The Lord’s Supper: Fantasy vs. Reality

I’m tackling a topic here that could make some people mad. I want to tread lightly. I understand that I am critiquing and attempting to undermine a strong tradition in Protestant Christianity. I know that the people who keep this tradition are often deeply passionate about it. I know that the regular practice of this tradition honors the God of Israel and keeps the sacrifice of Messiah central in churches. I applaud the intent and fruits of this tradition. I will even admit that, in worshipping with churches, I often partake of it myself. And I forget about differences and disagreements and I genuinely worship nearly every time I do.

But I must critique the tradition of the communion service, a.k.a. the Lord’s Supper. You know what I mean, the thimble of Welch’s and the microscopic wafer of unleavened bread. I read the story of Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, who partook of his first communion in a Baptist church. He asked what communion was. They said, “It is a little like your Passover service.” So that Sunday morning he skipped breakfast to save room. He came looking forward to Gefilte Fish, Brisket, Carrot Tzimmes, and the whole schmear, only to be crestfallen with the appearance of the thimble of Welch’s and the tiny wafer. “Just like Gentiles,” he thought.

Here is my big question: where does Yeshua ever say we are to drink a little juice and eat a tiny piece of bread in remembrance of him?

Here is the fantasy version: Yeshua and his disciples sat on the same side of the table posing as DaVinci painted his famous picture. Meanwhile, Yeshua was reciting the words of institution right out of his pocket New Testament. He took out tiny clear cups made of plastic the size of a thimble. He broke out a metal dish with perfectly round wafers from the Christian bookstore. His deacons came to the front and received the dish and cups from him. The organist played as they passed out the juice and wafers. After eating, they all sang “Blest Be the Ties That Bind.”

That, of course, is not at all what happened.

Here is the real version: Yeshua and his disciples enjoyed a Passover Seder the night before he was killed. They followed an older, simpler version of the same Passover Seder celebrated today in Jewish homes. After the meal, Yeshua broke one of the main symbols of the Seder, a piece of unleavened bread. He asked them to eat it and said it was his body. He led them in drinking the third cup (after the meal) which probably already represented redemption. He said, “do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:25). The “whenever you drink it” part has an obvious meaning: whenever you drink the third cup of Passover (not whenever you invent a new ceremony of drinking a thimble of juice).

Therefore, it is our practice, and that of many Messianic Jewish congregations, to remember the body and blood of our Messiah at the Passover. We do not have weekly, monthly, or quarterly communion services.

What is the origin of the Protestant communion service? Simple: the Catholic eucharist. It is simply a eucharistic sacrament scaled down to a non-sacramental remembrance. Sometimes the practices of Protestantism owe more to the Catholic tradition that preceded them than to the Bible. I do not mean to make light of Catholicism either, but simply to point out that traditions carry over into Protestantism with minor changes. I would assert that much of Catholic tradition is of questionable origin, created in the crucible of a pagan world being Christianized. The magical elements of pagan worship are often baptized and incorporated into Catholic tradition in ways that sit wrongly in my kishkes.

So, are you keeping the intent of Yeshua when you celebrate a communion service? Can your church handle a change back to biblical intention? I don’t want to get anyone fired from a pastorate or split any churches, but what can be done? I hope some day soon, before Yeshua comes, more churches will make Passover an annual tradition and remember the body and blood of Messiah on the third cup.

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About Derek Leman

Derek Leman and his wife Linda live in the Atlanta, Georgia, area with their eight children.
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14 Responses to The Lord’s Supper: Fantasy vs. Reality

  1. Kimiko says:

    Derek,

    As a gentile girl, I must agree that there is something lacking in the thimble and (paper-flavored) wafer tradition of the Protestant churches. My friends and I, who are now doing “home church,” have for many years celebrated Passover with the Seder dinner–full meal and all. We love this tradition, but also have “communion” often when we get together weekly. I have to say that the yearly celebration with its rich symbolism always gives me a deeper appreciation of the full meaning of the Passover. And now that I have young children, I am hoping this practice will help them as well to grasp (by yearly repetition) how this historical event in Egypt foreshadowed what Yeshua did for us all by his sacrifice.

