Thursday, March 29, 2018

Preparing the Passover

On Thursday of Holy Week, what we often call Maundy Thursday, the disciples inquired of Jesus wherein they should prepare the Passover meal to eat, and He directed them to a man's house in Jerusalem, to the Upper Room. There, the disciples set to work preparing the lamb.

By the structure of Israel's sacred society, it was traditional that it was the priest who would prepare the sacrifice, but the exception to this rule was the Passover. At Passover, every family prepared for themselves the lamb. If one family was too small to eat a full lamb by itself, they prepared it with a neighbor family. Here, the people slaughtered the lamb, divided it, prepared it, and ate it as a feast unto the Lord. 

This, of course, is what the disciples were doing. 

Our narratives don't give us the fullness of this feast as it was, taking for granted that those who would have read about it in the early church would have understood the significance of Passover from the Hebrew roots of the faith and would have known all that this feast entailed that evening. All that our narrative tells us about is the new thing - the bread/the body that is broken for us and the wine/the blood poured out. 

Make no mistake about it, however - the disciples also prepared a Lamb.

It is an interesting way to think about what was going on in that Upper Room, not just as a historical feast of Israel's faithfulness for which a lamb had been prepared according to tradition, but the preparation of the Lamb Himself for the Passover. It makes you wonder what Jesus was taking in that the disciples probably didn't even notice, what was feeding Him or fueling Him without their awareness, that perhaps they only realized much, much later (if, of course, at all).

Looking around in the Upper Room, what did Jesus see? He laid eyes on the diversity of humanity, represented there in His disciples. A tax collector. A faithful Jew. A Zealot. Men who knew the story and didn't know the story and were living out the story with Him. Men who had been broken, men who had been healed. Men whose personalities were sometimes too big for them but were always just right for Him. He looked around and saw the kinds of men that God so loved that He sent Him into the world in the first place, and certainly, this had to steady His heart to love them through the Cross.

Looking around a borrowed room, what did Jesus notice? He noticed the hospitality, the space that had been made for Him to walk among them. Just like the old days, just like the first days - when God had walked so openly with man. Here, He walked openly once more and men sought Him, really sought Him, and certainly, this comforted His heart that He would be found.

Looking around the Passover feast spread before them, what did Jesus realize? He realized He was among people who could remember with both gratefulness and anticipation the powerful acts of God that were done among them, who looked forward to His next redemptive movement, who celebrated with great joy what they thought they knew even in the midst of what they could not possibly understand. And certainly, this assured Him that He would not be forgotten.

We so often think about what Jesus gave us in that Upper Room - a new feast, a new paradigm, a new Passover remembrance and hope and anticipation that we celebrate each week in the Last Supper - but let us not forget that there was a Lamb prepared there, as well. A Lamb who would, in just a few short hours, walk to slaughter as an offering.

No longer because the firstborn son was spared, but because He was given. 

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