Throughout history, food has been used ritually to remind us of important truths. Wherever culture and religion occur, someone is working in the kitchen.
A cake on your birthday is an act of celebration for your life.
Cookies and milk left out on Christmas Eve show hospitality to Santa Claus. Is it any wonder the man in red is overweight?
In Haitian voodoo, Mademoiselle Charlotte is ritually offered the tender meat of young chickens. She is an intermediary for the distant god. She is offered special foods and drinks in hope that she will take a fancy to you and present your needs to the god.
In Hinduism, there is a group known as Ayyavazhi. They have a ritual mean known as Palvaippu, the serving of a gruel boiled in milk. The poor and rich of all castes partake without discrimination.
Ritual foods and meals bring people together in honor of what they most value.
The Passover meal reminded Israel that God had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. This meal of wine, bread, lamb and bitter herbs was brought new significance when Jesus ate it together with his disciples prior to his betrayal.
Consider the unleavened bread known as matzah. Jesus broke it and said it was His body. There is significance to the lack of leaven in the bread.
On the one hand, matzah symbolizes redemption and freedom, but it is also (lechem oni), "poor man's bread." Thus it serves as a reminder to be humble, and to not forget what life was like in servitude. Also, leaven symbolizes corruption and pride as leaven "puffs up". Eating the "bread of affliction" is both a lesson in humility and an act that enhances one's appreciation of freedom.[i]
We remember Jesus as the humble, poor man’s bread. To partake of Him is to receive God’s deliverance from sin’s slavery.
Leaven was a symbol for sin. Its presence in us causes us to be puffed up and exaggerated. At the Last Supper there is no sin in the person of Jesus Christ. We receive the sinless One.
But leaven is used elsewhere as a symbol of influence and affect. "The chemical definition of ferment or yeast is "a substance in a state of putrefaction, the atoms of which are in a continual motion.”[ii]
The kingdom of God is good yeast that affects the substance it is merged into. This woman is making a great amount of bread. The small amount of yeast transforms the flour into a sizable loaf. Every part of the bread is changed and influenced by its presence.
Permeation is inevitable once yeast is introduced. Implied is a growth that is slow, almost invisible, but this is not the point. Be sure of one thing, Jesus says: we may seem like a small movement, but eventually we will permeate the world.[iii]
Jesus, the unleavened bread was broken and distributed to the world when He died on the Cross. The bread of Heaven was sinless, but He became the representative of sin in His sacrifice. As the Cross of Jesus affects the world, the Kingdom of God grows; just as a little leaven affects a large lump of dough.
We remember Jesus’ purity and worldwide influence when we eat the bread together.