    Thank you, by the way, for your blog. I stumbled upon it only recently and have been gleaning from it ever since!

    Kimiko

    • kaleeckal says:

      The time when Jesus was breaking the bread and drinking the vine he may not find the plastic one.and the electrical owen to bake the bread….pls my belivers, read the new testament…..the passover is compleatly different from the lords supper..the lords supper is done to restate the lords death and ressurection and his secound coming…this is to built up the fellowship in the church…and as the brother derek said jesus never said about the 3rd cup he drunk…the new testament have given many proff to follow this when ever they had met together…and they also stayed away from circumcicion.By jesus and by his grace we have redeemed and not my the works that we do…God bless you!

  2. PB and J says:

    derek

    i too am a gentile, and i too have been more recently introduced to the seder meal.

    it is interesting, because before i knew what the seder was, i believed there was something wrong with our “communion”. because the purpose is to be communing with Yeshua, yes, but also the Body of Messiah, the Church.

    i felt often that a meal was more the pt than a wafer and sippy cup.

    anyway, this year, i experienced my first seder. it was wonderful. full of symbolism and also fellowship, true communion. additionally, i also feel like you, that Yeshua was referring to as often as you partake in seder. so what then are we to do?

    i agree that the catholic (and thus protestant as well) traditions are rooted much in paganism. however, the church history that i have been reading (secondary and primary sources) about the first few centuries (ie before paganism set in and while there were some Jews in the Body) and found that they would have “communion” weekly on saturday night (ie sunday according to the Hebrew calendar). these would include a meal remembering the Lord’s death and resurrection.

    so do you think that it’s ok to both have a commemorative meal weekly and keep the seder?

    shalom
    peter

  3. Susan says:

    I think it’s just a symbolic way for the Christians to recognize Jesus and what Passover is about…I guess its a way for the Christian to reflect on these things, but I feel that at the same time they are still trying to keep the Jewishness of Jesus out of their church.

  4. Peter:

    You asked, “is it okay to have the weekly commemorative meal and observe the annual Passover?”

    It is not a matter of what is acceptable. I think that the juice-and-wafer tradition is baseless, not rooted in any historical reality or command of our Savior. That said, human traditions are fine as long as they are not immoral or idolatrous. The intent of churches who serve the Lord’s Supper is righteous. To participate with that tradition, as I do when I am in churches, is a good thing. I would draw the line at things like venerating a statue or icon, but a commemorative bit of juice and bread, though misguided, is not wrong.

    The bigger issue is this: when will church leaders quit pretending the practice is biblical? The Reformers changed the seven sacraments into two ordinances. It was a good move in some ways, backing off from a magico-pagan view of worship. But the view of two ordinances is not biblically defensible. I know the arguments, but they fail to grasp the whole teaching of the Bible.

    Derek

  5. PB and J says:

    derek

    i hear ya. i think you make a good pt. i agree that the protestants tried to get rid of the paganism, but didnt truly understand what to go back to. inherently they had no reason to know the seder, because they were far far far removed from any true understanding of it.

    as far as the “sacraments”, do you think that “communion” doesnt matter at all? do you think that baptism means nothing? how much is required and how much tradition?

    peter

  6. Peter:

    It is not at all that communion is unimportant. It is simply not supposed to be a juice and wafer little tag-on to a service done weekly, monthly, or quarterly. It is supposed to be a remembrance of Yeshua’s body and blood annually at the Passover Seder. Note that 1 Corinthians 5, written to a mostly Gentile congregation, indicates that early Christians kept Passover. I am not persuaded that the love feasts of 1 Cor 11 or the breaking bread of Acts 2 and 4 mean communion.

