Lord Jesus knowing all that He was about to do for redemption of mankind from the clutches of sin and the devil, celebrated the Passover with the disciples. Shortly thereafter all past, present and future sins of all of mankind were transferred to the Lamb of God and through faith we received salvation. We were restored to the blessed state of being children of God and the right to be in His Divine presence being sinners forgiven through the shed blood of the Lord. We were also provided access to the Table of abundant merciful blessings, both spiritual and material, from the LORD God.
Why was Holy Communion started? Holy Communion is the entry ticket to God’s table of bounties that He sets up for His called. The Creator God met Adam and Eve in the garden everyday ‘in the cool of the day’, in the evening, after they had finished their task of the day (Genesis 3:8). The purpose of this meeting was threefold; first, to enable them to know God and His ways and live accordingly; second, to get feedback about their work ‘to tending and keep the Garden’ of God and to strengthen and help them plan for the next day and finally, to bless them with the choicest fruits of the garden. Lord’s Table was thus set up first in the Garden where spiritual and material food was given. After their expulsion from the Garden due to sin, they lost the right to the Table but God in His Divine mercy still permitted them access to Himself, though they could not see God. The veil that was in the Tabernacle represented this separation.
This fellowship with God is represented by the Greek word ‘koinonia’ in the New Testament. It is derived from ‘koinos’ which literally means common. Thus those who have a fellowship with one another, share the same resources and responsibilities. It reaches overwhelming proportions when we apply this to the relationship of all believers with God the Father, God the Son and God the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thus the resources with each one is for the benefit of others for such is the grace of our LORD God and His Son. Lord Jesus as our Savior then helps us to do all that we do in a better way for we share our life with Him and He with us. This is the basic purpose of the Holy Communion and we like the lame Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9:9-10) get all that was lost along with the right to be at the table of the King of kings.
Abram was chosen by God to be the source through whom His Divine glory was to be revealed to the rest of the world (Genesis 12:2-3). He and his descendents were chosen to be the channel of God’s blessings and redemption for all the ‘families of the earth’. This provided a special right of access to God for him and his descendents. This special status was to be pronounced before Pharaoh by Moses, ‘Thus says the LORD: ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn’ (Exodus 4:22). It was this status that brought in the blessing of ‘bread from heaven’ on them in the wilderness, the manna every day, except on the day of Sabbath, for forty years (Exodus 16:4-5). They could eat from the Lord’s table everyday and this stopped only after they entered the Promised Land, after crossing the Jordan River.
Before the last plague of death of the firstborn of Egyptians, of both man and beast, The LORD God commanded Moses to choose a male lamb without blemish of the first year of the sheep or a goat (Exodus 12:5 – 11). After killing the lamb at ‘twilight’, when the sun is inclined towards setting, its blood was to be applied ‘on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses’ as a sign of remembrance. The eating of the flesh of the lamb was after roasting in fire, as a pointer to the fire of suffering (Hebrews 2:10) of the Lord Jesus for His perfection as a Man on our behalf; and with bitter herbs, representing the bitterness of His rejection and trial by His very own. It was to be consumed whole for we cannot accept the Son of God in parts as per our choice or liking. ‘It is the LORD’s Passover’ for the LORD God provided this escape route from death to the Israelites, so that ‘when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt’.
God provided the signs of redemption of His people through two signs, first, command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, ‘your only son, whom you love’ on Moriah mountain range (Genesis 22:2) and this coincides with the declaration of God from heaven about Lord Jesus being ‘My beloved Son’, recognized by John the Baptist as ‘Lamb of God’ (Matthew 3:17). God restrained Abraham’s hand, to save Isaac but allowed His own Son to become the Passover Lamb to save us from death to give us eternal life. The system of offering sacrifices continued throughout till the coming of Lord Jesus to be the Perfect Sacrifice for our sins. The second, was through the command to Moses before the Israelites were led out of Egypt. Abraham received the right to the presence of God and to be called ‘the friend of God’ (Isaiah 41:8 & James 2:23).
The Passover Lamb was to be eaten in a state of absolute readiness, ‘with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand’ to move out from slavery to freedom and the Promised Land (Exodus 12:11). The Holy Communion is our entry into the Heavenly Kingdom and (1 Corinthians 10:21) to partake from the Lord’s Table here on earth as well as eventually in heaven.
Passover is of the LORD for ‘Indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us’ (1 Corinthians 5:7). He became man to bond with humanity and then suffer for us as our replacement. His redemption is for everyone and not for a particular community or group of people. He was unblemished and perfect being sinless and without any moral or spiritual spot. He poured out His life through His blood as atonement for our sins. God’s fire of His judgment and wrath touched Him for us for our consumption. Receiving Him is the onset of freedom and new life to a believer.
The right way to examine oneself – Apostle Paul warns about participation in an unworthy manner and thus being found guilty and emphasizes the need for self examination. This examination is twofold before we get to the Lord’s presence and His table. Moses approached the Burning Bush that was not consumed, and received a warning to first ‘Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground’ (Exodus 3:1-5). Lord Jesus, while sending the disciples with all power over unclean spirits to carry on the work of God’s kingdom, cautioned them to ‘shake off the dust from your feet’ while leaving a city, a house or people who reject their message (Matthew 10:14). The intent in both instances was to disassociate with the doctrine of the surrounding region and of past life before entering into God’s holy presence. Moses was the son-in-law of Jethro, the Midian High Priest and had been with the family for forty years and had to first discard that belief system. The disciples, in like manner, were to reject the unbelievers’ faith before proceeding further for the Lord’s work.
