Summary: Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). What does Jesus want us to remember? As we go through life, this meal … this “feast” … reminds us that the new covenant has been established. Signed and sealed in His blood. The Holy Spirit has arrived.
Tonight we feast on the finest bread … bread from Heaven [break bread].
Tonight we drink deeply from the cup of God’s grace [hold up chalice] … and we give thanks for God’s mercy and our eternal salvation.
Tonight we feast … a feast fit for a king … and you are all invited.
You know, I’ve never been to a “feast” … at least not the kind I picture when I hear the word “feast.” I picture the kinds of feasts you read about in the Bible or history books or something that you see on TV or in the movies. The king … seated at the head of the table in the place of honor … surrounded by nobles and dignitaries. The great banquet hall filled with guests. People laughing and eating and drink while servants run about carrying huge trays of food and jugs of wine … and there’s music and entertainment going on the whole time. Feasts of these kind were obviously held to celebrate important occasions … to commemorate some historic events in the life or history of a community … weddings … the birth of a child … a peace treat … a major victory.
It is for this reason, I believe, that God commanded that His people observe or celebrate seven annual “festivals” or “feasts” – the first and one of the most important being the “Passover” seder or meal. “Celebrate ‘Pesach,’ the Festival of Unleavened Bread,” the Lord commanded the Israelites. ‘For seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt” (Exodus 34:18).
In Jesus’ day, over a million pilgrims would descend on Jerusalem for the Passover. People opened up their homes to these pilgrims or the pilgrims would camp in tents outside the city. It was a busy, exciting, colorful time. A hundred thousand lambs would be slaughtered and you could smell their roasting flesh everywhere.
I’m sure that a few, like Herod, would hold lavish affairs in their homes or palaces, but most people celebrated the Pesach … the Passover … much like Jewish people still do today … with family and a few friends.
While Passover is something that you celebrate today with family and friends, it didn’t start out as a “celebration” … but it did start out with family and friends. “Passover” was the night that God sent His angel of death to “passover” the houses of the Egyptians and their Hebrew slaves. Through Moses, God instructed the Hebrew slaves to slaughter a lamb, roast it, and eat it … sharing the lamb with family and friends who didn’t have a lamb. After the meal, they were to go into their homes and be prepared to flee at a moment’s notice. The Lord promised them that the angel of death would pass over any house that had lamb’s blood smeared on its doorposts and lintels.
There was no partying that night. No music or laughing or huge platters of food or jugs of wine. No celebration as they huddled and waited and listened in their houses, knowing that the only thing that stood between them and the death of their first born was some lamb’s blood smeared around their doors.
And then they heard it. Eerie, chilling wails and cries of grief and anguish coming from the Egyptians’ homes … joined, eventually, with wailing and cries of anguish from the Pharaoh’s palace … and they knew that it was time to flee. It was time to leave their homes and run as fast as they could toward the wilderness and an uncertain future.
Having delivered the Hebrew slaves from the Egyptians, God commanded them to celebrate this great event once a year with a “feast.” The purpose of the feast is to “remember” what God did that night, which is why the Jews have lamb and eat matzo or unleavened bread as part of their Passover celebration. But there is another reason that God commanded them to hold a feast to remember that night. He wanted them to remember that the Hebrew people were no longer slaves but had become a nation.
Passover is like our Thanksgiving and Fourth of July all rolled into one. At Thanksgiving we gather around the table with family and friends to give thanks … just as the pilgrims and the early settlers did to give thanks to God for getting them through the past year. On the Fourth of July, we take the feast outside where we celebrate the founding of this country with family and friends. We remember the many battles fought and the many lives lost. We remember the sacrifices that were made to found this country and to keep it free … free to work and to play … free to celebrate with family and friends … free to openly worship and thank God. Celebrations like these … Passover, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July … connect us to our past and to each other.