Scripture can be found here...
This is a night on which we remember.
We remember something that happened so long ago,
none of us can trace our family trees back that far.
We remember something that happened so far away,
most of us have never been there, and never will be.
Nevertheless, we remember.
We remember that on this night, Jesus and his friends were also gathered to remember. They gathered for a Passover meal, which is, exactly, a feast of remembering.
Like us, they were gathered around a table.
Like us, they were telling the story of their faith.
Like us, they were calling to mind the saving acts of God…
They remembered God being with them, in steadfast love,
even as they were treated harshly and enslaved.
They remembered God leading their ancestors in faith out of slavery,
and turning their bitter burden into sweet freedom.
And as they dipped the vegetables in salt water, to remind them of their tears, and as they ate the sweet fruit, to remind them of their joys, they were putting it all together.
That’s what “remember” means… to put something back together. We “re-member” something, and what was scattered becomes whole. What was many becomes one.
And so they remembered together, Jesus and his friends, their identity as God’s covenant people. Simon was there (who Jesus had named Peter), and Andrew. John and James, the brothers, sons of Zebedee. Philip. Bartholomew. Thomas and Matthew. Another James, the son of Alphaeus. Thaddeus. Another Simon, the Cananean. And of course, Judas Iscariot.[i] (Also, of course, the women who likely prepared the supper, the ones who are neither named nor mentioned; but who, logic and the fact that, before the end of the story, we will learn their names, tells us, they were surely there.)
They were all there, to remember God’s great and saving acts. They were there, in a sense, to remember who they were.
And then Jesus did something… inexplicable.
While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”
This was not the first time Jesus had taken bread, and blessed it, and broken it, and given it to people to eat. But those other times, he did it for great crowds. Here, in this large upstairs room somewhere in Jerusalem, Jesus did it for his friends. The people he loved.
He did it for a group of people who, from the beginning of their time together, mostly didn’t understand what he was doing and where they were going.
He did it with some level of confidence that this was, in fact, the last supper he would share with them.
On this night, at this meal, the meaning of the bread was pre-determined. Matzoh, the bread eaten at the Passover Seder, is called the “bread of affliction” or adversity. In Isaiah 30 it says,
Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
The matzoh reminds of the suffering of the slaves in Egypt. But on that night, Jesus tells his friends, he is the bread. He will suffer. He will be broken.
Then, scripture tells us, Jesus took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the [new] covenant…”
Again, Jesus has taken this night of remembering, and done something new and electrifying. Inexplicable.
The meaning of the wine at the Passover meal is consistent. The wine is shared as part of a blessing.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine, and who gave us, Lord our God, with love, festivals for happiness, holidays and times for joy, this day of Passover, the time of our freedom.
At the Seder, wine is drunk in blessing and celebration and abundance, and the sharing of it is meant to “show freedom and majesty.” [ii]
And then Jesus, after passing around the wine, says, “This is my blood.”
Jesus tells his friends, his life will be poured out, in much the same way as the life of the Passover lamb.
Jesus joins with his friends to remember, to celebrate the Passover… a meal that resonates at the heart of their identity as Jews. At the same time, Jesus interprets the bread and wine of that meal in a way that forms the heart of our identity.
That is what we are here to remember, to re-member. We are putting it back together. In re-membering, what was scattered becomes whole. What was many becomes one.
At this table, we remember that Jesus spoke of his body being broken, like a piece of bread; and he spoke of his life being poured out, like a cup of wine.
And now, Jesus is not hidden from us any more; our eyes can see our Teacher.
We see: in Jesus, God’s love is poured out, like a never-ending cup of wine.
We see: in Jesus, God’s presence comes to us, our daily bread, bread for the journey.
We see: in Jesus, God acts with love and power, and the goal, again, is joy and freedom.
All these things we see, when we re-member. When what was scattered in our history becomes whole. When what was many—that would be us—becomes one.
Like Jesus and his friends, we gather around a table.
and we tell the story of our faith.
and we call to mind the saving acts of God.
And like them, now we sing.
[i] These are the Twelve as named in the Gospel of Mark.