Why were the disciples’ feet washed by Lord Jesus – Just before offering the bread and wine as His body and blood to the disciples, Lord Jesus washed the disciples’ feet )John 13:13:5-11 & 27). On being questioned by Apostle Peter, He told, ‘ If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me’ and the Apostle then sought cleansing of his hands and his head also. But the Lord told him, ‘He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean’ but that not all of you are clean. Reference to bathing is about baptism in water after confession of sins and repentance, whereby the old linkage to sinful living is discarded and one surrenders to the ways of the heavenly kingdom. Lord Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet was about helping them discard the ideals and lifestyle of this world, the dust that was sticking to their feet, for without that we cannot work for Him.
One has to let go of the old ways of life to walk on the path of righteousness of the Lord. Since Judas Iscariot had not left his old ways, the moment he took the piece of bread from the Lord, Satan entered him for the sacred bread, representing the holy body of Christ, exposed his heart, allowing the devil easy access (John 13:27).
Prophet Isaiah cried out on seeing the presence of the LORD on His throne in the Temple, ‘I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips’ (Isaiah 6:5 -7). One of the Seraphim touched the Prophet’s lips with a burning coal, ‘which he had taken with tongs from the altar’. He then declared for Isaiah, ‘your inequity is taken away, and your sin purged’ thus enabling him to be ready for God’s assignment. Apostle Paul teaches us to ‘believe with the heart unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation’ (Romans 10:9 –10). Our Lord prepared the disciples for their new walk in Him by strengthening their heart to let go of their old ways.
Today when we approach the Lord Table for Holy Communion, we need to examine and prepare ourselves accordingly, our testimony, our thoughts, our desires and our works must be according to His Word. For this we must repent and seek His help every time so that the process of sanctification by the Holy Spirit may continue.
Steps for preparation for the Holy Communion – Apostle Paul warns the believers to refrain from simultaneously drinking the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; for ‘you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons’ (1 Corinthians 10:21). The king organized a feast for his son’s wedding but on the appointed day the guests did not come, making various excuses (Matthew 22:11-13). The king’s servants called in people from the highways to fill the places and provided suitable wedding garments to those who came. The king found one man without the wedding garment and clothed in his old clothes and this man was cast into ‘outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ or cast into hell fires for he did not want to adapt to the ways of the king.
We are chosen by the LORD God and we must be fully prepared to present ourselves at His Table in a worthy manner. The preparation first step is an earnest desire through faith, while understanding the necessity of participation for spiritual nourishment and becoming one with Him through this.
Second, Self examination to assess suitability and worthiness, with the realization that it is not a reward but strengthening to walk on the path of holiness. It is about reconciliation with our estranged brother while seeking help of the Lord to overcome weaknesses. It is also about discarding the value systems of this world and focusing on the systems of the heavenly kingdom.
Third, confession or washing of the soul, through repentance and seeking forgiveness through the blood of the Lord. This is about cleansing of the desires of the heart to surrender and turn to the Lord with reverence. The Prodigal son repented from the heart to say, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son’ to be received back into the family by the loving father (Luke 15:21).
Four, loving others is obedience to the second great commandment from the Lord, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:39). This fulfills all the Law and the Prophets, for anyone coming to the Lord’s table would be loving the LORD in any case. Holy Communion is a way of expression of God’s love and we reciprocate that through proper preparation and participation so that we become one with Him.
Five, forgive and reconcile with others – Lord Jesus has commanded reconciliation with those who ‘have something against you’ and only then come to the altar of God (Matthew 5:23-24). Lord ’s Prayer also makes forgiveness from God conditional on ‘as we forgive’ (Matthew 6:12). Approaching the presence of the Lord, is like entering fire and evil will get destroyed but dross will be removed from His own.
Six, prayer and submission – Prayer is surrender and preparation of the heart to welcome the Lord of glory and this happens through daily fellowship with the Lord. Worship and prayer draw us closer to God and we get ready to be strengthened and cleansed.
Seven, Fear of the Lord –King Solomon declared, ‘The fear (reverence) of the LORD is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death’ (Proverbs 14:27). The holy reverence for the Creator of the universe, in the depth of the soul, before approaching His holy table not only gives life but also saves life by turning away from sin.
And finally we say the prayer of humble access, accepting that our right of access is only through the Messiah and not due to any of our own deeds. In faith we seek permission to enter into His presence and receive the blessing of the Holy Sacrament. This participation enables us to dwell in Him and He in us.
There are different views about the bread and wine; that they actually turn into the body and blood of the Lord; that they spiritually imbibe the characteristics and that they are just symbolic things. Whatever view you may have, be aware that Apostle Paul, who had even been into heaven in the body, has issued a warning and we might heed that to avoid judgment.
After participation we say the prayer of gratitude to the LORD God for His blessing of letting us participate and commit ourselves to obedience and service for the kingdom of God.
Let the warning of Apostle Paul be etched permanently in our hearts that we do not attempt to take the devil, by following his ways, to the Lord’s Table, a place from where he was thrown out. This sin then also opens a door for the devil to enter and take charge over our lives for our damnation. The sacrifice of Lord Jesus on the cross is the doorway for us into heaven and we must enter in with due reverence and humility.