Tom Schreiner writes (The King in His Beauty: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments, 34):
Unleavened bread was also eaten in memory of the great exodus event (Exod. 12:15-20, 34, 39; 13:3, 6-7), for the Israelites were pressed for time and thus the bread could not be leavened before they left Egypt. Remembrance in Israel was not limited to mentally recalling what happened in the past; true remembrance meant participation in the story of the past. Israel’s deliverance in the past represented the liberation of all generations. Observing the feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread helped Israel relive Yahweh’s salvation of his people. Paul suggest that the removal of leaven should not have been a mechanical exercise (1 Cor. 5:7-8). It symbolizes the removal of evil from the lives of God’s people. Those who are delivered in God’s redeeming love should live in a way that expresses their joy at being rescued from evil. Paul argues that since believers enjoy deliverance through Christ’s Passover sacrifice, they are now free from evil (1 Cor. 5:7) and should live in accord with the freedom that they already enjoy.
Several thoughts were provoked by this paragraph:
(1) It’s important to understand why they ate unleavened bread. I’ve intuitively preferred unleavened to leavened bread and even push for it at our church gathering. But I didn’t have a clear explanation as to why we should push for it. My reasons probably come from going through a feast of unleavened bread for 7 long days in Israel. But from this quote we learn that unleavened bread shows the haste with which they left Egypt and symbolizes the removal of evil from the lives of God’s people. So in eating unleavened bread we remember the circumstances of the historical redemption, the removal of evil from our midst symbolically, and our resolve to live out that freedom in our daily experience.
(2) “Remembrance in Israel was not limited to mentally recalling what happened in the past; true remembrance meant participation in the story of the past.” I love this! The Lord’s Supper too, when Jesus tells us to do this in remembrance of him, is not only mentally recalling the past. It’s the present participation of God’s people in the story of his death, resurrection, and the coming consummation. It’s yanking us into the story and activity of God on earth. This reminds me of what Michael Horton wrote: “This drama also has its powerful props, such as preaching, baptism, and the Supper—the means by which we are no longer spectators but are actually included in the cast. Having exchanged our rags for the riches of Christ’s righteousness, we now find our identity “in Christ.” Instead of God being a supporting actor in our life story, we become part of the cast that the Spirit is recruiting for God’s drama.” We “relive”our salvation in Christ. It is not to be a mechanical exercise.
(3) Remembering the Lord’s Supper should express itself in growth in grace. If eating unleavened bread reminds us of the removal of evil from us, then we ought to be strengthened in our faith in God’s grace to kill sin and evil in our own lives and fight together for each other against sin in our community. Remembering the Lord’s Supper weekly should have a transforming effect on our church family because grace transforms us.
(4) Teaching a full understanding of the Lord’s Supper should be done incrementally with each observance. How can we get our church members to see this significance? It’s harder when you only do the Lord’s Supper once a month (or some once a year!). We do it every week and use a different passage to teach on some aspect of it. This idea of unleavened bread with 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 should be added to our rotation. And the idea of God yanking us into participation in his redemptive work should be repeatedly celebrated.
After not gathering with my church fam for 2 Sundays, I can’t wait to take the Lord’s Supper with them this Sunday!