I’ve finally reached the point in my Bible Education curriculum (part of my ministry is teaching Bible Ed. at a Christian school) where I get to draw all the threads of the Old Testament up and tie them to Jesus. One of the most powerful threads is obviously that of the sacrificial system. The sacrificial system not only explains the necessity of Jesus’ death but makes sense of it. Interestingly the sacrificial system is one of those opaque areas of the Old Testament that lots of Christians get confused by.
A while ago I posted on the point of the sacrificial system saying that it had three functions: to remind, to teach and to promise. It reminded God’s people that death came as a result of sin, it taught them that payment for sin was costly and it promised them Jesus. The annoying thing about being a teacher is that half the time kids come up with questions you never imagined. The question that was posed to me as I tied Old Testament sacrifices to Jesus’ death was “why don’t we still do sacrifices?”
Fortunately I could quickly explain that those three points change with the death of Christ. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, death has come as a result of sin. After Jesus’ death, we know how costly it is to pay for sin. After Jesus’ death, we no longer await the fulfillment of the promise. It turned out that this was an adequate answer for the class but one question hung on my mind (which was actually raised in class but fell away for the child as I explained the above).
Surely the reminder is still relevant? Surely the instruction is still important? Even if those aspects of the sacrificial system have been fulfilled, isn’t it still important to remember and teach those things?
Enter Mark’s gospel. I was reading it again this morning tracing an entirely different thread when all of a sudden the Mark 14:22-25 leaped out at my face, narrowly hitting actual cognitive function. The Lord’s supper!
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
Now it seems almost too obvious to be posting but it’s still exciting enough to me. Jesus’ death completes the sacrificial system and communion commemorates Jesus’ death. Communion reminds and teaches what happened on history’s first day of Easter! We don’t do sacrifices any more because the system is fulfilled. The instructional element of sacrifices continues though in the form of the Lord’s supper.