Luke 22:7-13 (CEV)
7 The day had come for the Festival of Thin Bread, and it was time to kill the Passover lambs. 8 So Jesus said to Peter and John, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us to eat.”
9 But they asked, “Where do you want us to prepare it?”
10 Jesus told them, “As you go into the city, you will meet a man carrying a jar of water. Follow him into the house 11 and say to the owner, ‘Our teacher wants to know where he can eat the Passover meal with his disciples.’ 12 The owner will take you upstairs and show you a large room ready for you to use. Prepare the meal there.”
13 Peter and John left. They found everything just as Jesus had told them, and they prepared the Passover meal.
We spent last week at our house preparing for a birthday party.
There were cakes to bake and balloons to blow up and blanket nests to build for the Lord of the Rings movie marathon.
The preparations had to be perfect, because the party mattered. We were remembering a very special day – the day my youngest was born!
And the thing about parties is that the more important the thing is that we’re remembering or celebrating, the more the preparations tend to matter.
Passover – or the Festival of the Thin Bread – is one of those parties that matters an awful lot, because it commemorates (or remembers) an incredibly important event in the life of the Jewish people: once they were slaves, and then God set them free.
Or to be a bit more specific, for those of you who maybe aren’t familiar with the story we read in the book of Exodus, Passover is the culmination of over 400 years of the enslavement of the Jewish people by the Egyptians.
Let’s do the super-short version of how we got here. You see, according to Genesis, the original Jewish family had started with Abraham, and then his son Isaac and his son Jacob (who got renamed ‘Israel’). Jacob had 12 sons and one of those sons, named Joseph, had been sold into slavery in Egypt by his brothers. (And I thought the sibling rivalry could get rough at my house!)
Anyways, in the end it turned out that this was a good thing, because Joseph had earned his right not only out of slavery but into the second-most powerful position in all of Egypt by predicting and preparing for a famine that would last seven long years in Egypt and the surrounding areas. And because of his position, when his family had begun to starve and heard there was food in Egypt, he was able to not only forgive them but also offer them food and land and safety and shelter in Egypt.
Which was great, until we get to the book of Exodus, where we’re told that all of that generation (and the one after that and the one after that, etc.) die out, until a new Pharoah came on the thrown who didn’t know about Joseph or the amazing things that he had done. All he saw was a growing number of outsiders with weird customs and weird culture and a weird language and he did what very powerful (very scared) people have done for millennia – he took them as slaves, and made them work making bricks for his building projects.
And the people cried out to God and eventually God responded. He sent a message to an 80-year-old murderer out tending sheep in the wilderness and chose him (of all people) to go talk to Pharaoah.
Not surprisingly, Pharoah wasn’t really very interested in loosing about 600,000 men as slaves, so he said no – and God sent a plague – and he said no – and God sent another plague – and he said no – and … well, you get the idea. Much was the arguing back and forth until the tenth plague, when God said he would send the angel of death to kill the first born male of every house in Egypt.
Except that God said that if anyone killed a lamb and put some of the blood of the lamb on the doorways of their homes and then stayed inside the home that night then their firstborn sons would be saved.
And the Jews did.
And the angel of death passed over.
And this final plague was enough that Pharaoh finally agreed (at least for a few hours) to let the people go. In fact they left so quickly that the bread didn’t have a chance to rise, and so the meal that they had to eat was the meal of ‘thin bread’.
So this celebration was an awfully big deal, and the preparations for this celebration were also an awfully big deal.
A lamb had to be found and shared.
The wine cellar needed to be stocked up.
The home had to be thoroughly cleaned to make sure there was no yeast left in the house.
Because it was a celebration of freedom and life and sacrifice people took an awful lot of care with these preparations.
After almost fifteen hundred years of celebrating Passover, Peter and John are sent in to Jerusalem to find the place to prepare the Passover meal for Jesus and his followers.
It might have been easy for them to forget to prepare.
It might have been easy for them to start to think that none of this was particularly important.
It might have been easy for them to get cocky about the whole thing.
But it seems the boys took all of this very seriously – and as we will find out next week, it turned out that this year, that really mattered!
- What is your favourite, most precious celebration in your year?
- What do you do to prepare for it?
- Can you think of one thing that – if missed out on – would wreck the celebration?