Passover began this past Monday evening. During Passover, our Jewish brothers and sisters invite friends and family into their homes for a Seder supper, to celebrate Passover together. The Seder supper recalls the Exodus of the Hebrew people from Pharaoh’s house of slavery. In preparation for their being led out, Yahweh gave instructions to the people as to how to prepare themselves for their flight from Egypt. It is also called the feast of Unleavened Bread because the people had no time for the bread they would take with them to rise. The name for Passover comes from the their sprinkling the blood of a lamb over their two doorposts and lintel so that the angel of death, one of the plagues set upon Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to let the people go, would pass over the houses of the Hebrew people.
Jesus’ last supper was the Passover meal. Tonight Christians go to their respective churches to celebrate the Last Supper. It is called Maundy Thursday as it recalls Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples before the Passover meal they shared together. The meal together becomes a sign of his self-giving, his sense of service to his followers. The Last Supper recalls the Exodus and the Passover meal Jesus shared with his friends the night before he died. The words of the Eucharist celebration are the words St. Paul puts down in 1 Corinthians 11:23-27 that he received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you. They are the words that turned Jesus’s last supper, his final Passover feast, into the Eucharist, the Mass, as the Christian remembrance of Jesus’ Passover from death to life.
There is much speculation outside the gospels accounts of the Jesus’ last meal with his friends, as to what actually occurred there. The gospels tell us that Jesus knew one of his own would betray him. It would not have taken super powers for Jesus to know that there were those who were out to put an end to him and his teachings. He was surely aware that John, whose work he most likely took up after his cousin’s death, had been killed because he challenged the status quo both religiously and politically.
As a devout and faithful Hebrew, one very familiar with the sacred writings of Israel, he would have read, along with singing the Psalms, the story of the Exodus. At the close of the reading he would have held the scroll up and said ‘this is the word of the Lord.’ Soon enough he would be raised up to the world as the living Word, the Word of G-d become flesh.
Part of the readings that night would recall Yahweh’s command to Israel in the Book of Exodus to perform Passover as a yearly ritual in remembrance of the day Yahweh brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. You will observe this ordinance each year at the appointed time. For St. Paul these words that Jesus’ disciples heard at the Passover meal with him would also be remembered as Jesus’ own instructions to remember what they did together that night on the final Passover he most likely knew would be his last to celebrate with them.
In the Passover meal Yeshua of Nazareth stands as the center point, at the heart, of the ongoing faith journey of G-d’s sacred people. The people chosen and meant, called to be his own. Part of the promise given to Israel was that she would bring the rest of the world to faith in the one G-d, the Lord of Life, the I Am Who Am.
Yeshua of Nazareth came to his own people. He came to a scattered and oppressed Israel. His mission as he understood it was to the Hebrew people. We understand from St. Paul too, that being saved, saved from oppression, being set aside as a sacred people for G-d, would come to the Jews first and through them to the rest of the world.
Israel gave us Jesus. We believe Yeshua (which means Yahweh saves) of Nazareth to be the Christ. Our faith in Christ is also faith in the G-d of Israel.
As we all join this week in spirit if not in place to celebrate the Passover of the Lord let us remember together with gratitude the bitter tears and the suffering of our shared faith journey that transformed forever who we are, a people all, meant and sacred. Let us remember as charged the G-d of Israel and of Jesus, who brought us from slavery to freedom, from death to life, giving us a way of being his, a way to him.