Beckett: Pastoral Thoughts – Grain Offerings Foreshadowing the Lord’s Supper (Leviticus 2)

To my knowledge, no theologian has made the typological connection between the grain offering and Christ, so this is a mere conjecture on my part. The grain offering is the first sacrifice in which God says Aaron and his sons (the priests) are allowed to eat the leftovers since “it is a most holy part of the LORD’S food offerings” (Leviticus 2:3, 10). The grain is also supposed to be unleavened, which harkens back to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, also called the Passover, in Exodus 12:17 and 13:4-10. (This feast will come up again later in Leviticus 23:4-8.)

Similarly, we eat unleavened bread at the Lord’s Supper because Jesus instituted this sacrament during the Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Matthew 26:17-29). So, they would’ve eaten unleavened bread at that first Holy Supper. Therefore, we use unleavened bread in the Supper. In this regular grain offering, with Aaron and his sons able to eat of it, this conveys the sacrifice is for them, too. This ought to remind us that the Lord’s Supper is also for our pastors who administer it just as much as it is for the flock who are served it.

That might seem obvious enough, and it should be. But as pastors, we do the liturgy and its rites so frequently that it is all too easy to get into the flow of things—to go on autopilot, forgetting the miraculous, eternal significance of the Baptism we are administering and the Lord’s Supper we are receiving ourselves. We take it not just during the Divine Service but also on shut-in visitations, and we also administer it in private confession and absolution. Thus, it becomes all too easy for us to shut our brains off and partake the Sacrament with an almost ex opere operato mindset. There are even some pastors who “forget” that they need forgiveness.

But this is not so. Just as the Levitical priests needed forgiveness like the Israelites and partook of the grain offerings, so pastors need forgiveness and partake of the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of their sins, life, and salvation. Whether I’m the liturgical celebrant or the assistant in the Sacrament, I always consciously repent—sometimes of specific sins weighing on my conscience, and other times a general repentance just as we confess at the beginning of the service, “I, a poor miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them,” etc. (LSB p. 184). Therefore, when you see your pastor partaking the Sacrament before he distributes it to you, you are witnessing his sins being forgiven by Christ as a prelude to your own forgiveness of sins as you approach the Lord’s Table.

Theology Terms Used

  • ex opere operato: “from the work done,” that is, “the mere performance of the act.” The ancient teaching of the Catholic Church that just by the mere performance of a sacrament, God’s grace is delivered whether faith is present or not. (By this logic, even unbelievers can receive God’s grace and be forgiven even though they do not believe.) Lutherans, on the other hand, believe that faith needs to be present in order to receive God’s grace in the sacrament.
  • Typology: “persons, events, and institutions in the Old Testament that point forward to a greater fulfillment in Christ.”[1]

[1] Andrew E. Steinmann, et al. Called to Be God’s People: An Introduction to the Old Testament (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), 653.

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