Holy Week Meditations (Maundy Thursday): The Jesus Meal

I’m skipping Wednesday of Holy Week, to catch up and focus today, on Maundy Thursday. Some call it Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, or Great and Holy Thursday. 

The day commemorates when Jesus celebrates the Passover meal with his disciples. Let’s take a look. 

Matthew 26:17-29 “The Jesus Meal”

God’s people are a story people. When God wants to awaken us to who he is and what he’s doing in the world, he tells a story. Now, we have these stories, admonitions, commands, and narratives captured in the Holy Scriptures. 

But it’s hard to imagine a culture without the written word and totally dependent on oral storytelling. God’s people in the past depended on these stories of God’s work to keep them rooted in the story of God and the coming of the Messiah. It was also a way to root the next generation in the story of God and his world. 

One of these foundational stories is the Passover (Exodus 12). 

In Exodus, God comes to his people to rescue them from Egyptian oppression. God institutes a way for the people of God to remember this event for future generations. 

Take a blemish free lamb, kill it, and sprinkle the blood on the doorposts of your home. Make unleavened bread and herbs. When night comes, celebrate the Passover meal of meat and bread together as families of families. Remember, God’s redemption and rescue.

Keep this celebration as a memorial, and eat the food, and tell the story of God’s redemption. Imagine the power of doing this every year. The power these actions and stories would have for helping God’s people remember God’s gracious salvation and redemption and future hope. 

We now have the Lord’s Supper, for these same reasons. A sacrament to remember and enter the story of God afresh each week, or regularly. The Lord’s Supper, is now, the fullest expression of the Passover meal.

But when we see Jesus acting as the spiritual father to the disciples hours before his impending death on the cross something is different. 

There’s no spotless lamb. Where’s the meat? Where’s the blood? Jesus breaks the bread and says: take and eat my body. Jesus takes a cup and says: drink, this is my blood…

Wait, what? What is Jesus doing?

Does Jesus not know the Jewish custom he’s celebrated dozens of times with his family? Had he forgotten the lamb?

Jesus is telling a new story. A completed story. A story the Passover was always to point. 

Jesus is the spotless lamb, the one slaughtered on the cross, and his blood now smeared on the doors of our hearts. 

The lamb is missing because Jesus is the once-and-for-all-time-sacrifice. When we celebrate the Jesus Meal, we're reminded of the spotless lamb slain for the full remission of our sins. The one who poured out his blood, and broke his body, so we could sit at the table of God, and with his family. 

Jesus died so we could sit at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb and join the saints in singing: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!

The Jesus Meal is not a memorial to a dead deity. But an invitation to trust, adore, and rely on the living God who rules and reigns in the universe. 

A simple cup and a loaf of bread is all we need to tell the old, old, story. A reminder of our history, our family, and where it’s all headed. 

The gospel is “good news of great joy” for sinners like me. The more we tell ourselves, and others the story, the better chance we have a walking deeply into its reality. 

“Merciful Father, thank you for Jesus, our once and for all perfect sacrifice. Thank you for your plan of redemption when Jesus would be crushed, when he would be sent out into the wilderness of death, so we could come in. Thank you for a tangible means of grace, like bread and wine, to tell the story again and again. I know my heart needs it. As we eat and drink, as we feast, help our unbelief, and help us be thankful. Amen.”

*Image: creative commons