Passover: to speak support to protect.
Yeshua has commanded us to maintain a living “common union” with Him.
John 15:4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
As we saw in the last chapter, obedience is the first way in which we maintain our living communion with Christ, the True Vine. If we obey, and thus abide, then Yeshua has promised that He will do His part in maintaining a living common union with us.
The second way in which we actively maintain our place of abiding in Christ is directly related to the first. It is our obedience in respect to the CELEBRATION of the Lord’s Supper or Communion.
My experience has been that Christendom generally knows very little about CELEBRATION when it comes to Communion. For the most part Communion is a morbid dirge, taking on the sombre air usually reserved for funeral services, rather than an air of celebration. Hence, there is more of the “law of sin and death” evident in our communion services than the “law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Yeshua”.
This statement may horrify you, but I do encourage you to consider it carefully.
Where is the focus so often in our communion services? It is on our sin and Yeshua’s death. Much more time is spent dwelling on our own failures and our unworthiness to have Christ die in our place, than on the reality of our Life in Christ.
When we come to the Communion Table we seem to have an insatiable appetite for every detail of Jesus death, to the exclusion of the truths of the eternal life that has sprung from that Seed which was planted in the ground to die that He might bring forth much fruit through union with the branches that God the Father would graft in. All of this stems from our very shallow understanding of what the Lord’s Supper really is.
When Jesus said: “do this in remembrance of Me”, in reference to the Lord’s Supper, He was alive not dead! We are to remember the life of Christ, indeed the endless life of Christ and the way in which God the Father has made it possible for us to share in that Life. To put it simply, communion should be a CELEBRATION of our common union, ie. our Life in Christ, our abiding in Christ.
You will recall the principle set down by the Apostle Paul, which we have already referred to in previous chapters: “first the natural, then the spiritual”. Well, this principle is also very important if we are to understand the meaning of communion.
The foundations of what we know today as Communion were established when the Children of Israel celebrated the first Passover in Egypt.
This fact is full of meaning for us. When Israel celebrated the first Passover God was in the process of delivering them from over 400 years of bondage in Egypt. God was “cutting them free from Egypt” with the intention of bringing them into His rest. You will see the direct connection between this and what we have discussed in previous chapters in respect to God cutting us to the heart, cutting us free from the false vine, circumcising us in heart and grafting us into Christ the True Vine.
Exodus 12: 14-17 ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. 'Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 'On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat; that only may be prepared by you. 'So, you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore, you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance.
Our living common union with Christ, our abiding in Christ, is a place of unparalleled rest. So, it comes as no surprise that God proclaimed the first and the seventh days of the Passover Feast as days of complete rest and absolutely no work was to be done on those days. Why? Because it reminded Israel that it was by the Almighty Hand of God that they had been brought out (cut free) of Egypt. That was the physical. And we are to be constantly reminded, through the celebration of communion, that it is by the Mighty Hand of God as the Sovereign Gardener that we have been cut free from the false vine and grafted into the Life of Christ the True Vine. This is the spiritual.
Few of us realise that the elements of the Lord’s Supper were not only part and parcel of the first Passover, celebrated in Egypt and every Passover subsequently celebrated in Jewish history, but the elements of Communion were also a part of the daily function of the Tabernacle and later the Temple.
Numbers 15:1-11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you, 'and you make an offering by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or in your appointed feasts, to make a sweet aroma to the LORD, from the herd or the flock, 'then he who presents his offering to the LORD shall bring a grain offering of one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a HIN of oil; 'and one-fourth of a HIN of wine as a drink offering you shall prepare with the burnt offering or the sacrifice, for each lamb. 'Or for a ram you shall prepare as a grain offering two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-third of a HIN of oil; 'and as a drink offering you shall offer one-third of a HIN of wine as a sweet aroma to the LORD. 'And when you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering, or as a sacrifice to fulfill a vow, or as a peace offering to the LORD, 'then shall be offered with the young bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a HIN of oil; 'and you shall bring as the drink offering half a hin of wine as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. 'Thus, it shall be done for each young bull, for each ram, or for each lamb or young goat.
Fine flour mixed with oil is the recipe for unleavened bread. This, combined with the drink offering, accompanied every burnt offering.
Exodus 29: 38-41 “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs of the first year, day by day continually. "One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight. "With the one lamb shall be one-tenth of an ephah of flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of pressed oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine as a drink offering. "And the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and you shall offer with it the grain offering and the drink offering, as in the morning, for a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.
In this passage we have three things: the lamb, which was the burnt offering, the flour mixed with oil, which was the grain offering, and wine, which was a drink offering.
As we know, Yeshua was, and is, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Indeed, He is the Passover Lamb. But, Jesus also became the fulfilment of the truth contained in each of those lambs that were offered daily as sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple. If you like, every morning and every evening the people of Israel were reminded of their need for a blood sacrifice which would deal with their sin. It was never God’s purpose to deal with sin through the blood of animals; He was simply giving both an illustration and an insight into His great plan of salvation for sinners.
