On his last night on Earth in a mortal body, Jesus gave us a new Commandment to add to God’s Big Ten – to love one another as he loves us. He also asked us to do something in memory of him. That something he asked us to do was to perform a new ceremony during the annual meal commemorating Passover. He asked us to raise a cup in his name and to share it among ourselves, and to acknowledge that this cup represents his blood. But unlike the blood of the lamb that is smeared on the doorposts, this “blood” we are to drink in spiritual solidarity with Jesus, in memory of him. Same with the bread, which Jesus broke apart and shared among his followers; we are to eat the bread as if it were Jesus’ “body”. This is not an act of spiritual cannibalism but a recognition that Jesus is God’s sacrificial lamb, and that if we want the benefits of that sacrifice, we must do as Jesus’ told us to do – to drink the blood of the lamb and to eat its flesh so that it becomes a part of us, so that Jesus becomes part of us.
This is the new Passover established by Jesus that we are to celebrate every year on the 15th day of the 1st month of the Jewish year. Jesus did not say to perform this ritual every day or several times a day or twice on Sunday; he said to do it in memory of him, as part of the Passover celebration.
So, he gave us a new Commandment (to love one another) and a new way of celebrating Passover to remind us that he, Jesus, became the sacrificial lamb who was slaughtered to pay the price for the sin of disobedience that was brought into the world through Adam. That sin kept us from close relationship with God, but Jesus, through his willing sacrifice, balanced the books so that those who willingly chose God’s way of genuine truth and genuine justice could benefit through God’s grace. Grace came into the world through Jesus’ sacrifice and this is infinitely important, as without grace, there is no spiritual rebirth, and without spiritual rebirth, there is no entrance into God’s Kingdom. This is what we acknowledge when we celebrate Passover – that Jesus paid the sin price, once and for all time, that those who choose to follow him in God’s Way can benefit from his sacrifice through God’s grace of spiritual rebirth, and that we are to remember and acknowledge Jesus’ willing sacrifice, knowing that someday we, too, will be called to a similar test of faith.
There is something eternal about the Passover feast. While our Hebrew spiritual forefathers (those who were faithful to God under the leadership of Moses) huddled in the darkness of their homes on that first Passover night thousands of years ago, they heard all around them the cries and screams of anguish as every Egyptian first-born, both man and beast, was slaughtered. God is not vindictive, but he does keep his promises, and his justice is perfect. The Egyptians got what was coming to them (just as we all do), but God’s people were protected as long as they did exactly as he instructed.
We no longer have to slaughter a lamb or smear its blood on our doorposts, but we do have to raise a cup and break bread in memory of Jesus’ sacrifice and triumph. We have to do it because Jesus told us to do it. We can do it alone, if we have to, knowing that Jesus and God are with us. But we need to do it. We need to remember the first Passover, and we need to remember what Jesus told us in celebrating the Passover.
He did not say to memorialize his crucifixion or celebrate his resurrection. He told us to do two very specific things on Passover in his memory.
If I were you, I would do them.
[…] begins this evening at sundown. I wrote last year about how important it is for Christians to celebrate Passover and by extension the Feast of Unleavened Bread. While it’s true we’re no longer under the Law […]