I had a question a couple years ago during lent: How did Jesus prepare for the cross and empty tomb? During lent, we spend time preparing our hearts for Easter, reflecting on our sin, and living with the knowledge that we bear part of the blame for what happened on that dark Friday. Just like us, it is quite clear in the Gospels that Jesus knew exactly what was coming in the final days of his life. He knew there would be arrests, trials, crucifixion, and ultimately resurrection. So, what did he do before all these events transpired?
He ate the seder meal with his disciples celebrating Passover. Every aspect of this meal pointed to what was about to happen. The sacrificial lamb that was slaughtered to deal with the sin of the family was then consumed and nourished them. The many cups of wine that symbolized the sanctification of God’s people, God’s judgement of sin, their hope for redemption and their life of praise all pointed to Jesus. It was all then tied to God’s history of redeeming his people and fulfilling his promises throughout history.
This is the meal we reference once a month when, before communion, we say “On the night that Jesus was to be betrayed, he took the bread, broke it, and after he had given thanks said, ‘This is my body which is broken for you...’” Jesus fulfills all the signs and symbols that are wrapped up in the Passover seder meal and then imbues them with a whole new meaning. The meaning that we celebrate with the sacrament of communion.
What does this say to us about our lenten preparation? Whether you are fasting, meditating on the accounts of the last days of Jesus, or some other practice, it is important to focus not just on the practice itself, but on the meaning behind it.
This season is about being repentant. We fast as a way to express our sorrow for our sin and overindulgence. We fast because as we limit things that are indeed necessities, we are more mindful of our true dependence on God. We fast because we are called to live self-controlled lives and do not. We meditate on the passion of Christ because share in both the guilt of the crucifixion and the salvation it provides.
This month may we prepare with repentant hearts and celebrate with Joy as our repentance turns to Joy with the salvation provided by our living Christ on Easter.
If you are interested in celebrating the Seder meal with us on March 28 at 5:30pm, you can register online by clicking here
After receiving a great email from one of my readers, I think it would be helpful to clarify (or muddy) the statement above about the link between the Gospels and Seder. If you want to read a little over 5,000 words on the subject there is a great article here. Here is the gist. For a long time people have equated several elements found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke to be pointing towards the final meal Jesus shared with his disciples being the passover meal. That was supported by quotes from a first century historian (Josephus) and several references in rabbinical texts. I find all of those references compelling, but the most current scholarship casts those into doubt.
On top of that, Seder, as modern Jews practice it, was not formalized until about 40 years after Jesus' death when the temple was destroyed. However, I think that the references in the rabbinic literature at the very least point to rabbis bringing together practices that had been developing in the community, adding some new ones and writing it all down.
It is my personal belief that you can see elements of the seder that were present in the (pre-seder) passover meal and that was the meal Jesus shared with his disciples on the night before he was to be betrayed. That means that celebrating the passover can have many great benefits for us as believers. Not only does it remind us of our Exodus story, but it gives insight into communion and the Gospel accounts.
We will be celebrating the Jewish meal, remember our story in the exodus, and looking at the parallels with Jesus last supper. I hope you will join us.