Communion or the Lord’s Supper Explained in Its Hebraic Context
The Importance of Memorials and Symbols
Obedient and truth-seeking disciples of Yeshua will want to love him by keeping his commandments (John 14:12), and by teaching and doing everything he commanded (Matt 28:20). They will be following Paul’s example to imitate Yeshua the Messiah (1 Cor 11:1) as well heeding John’s admonition “to walk just as [Yeshua] walked” (1 John 2:6). This applies to the important biblical ritual of communion as well. How can we celebrate communion just as Yeshua did it? How closely is your typical mainstream Christian church following Yeshua’s commandments when it conducts a communion or the Lord’s supper? We shall discover the answer below.
With regard to obeying YHVH’s commands, symbols and memorializations figure prominently in YHVH Elohim’s spiritual economy. Why is this? They are teaching aids. Physical humans need physical things to help them to comprehend spiritual truths and ideals. Using symbols, commemorations and memorializations is a method of teaching and relates to pedagogy, which is “the method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.” A effective teacher endeavors to build bridges of understanding between what the student knows and what the teacher wants to teach the student— between the known and the unknown, between what the student understands now and what the teacher wants his students to learn. A successful teacher learns the skill of building bridges of understanding with his students to bring them to a higher level of understanding. The same is true of YHVH Elohim as we works with humans to teach them about spiritual things.
On a spiritual level, YHVH Elohim, our Heavenly Teacher, employes similar pedagogic or teaching techniques as he endeavors to bring men to a higher level of understanding heaven’s spiritual truths and realities. The use of symbols and memorials as teaching tools is essential to this process of teaching and learning.
The Bible is full of symbols and memorials that represent or point to something else and act as teaching aids to assist humans in learning about Elohim and what he requires of us. For example, the very name of the Creator, YHVH (Yehovah), is a memorial, symbol or remembrance (Heb. zeker from zakar) of who Elohim really is (Exod 3:15). His name is a way for humans to connect with him. The same is true of each of our names. Our name is a label, a pointer, a symbol of who we are, but it’s not really us. Similarly, eating unleavened bread during the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a memorial (Heb. zikrown from zakar) of coming out of Egypt and putting sin out of one’s life (Exod 13:9). The twelve stones on the high priest’s breastplate were memorials (Heb. zikrown from zakar) of the twelve tribes of Israel (Exod 28:12). The grain offering that was made on the altar of sacrifice in the Tabernacle of Moses was a memorial (Heb. azkarah from zakar) or remembrance that prophetically pointed to Yeshua the Messiah’s death on the cross and the fact that he is the bread of life (Lev 2:2). Blowing shofars on the Day of Trumpets is a memorial (Heb. zikrown from zakar) of many things past, present and prophetically including the second coming of Yeshua and the firstfruits resurrection (Lev 23:24). In fact, the whole Tabernacle of Moses, the Levitical priesthood, the sacrificial system, the Sabbath and biblical feasts is a complex system of memorials, remembrances and symbols to point humanity to the higher, upward spiritual path, which eventually brings him to Yeshua the Messiah. This is so abundantly clear in the Bible. Why don’t more people see this? Why do so many Christians and their leaders have such an apathy, even antipathy for these things? It’s mind boggling, especially in view of the fact that these teaching aid memorial and symbols were ordained of Elohim himself!
The overarching purpose and meaning of the Hebrew word zakar and its derivatives is something that “gets men to think about something, to meditate upon something, to pay attention to something, to remember something, to mention something, to declare or proclaim something or to commemorate something” (see The TWOT on the meaning of zakar).
Why do people need to remember something or to stop and think about something? Simply this. In the busyness of life, people forget a lot of things that they should remember, meditate on, ponder, be thankful for and learn from. The fact that people tend to forget important things is the whole reason we have national holidays, statues, gravestones, war medals, a national flag and anthem, birthdays and anniversaries, photo albums and other manmade traditions. Biblically, the same can be said of a Torah scroll, the Bible itself, the Sabbath, the biblical feasts, the cross as a symbol of something, the ritual of baptism and Passover, which had embedded in its observance the Lord’s supper (1 Cor 11:20), communion (1 Cor 10:16) or the Lord’s table (1 Cor 10:21). All of these remembrances or memorials are designed to cause us to pause and stop and to reflect on something that is beyond us (in the past or future) or above us. The memorialization of past events should cause us to better appreciate those who have gone before us and be thankful for our present blessings. Such reflections can help us not to repeat the mistakes of past generations and at the same time learn from their wisdom. Simultaneously, things that memorialize future events (like the Sabbath and the biblical feasts) should encourage us onward and upward in our spiritual journey. They strengthen our faith and give us hope for tomorrow. Symbolic rituals like baptism and communion can help us to connect to present realities that relate to our upward spiritual walk and our relationship to Yeshua the Messiah—our Master and Savior.
What Does Communion Memorialize?
So what does the Christian sacrament of communion or the Lord’s supper memorialize? To its credit, the mainstream Christian church understands the basic meaning of communion quite well. But let’s review this basic understanding, while, at the same time, adding some Hebraic or whole Bible background information. This will hopefully help us to appreciate more fully this glorious sacrament, which, sadly, due to its frequent occurrence in many churches, can become banal ritual that is easily taken for granted.Continue reading