Summary: A short talk given at a Maundy Thursday Communion Service, focusing on the ’Hillel Sandwich’ Jesus gave to the guest of honour at Passover - Judas Iscariot! Such love, shown by Jesus!
Two weeks ago we had a visit here at Christ Church from 40 children who attend St. John’s School in Billericay, plus 3 of their teachers. We were walking – or should I say talking and eating – our way through the Passover meal and asking ourselves this question: “How and why would Jesus have celebrated Passover as a Jewish man.” It was a great occasion! We had thin matzot bread to eat and red grape juice to drink. We had parsley dipped in salt water to eat – the parsley reminding us of the hyssop branches that the Hebrews used to paint Ram’s blood over their doorposts in the time of Moses. The blood was protection so that when the angel of death ‘passed-over’ those who had painted their doors would be kept safe – and the salt water reminded us of the tears of the Hebrews from their time of slavery in Egypt. The children loved it, especially when they were moving about the Church hunting for a hidden piece of matzot bread hidden in a cloth at the foot of the cross.
In a Jewish home (at Passover) the Father places three pieces of matzot bread inside a cloth. The middle of the three pieces is broken. Part is wrapped in cloth with the remaining two, and the other broken part is hidden.
Jewish people have many views as to what the symbolism might be, but for Christians, and also for Messianic Jews who worship Jesus as Messiah there is no confusion as to what it symbolises. Three pieces of bread – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – one of them is broken – Jesus, and it is hidden in a cloth – reminding us of the grave clothes used to wrap the body of Jesus.
But for me, it is the ‘Hillel sandwich’ that is the most amazing part of the meal, and I guess if you have attended a Passover meal you will have your own favourite part. In order to make the ‘Hillel sandwich’ the host of the meal needs to break a piece of bread and to plunge it into a bowl of Charoseth.
Charoseth is a paste made from apples, cinnamon, dates, nuts and wine and it is delicious! The bread is dunked into a good portion of charoseth, and also into some horseradish, and then we have our ‘Hillel sandwich’ named after Rabbi Hillel.
Jesus was the host of the Passover meal that we call the Last Supper and so there came a point when he made up his ‘Hillel sandwich’, and although the following words are not in the gospels we can be sure that Jesus prayed this Passover prayer: “Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to eat the bitter herbs.”
And we know what happened next. Jesus gave his ‘Hillel sandwich’ to the guest of honour at the meal; but surely Jesus was the guest of honour! No, he was the host, as we discover in John 13: 20 to 26:
Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”
After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”
His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
Leaning back against Jesus he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon.”
Judas received the Hillel sandwich. Jesus considered Judas to be the guest of honour. What love he shows!
Friend of sinners, gentle saviour, loving Lord!
I wonder what situations you might be in right now where the Lord Jesus asks you to give the very best, the ‘Hillel sandwich’ reserved for the guest of honour. Who would Jesus ask you to show deep respect and love to? Who has betrayed you or is in the process of betraying you?
To whom might Jesus ask you to offer the very best?
Jesus said, “I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, [and] pray for those who ill treat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
What love Jesus showed Judas. What love Jesus shows to us. What love he asks us to extend to those who hate us or ill treat us; what love we find as we are all His honoured guests at this Communion. Amen!