“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it.” (Exodus 12:1-4)
Each year after the Jews were delivered from Egypt they remembered and celebrated the passing of them of death and being released from slavery. The instructions were very clear as to what they were to do. The RCL does not specifically include the instructions there were given in verses 5 to 10, because they are not germane to the celebrating of the Passover in Jesus time.
[“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.” (Verses 5 to 10]
Neither do I think they ate the meal in anticipation of leaving soon on a journey – although Jesus took it as the last time he ate a meal with his disciples. So in that, it was like Jesus at least was getting to leave for a journey. And the disciples would have death – that is, death as it separates one from God – passing over them.
“This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” (Verses 11-14)
Many of us have memories of realizing we needed God, coming to God, accepting God in our life, and then moving forward in new life and relationship with God. But there are, I think, buried in those memories other events that prepared us for each step and stage in our journey to and with God. While we all come to God, we do not come without preparation.
“I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)
Every soul and spirit has within it the urge to call on and connect to God. I believe this because in some way or another we are in the image of God, or at least capable of reaching out to the Divine. But things happen, and issues and agenda get in the way. Call it the human will, or defiance, or the evil one. But SOMETHING gets in the way of our connecting to God. Those of us who had parents or mentors who modeled Christian living to us were in some form or another prepared for connecting to God. For others it was the Spirit interceding to prepare us to connecting to God.
“What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people.” (Verses 12 – 14)
And these preparations do not only ready us for coming to God, but also for us to continue walking with God. Living in God is not a “static” or unchanging thing. We grow and mature in our Christian life and walk; being readied for the day when this life ends and an even closer life with God begins.
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful ones.
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the Lord!” (Verses 12 – 19)
God in the Old Testament and Christ in the New Testament prepares the Lord’s people for what is ahead, readies them for the actions they must take, and fortifies them as they live out their live in the Lord. Jesus prepared his disciples as best he could for what was ahead.
“For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that 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.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
We re-enact the Lord’s Supper at important occasions in life. And we re-enact the Lord’s Supper at common ordinary times to remind us that even if there is nothing special in our lives at that moment, God is continuing to work in us.
“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” (John 13:1 – 11)
In the church I grew up in, we had foot washing at least once a year and sometimes more often. Watching my elders and mentors do this prepared me to enter into this sacred act myself. And washing another’s feet and letting my feet be washed prepared me for the give and take of ministry and Christian life together.
“After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” ( Verses 12-17)
If you were here with me, beloved reader, I would wash your feet. I do not know how I would wash the feet of all of you – the basin would have to be quite large and the source of water a flowing stream, and the towel . . . larger than any I have ever seen. But it would be a task I would willingly and lovingly undertake!
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Verses 31b-35)
Love prepares us, beloved reader. Love of God and love from God prepare us to live out this life and God instructs and Christ modeled. And love prepares us to go from this world into the next. May the love that is God prepare you for the year that is yet to come, and for the life that you are called to lead. Selah!