Jesus perplexes me sometimes. I’ll give you an example. If you’d been there, what would you have thought when He said,
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. … This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. … Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:51, 54)
If I had been in His audience that day, I would have scratched my head in befuddlement. In fact, many of Jesus’s followers deserted Him when He said that. They simply had no category for that kind of talk.
But I’m a questioner. If I’d been there, I think I would have asked Him to explain. Even now, when I read His perplexing words in Scripture, I still ask Him to explain. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve asked, “Jesus, what did You actually mean by that?” while reading Scripture, I’d be a wealthy woman.
So, I think maybe Jesus has been giving me some insight into this bewildering passage recently. And it’s really pretty cool. You’ll have to stick with me and follow closely, but if you do, I think you’ll agree it will be worth it. Here goes:
- Hebrews 10 tells us that Jesus’s one-time sacrifice replaced all the sacrifices required under the Old Covenant. Do you have any idea how many sacrifices that is? You don’t have time for me to list them all. I’ll just tell you that it’s no exaggeration to say that more than 1,000 animals were sacrificed every year (see Numbers 28–29).
- Besides the holy day sacrifices (Passover, Day of Atonement, and so on), there were five different kinds of sacrifices the people made to God. Two of these were obligatory—the sin offering and the guilt (or “trespass”) offering.
- But three of the five were voluntary: the burnt, grain, and peace offerings. These were made out of pure love and devotion to God (see Leviticus 1–7).
Still with me? I hope so because it starts to get really interesting now …
- Among these voluntary offerings, the peace offering was unique and special. An animal from the herd was roasted to perfection. Instead of being consumed by fire as most sacrifices were, however, the meat was divided into three parts: one for God, one for the priest, and one for the person who had offered it. It was eaten at a festive meal. It was considered to be a fellowship offering—communion, if you will.
Are you still tracking with me? Any bells going off yet?
Jesus is our peace, right? We know that “the punishment that brought us peace was on him” (Isaiah 53:5). We also know that “in Christ Jesus [we] who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:13-14). What we may not realize is that Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, is not only our atoning sacrifice (which was entirely burned and could not be eaten), but He is also our peace offering. Through Him not only are our sins forgiven, but we have fellowship with God. We are invited to enjoy a meal with Jesus, at His table.
Our almighty, holy God has always wanted fellowship with us. In the Old Testament He shared a meal with His people through the peace offering. A lamb, goat, or bull died, and sinners were given temporary access into God’s presence. But in the New Testament, Jesus, our once-for-all sacrifice, gives us that access, 24/7.
What the Holy Spirit is teaching me about the peace offering makes the Lord’s table even more meaningful to me. Jesus’s insistence that I eat His flesh, His body, makes more sense to me now. He invites me to join Him in eating from the peace offering. He wants enjoy fellowship with me, and He gave Himself as a sacrifice so He could!
Are you still reading? If you’ve followed to the end, I hope that you also will enjoy an even greater sense of Jesus’s love and friendship the next time you participate in the Lord’s Table. Will you let me know?