Eating on the Run - A Meditation for Maundy Thursday
Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14
We gather tonight around the Lord’s Table to remember Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. During that meal Jesus took bread and wine, blessed them, and gave the elements to his disciples. He told them to continue sharing this meal in remembrance of him until he returned (1 Cor. 11:23-26). The roots of this meal of remembrance are found in the Passover celebration. The reading from Exodus 12 describes the origins of that meal, which celebrated God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt.
According to Exodus 12, this meal featured three items—roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. It’s a fairly simple meal, which took some time to prepare, but once the meat was cooked and the bread baked, it could be eaten on the run.
There is another part of the story that needs to be mentioned. Not only did God direct the people to prepare a meal, but God told them to take some of the blood from the slaughtered lamb and put it on their doorposts. This blood would serve as a sign to God, so that God would pass over that house when the angel of death struck down the first born of Egypt, because of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart.
The Lord’s Supper is similar to the Passover meal, because both meals invite us to remember that God has redeemed us from bondage, whether that bondage is slavery in Egypt, or the bondage of sin. Both involve the shedding of blood as a promissary note, guaranteeing that God will fulfill God’s promises. Both meals are meant to unite the community in a common purpose. Both are intended to be celebrated as a perpetual ordinance.
As I read this passage, something caught my eye. It has to do with the instructions given in Exodus for eating the meal:
This is how you should eat it. You should be dressed, with your sandals on your feet and your walking stick in your hand. You should eat the meal in a hurry. (Ex. 12:11 CEB).
In other words, Passover isn’t a nice leisurely meal. It’s intended to be eaten on the run. It’s supposed to sustain a community that’s about to march toward Zion. There’s no time to waste, because Pharaoh might change his mind and chase after them.
Jesus’ last meal has a sense of urgency as well. He knew that the days to come would be difficult, and that he needed to prepare them for what was to come. In preparing them for the future, he established a meal that would help them, and us, to remember God’s promise of redemption revealed in Jesus.
The meal we celebrate this evening speaks to the urgency and the danger involved in God’s mission. Walter Brueggemann put it this way: “leaving Egypt is a dangerous anxiety-ridden business” (NIB, 1:777). The same is true for us as Christians, as we head out into the world bearing the good news of Jesus. Brueggemann helps us understand the connection between the two meals and the urgency of these two missions. He writes:
Christians like Jews are children of these marked doorposts, marked for safety in the midnight of chaos and crying. Christians like Jews, are Children of this hurried bread, postured to depart the empire, destined for freedom outside the norms and requirements of the empire. [NIB, p. 779]
What does it mean to be “children of this hurried bread?” What does it mean to live outside the norms and requirements of the empire? Are we ready to take the journey to true freedom that God offers us and the world? Are we ready to eat on the run?
By: Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
At: Northminster Presbyterian Church
April 13, 2017