The Peace Offering and The Lord’s Supper

I recently embarked upon the task of leading my congregation through the book of Leviticus on Wednesday nights. I have never before attempted to do this mostly because I have never felt ready. Leviticus is a tough book to study, but I have found that if you put the hard work in, it will yield delightfully rich fruit.

Take the peace offering introduced in Leviticus 3 for example. This was an offering that the Lord prescribed for those who wished to have fellowship with God. It could be an expression of thanks or praise to God. It could also be offered in petition for God’s help in times of hardship.

Here is what was so special about peace offerings. In it, only the fat (the premium choice cuts) of the animal and its blood were burned upon the altar. The rest was divided between the priest and the offeror(s). It was the only kind of sacrificial burnt offering where the individual bringing the offering was permitted to eat a portion of the sacrificed animal.

God gave his people the peace offering so that they could have communion with Him. Think about it, sitting down around a table in a home or at a restaurant is one of our favorite things to do with the people we love. We share meals together after weddings and funerals. A meal was involved in most lifelong sweethearts’ first dates. This is what the Lord afforded his people in the peace offering, a chance to share a meal with the God who loved them and whom they loved.

There are several notable instances in the Old Testaments where peace offerings were given. A peace offering was prescribed in Leviticus 23:19 as a part of the Feast of Weeks celebration (what the Greeks called Pentecost). A peace offering was sacrificed in Deuteronomy 27 just before Moses’ death. Another was given in 1 Samuel 11 after a great victory over the Philistines. My favorite reference to a peace offering is in 1 Kings 8:63, where King Solomon, to dedicate the newly built temple, sacrificed a peace offering so large that the whole nation was able to share in a communion feast with God!

I was wonderfully blessed by studying the peace offering in the Old Testament, but what really blew my mind was when I shifted to studying how the peace offering relates to the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is the tricky thing about Old Testament studies. We have a bad habit of leaving the Old Testament in the Old Testament instead of allowing it to point us to the Christ of the New Testament.

I began to ask the question, is there anything like a peace offering in the New Testament? Is there a place where the worshippers gather around to eat the flesh of a sacrifice? There is!

In John 6:47-57, Jesus told His Jewish inquisitors that unless they ate His flesh and drank his blood they would have “no life.” They thought He was senile, but if they had understood what He was saying and how it related to the peace offering, they would have had peace and fellowship with God. They would have been there at the last supper when Jesus said, “This bread is my body which was given for you… this cup is my blood which takes away sins and gives life.”

What has the Spirit revealed except that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was a peace offering in reverse? It was God sacrificing His most precious possession. It was Him inviting us to a feast upon the Lamb that was slain by eating the bread which symbolizes the flesh of the sacrifice and drinking the cup which symbolizes His blood. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper we demonstrate to God that we accept His peace offering.

One other thing: In the Old Testament it was forbidden to eat the blood of any animal. All clean animals were given for food, but the blood belonged only to God because the blood was the animal’s life. With that in mind, ponder this: Jesus invites us, not only to eat His flesh but to drink His blood. My English will not allow me to describe how significant is this statement. In it, He invites us to feast on His life and take it into ourselves. His blood gives us life!