The Passover Rescue & Celebration
“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs.” (Exodus 12: 1 – 8)
Passover had at one time been observed only by the Jewish community. At least that was my understanding in my childhood years. As I grew to maturity in both my life and my faith, I became aware that it was also observed and celebrated by people outside of the Jewish faith. I learned about it because my paternal grandmother grew up in a Jewish home. In her adult years she became a Messianic Jew, meaning that she – like the apostles including Paul – came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God sent to humanity.
Part of the reason that Passover & Maundy Thursday became significant in Christian faith (again, at least in my understanding) was that Jesus became the Passover Lamb sacrificed so that humanity could be free of the tyranny that they live under.
“You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; 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 live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” (Verses 9 – 14)
Jesus’ apostles did not know that Jesus was placing himself in the position of the sacrifice and means of being “passed over” by death. He the first born (and only born) of God would die in place of all other firstborn (and all who were/are/will be born) so that death will not be eternal damnation. Just as the Hebrews had hope for a life beyond Egypt, we have hope for a life beyond this mortal life. Jesus supplied everything, including the blood. We re-enact the Passover meal (calling it now the Last Supper) to remember and give pause to what Jesus completed.
The Last Supper as it has come down to us -Communion
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
In many churches the Last Supper has been redesigned to become Communion. Gone is the lamb, the roast herbs, and all the other menu items. What remains in the bread and wine; or more accurately in some faith traditions, the bread and grape juice. But still, these tokens have meaning and are used & celebrated to remember that Jesus became Christ and died for our sake. But just as his death was not the end, neither will our lives end in nothingness. We can start anew or renew our faith, and follow the example that Jesus the Christ left behind.
Other remembrances of this last meal Jesus had with his disciples
“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.” (John 13:1 – 4)
Jesus had one more lesson to teach his disciples – servant-hood. When Paul talks about Jesus not regarding “equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” in Philippians 2:6 – 7a, one of the things that refers to is his servant-hood. And in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ time there were few tasks that had a greater degree of servant-hood.
“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. . . . I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ” (Verses 5 – 17, 34 – 35)
In preparing to write on these passages on Maundy Thursday, I did a little research into the term “Maundy”. It is comes an Anglo- French word which is based on the Latin word “mandatum” which means commandment. The commandment is Jesus’ exhortation to love one another as he loved his disciples; totally & completely with no hesitation or conditions. To be of continual service to one another, and to extend shalom to all who you encounter. It is no wonder, beloved reader, that this day has become one of great importance in Holy Week! Shalom & Selah!