Breaking a piece of bread is a physical act; giving half of it to
someone else is a spiritual act.   --Brian Roeff


 

Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover
lamb must be killed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go
and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat." They
said to Him, "
Where do You want us to prepare?"

He said, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man
will
meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into
the house
which he enters. Then say to the master of the
house, 'The
Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room
where I may eat
the Passover with My disciples?"' He will
show you a large,
furnished upper room; there make ready."

So they went and found it just as He had said. When the
hour had
come, Jesus sat down, and the twelve apostles
with Him. He said
to them, "With fervent desire I have
desired to eat this Passover
with you before I suffer; for
I will no longer eat of it until it is
fulfilled in the kingdom
of God." Then He took the cup, gave
thanks, and said,
"Take this and divide it among yourselves."

And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to
them,
saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do
this in
remembrance of Me." Likewise He also took the
cup after supper,
saying, "This cup is the new covenant
in My blood, which is
shed for you."

                                                     Luke 22:7-20 NKJV, condensed


                                  The Passover Fulfilled

Deuteronomy 6:21-22 advised the Israelites that when their
children ask what all their rules and regulations and observances
mean, they should begin by saying to them, "We were slaves of
Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord delivered us with a mighty hand
and showed signs and wonders before our eyes." Just as Easter
is an unforgettable event for Christians, likewise the highlights
of the Passover story are retold annually in Jewish households.

It began when the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
were slaves in the fertile crescent of Egypt. God chose Moses to
lead the people out of their bondage and return them to the
freedom of Canaan. But the Pharaoh refused to let them go,
and needed some supernatural convincing. So God brought
ten plagues on the people of Egypt. The final and decisive
plague was the death of the firstborn son in every
Egyptian
household.

In order to protect the homes of the children of Israel from the
angel of death, God directed each family to sacrifice a spring
lamb and place its blood on their doorpost. Ever after, that
dark and fearful night has been called Passover, because the
blood on the doorposts spared the lives of all firstborn sons
within those families. The death of the Passover lamb was their
salvation; its blood was their life. It was an experience God
wanted his people to remember forever and never let its
memory perish from the earth.

Therefore, God commanded a yearly festival of Passover, during
which the story would be told and retold to every generation.
No one must ever forget how the Lord God delivered their
ancestors from servitude to freedom, and from death to life.
To celebrate, a lamb was sacrificed, roasted, and eaten that 
same night. Unique to every Passover meal (today called the
seder) is the unleavened bread, symbolizing the haste with
which the captives left Egypt; they had no time to wait for the
bread to rise. Bitter herbs are part of the meal to represent
a slave's bitter hardships.

Like most devout Jews, Jesus celebrated the Passover on the
15th day of the first month on the Hebrew calendar. Peter and
John were sent ahead to make the preparations. Jesus and the
other 10 disciples arrived at sundown (as in the creation story,
a day begins in darkness and ends in the light). John's gospel
tells us Jesus assumed the role of a servant and knelt to wash
the dusty feet of each of his disciples prior to eating. This was
not going to be an ordinary meal.

In a borrowed room, Jesus told his loyal supporters he longed
with all his heart to eat the Passover meal one last time with
them. Sharing what was on his mind, he noted he would not
eat of it again until they celebrated it together in the kingdom
of God.

Why was this annual tradition so significant to Jesus? The words
of the Passover story were not merely words; they gave his spirit
wings. God continues to save and deliver. God does not forget
his own. Despite the bitterness of his present circumstances,
the message of Passover, combined with the love of his devoted
followers, gave him the strength to transcend the painful odds
and fulfill the task for which he had been born.

Toward the end of the meal, Jesus took some of that unleavened
bread, blest and broke it, and gave it to his disciples. In the
process he spoke these words, "This is My body which is given
for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Then Jesus took a wine
cup and said, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which
is shed for you."

These are the revolutionary words that transformed the old
covenant which God had made with Abraham. This new covenant
emerged with
the force of a rising sun and opened up an
expanse wide enough to include every nation, tribe and language.
Jesus takes center stage. He supercedes the Patriarchs, and
fulfills the Law and the Prophets. Through faith Jesus becomes
our salvation; his blood is our life.

With no fanfare and in the presence of only a handful of faithful
followers, Jesus made the announcement that would forever
distinguish the old testimony from the new. One of those
disciples later paraphrased it this way , "For God so loved the
world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him,
should not perish, but have eternal life!" God loves us dearly.
Jesus sacrificed his life, once, and for all. So that we may be
free from the bondage of sin and delivered to God's realm
of promise.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker: Different faith traditions ascribe different names to the
          sacrament instituted by Jesus on the night before he died. --
          The Eucharist; The Lord's Supper; Holy Communion; . . . . . .
          Each name offers a unique perspective on the meal. 
Which one do you prefer?   Is there a specific reason for your choice?

 

Name a physical object which has special significance for you.
Then name a physical object which has religious meaning for you.
            Share your thoughts about what these two items mean to you,
            and how ordinary tangible items take on spiritual meaning.

 

How common was it for Jesus to take a commonly used article and
give it a heavenly meaning?
            Give some of examples of this from his teachings.

 

Some critics of the early Church misinterpreted "the Lord's Supper"
and claimed the Christians were cannibals because they ate flesh
and drank blood.
            How did these critics arrive at that conclusion?  
                    Why were they wrong?

 

Did a child ever ask you why you go to church, or what a particular
religious holiday is all about, or why you participate in a faith-based
work project?
            What is your starting point for answering questions like these?

 

In the Christian church, the two most popular holidays are Christmas
and Easter.
            What is it about those holy days that must never be forgotten?
By celebrating them every year, does that ensure "the mighty works
of God" will remain in our minds forever?

 

How important are the Old Testament stories to your understanding
of the New Testament?
            What does knowing about the Passover add to your perception
                    of Jesus' death and resurrection?

 

We often associate blood with death, but in the Bible, life is in the blood.
            How comfortable are you with talk about the blood of Jesus?
                        Explain your answer.

 

"Do this in remembrance of Me."
            Imagine eating this Passover meal with Jesus. What do you think 
                         it was like to be there in that upper room?
            When you receive the bread and wine, what goes through your mind?  
Describe a communion service that was particularly meaningful to you.
                        What made it stand out in your mind and soul?
What could you do beforehand in preparation for celebrating this
holy sacrament?

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