There is one obvious reason Jewish families still celebrate the Passover.
They do so … to remember.
The Exodus was an event so spectacular, God wanted His people to never forget it. Even if they were unable to read the amazing story, they would be able to set the table and play it out in dramatic fashion. From the oldest to the youngest, everyone would remember God’s amazing work of salvation!
This is the essence of the Passover Meal. In the very specific order (seder) of events, those around the Passover table remember (and taste) the tears shed during their years of slavery and bondage, a green herb that signals their fresh beginning and bread made in great haste (and therefore, without yeast). There are cups of wine that will symbolize God’s promises, the plagues against Egypt and God’s redemption of His people. In the end there is another cup of wine to celebrate the entire story.
There is more to the meal and its rich symbolism, but the point is obvious. In the Passover meal, God’s people remember what God had done for them.
And that brings us to Jesus.
That “last supper” for Jesus and the disciples? It was Passover. More than 20 times in the Gospels the meal is referred to as the Seder.
In that meal, Jesus takes some of the unleavened bread and one of the cups of wine and says something no one had ever imagined him saying.
“From this day forth,” Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of me!” (Luke 22:19)
Jesus had shocked the disciples before. Maybe they were numb to all the outlandish things Jesus had said. Whatever the case, they seemed to take what Jesus said that night at face value. They would — for all time to come — take “communion” in remembrance of what Jesus did for them.
It would be interesting to discover how many Christians today know that the elements of their “Lord’s Supper” are actually drawn directly from the Jewish meal of Passover!
It would be even more interesting if we understood what a radical thing it was for Jesus to command that his followers remember him during the Passover meal!
If a political leader asked his country to remember him each Christmas Day, would we expect a mild reaction? We cannot imagine the event where someone dared say, “This Christmas … remember me!” Nothing short of a riot would be expected.
The disciples must have been shocked to hear Jesus re-define the meaning of a meal that had already been firmly set into the stone of time. Had it not been said by Jesus, it would have been heretical. If the religious leaders of Jerusalem had heard him say such a thing, they would have had the evidence they needed to kill him.
But the disciples in that room? They had seen Jesus stop storms, walk on water and multiply food with a simple prayer. He ruled over diseases, death and demons. In other words, Jesus did things only God could do.
How would they ever forget him?
How could they ever deny him?
In a matter of minutes the meal was over. The disciples walked toward the place where Jesus would pray and they would sleep. When Judas and armed guards showed up, Jesus stood firm and his followers ran like frightened animals.
They could not remember the promises they’d just made.
They were running too fast to remember that they’d said they would never run.
They hid in the shadows and watched him die.
They showed up at the empty tomb on Sunday morning and wondered what had happened.
By nightfall of that Resurrection Sunday, they knew beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Jesus was alive!
Amazingly, Jesus didn’t kill his cowardly disciples. He didn’t even seem to be angry with them. Instead, he forgave them. He loved them. He invited them to follow again.
No wonder they took the bread and the cup so often! Those who did not deserve the gift of grace had been forgiven the worst of sins. They had a reason to sing again. They could laugh again. They would live again!
And forever more, they would remember … Jesus.