Jesus and his disciples are celebrating the Passover meal and for years before this one, this meal has been a remembrance of salvation, freedom, deliverance. Just as the night seems to be coming to a close, Jesus rolls out one more course. Bread and wine.
This wasn’t the first time the disciples had heard Jesus talk about bread.
Give us our daily bread, he’d said. Bring the five loaves to me, he’d said. I am the bread of life, he’d said, and no one was all that sure what he’d meant.
As Jesus breaks the bread and passes it around, he infuses it with new meaning. The bread of the Passover looks backward, remembering when the Jews left Egypt in a hurry, pockets lined with Egyptian gold, dropping their bricks and grabbing their babies and all the matzah they could muster. But the bread of the Last Supper looks forward. It declares Christ’s body broken for them and for us, eternal meat and manna, our daily bread ad infinitum, offered every moment of every day for everyone.
Not even A&J King can bake bread like this.
The shock the disciples must have felt when they realized the bread he was breaking was his own body, the Exodus he was referring to was theirs. He was offering them freedom from exile, from pain, from loneliness and oppression, from sin, from slavery, from hell in every sense of the word, forever.
Imagine the disciples’ response. What’s yours?
This wasn’t the first time his disciples had heard Jesus talk about wine.
He’d told parables about vineyards and vines, compared old and new wineskins. He’d even changed water into wine at a wedding. Can you drink the cup that I drink? He’d asked them once. And they’d nodded.
Jesus infuses this cup with new meaning. The wine of the Passover looks backward, remembering salvation and freedom and deliverance. But the wine of the Last Supper looks forward. This is Christ’s blood shed for them and for us, the cup of the covenant poured out for many, the forgiveness of sins seventy-times-seven times over and then some.
No wineskin, old or new, could contain a wine like that.
The shock they must have felt when they realized the cup of salvation he was talking about was coursing through his own veins, a new covenant of his blood, spilled out like wine for the forgiveness of sins - their sins and the sin of the world. The sacrifice he spoke of was not some unblemished Passover lamb but his own body, sliced in two like broken bread, the bondage he’d break would be theirs.
Imagine the disciples’ response. What’s yours?
The disciples were all too familiar with covenants. Covenants in the ancient world weren’t any small matter. They were forged between lords or princes with someone lesser on society’s totem pole, like peasants or paupers. The prince would give the pauper something he needed - land, provisions, protection - in exchange for something the prince wanted - public praise, manual labor, a courier service through the center of town. These relationships were legally binding, like marriage vows or formal treaties. The consequence if the covenant was broken? More often than not, the pauper would pay, sometimes with his own blood.
And so Jesus makes a new covenant, one of a radically different sort. This one? Sealed not with the pauper’s blood but with the Prince's. Why? Because what the Prince wanted was the paupers themselves. Pastor Stephen Sharkey from Highrock Quincy once said that Grace was "an undeserved gift from an unobligated giver."
Jesus might have described it as "my blood of the covenant..."
No prince had ever cut a covenant like that, and there’s never been another one like it.
For millennia we’ve recreated this scene, imagining that we were there in the upper room, celebrating Passover too. The bread and wine look back and forward at salvation, the truest miracle of them all. Our bread today is just a crumb, and yet for those of us who believe, it proclaims the Bread of Life, multiplied by the basketful, and it feeds our souls. The drink we share is just a sip, but for those of us who believe, it proclaims water turned wine, a reminder and promise that Christ has come and will come again.
So we take communion month after month to proclaim this same gift, body broken and blood shed in some sort of counter-covenant that goes against everything we know and everything we deserve. And even when we fail the terms, Grace happens to us anyway. All that’s left for us to do is kneel at the base of the table.
This Sunday, we will receive communion together as a church. You are invited to the table not because you have kept the terms of the agreement, but because Jesus has. For in these holy moments of communion, we give thanks to the Prince who broke his own body and shed his own blood to seal the deal that made us his.
Pastor Brynn Harrington
Bread and wine, body and blood. Bread and wine, sacrifice and salvation. Bread and wine, sustenance and joy. Consider today the cost -- and the joy -- set before Christ who endured the Cross on our behalf. Look at yourself through Jesus’ eyes. Do you believe that the sacrifice required for your salvation was a thing of Joy to the Lord of the Universe?
Because of Your body broken and Your blood spilled, I can celebrate new life. Because of Your body broken and Your blood spilled, I can celebrate new life. Because of Your body broken and Your blood spilled, I can celebrate new life. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.
It’s Friday again. A day of fasting. Again, consider fasting today, but again, in a way that is medically and/or professionally responsible. If it’s safe and/or possible, consider fasting from one whole meal today. Set aside a six hour block where you refrain from food entirely. If that sounds too extreme or dangerous, consider eating a diet of fresh fruit and nuts today until you join us at Shabbat dinner this evening where we will celebrate a Seder Supper of our own.
Pastor Aaron Engler
“Where there is no more wine, there is no more joy” was a common rabbinical proverb in the days of Jesus.