Passover: What is the Difference Between Holy Communion and the Passover?

March 31, 2017

“The Lord’s Supper”, “The Last Supper”, “Eucharist”, “Sacrament” or the “Holy Communion”—these are some of the common names people use to describe the bread and wine that Jesus and His disciples had before He was crucified on the cross. Biblically, it is called the Passover of the New Covenant.

There are different traditions with regards to the breaking of bread and drinking of wine. Do we use biscuits or tortilla for bread and Ribena as the wine? Do we consume both bread and Ribena, or only the bread? When should we celebrate the Passover—is it once a month, once a week, or every day? Many people do not question this. Some think that there is no difference and it does not matter. However, what is the origin and the will of God behind the ceremony of the Passover? What is God’s expectation for us? Let’s examine what God teaches us through the Bible.

1. Origin of the Passover in the Old Testament times

Let us begin by looking at the Passover in the Old Testament.

Exodus 12:5-14 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, … Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs… Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover … The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt … celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.

Leviticus 23:4-5 These are the Lord’s appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month.

The first Passover was observed in the time of Moses. A year-old lamb without defect was burned and the blood of the lamb was put on the sides of the door frames. By doing that, the last plague, which was the killing of the firstborn, would “pass over” the Israelites. After keeping the Passover, the Israelites were set free from the land of slavery, Egypt. God then commanded the Israelites to commemorate this feast as a lasting ordinance.

2. Jesus came to fulfill the prophecy of the Bible; He came as the Lamb

The lambs used in the Passover ceremony allow us to understand the meaning of the Passover. In the New Testament times, we can understand the deeper meaning of the Passover lamb through the words of Jesus. Jesus said He came to fulfil the law of the Old Testament. What does that mean?

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.

Jesus fulfilled the law as He came with the role of a sacrificial lamb. In the verse Exodus 12:5-14, we saw that the lambs were sacrificed for the Passover ceremony. This was a reflection that Jesus was to come as a sacrificial offering.

John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

John the Baptist testified that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

3. Jesus kept the Passover of the New Covenant with His disciples

Jesus explained that the blessings of His sacrifice were contained in the Passover ceremony.

Matthew 26:17-19, 26-28 … the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?” He replied, “… I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, … While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and …, saying “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

This is the scene when Jesus kept the Passover of the New Covenant with His disciples. In the Old Testament, lambs were sacrificed as offerings.  However, in the New Testament time, Jesus came as the reality of the Passover lamb. Jesus took bread and wine, which symbolised His flesh and blood sacrificed on the cross.

Mark 14:12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

An important thing to note: Jesus and His disciples kept the feast on the Passover day which was the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, according to the sacred calendar. As Jesus came to fulfil the law, He waited for the appointed time to keep the Passover ceremony. Clearly, there is an appointed day and time to keep the Passover. 

4. The Passover contains the blessings of the forgiveness of sins

What blessings are contained in the Passover of the New Covenant established by Jesus?

Matthew 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

In the Old Testament times, the Israelites were set free from the land of slavery in Egypt after keeping the Passover. As we receive the forgiveness of sin through the sacrifice of Jesus, we are set free from sin and death after we keep the Passover in the New Testament times.

5. In remembrance of Me

Some argue that they keep the Holy Communion or Last Supper every day, once a week or once a month in order to remember Jesus’ sacrifice by quoting 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Some may misunderstand that as Apostle Paul mentioned the word “whenever“, they could keep it whenever they can. However if we examine the passage carefully, we should not miss out the words on the night he was betrayed. This night is the Passover night. Certainly we should take part in the bread and wine in remembrance of Jesus, but there is no indication that it should be celebrated every day, once a week, or once a month. Apostle Paul mentioned “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you“, we can be sure Apostle Paul must have followed the teachings of Jesus in the regulations concerning the Passover.

An extra note:
The language here might be confusing to some, resulting in misinterpretation.

Here is how we can be clear about it. Looking at the words, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,” we can see that Apostle Paul was referring to the bread and wine of the Passover ceremony. This simply means that whenever they ate the bread and drank the wine of the Passover ceremony, they should remember Jesus.

It clearly does not mean that they could keep the ceremony whenever they wanted to.

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

Do you want to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and receive the forgiveness of sin? Let us keep the Passover according to the teachings of the Bible, on the fourteenth day of the first month according to the sacred calendar, at twilight. Let us not stick to our own thoughts, but follow God who leads us to salvation (Isaiah 55:8-9). Today, only the World Mission Society Church of God keeps the Passover of the New Covenant. Come to the Church of God and receive the blessings from God!