We have come here tonight to remember the night in which our Lord instituted the Eucharist. On this night so very long ago, Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal together. It was the last Passover that they would share together on this earth, because on this night one of the disciples would betray Jesus. The Temple guards would come and take Jesus away as their prisoner. He would be tried before the Sanhedrin and the next day taken to Pontius Pilate to be crucified.
At that Passover meal so long ago, the disciples did not know that this would be their last Passover with Jesus. Even Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, believed that Jesus would use His miraculous powers to destroy the Roman army and declare Himself the true King of Israel. Only Jesus knew how the events of this evening and the following day would unfold. Yet, even knowing that His death was near, Jesus took the time to use the remaining hours with His disciples to teach them and to give us all the sacrament of the Eucharist.
It was on this night, when Jesus revealed to His followers that He was the Passover Lamb. For those of us not familiar with Jewish customs, the passages we heard read tonight can be difficult to comprehend. At times like these it is good to go back to the roots of the story, because it was actually in Egypt where the revelation was made by the Lord God Almighty of His plan for our salvation.
The Israelites had been enslaved by the Egyptians for over four hundred years. Then God in His great mercy raised up a man to deliver them. This man was Moses whom God used to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. Before the Israelites could even leave Egypt, a blood sacrifice had to be made as atonement for their sins. The blood sacrifice was to be a one year male lamb without blemish. The lamb was to be kept first before it was slaughtered. This would allow familiarity or feelings to be had for it kind of like a pet. This would make the sacrifice of the animal more painful, because there would be an emotional investment made.
When the time came for the lambs to be killed, all of the Israelites were to gather together as one body and slaughter the lambs. Then the blood of the sacrificed lambs was to be spread on the doorposts of the Israelites homes where the lambs were to be eaten. When the Lord God sent the Angel of Death into Egypt to kill the firstborn, the homes whose doorposts were covered in lamb’s blood would be protected. The Angel of Death would Passover these homes, sparing the firstborn. While the Egyptian homes would not be saved, the Israelites would be. This was done to distinguish the people of God from those who worshipped other gods.
Jesus was chosen by the Father God to be the Passover Lamb for all who believe and accept Him as God’s gift of salvation. Jesus was chosen because He was a man without sin. In all things, Jesus submitted to the will of the Father God, even the death of the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, His blood atoned for our sins. Before Jesus went to the cross, He had been loved by many. Jesus’ death was excruciating for all those who had known Him and loved Him as their Lord. Even Judas, the betrayer, was so overcome with grief and remorse that he took his own life, because he could not live with what he had done to Jesus.
At the Jesus’ last supper with the disciples, the scriptures tell us that He declared the bread to be His Body and the wine to be His blood. Paul writes, “…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’”
When we partake of the Eucharist, we are not just eating bread and wine. We are partaking of the Body and Blood of Jesus the Lamb of God. We are remembering the covenant God made with us when He sacrificed His only Begotten Son for our sins. Because of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, God’s wrath passes over us. We are no longer held in judgment for our sins. We are protected by the blood of the Lamb. We, who partake of the Lord’s Last Supper, share in God’s covenant of salvation for our sins. We have been given the gift of eternal life in place of eternal damnation.
No longer are the sacrifices of animals needed to atone for our sins, because the sacrifice of the Lamb of God was all that was needed. His death once and for all spared us for all of eternity. The Eucharist is really our Passover meal. Of this meal Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
When our Lord Jesus returns to earth to gather up the Church we will be taken in the twinkling of an eye into the very Presence of Jesus our Beloved Lord and Savior. No longer will we remember His death in the Eucharist, instead we will be His guests at the Banquet of the Lamb. This will be the Wedding Feast where all who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior will dine with Jesus the Bridegroom. It will be a feast like we have never known. At this feast, all of our tears will be wiped away and we will know the Lord, even as we are known to Him.
Until that time comes, we are to remember the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf by partaking of the Eucharist. Yet, it is not enough to eat the bread and drink the wine. We also must be willing to serve one another as Christ served us and willingly gave completely of Himself. Only by humbling ourselves as Christ did for us can we share in His Passion.
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