Do you know the words to the blessings spoken over the bread every Friday night at the Shabbat meal?
“Blessed are You,
Lord our God,
King of the Universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth.”
Every Shabbat these words are spoken. Jesus, who grew up in a Jewish home that celebrated Shabbat every week, had heard these words every Friday night of his life prior to the Last Supper. As Christians living in the Western Hemisphere, it is not unusual that we are unfamiliar with the Shabbat blessing of the bread. However, because we are, we miss something fascinating that Jesus says-but-doesn’t-say, at the Last Supper.
During supper he took bread, and having said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them with the words: “This is my body which is broken for you.”
(Lk 22:18; Mk 14:22)
Did you catch the connection? Jesus, comparing himself to the bread says “This is my body which is broken for you.” We all know that Jesus is about to be crucified and that he is speaking about that. But, he is doing more than just foreshadowing of his death. What does the Shabbat blessing say happens to bread? God brings it forth from the earth! Jesus is foreshadowing his resurrection! You can imagine the disciples, who all, like Jesus, grew up hearing the Shabbat blessings every week, looking at each other trying to figure out what on earth Jesus’ words meant.
The Passover began in Egypt (Exodus 12) as a remembrance of God setting His people, the Hebrews, free. It was to be observed every year, on the same day so that the Hebrews would always remember how God had set them free from bondage and slavery.
At the Last Supper, which probably was a Passover meal, Jesus introduced the New Covenant in which he is “the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through [him] (Jn 14:6).” There is a story Jesus tells that helps visualize the New Covenant.
A son leaves his father’s house taking his inheritance with him (Lk 15:11-32). In that culture, to do this said to the father, “I wish you were already dead.” The son spends his inheritance in ways he knows would break his father’s heart. Eventually, the money runs out and he is reduced to slopping hogs. Of course, for a Jewish boy, anything is better than slopping hogs. The son works up the courage to go back to his father and beg for a position as a servant in his household since he is no longer worthy to be a son. When his son returns the father is so overjoyed that his son came home that he dresses him as a son, places the family ring on his finger and has a feast for him.
Why the feast? It was not just a party. In that culture eating a meal with someone was stating that you were reconciled and at peace with that person. Any wrong that they had done to you was forgiven. The meal is a statement. Why is it that the older brother does not come to eat the meal? Not solely because he’s upset his father is honoring his brother, but because he is honest. He has not forgiven his brother, so he cannot eat with him or else he would be lying through his actions.
What is the meaning of the communion meal every time you take part in it? It is a meal with God. The Father eats a meal with us. He has forgiven us.
Why do you think the Temple leaders got so upset every time Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners? Now you know the picture and can understand a bit more of what was going on.
We so often feel shame over what we have done when God has already forgiven us. That forgiveness must be accepted and we must forgive ourselves as well. Then we can come to the meal with the Father and rejoice in the spiritual freedom that He has given us!
Have a blessed Easter weekend!