All over the world, Jesus followers are walking with Jesus through his last week, through death into life. Circle of Hope shares a literal and symbolic journey together to mark the most important week in history and to be of one mind and heart with Jesus as we share his death and resurrection.
Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
More thoughts for meditation
There is no doubt that the Lord intends this nucleus of the church to remember and replicate this moment. And it has been replicated and remembered all over the world ever since.
Breaking the bread and sharing the cup would not be unusual at a ceremonial meal or common meal among the Jews. But Jesus defines the elements as his body and his blood and asks the disciples to share it as such, participating in his death. When Jesus takes the cup he makes a symbolic reference to Moses when he says “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Moses was the center of the Passover and Exodus, now Jesus takes his place. Moses was the mediator between God and the people, sprinkling people with half the blood of the sacrifice and pouring the rest on God, represented in the altar of the tabernacle. The Mosaic covenant is like a contract between an emperor (in this case, God) and a lesser king or a people (for instance, Israel or the disciples). A mediator acts as a representative of the Emperor (Moses or, in this case, Jesus) and brings blood to establish an agreement between them. The agreement, or covenant, is that this people will now be under the rule of the Emperor and will receive of his blessings. The blood is to indicate that a sacrifice is made which symbolically says, “If I ever break this covenant, I will be like this animal, I will die.” Jesus is acting as the mediator, or the representative of God, but he also says that it is his blood that will establish the covenant.
In summary, what Jesus is saying is: “I am going to die, but my death is establishing the kingdom of God, of which you are now a part.” He also says that many others, beside the twelve, will participate in God’s kingdom through Jesus’ death. He tells them that he will never feast or drink wine again until the coming of that kingdom. After drinking wine with the disciples almost every night since he called them, this is a warning that his death will happen before their next meal.
The meal probably concluded with the hymn and the walk to the Mount of Olives. There Jesus noted they would all fall away with the prophetic words which identify the betrayal of the Son of Man: “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Zechariah 13:7). The shepherd will be struck down in crucifixion, but the promise of resurrection will gather the sheep: “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee”
Suggestions for action
It’s the last goodbye. Jesus offers us two enduring symbolic actions that the Church has practiced for thousands of years. The symbolic meal of the bread and the cup, and the supreme example of humility and servanthood in washing the disciples’ feet. Our celebration will go deep, just like Jesus’ did. Tonight at 2212 S. Broad, we share the final meal with Jesus and demonstrate our own humility and servanthood even as we witness him betrayed.
To be in Jesus is not just to be a part of a church, or to live according to new rules, or to have a new connection to God. To be in Jesus is to be a part of a nation that has a unique government. Jesus is now our king, and we are now citizens in the kingdom of God. Yes, there are new ways to live– the law of love, primarily– because we are living in a new kingdom. Yes, there is a connection to God, because God is the emperor and shepherd of the kingdom. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are remembering that we are primarily citizens of Jesus. Our participation in his death and suffering also qualifies us to be co-heirs of the kingdom.
Consider being that citizen in the new world. Bearing a new identity, we bring that kingdom wherever we go. We live in the kingdom no matter what other nation we are in, no matter what situation we find ourselves in. This kingdom has no borders, except the artificial ones we put in our hearts or on the map.
Think of a challenging situation you face – something that tests your capacity to suffer. Ask yourself, “How does being a citizen of the Kingdom of God change how I relate to this situation? What does it mean to be in it with Jesus, who knows all suffering, and to let him lead me?” Write as you reflect.