By Stuart Powell
God intended to keep the wonders and miracles of the exodus alive in the hearts and stories of the Israelites. To help with that, he preserved the narratives and established new traditions where the stories could be retold and relived. As part of the Law, God established three weeklong holidays—the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. (The Feast of Tabernacles is celebrated this week.) At each feast, a sacrifice was brought before God, to be dedicated to remember him. Listen to part of God’s description for what he intended in Israel’s celebration.
“Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread. For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt.
“The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock, whether from herd or flock. Redeem the firstborn donkey with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem all your firstborn sons.
“No one is to appear before me empty-handed” (Exodus 34:18-20).
At each feast, every believer in Israel was instructed to carry a blood sacrifice or a grain offering whenever they approached God. No one was to come empty-handed.
The same is true for Christ followers today. As part of the law of grace, God established a frequent celebration to retell and relive the stories of Jesus whenever believers gather. It, too, involves a blood and grain offering as we approach God. Notice how Paul applies the Passover directives to this new instruction.
Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
Even today, God expects believers to approach his presence with full hands. The difference now is Jesus himself is the blood and the grain sacrifice.
And, so, in your hands are a piece of bread and a drink. The bread is made from grain, of course; it is a reminder of Jesus’ physical body nailed to a cross, where he accepted the punishment for our sins. The drink is the fruit of the vine; it is a reminder of the innocent blood of Jesus, willingly poured out to pay the penalty for our sins.
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, no one ever has to come before God empty-handed.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.