After such a long time in the good graces of the ruling Pharaohs, the Israelite people found themselves being enslaved by one who didn’t remember their importance.
Crushed under heel and stung by whips, their cries went up and the Lord heard them. Moses was sent to bring a message of release to the rulers of Egypt and when they turned from mercy, they suffered. Plague after plague, they set their hearts against freedom and grace until only one method was left untried.
Sacrifice an animal to the Lord and place the blood upon the doorposts of your houses, the Israelites were told. The price for not doing this would be great. The Angel of the Lord would visit Egypt and all who did not have this sign would find their firstborn sons put to death. But if you had followed the instructions of the Lord, your house would be passed over.
As so it was.
And for centuries, the Jewish people, through homecoming and exile and back again, spent time every year remembering the night when God spared them.
Being a Israelite who kept the laws and traditions of his people, Jesus found himself celebrating the Passover with his disciples. It’s actually his partaking of these festivals that we know he spent three years in his ministry because the Gospel of John mentions three Passovers.
Jesus knew the Passover was about sacrifice. He knew the stories, had read the scriptures, had practiced them with his family and friends.
This last supper would be no different. It would be about sacrifice. Not of a common animal but of the Son of God. It was to be about flesh being torn and blood being spilt so that the Lord would look upon those whom it covers and pass over them in spite of their sins.
The Son of God would become the sacrificial lamb.
His blood would cover the doorposts and defeat death once and forever.
The importance of the meal that would come to be known as the Last Supper would be known to all Christians throughout the world in all of history. Remembering what Christ did was celebrated by the early Church and if we know anything about people, we know that it didn’t take long for the practice to become corrupted by pride.
Paul even feels the need to harshly instruct the church at Corinth because they had lost the meaning of the supper.
When I was young, I was scared of this passage of scripture. I was told that if I didn’t expunge every bit of sin from myself before I took the bread and juice (we were Baptist) then God would be angry with me and I would find myself in a heap of trouble.
But as I have read Paul’s words and thought on his message, I think he was trying to tell us that we had to make ourselves perfect but that we had to remember that we are no better or worse than those around us. That we have to put away pride and ego.
While some denominations have some serious disagreements about what communion entails, I would hope that we would view it as a uniting bond. A bond that literally lets us have a physical representation of our communion with God, with each other and with ourselves.
I hope that we never take for granted the fact that as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes again.