Jesus' Last Meal, Part 2 (Maundy Thursday)

I did some research into the ritual cups of wine in a Passover meal, and it turns out that as long as anyone can remember, the Passover has been celebrated around four cups of wine. At four times during the meal they would (and do) toast with a cup of wine, and with each cup they remembered one of God’s promises to them in slavery. And as I read these promises, I began to wonder if they weren’t just for the Israelites, but maybe there’s a second horizon on these promises, and maybe they were for us too.

I want to invite you to wonder with me as we walk through the promises of the Passover.

The promise of the first cup: I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians...(Exodus 6:6)

For four hundred years, the descendants of Israel had been forced to work long hours of physical labor, sweating under the heat of the Egyptian sun, afraid of their master’s whips, weeping with despair for the future of their children, praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for deliverance, and one day, God answered...and rescued them with plagues of boils and lice and locust and darkness and as the grand finale, he opened up the Sea and they walked through on dry land.

But in Jesus’ day, that redemption seemed so long ago, almost like a fairy tale, because at that time they were under another yoke: all they had to do was look out in the streets and see their people forced to carry the gear of Roman soldiers to know they were under the yoke of Rome. They looked to God to overthrow Rome and frankly that is what they thought Jesus’ was going to do, so on Palm Sunday they greeted him shouting “Hosanna!” Which means “Save us now.”

But Jesus didn’t come to free them from the Roman yoke, he came saying… "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Mt. 11:28-29

In Jesus’ day, people were carrying heavy burdens, but it wasn’t the Romans packs - even if Rome went away, the burden wouldn’t. Because the burden they were carrying is the same burden that people carry today.

At a Men’s Retreat a while back, I met a bunch of guys who were out of work and stressed and anxious and you could almost see the burden they were carrying and I’m sure it’d be me too if I was in their situation. But I met another guy there who was also out of work, but somehow you wouldn’t know it, he genuinely seemed at peace, smiling and whistling and trusting God. And it made me wonder...

What if my circumstances aren’t the yoke I’m feeling? What if I'd feel it even if my circumstances changed? What if our responsibilities, as important and pressing as they are, could actually sit lightly on our shoulders? And over that first cup we wonder: Was this what God meant when he promised “I will bring you out from under the heavy yoke?”

That’s the promise of the first cup.

In the next post, the second cup.