Luke 22:14-20 (CEV)
14 When the time came for Jesus and the apostles to eat, 15 he said to them, “I have very much wanted to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer. 16 I tell you that I will not eat another Passover meal until it is finally eaten in God’s kingdom.”
17 Jesus took a cup of wine in his hands and gave thanks to God. Then he told the apostles, “Take this wine and share it with each other. 18 I tell you that I will not drink any more wine until God’s kingdom comes.”
19 Jesus took some bread in his hands and gave thanks for it. He broke the bread and handed it to his apostles. Then he said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this as a way of remembering me!”
20 After the meal he took another cup of wine in his hands. Then he said, “This is my blood. It is poured out for you, and with it God makes his new agreement.
A Meal To Remember
On Thursday we looked at the background of why the Jewish people celebrated this ‘Festival of Thin Bread’ and the preparations that had to be done to get ready for it.
Today it’s time to eat!
Some of you have had the chance to eat a Passover meal with us at Vox – we did this several years in a row as a way of helping to bring the festival to life – and I still think that the best way to understand a meal is to eat a meal. But since I can’t provide an asynchronously downloadable dinner for everyone who reads this, we’ll have to rely more on the explanations and I’ll just encourage you, if you’re able to, to have some lamb and some matza bread (the ‘thin bread’) and some wine or grape juice and to think about what this might have been like for Jesus’ disciples.
Because even though they would have done this meal every single year since they were born, this time it’s going to get a little different! And I’ll tell you why, but first let me tell you a bit more about what they would have sat down at the table with.
Each Passover table held a platter, and on this platter were a bunch of food symbols that would help the Jewish people to remember what had happened in Egypt and tell the story of that fateful night.
They were supposed to eat lamb roasted in the fire, with unleavened (thin) bread. The roasted shank (arm) bone of the lamb was supposed to be placed on the platter to remind them that the ‘arm of the Lord’ had rescued them.
Horseradish was used to remind the people of the bitterness of their time in slavery, and haroset (a mixture of crushed apples, nuts and dates) to remind them of the mortar they used between the bricks when they were slaves in Egypt.
There is an egg reminding the people of their gratitude for new life and parsley to symbolize the plants used to apply blood over the doorposts for protection from the angel of death.
There are also four ceremonial cups of wine to be enjoyed throughout the evening, and each represents something important as well. They are based on two verses from Exodus 6:
“Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out [Cup of Sanctification] from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you [Cup of Deliverance] from their bondage, and I will redeem you [Cup of Redemption] with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you [Cup of Completion as My people], and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 6:6-7)
And in the midst of all of this remembering of the redemption of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt is a longing for a second redemption and the coming of the Messiah who would free the people from their current bondage. They even set a place for the prophet Elijah each year, in case he should return to announce the coming of the Messiah.
So it’s not really surprising, then, that Jesus takes this moment of Passover – the food and rituals and words that get prepared and done and said throughout this feast – to point to himself and what he’s about to go through.
First he takes up the afikomen – the second of three special pieces of matza bread.
It represents the suffering and hardship that the people endured. It speaks of bondage and freedom, and of a hunger that can be joyfully filled. And Jesus holds it up and says, ‘this is my body, which is given for you. Eat this as a way of remembering me.’ Jesus is referring to his upcoming suffering and bondage – he knows what lies just hours away – but he is also referring to the freedom and filling that he offers to each of us.
Both are given to us.
Both are given for us.
The bread is there to help us remember. To help us remember when we are start to feel alone and overwhelmed with our problems and our hurts and our struggles and our suffering and our bondage and our pain that we are not alone – that Jesus’ body has already shown up in the midst of it all for us.
And then he takes up the wine – and not just any cup of wine, but the cup of redemption. And he takes it and he says to a people who yearn for redemption and freedom and wholeness that he has come to pour out his own blood so that this could be possible – to somehow offer it as part of a new agreement being formed between God and humanity.
It’s a night of remembering – with a twist. The well-worn rituals and symbolism of this annual festival are taken and shifted in subtly mind-blowing ways for the people sitting around that table. Something is about to take place, and even though we still don’t quite know what it is, we would be foolish not to realize three things by now:
There will be pain, suffering and blood for Jesus.
There will be a new agreement between God and humanity.
And we need to remember it, whatever comes our way.
- How are you experiencing pain and suffering and brokenness?
- What does it mean for you that Jesus showed up in the midst of our pain and suffering and brokenness?
- What ‘agreement’ do you currently assume is there between you and God?
- What do you know of this ‘new agreement’ that Jesus has showed up to bring about?
- This agreement that you know about – is it good news? For you? For those around you? Why or why not?
- What can you do to remember these things this week in the midst of your reality – every time you eat, every time you drink?