As Jesus sits with his disciples, in a room already prepared, they come together for what Christians call the Last Supper. But for Jesus and the disciples it was not the last supper. It was Passover. The beginning of the Feast of Unleavened bread.
Because most of us (I surmise all of us) are not Jewish, it is easy to take Jesus out of his historical and cultural context and assume that he, like us, was simply sitting down for a meal together with his disciples. Fried rice, chicken curry, and some Tropicana.
Passover, and the beginning of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread was not just any meal. It was a time of remembrance. An integral part of the culture that saw their past integral to their present and future. Like the way the British remember WWII, the Passover was a time of reflection and remembrance. Whereas most of us struggle to remember significant world events that happened in our lifetime (or even 5 years ago), for the Jewish in Jesus’ time, their history defined themto, and it was important to remember the significant parts of their history. As God commanded them, “Remember the Lord your God.”
At Passover, this annual Celebration, they would sit together and remember. They would eat unleavened bread (bread that didn’t have yeast in it, a flat bread). They would eat a lamb (or goat). They would tell stories of long ago. The same stories that had been told from generation to generation. No embellishment, no modernisation, no “jazzing up” to make the stories hip to the kids. No, these stories were their history. The history of their people. There was no room for personal elaboration-these were the sacred stories of their people.
And so as Jesus, rabbi to the disciples, sat with them in the upper room. It was a time of remembrance. Remembering who God is. Remembering how he brought them out of Egypt. Remembering that He is a God who saves. And in Mark 14, as he sits with his disciples, he is no doubt reminding and telling them again of God’s enduring love and faithfulness. Because this is Passover.
But Mark picks up the story aa the Passover meal finishes. Jesus begins talking about a betrayal. A betrayal by one of their own. A foreboding that, like Passover, suggests that freedom come with a cost.
And then he takes the bread, and he breaks it, and says, “Take; this is my body.” Unleavened bread. Bread uncorrupted. And the disciples take it and share in it, unaware that Jesus’ own perfection will be sacrificed for our sake.
And then he takes the cup of wine, and shares it among them, so they all drink of it. And he says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” And the disciples, who had all drunk from it, never imagining that Jesus is that Passover lamb, who’s blood is poured out for them.
In Egypt, as a sign of deliverance, the blood of the Passover lamb was placed on the doorposts and the lintel. The unleavened bread was eaten as a commitment. No leavened bread was to be eaten, or else you would be cut off from the Israelites.
And with Jesus, his blood, marks us now. It is a sign that we are saved from the judgement of death. It is a symbol and a spiritual marking that we belong to Christ. And likewise, the eating of the bread is symbolic that we belong to Christ. Our body belongs to him. As we eat and drink, we ally ourselves with Christ- his sacrifice marking our hearts.
That is the life in communion with Christ.
Then follow on from today’s reflection with a study by Maverick on the Garden of Gethsemane. It was this evening that Christ wrestled and prayed in the garden before being arrested, tried, and crucified, on what we remember as Good Friday.