Hebrews 10: 4-14 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He (Jesus) came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come; In the volume of the book it is written of Me; To do Your will, O God.'" Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
So, when we come to celebrate Communion, we do so with the knowledge that there is no longer any need for a lamb to be sacrificed, for Yeshua has fulfilled that requirement once for all.
However, there is a passage of Scripture that should always be at the forefront of our thoughts when we do celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
Matthew 18: 20 “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
When we truly celebrate our common union with Christ then He is present with us as the Lamb of God; He is present as the completed, resurrected sacrifice.
Another verse we also need to heed when we come to celebrate communion is this one:
Romans 8: 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Yeshua, as the Lamb of God, was sacrificed once and for all time and was raised from the dead. This is an unquestionable fact. Yet this unquestionable fact must go hand in hand with the fact that there must still be a sacrifice associated with our Communion. That sacrifice is to be a “living sacrifice”; it is to be us! It is ourselves dying to self, so we might live in common union with Christ. It is ourselves abiding in Christ, completely yielded to and dependent upon His Life. In the morning and in the evening of every day we need to be reminded of this and thus prompted to yield our bodies afresh, as living sacrifices, into our common union with Christ.
That leaves us then to consider the grain offering and the drink offering, which were inseparable from the sacrifice of the lamb. As you may have realised these are the two elements we use in our Communion services. The grain offering, or unleavened bread, represents the body of Christ because there was no leaven (sin) in Yeshua. The drink offering represents the blood of Christ that was shed to cleanse us, and to keep on cleansing us, from all sin.
As you can see, Yeshua was also the fulfilment of both the grain offering and the drink offering. However, whilst there was no longer the need for the sacrifice of a lamb twice each day, Yeshua purposely retained the other two offerings, of grain and drink, when He shared that first Communion, which by the way was in the context of a full meal shared with His disciples. He retained them as the focus of our celebration that we are now in Christ.
Having established the foundations of Communion we can venture further to uncover some deeper truths regarding Communion.
In John 6:4 we read:
Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near.
This is an important verse because it sets the scene for what is about to unfold.
You see, not only were Yeshua and His disciples aware that the Passover was quickly approaching, but so too were the people who came to Yeshua and were miraculously provided with a meal of fish and bread, all 5,000 plus of them.
The next day the same crowd manages to find Yeshua and this is the greeting they are confronted with from Him:
John 6: 26 ……"Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."
First the physical then follows the spiritual. Jesus was aware that in physically feeding these people, the day before, He had given them a tremendous foundation for understanding what was to unfold in the coming days. Yet, Jesus was acutely aware that far too many of these people would never progress past the physical experience of having had their natural appetite for food supernaturally satisfied. So much of what we see in Christendom and in the world today amounts to a “labor for the food that perishes” and this is the context in which we have tried, without success, to understand Communion.
John 6:53-58 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. "For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. "This is the bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever."
The key verse here, which gives us the vital link between communion and abiding in Christ, is Verse 56.
Clearly, Yeshua is not suggesting that we literally eat His flesh and drink His blood.
Yet, in the natural, flesh and blood must combine before there can be life. You will note that, in the space of the five verses above, the words “life” and “live” occur 5 times.
The solution to this mystery, of eating the flesh of Christ and drinking His blood, lies in the word “abide”. If a person is abiding in Christ, the True Vine, then the Sap of the True Vine must be flowing through them. As we have already seen the Sap of the True Vine is “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:2). So, it follows, that if one is “in Christ”, the True Vine, they are spiritually feeding on the flesh of Christ and spiritually drinking the blood of Christ. The Spirit of Life is the combined ministry of both the flesh and blood of Christ. All of this is the spiritual expression of communion.
The natural expression of this spiritual truth, of abiding in Christ and thus spiritually eating His flesh and drinking His blood, are the physical elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. So, as you can see, every time we physically celebrate communion we are celebrating the reality that we are in Christ and this is evidenced by the ministry to us of the flesh and blood of Christ by He who is the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit.
So, this sums up what the statement: “Branches Don’t Strive, They Abide” really means.
The truths regarding abiding in Christ and understanding what it means to be in Christ are the foundations that will see the Body of Christ emerge as ONE BODY, ONE BRIDE, in absolute unity. Until this becomes the central focus of each disciple of Yeshua the Christ, both individually and corporately, the doctrinal walls, which man has built, with much striving, into the denominations and movements of our day, will continue to divide. And so, we will continue to rely on politics rather than the Presence of God to give us direction and we will continue to see people maintaining a common union with denominations and movements rather than maintaining a living common union with Yeshua the Christ.
If we are “in Christ” then we need not strive, we need only abide. His life flowing through us, as the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, will accomplish the Sovereign Gardener’s goal of continuous and abundant fruit bearing, fruit that will be picked and eaten by those who are hungering and thirsting after righteousness.
JOHN 17: 1-26 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, “as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. "I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. "Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. "For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. "And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. "Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. "But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves. "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. "And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me "And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. "Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. "O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."