    Derek

    • ukulelemike says:

      I realize I am a little on the late-side in this discussion, but I was researching this topic and want to make a couple points.
      When we read 1Cor 11, with the ‘love feast’ you mention, remember that Paul specifically says that this is NOT to eat the Lord’s Supper. Why? Because they have houses in which to eat and drink, and to come together to eat and drink and call it the Lord’s Supper is to bring shame into the church.
      The Lord’s Supper is specifically about the Afikomen and the Cup of Redemption in the Pesach meal-these two parts, alone, represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and thus, are the only two parts we remember as the Lord’s Supper. Now, as to whether it must be a tiny cup of juice and a tiny peice of unleavened bread is what I am researching, the origin of this. I know the broken matzah would be correct, which is what we use, because that is what the Afikomen, which represents Jesus was-a broken half of a piece of Matzah bread. As for the tiny cup, I suppose it might have been a practical thing, as supplying enough full cups to a sizable church, of the fruit of the vine, is pretty impractical.
      But, I don’t believe this means in any way, from scripture or anywhere else, that they believed they had to celebrate the entire Passover meal. This being said, we do the J4J Jesus in the Passover each year, to remember it and understand better what we do in the Lord’s supper.

      • I plan to address issues of Lord’s Supper, Passover, the timing of the crucifixion, and so on again this year, probably in March.

        My ideas may have changed and I have done and will do further research.

        But I do think your comment contains one error. I don’t believe you will find a single commentary which says that 1 Corinthians 11 does not reflect the idea of a full meal shared between believers at which the bread and cup symbolized the Presence of Jesus.

        If you do find such a commentary, let me know.

        Anyway, thanks for the comment and I look forward to more interaction in the future.

        Derek Leman

  7. Andre says:

    What about Kiddish? I have heard one mention “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine [John 15:5], and has given us the redeeming blood of our Messiah Yeshua.” Also, “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from out of the earth, and has given us our Messiah Yeshua the true living bread [John 6:32-35].” My comment is this. Drinking of the wine, and the breaking of bread seems to be a custom that takes place not only yearly but weekly according to hebraic tradition. Could Yeshua infact, be suggesting his rememberance every Shabbat? “As often as you do this, do this in rememberance of me.”

  8. Andre:

    I am aware that some congregations treat the Kiddush as a communion service. For a number of reasons I disagree:

    1. Yeshua and his disciples were having a Seder, not merely Kiddush.
    2. The Kiddush as a Sabbath ritual cannot be demonstrated to exist in Yeshua’s time.
    3. One recites a blessing over wine every time it is taken, not merely at Shabbat. The same is true of bread.

    Derek

  9. Edward says:

    I have been studying this event for a long time. Surfice it to say you should not need to tread lightly. you are correct. there are only 3 God ordained holidays “if you wish to call them such” Passover, pentecost, tabernacles. Jesus was simply saying that whenever you meet don’t do this and remember egypt but remember what I have done for you. very simple. I do understand treading lightly only because this has become a sacred cow in the church. I have many christian friends who I try to talk to very reasonably about the subject and they treat you like a heretic. On that note I would like to point out that the First Century Jews who thought they were safe in their TRADITIONS were in direct opposition to the will and direction Jesus moved in.

    Great Article,

    Thanks

  10. trosefox says:

    Interesting thoughts. I actually have decided in my mind that Communion is more like Kiddush. A side note, I think many Catholic traditions stole a little bit from Judaism, pagan religions and the unique cultures of various social groups. For many years in this country Catholicism was divided by ethnicity because each ethnic group had it’s own traditions. Kind of like the difference between Sephardic, and varied Ashkenazic groups in Judaism. I’m still looking for more similarities and the background of Kiddush. Kiddush feels very much like communion to me. And I was told it was to sanctify the Sabbath. The words for kiddush, okay sure. But drinking wine and eating bread… does that symbolically sanctify me?

  11. why is the jewishness of Jesus so important? He is the Son of the living God, and not a human being! He was in the beginning and was among the Israelites during their Exodus as spirit, the rock that gave them water! He gave the instructions of celebrating the last supper which was practiced in the early church in Jerusalem and until the political hatred between Jew and Roman Empire spilled over the Christians who had to suffer consequences for the Jewish revolts. this practice is probably the only part of catholic mass i miss now, but the paganism drove me away! why can messianics not go back to the days of Jerusalem when (the majority Jews) of Nazarenes met weekly in the evenings in their love feasts followed by communion?

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