As evening draws near, and darkness covers our land, it is a reminder of the darkness of sin which covers us all. And it is a reminder of the darkness of this night, Maundy Thursday. The night Jesus is betrayed; handed over to human evil, to be flogged, beaten and crucified.
But before this can happen, while there is still light; while Jesus, the light of the world still shines, there needs to be a preparation and a celebration of the Passover meal. Jesus and his disciples are reclined at a table like this; like us. And they are eating a holy meal, a meal instituted by God himself as an everlasting decree. A Passover meal which is a reminder of the night God brought the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.
However, this meal is different, and this time a new meaning is placed on the meal. This is going to be the new Passover, the new covenant meal. Jesus is hosting this meal and he is instituting what is going to be the culminating event, a lasting will and testament to a new deal between God and man; a celebration of a new exodus from slavery.
How? Luke records ‘Then came the day of unleavened bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed’. On this night, outside among men, and inside among God’s people, together with this meal, Jesus is being prepared as the new Passover lamb. To replace the temporary and continuing sacrifice of the original Passover lamb in the Temple. He is replacing the old Passover with a new purpose. Jesus took this meal and made it his meal; this is Jesus’ Passover, because on this night, he is the one who must be sacrificed and it is he who stands on the threshold of a new era of salvation.
Tonight we have before us Traditional Passover food, the same food Jesus and the disciples would have ate. Except we as Christians have a different emphasis, a deeper purpose, yet in a way, we have the same meaning to the meal as the Jews.
• Maror: bitter herbs, usually horseradish or romaine lettuce, is used to symbolize the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. The Charoses: a mixture of apples, nuts, wine, and cinnamon, is a reminder of the mortar used by the Jews in the construction of the buildings in Egypt as slaves. The people of Israel were horribly treated as slaves. The harder they worked the more the Egyptian king forced them to work. Many could not keep up and were flogged and even killed. There was no way out.
We too are in slavery. St Paul writes ‘When you were slaves to sin, what benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!’ We are born into bondage of sin which holds us as slaves; it is our master. No matter how hard we try, we cannot fully and completely fulfil what God demands of us; Sin has us in bondage and it is killing us, as Paul writes ‘the wages of sin is death’. Just as the Jews where in bondage in Egypt and needed rescuing by God, we also need to be rescued
The Beitzah: a roasted egg, is a symbol of life and the perpetuation of existence. And the Karpas: a vegetable, preferably parsley or celery, represents hope and redemption from God; served with a bowl of salted water to represent the tears shed in slavery and calling out to God.
Our hope of salvation is Jesus Christ As Paul writes ‘God has chosen to make known among us the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. While we still have tears, we live in the hope of Jesus Christ, for he is our redemption from our bondage to sin.
• Matzoh: Three unleavened matzohs are placed within the folds of a napkin as a reminder of the haste with which the Israelites fled Egypt, leaving no time for dough to rise. Deuteronomy records ‘You shall eat no leaven bread with the Passover meal; seven days your shall eat it with hurried flight- that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you come out of the land of Egypt.’
This is the bread which fed the Israelites as they were freed from slavery. It is also the manna sent by God to feed the Israelites while in the desert. The Matzah is both a bread of freedom from slavery and a bread of life which will feed them in the desert until they reach the promise land; a bread of salvation and of life. In the Last Supper, Jesus takes this bread and says ‘take and eat this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ With these words, Jesus is the bread which will now be eaten as the true bread of salvation and life. His body, in which we feed is the bread which will bring us out of slavery, from our bondage of sin, and his body is the bread which also feeds us until we reach the promised land; the New Jerusalem. He is the bread of salvation and life.
Zeroah: traditionally a piece of roasted lamb shankbone, symbolizing the paschal sacrificial offering. Passover lamb was to be without blemish and with no broken bones. It was to be slain and its blood was sprinkled on the door posts, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. In the meal Jesus is holding, the paschal lamb, or Passover Lamb was sacrificed in preparation for the meal at 3pm in the temple. The blood of the lamb was then sprinkled on the altar and on other holy parts of the inner sanctuary to pay for sins, and is also a reminder of the blood which saved Israel when the angel of death passed over the people; the sacrifice of the lamb saved them from death.
Jesus is the new Pascal Lamb; without blemish and with no broken bones. In this meal Jesus is preparing himself for His death on the cross; to be the new sacrifice for our salvation. His blood is poured out for us so that the angel of death will pass over us. Jesus blood is now the blood which is sprinkled on all of us to pay for our sins; Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
The cup of Wine: four glasses of wine are consumed during the meal to represent the four-fold promise of redemption.
This is the cup Jesus took and said ‘Take and drink of it all of you for this is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’. The wine in the cup which was the promise of redemption, is now fulfilled in the blood of Jesus. The blood of the Passover lamb that was sprinkled on the altar for the forgiveness of sin, is now Jesus’ blood, in, with and under the wine. The promise of redemption is Jesus and he gives us his blood to sprinkle on our hearts to purify us and cleanse us of all our sins.
Yes, this is a special meal of utter importance for us who believe in Jesus; a meal which gives us salvation from sin and death and a meal that gives us life eternal. So let us now join with Jesus and share in the meal he is hosting, and eat and drink the body and blood of the sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world.