Sacrifices have multiple meanings in religions such as “dependence on transcendent realities, ...desire to control the transcendent order of things, influence the gods; but more often they express the desire to maintain or restore a proper relationship to the acknowledged order, to conform to the will of the gods” (Martos 241). The most common sacrifices were known as gift offerings, shared offerings and sin offerings. Gift offerings were done in an act of gratitude where the offering was completely given up (burnt or buried). The participant hoped that their gift would in turn prompt the god to do the same. Shared offerings were done for union with the god to live rightly and it was frequently food in which some was offered and the rest eaten. It was believed that by eating an animal with strength, the participants would also gain strength. Lastly, sin offerings were performed when the participant had sin, they would symbolically put the sin on an animal and then kill the animal. It symbolized the repayment of debt and expressed the participants want to live rightly. These three types of sacrifices were seen in Israel. “People in the ancient Near East also made sacrifices to the gods to solemnize agreements or covenants made between two parties, and the covenant between Yahweh and his people is represented in the Jewish scriptures as being solemnized by a burnt offering and the pouring of sacrificial blood (Exodus 24)” (Martos 242-243).
Many sacrifices involved food which is not surprising as meals were also very important in the ancient world as they still are today. The meal was sacred as it engaged the whole person. Today, the meal is not held as such an important event in our daily lives. We often eat alone, on the couch in front of the television or silently. A lot could be learnt from this positive approach to meal sharing. We should really try to bring back this important event in our daily lives.
The sacred meal was the most personally engaging: it affected all the senses and it also involved memory and imagination, internal sensations of hunger and satisfaction, and social interaction among the participants. Usually the sacramental function of the meal was to affirm and intensify a bond of unity among the participants (Martos 243).
In ancient Israel, the Passover was the most important sacred meal. “This Passover supper was fundamentally a sacramental meal, a re-enactment of sacred events by means of which those events became real and present to the people who shared it” (Martos 244). Through this meal, the participants remembered the events of the Exodus and entered into a sacred space away from all immorality. The communal part of the Eucharist, the meal sharing, has been lost in our churches today, the bond among the community is not very strong or sometimes, not even apparent. The last supper has immense ties to the Eucharist, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Jesus shared a sacred meal with his disciples the evening before he died. At the last supper, Jesus did some things a bit different from the usual rituals at the time by washing the feet of the disciples