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"Sir, we wish to see Jesus" John 12:21

The Last Supper refers to the meal Jesus had with his disciples on the evening of his death. They had gone up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. At Jesus’ direction his disciples had secured a large upper room on Mount Zion where they prepared for the meal. Two foods in particular were partaken of at the meal, unleavened bread and roast lamb. The unleavened bread recalled the bread the Israelites made in their haste when they fled Egypt following the tenth plague that secured their release from Pharaoh. The roast lamb recalled the sacrifice that preserved the Israelites from the tenth plague. The tenth plague was the death of the firstborn males of any household that was not protected by the blood of the sacrificed lamb marking the doorposts and lintels. God sent the angel of death through the land and any household that was not protected suffered the plague. Having been forewarned by Moses the Israelite households were spared. Wine was also drunk with the meal.

Passover addresses the problem of evil and death that we endure in the world. At first when the Israelites settled in Egypt in Joseph’s day they were welcomed. Joseph had rendered a valuable service to Pharaoh and his clan was embraced. But over the generations as they grew in numbers the Egyptians grew fearful of them and subsequent Pharaohs enslaved them. Finally the Pharaohs tried to eradicate them by ordering the death of all male children that were born to the Israelites. The females would be married off to Egyptians and thus the Israelites would be assimilated. When God sent Moses to deliver the people of Israel from their bondage he sent a series of plagues upon Egypt. These were aimed at their gods that supported the power of the Pharaoh. The last one, the death of the firstborn males, was the most devastating and finally caused Pharaoh to relent and release the Israelites. It was just retribution for the killing of the Israelite males. 

While presiding at table that night in Jerusalem Jesus said and did some remarkable things. One thing he said was that he was giving his disciples a new commandment to love one another as he had loved them and fulfilling this would be the mark of being his disciples. One thing he did was to take the bread and wine of the Passover meal and identify them as his body that was to be broken and his blood that was to be shed on the next day. In other words, he identified himself as the Passover sacrifice that would deliver his disciples from the power of evil and death. For just as the Israelites in Egypt were saved when they ate and drank so now the followers of Jesus eat and drink the meal called by some the Lord’s Supper and by others the Eucharist and they are saved by his sacrifice.

So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” We die but not forever. We may be subject to the power of evil outwardly in terms of the body through what people serving evil do to us but not inwardly in terms of the soul. As we love as he loved, we overcome evil with good.  

(Painting by Rubens)

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