Holy Week - Maundy Thursday
On Thursday, Jesus observed the Passover with his disciples and took the most sacred meal for the Jewish people and made it all about him and his mission to redeem all of creation. Pastor Mike Mumford has written a look at the meal of Passover as we move closer to observing Good Friday. Visit LivingStonesChurches.com for Good Friday service times and locations across Northern Nevada.
If you’re a Christian of any denomination or tradition, chances are you have partaken in what we refer to as, The Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, or The Eucharist. There are many different traditions and beliefs surrounding this meal as well as different interpretations regarding it’s spiritual significance. It is important to understand these differences in opinion, but for this blog, I’d like to take a closer look at a different meal.
The reason I’d like to talk about the Passover meal is simple; it’s the meal that Jesus and his disciples were partaking in when the Lord’s Supper was instituted during Jesus’ final hours on earth.
The Passover meal is a Jewish tradition in which a family would gather around a table to eat of specific foods that remind them of God’s favor upon the Israelites during their time in slavery to the Egyptians. In the book of Exodus ch. 7-12 we see where this tradition began. God threatens and executes 10 plagues upon the Egyptians because they had enslaved the Israelites and Pharaoh (the Egyptian ruler) had refused to let them go, despite several confrontations by Moses (the Israelite leader) warning Pharaoh that if he didn’t free the Israelites, God would exact judgement upon the Egyptian nation.
The 10th and final plague was the death of the firstborn son. And it is from this plague that Passover get’s its name and tradition. In Exodus 12 God tells Moses to have every family find a Lamb to sacrifice, and with the blood of the lamb they were to mark their doorposts. God warned Moses saying, “I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”
Pharaoh did not heed Moses’ warning to let the Israelites go, and being true to his word, God did just as he said he would. He slew every firstborn son in the nation of Egypt that was not covered by the blood of the lamb. This final act of judgement broke Pharaoh and forced him to let the Israelites go, and Jewish people have celebrated this act of divine intervention ever since.
During a Passover seder (or ritual meal) there are specific foods that are meant to remind those participating in the meal of the passover event. Things like Matzos and bitter herbs are eaten as a representation of the hardship of being enslaved, an egg is present to represent the new life that was granted to the Israelites after fleeing Egypt. Finally, a lamb shank is present to represent the sacrifice of the lamb, which provided the blood for the doorpost.
During the biblical account of the last supper, Jesus was eating Passover with his disciples. Jesus being a rabbi, was likely quite familiar with the rituals of the seder, such as passing the food, breaking bread, pouring and drinking wine. But, oddly enough, what is missing in the gospels’ accounts of Jesus’ passover meal is the lamb.
His disciples, being Jewish men would have all been wondering, “I see the bread and the wine, but where is the lamb?”
What they may not have realized then was that the lamb was indeed present, but in a different form.
In the gospel of John 1:29 the apostle records this moment where John the Baptist see’s Jesus coming from a distance and declares, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John the Baptist’s words were not merely metaphoric, they were prophetic.
In this moment, during this passover dinner between Jesus and his disciples, we see Christ as the truer and better lamb, who’s blood covers us and allows the wrath of God to pass over.
This is the birth of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, or The Eucharist. It all goes back to this moment, where we see the Lamb of God, administering the sacraments of the new covenant. A covenant made by the shedding of his blood, by the breaking of his body, for the forgiveness of our sin.
So Christian, this Sunday as we gather together to worship our Savior, come to the table and behold him, the lamb of God, who takes away your sin.