Posts tagged Passover
There is much that is said in these two chapters that is worth exploring. However, today I am captured more by what is not said. In fact, one of the first things that stood out to me in what is a very familiar story of the last supper was that there is a huge span of time that goes unrecorded.
Beginning in chapter 21, verse 15, Jesus tells the disciples that he has been eager to eat this passover with them. In verse 17, he has them divide the wine into their cups, but doesn’t do anything with it right then. In verse 19, he breaks the bread and famously uses it as a symbol of his broken body.
Then what happens? He takes the cup, right? Well, no, he doesn’t. The next verse says that “after the supper, he took the cup…” In other words, between verse 19 and verse 20, a whole meal happened. And not just any meal, but a traditional Passover meal – a fairly involved ritual. Between these two verses was the event that Jesus had been so eagerly awaiting and yet, we have no record of it.
I wonder what it must have been like to eat that Passover meal with Jesus. Remember, he divided the wine, then broke the bread and talked about his body. Then they had their meal. Imagine sitting there trying to figure out the whole “this is my body” thing while also conferring with your table-mates about why Jesus poured you this little glass of wine.
The whole meal must have been a little awkward. They must have been waiting for Jesus’ big news. For some of them, they were probably waiting for him to tell them when the revolution against their Roman oppressors was going to begin. A lot happened between verses 19 and 20 that we will never know. What was the dinner conversation? Did Jesus teach his disciples things at that meal and then swear them to an oath of secrecy? Who knows?
What I do know is that the Bible is very clear that some things are meant to be revealed by God and some things hidden from us. That Passover meal is one of the hidden things – a very intimate, very personal time that Jesus eagerly awaited. It was a time for him to say goodbye to his friends and, quite possibly, to impart wisdom in the form of a few “last words.”
Sure, he would see them again after his resurrection, but resurrected Jesus wasn’t quite the same as “born of a virgin” Jesus. That guy was about to meet his end – to fulfill his mission. I just wonder what he had to say in that moment.
When people think about God, many think of two different “versions” of God. There is the Old Testament God – inflexible and sometimes cruel – and the New Testament God – gracious and compassionate. And, perhaps, if you just glance at the Bible or only read the most popular verses, it might be easy to draw that conclusion. However, we’re reading through the entire Bible and as we do, I think we’re getting a clearer picture of the full nature of God.
I’ve already talked about God’s willingness to be flexible and meet the people in ways that they could understand. But check out these verses from 2 Chronicles, chapter 30:
Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone who sets their heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of their ancestors—even if they are not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people. (2 Chronicles 30:18-20)
Do you see what happened there? These people hadn’t followed the rules. By eating the Passover meal while they were unclean, they had defiled the Passover, according to the law. A “by the book” king would have banished these people and begged God to forgive him. But Hezekiah somehow understood the heart of God. And so, rather than trying to save his own hide (and his kingdom), he went to God on behalf of the “lawbreakers,”
Hezekiah understood that the desire of the heart is more important than the outward acts. As God would later tell Samuel, people look on the outside, but God looks on the inside. Or, as Jesus would put it when criticizing the Pharisees:
“You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” (Matthew 23:25)
You see, God wanted the people to “clean the outside of the cup,” (he had given them orders to do so) but the more important thing was the inside. To put it another way, God would rather get his hands dirty (on the outside of the cup) than to drink filth (from the inside). And so, God gave the “unclean” people a pass. He showed the kind of grace and flexibility that most people associate with the “New Testament God.” In fact, when you read through the New Testament (I know, we’re a ways away from that in this reading plan) check out how many times “New Testament grace” is linked to the Old Testament.
The fact is, there is one God and his nature is and has always been the same. He is a God with high standards, but he also is and has always been a God who is eager to offer grace to those who seek it and to those who seek him.
2 Chronicles 29; 2 Chronicles 30; 2 Chronicles 31:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12-22; Psalm 103:13-22
Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God—the LORD, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. - 2 Chronicles 30:18-20
I take a lot of comfort in these verses. The story here is of a group of people who hadn’t spent much time thinking about spiritual things. In fact, they had skipped the annual Passover Feast entirely. It was only after the new king was installed and decided to have a belated Passover celebration that the people even gathered together. So, far from having prepared for the feast, they were nowhere near being ceremonially “clean”.
However, the bible says that they did see the error of their ways and they came to celebrate Passover. They came, like so many of us do, “unclean” - messed up in so many ways. Yet, the story that is presented here is one of grace – of a king asking the God of the universe for leniency and receiving it.
In some ways, it is the story of Jesus, who was installed as King here on earth, who brought his people back to God and whose actions caused God to give grace to a people who had done nothing to deserve it. It’s the greatest story ever told.