For a season here at North Wake Church, we’ll be using unleavened bread for Communion. This is a brief explanation of the purpose.
In the last days of Jesus’s life before crucifixion, he and his disciples observed Passover meal. But if we go back over thousand years before that, God started Passover started long before, when God rescued the Israelites from Egypt. Passover was a festival, with a meal, where God set the original menu.
Exodus 12:3, 7, 8:
[God said] Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. . . . .Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. 8 They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it.
It was a reenactment of the first Passover meal was what Jesus and his disciples were celebrating. Luke 22:14-20:
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”
Jesus said we are to “Do this in remembrance of him.” This is what we call Communion, or the Lord’s Supper. But as we read forward, with the trouble at the Church in Corinth, Paul told them to focus only on the key points when they gathered together as a church:
- Jesus’s own body given as a sacrifice for every one of us.
- His own blood shed to pay the penalty for every sin.
What is unleavened bread?
At Passover, God specified they would eat specific bread — unleavened. Sourdough bakers know there is natural yeast floating in the air all the time. Leave dough out long enough, and it will become leavened. But when the Exodus occurred: they had no time. God was emphasizing that it would be that very night — that was the moment of salvation, of rescue from Egypt.
Unleavened bread reminds us of Jesus in several ways. Just before entering the promised land, Moses taught the people about the annual Passover celebration later, and emphasized the Unleavened bread.
You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction—for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste—that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt.
Moses called unleavened bread a bread of affliction. And Jesus identified himself with the bread, holding it up and saying, “This is my body which is for you”. So Jesus intentionally made the unleavened bread of passover a symbol of himself.
The prophet, Isaiah, writes about the Messiah, Jesus, long before he was born. About the Messiah to come, Isaiah 53:3 says:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Jesus, went through suffering, sorrow, rejection in my place, and your place. The God Man was afflicted, in my place. The bread of affliction can remind us of that.
A second reminder comes because leaven tells us something about sin. It only takes a tiny bit of yeast or baking soda to make a dough rise, because of the way it permeates every bit of the dough. One of the problems in the Corinthian church was tolerating sin in its midst, in one of its members. Paul taught them that sin allowed to remain in one member of the body would work through the entire congregation. They were even proud of their tolerant, open-minded attitude.
1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
So we see Paul uses the symbol of unleavened bread as a reminder of putting out of the sin. Because God requires perfect, sinless obedience of us! Jesus calls himself the true bread of life, and he was completely without sin. Unleavened bread helps us remember his complete sinless perfection; his complete life of obedience to the Father.
One other image comes from the way bread is made. If you bake flour and water, to make bread, some air bubbles will naturally form. These thin spots make the bread fragile. Bakers usually prick holes in the dough to keep these bubbles from forming, sometimes just with a fork; so nearly all unleavened bread is pierced with holes
In Jesus’s work to save you and me,
* He was nailed to wood,
* Stabbed with a spear,
* Scored with thorns,
* Striped with whips
They weren’t accidental, or merely tragic. These very wounds worked our healing: they were powerful and effective.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
So, this bread with which Jesus identified himself — it too is pierced. With this, we can remember the immense pain He chose to endure to buy our freedom.
Jesus fulfilled God’s law perfectly, and explained to us what Passover was all about. For thousands of years, God’s people have been invited to a feast to celebrate His victories —
- First: victory over Egypt for the people of Israel,
- Last: The eternal, universal victory over Sin and Death
Communion is a regular opportunity to remember this Final, massive victory.
Homemade Unleavened Bread photo and recipe, courtesy Sunset.com