The Feast of Passover begins this Friday at sundown. My Jewish friends, who call it Pesach, are busy cleaning their houses in preparation, careful not to leave a single crumb of leaven. They even vacuum their sofa cushions, something I probably should do more often.
The table will be beautifully set with all the traditional items in place. Family and friends will gather for this annual dinner that typically lasts several hours. They will remember how the Israelites were once slaves in Egypt. They’ll relive the ten plagues and the nation’s miraculous deliverance from slavery. They’ll sing joyful songs to celebrate God’s faithfulness.
Jesus celebrated the Feast of Passover with His disciples on the night He was betrayed. He broke the traditional unleavened bread and lifted the ritual cup of wine saying, “This is my body, broken for you…This is my blood, shed for you…do this in remembrance of me.” His closing prayer is recorded for us in John 17: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” Then Jesus walked with His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane.
I marvel at how the Passover Feast has endured. It began with Moses on that long-ago night in Egypt and is celebrated some 3,400 years later. God’s people have also endured, just as He promised: “Only if the (sun, moon and stars) vanish from my sight,” declares the Lord, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me” (Jeremiah 31:36).
Pharaoh and his pagan gods are gone, leaving only ruined temples and tombs. The Romans, who crucified Jesus and built impressive cites, are gone too. None of Israel’s neighbors worship Baal or Dagon or Molech as their ancestors did. Yet the Jewish people and their faith in the God of Abraham survive, nearly unchanged. And so does our Christian faith, some 2,000 years after Jesus died for our sins on Passover.
Each year before celebrating the feast, I love to reread the story of Christ’s final Passover meal and the lessons He taught us that night (John 13-17). He began by washing His disciples’ feet, saying, “I have set you an example…no servant is greater than his master.” He commanded us to love one another saying, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” He told us that His Father’s house had many mansions and that He was going to prepare a place for us. He promised to send the Holy Spirit to empower us. And He gave us the beautiful picture of the vine and the branches, encouraging us to bear much fruit for His Father’s glory. He ended by praying for us: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…”
Communion is our celebration feast when we remember Christ’s sacrifice. We begin by searching our souls for every speck of sin. We go to the Lord’s table to partake of His body and blood in the bread and wine. We leave the covenant meal cleansed, free from slavery to sin, empowered to bear fruit as He commanded. And we leave with a sense of peace, knowing that the Pharaohs and rulers of this world won’t last, but God’s kingdom will endure for all time. “Take heart!” Jesus told us on that long-ago Passover night. “I have overcome the world.”