these things”, (Hebrews 10:1) and for this reason, “all these things foreshadowed the events to come, but the reality is Christ”. (Colossians 2:17)
It was therefore important that the people of Israel could remember from generation to generation, the way in which God had released them from death and slavery through the blood of the lamb sacrificed in the first Passover, because these things announced to them a greater salvation: the redemption of mankind from death, made available to all men through Jesus, the Lamb of God. John writes that during his revelation, he heard voices in heaven, that praising Christ, said: “you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation”; and he heard the voice of many angels... saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing”. (Revelation 5:9..12)
4 In regard to the prophetic figure of the Passover, we note that the days of the Jewish calendar are counted from evening to evening; the day begins at sunset and ends on the following evening, with the sunset. For this reason the Law states that the lamb was to be sacrificed and prepared between the two evenings, that is, between the evening of the thirteenth day and the evening of the fourteenth day of the month of Nisan.
The fourteenth day happened to be called the “parasceve” day, a term referring to the preparation of the lamb; because if it is true that the celebration of the Passover commemorates the exodus from Egypt, in fact, the festivity was essentially linked to the lamb that was sacrificed and prepared during the fourteenth day, and eaten after sunset, at the beginning the fifteenth day of Nisan.
However, the apostles celebrated the last Passover that Jesus shared with them, after the sunset on the thirteenth, and therefore early on the fourteenth day the month of Nisan, the day of the preparation of the lamb, and twenty four hours before the Jewish Passover, but this could not be otherwise, because as it had been foreshadowed for so many years, on the day of the parasceve and the sacrifice of the lamb, Jesus, the Lamb of God, was arrested, tried and sacrificed between the two evenings.
5 In the Gospel of Matthew we read: “On the day before the unleavened breads, the disciples went to Jesus and asked him: Where would you like us to prepare the Passover?” (Matthew 26:17) (The days of the unleavened breads began on the fourteenth day with the preparation of lamb, and lasted seven days)
Now, some translations pour the words “Tê de prôtê tôn azumôn” as “on the first day of unleavened bread”, however, the word prôtê, nominative of prôtos, is accompanied by the genitive article tôn, and by the substantive azumôn, also in the genitive case, as a result, its context does not express an ordinal number, but a precedence or priority. Translated literally, the phrase says: “and the before of the unleaveneds”, therefore it should be properly translated as “And the day before the unleavened breads”, in harmony with John's account of the facts.
He wrote: “they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium. It was then dawn, and they (the Jews) did not entered into the Praetorium not to be defiled, but may be eating the Passover” (John 18:28)
So after the anticipated celebration, Jesus was brought before Caiaphas, and at dawn of the fourteenth day was presented to Pilate. While all these things were happening, the Jews were preparing the lamb that was to be sacrificed and eaten after sunset, at the beginning the fifteenth day, the day of the Passover celebration.
6 Eusebius of Caesarea, Christian historian who lived between the third and fourth centuries, argues: “the Savior did not celebrate the Passover with the Jews ... They celebrated the Parasceve (preparation of lamb) on the day the Savior suffered his passion...” and “they did not eat the Passover on that evening, because if they had eaten it, they would have refrained from pursuing him” (out of respect for the purifications prior to the Passover). Immediately after taking him, they led him to Caiaphas, where he spent the night, and at daybreak, they came together and tried him for the first time. After that, they arose and with the crowd, and brought him before Pilate. But Scripture says that they did not enter the Pretorius not be defiled, as they believed, under one heathen roof... and be able to eat the Passover at nightfall... yet our Saviour had commemorated that celebration so desired by him, not then (since he died that afternoon), but the day before, sitting at the table with his disciples”. (De Solemnitate Paschali, Eusebius of Caesarea)
John writes: “In the day of the parasceve (or preparation), about the sixth hour (noon) Pilate said to the Jews: Here is your King”, (John 19:14) and during this fourteenth day of Nisan, Jesus was condemned and crucified, and died at the ninth hour, (three in the afternoon), while the Jews sacrificed and prepared the lamb they should eat at night, at the beginning of the fifteenth day of Nisan.
Jesus said to his followers: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law and the Prophets: I came not to destroy them but to fulfill them”. (Matthew 5:17) And indeed, he fulfilled the sacrifice symbolized by the Passover lamb, and established the New Covenant that the prophets anticipated, a covenant between God and those who put faith in the salvation provided by his son, those who Paul calls the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:15..16)
7 Centuries before these events, Jeremiah proclaimed this new Covenant, saying: “Behold! In times to come”, is the declaration of Yahúh, “I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, but not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day I seized them by hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, I was their owner and they annulled my covenant”, is the declaration of Yahúh. “And this is the covenant that I will close with the house of Israel after these days”, is the declaration of Yahúh, “I will put my law within them and I will write it in their hearts, then I will be their God and they will become my people. And they shall no longer teach their neighbors and their brothers, saying, “acknowledge Yahúh”, since they will all know me, from the smallest to the greatest of them”, is the declaration of Yahúh, “then I shall forgive their iniquity and I will not remember their sins”. (Jeremiah 31:31..34)
And speaking about this prophecy, Paul concludes: “when he speaks of a new Covenant, he declares obsolete the former, and what is obsolete is old and ready to disappear”. (Hebrews 8:13)
8 In his last supper, 24 hours earlier than the celebration meal of the Jewish Passover, Jesus told his apostles to gather in order to share his teachings with the disciples, and to recall his death until his return by sharing the bread, and by drinking the wine that symbolized the blood that sealed the New Covenant with God.
