Mar. 28, 2013
Luke 22:14, 19-20
When the time came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles joined him. After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he took the cup after the meal and said, “This cup is the new covenant by my blood, which is poured out for you.”
If you could choose what you’d want to eat for your last meal on this earth, what would you choose? Most of us won’t get to choose this. But Jesus did.
Jesus’ last meal was the night Passover began, the Seder Meal. This is a very holy meal for Jews, with a tremendous amount of symbolism. When the Hebrew people lived in Egypt and were under the oppression of Pharaoh, God sent Moses to release the Hebrews and bring them back to the Promised Land. The Seder Meal recalls what happened the night they began to escape Egypt and reflects the same foods eaten 3,000 years ago. The lamb shank represents the sacrificial lamb slaughtered instead of the oldest son. The bitter horseradish reminds the Hebrew people of the bitterness they endured while slaves. The apple-based charosat represents the bricks and mortar the slaves were forced to make to build Pharaoh great cities. The entire meal is a metaphor for the freedom the Hebrew people experienced once they were no longer slaves.
It’s this meal Jesus chooses to make his last. While he could have chosen pizza or chicken strips or prime rib or Mexican, he didn’t. He chose the Seder Meal. In normal Jesus form, there is a twist. Matzah or unleven bread is broken into three pieces at the beginning of the Seder meal. Half of the middle piece is hidden and called the aphikomon. The aphikomon is discovered later in the meal and is the piece of matzah that Jesus used when he said, “Take eat this bread. This is my body broken for you.” Jesus is sharing that it will literally be his flesh, as the third person of the Trinity that represents all the sins of humanity.
Just after the meal, the third cup of wine was drunk, known as the cup of redemption. As Jesus instructs the disciples to drink this cup, he says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which I poured out for you.” As he does this, Jesus says that it is HIS blood that will cover all of our sins. In this way, Jesus provided the disciples and us a way to remember and recall the sacrifice he made for us on the cross.
It was not until I was in seminary that I discovered how Jesus took the elements of the Seder Meal and redefined them for us as Christians. For Jesus, the actual food of last meal of his life was not nearly as important as using symbols from this meal to help us more clearly understand just who he was.
Tonight, we’ll share a Seder Meal at Midland. I believe it is terribly important for Christians to understand the context from which our Sacrament of Communion is derived. Why? If Jesus felt it was so terribly important to make this the last meal of his life, then we can see how important it is for us to celebrate Communion together as a Christian family.
I love good food. But this meal reminds me that Jesus’ sacrifice was very intentional and deliberate. May we all celebrate Holy Communion today and remember just what Jesus wants us to see.
Always the teacher, thank you Lord Jesus, for taking a simple but important meal and providing this as a way for us to see what your life represents. Help us to see through the symbolism of the Last Supper just why you came to this earth. May we see how you gave us this gift as a way for us to always celebrate your presence with us. Amen.