“And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever been in a moment, but didn’t realize you were in a moment? What I mean is, have you ever been somewhere at a time that was really significant, but you didn’t realize it in the moment you were there? That’s what happened to the disciples on the night of the Last Supper. They were in a moment that would change the world almost as much as what would happen the next day, but they didn’t have a clue it was happening.
When Jesus sent them to get the room ready for the Passover meal, they figured He was just being Jesus. After all, He was doing His Jesus thing again. You know, the thing where He knew things that ordinary people shouldn’t have been able to know. He sent them to be at a certain place when a certain person walked by. When they were there and he did, they were to ask him something like a spy saying a secret code phrase to another spy to get into a secret room. He would then take them to the place they were going to observe the Passover together.
The Passover meal itself was incredibly scripted. Every single detail of the meal from the menu to where people sat to the kinds of conversations happening during the meal were known ahead of time. It was celebrated in the same way every time and had been for hundreds of years. They all knew what was going to happen.
But then it didn’t happen that way at all. Well, it did at first. At first it was just a nice, relaxed evening with their rabbi. This meal would have been like the family Christmas meal. They weren’t even bickering with one another about who was the leader of the group after Jesus (they all knew it was Peter even though none of them wanted to admit it). They were just enjoying this powerful reminder of the faithfulness of God to their people in the past. He had rescued them from the grip of Pharaoh and saved their people from the Angel of Death. It was a nice celebration of God’s goodness ahead of Jesus finally making Himself known as Messiah to the world and restoring them once again to the glory they had known.
Then things got weird. When the time came in the meal for the bread to be passed, Jesus broke it and then went completely off script. He said, “This is my body, which is given for you.” Wait, what? His body? What did this meal have to do with Him? This meal was about what God did some 2,000 years before. A bit later came the cup of redemption, the third cup of the meal. Again, Jesus went off script: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” Hold the phone, Joan! New covenant? What was wrong with the old one? And why on earth would it be a covenant formed in His blood. The animals offered in sacrifice to ratify covenants didn’t survive the process. That was the point. Their death in place of the death of the signatories is what made things official.
What Jesus was doing was re-framing their entire relationship with God. It was time for the old ways to pass. Something new was coming. Brand new. So totally new that no one would understand it at first. God was changing the rules on how He interacted with us. The old system of animal sacrifices and keeping the Law was good for what it was, but it was never intended to be the final state of affairs. God made us for a relationship with Him that went deeper than that system allowed to happen. The old system made it clear that we weren’t ever going to be able to get and stay right with God on our own. We needed more help than that. We didn’t need a litany of PETA-offending band-aids. We need a permanent solution.
Thus the new covenant.
From then on, the goodness and faithfulness of God they were to celebrate was not something that happened in the past, but that was going to happen in their present and has continued happening every day since to now. Our faith is certainly an historical one. It is rooted in the historical event of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. But it is not stuck in the past. The reason for this would become apparent to the disciples in three days, but for now, they were just confused. The story wasn’t over. We’ll talk about some more of it tomorrow.