Matthew writes: “When we were still eating, Jesus took the bread and after the blessing, broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying: Take it and eat, because this is my body. He also took a cup, and after giving thanks, passed it and said: All of you drink from it because this is my blood of the covenant, which must be shed in favor of many for the forgiveness of sins”. (Matthew 26 :26..28)
Matthew's Gospel, originally written in Aramaic and then translated into Greek, uses herein the Greek word “estì” that literally means “is”, the words of Jesus must then be translated as: “this is my body” and “this is my blood”. This translation harmonizes with the other accounts of the Lord's Supper that we may find in Scripture, but this does not mean that the bread and the wine become materially flesh and blood, however, after blessing, the bread and the wine are indeed considered by God as the body and the blood of Christ, and he who participates in them unworthily or without due respect, commits an offense against the Lord.
Paul writes: “he who eats the bread or drinks the cup without being in a proper condition commits an offense against the body and blood of the Lord. First let each one examine himself, and then eat the bread and drink the cup, because he who is eating and drinking, eats and drinks a judgment against himself if he considers the body as of little value, and for this reason, many among you are weak and discouraged, and some seem to be dead”. (1 Corinthians 11:27..30)
9 The partaking of the bread and the wine is a remembrance that kindles our hope in the promises of God, it reminds us that through the faith in the redemption performed by his son, we may reach justification, and this means we may enjoy the everlasting life Christ won for mankind, and the benefits of his reign when the kingdom of heaven will be established.
Jesus told those who were with him on his last supper: “From now on I will not drink the juice of the vine, until I drink it with you again in the kingdom of my Father”, (Matthew 26:29 and: “Do this in remembrance of me”; “every time you eat bread and drink the cup, you are remembering the Lord's death until he comes”. (1 Corinthians 11:26) Notice that even if some churches believe they should only partake the bread and the wine once a year, on the 15th of Nisan, the day of the Jewish Passover, Jesus did not introduce ceremonies or specific days for it.
10 Several examples support this statement: Paul reproves the Corinthians for the way they behave when they gather to share the bread in the first day of each week, and says, “when all of you gather, what you do is not a partaking in the Lord's Supper, because when you sit at table, each one of you hastens to eat his own supplies, so while one fasts, another is satisfied” (1 Corinthians 11:17..22)
We may find one even more explicit in the Acts, where Luke recounts: “after the days of unleavened bread, (the seven days of Passover) we sailed away from Philippi, and after five days, we joined them (the disciples) in Troy, where we stayed seven days. On the first day of the week, while we were together for the fraction of the bread” (Acts 20:6..7)
These words prove beyond doubt that several days after the celebration of the Passover, the disciples gathered for the fraction of the bread. It is true that at least in one version of the Bible, we may find that in this verse, the Greek words “klasai arton” are translated “a meal”, when the literal meaning is “fraction of bread”. The substitution of terms is mentioned in a footnote, but the misleading translation distorts the meaning of Luke’s words. It is absolutely clear that he says that the disciples were assembled for the fraction of the bread on the first day of the week, many days after the date of the death of Jesus and of the Jewish Passover.
11 The writer known as Justin Martyr, described in the year 165 the habits of the Christian congregations, and on the 67th book of his Apology, he writes: “On the day called “of the sun” (the first day of the week, later named Lord's Day and Sunday) all who live in the cities or in the fields, gather in one same place, then the letters of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. And when the reader finishes, he who presides exhorts and urges by word to the imitation of these exalted things. Then we all get up and pray, and... when we finish praying, the bread and the wine are presented”. This account is consistent with the things written by Luke, and confirms that from the very beginning, Jesus' disciples held their meetings weekly, and all of them participated from the bread and the wine, the body and the blood of Jesus, because “Christ gave Himself as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, but not only for ours, also for those of everyone”, (1 John 2:2) and through him, all men can benefit from the “hope of the eternal life promised in ancient times by the God who cannot lie”. (Titus 1:1..2)
12 These things must be a pattern for the congregation of those who nowadays want to follow Christ and “worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23) because as Paul says, “Christ the same yesterday, today and forever, so do not be misled by different stories and teachings”. (Hebrews 13:8..9) It is essential to stay in the teaching we received from the apostles, avoiding the additions that may distort its true meaning, and when we gather, encourage each other to maintain “without hesitation the hope we profess, for he who made us the promise is faithful”. Let us “incite one another to love and fine works” while we “contemplate how the Day approaches”. (Hebrews 10:23..25)
When the Disciples of Christ share the same bread, they show to be sharing the same hope, the hope that redemption made possible for mankind, and means life everlasting and “a new heavens and a new earth where justice will reign”. (2 Peter 3:13)