Harry Whittaker
Studies in the Gospels

195. The Last Supper as a Peace Offering

Under the Law of Moses, the prescribed order of sacrifices was:

  1. The sin-offering, in expiation of sin.
  2. The whole burnt-offering-the re-consecration of the life of the forgiven sinner.
  3. The meal-offering—the consecration of his daily works to the service of God.
  4. The peace-offering-the sacrificial meal of fellowship.
The sacrifice of Jesus covers, of course, all these aspects of redemption, but the Last Supper has specially strong affinities with the idea of the peace offering, as the following summary of Leviticus 3 and 7:11-21 should demonstrate.

  1. The essential idea is that of fellowship with God through the partaking of a meal in His presence—a meal provided by Him: e.g. 1 Chr. 29:21,22a (cp. Acts 2:42,46), " Ex. 24:5,11; 1 Cor. 10:16,20,21; Col. 1:20-22.
  2. The peace offering followed the burnt offering (Lev.3 :5). Fellowship at the Lord's Table comes after the initial self-consecration in baptism.
  3. The offerer was to put his hands on the head of the sacrifice, thus identifying himself with the slaying of it, and also expressing his dependence on it (the Hebrew word means "to lean, or to be supported"); ls.53 :6.
  4. The sacrifice was slain by the offerer in person (Lev.3 :2), thus emphasizing yet further that the sacrifice was for himself (1 Tim.1 :15).
  5. The blood of the sacrifice was put on the altar (Lev.3 :2j. In this way the sacrifice became God's, fully devoted to His service (Jn.4:34).
  6. the choicest portions were also burnt on the altar (Lev.3 :3-5). It was in the prime of his life that Jesus served God with the fulness of his powers.
  7. The priest also received his special portions (Lev.7 :31,32). These, a heave-offering, expressed the ideal of willing perfect service (Ps.25:1; Ex.25 :2).
  8. The rest of the sacrifice was given back to the offerer to be eaten by him before the Lord as a guest at His table; e.g. Dt.27 :7. Here especially, peace offering and Lord's Supper fuse into one. (Mt. 26:26; Jn. 6:50-57,33; cp. Lev. 3:11 RVm: "bread"). In 1 Corinthians 10:16, the order of the peace-offering is pointedly followed: 1. The blood poured out. 2. The flesh eaten.
  9. It was to be eaten with joy; Dt.12 :7,11,12,18 and 14 :23,26. and 27:7. (In the New Testament with hardly an exception, "joy" means joy in fellowship).
  10. The highest form of peace offering was that which was a thanksgiving; Lev.7 :12,13,15. and in the early church one of the first names for the Lord's Supper was Eucharist, thanksgiving (Lk.22 :17,19; 1 Cor.14 :17; Ps.ll6:12-19especiallyv.l7).
  11. That which remained to the third day must be burned, that no corruption be associated with any offering of God (Lev.7 :17,18). Likewise there must be no denial of the resurrection of Jesus (Ps.l6:10).
  12. Anyone partaking, being unclean, was reckoned unfit to be among the Lord's people (Lev.7 :20). "Ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils" (1 Cor. 10 :21). "Whosoever shall eat ... or drink .. '• unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself . . ." (1 Cor. 11 :27,28; cp. 1 Pet.l ,"'15,16).
  13. The peace offering might be eaten with unleavened or with leavened bread, the former expressing the ideal of sinless service, and the latter emphasizing that the frailty of sin does not debar a man from fellowship with God.
  14. In Isaiah 25 :6, "a feast of fat things" foretells a time when even that which is God's portion (see item 6) shall be shared by the Lord's redeemed, thus "partaking of the divine nature" (2 Pet.l :4). In this way the Lord's Supper will be "fulfilled" in the kingdom of God" (Lk.22 :16).
  15. The LXX expression for peace offering is "the offering of salvation".
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