Do This Until I Come
‘Taking bread, He blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, given for you. Eat it in my memory.”’ Luke 22:19 MSG
The greatest story teller is, without question, God. He has a couple of massive advantages! He knows everything. And he is eternal. So He can tell stories that both absolutely ring with truth and that are also epic beyond imagining, spanning centuries, sometimes thousands and thousands of years.
And we get to read these stories - in the Bible. What a treat! We even get to be in them!
Today, at Easter Friday, we enter into one of these millennium spanning stories.
You could say that God began telling us this story from the time of the Garden of Eden, when He made the statement to the serpent, "he’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel." Genesis 3:15b MSG
You could say that he started giving clues with His promise to Abraham... "All nations on Earth will find themselves blessed through your descendants because you obeyed me." Genesis 22:18b MSG
He’s in full storytelling mode, brimming with metaphors, side notes, and outright wonder during the first Passover meal as He starts in full force a process, using the nation of Israel as his story telling device, to begin a tradition and narrative that would last until not just today - but until time itself ceases.
This is some storyteller! And this is some story! It’s already been unfolding for well over 3000 years. Who else gets to tell stories of this magnitude? Let alone ones that are true? Who could?
God is about to get Israel out of Egypt. Pharaoh has been resistant, and now there is going to be the final act. The Israelites are told to get their families together for dinner. To get a lamb ready to eat at dinner that night, and as part of getting it ready - from hoof to table - to take some of the blood and paint it on the timbers at the side and over the top of the door of the house where they would be eating. Why? Because that night all the first-born in the land of Egypt, humans and animals, are going to die. But where there was a house with the blood around the door, God told the Israelites, He would "pass over".
It was obviously pretty important to have blood from a lamb on the door.
A matter of life or death.
And so it happened. Death everywhere. But not the Israelites. Pharaoh got mad. Told the Israelites to get out in no uncertain terms. And get out - at speed - they did, because that was also part of the instructions. Be packed and ready to go before you sit down to eat.
This part of the story - called The Exodus - is the significant story for Jews to this day. Since that day, every year, including this year, Jews around the world will stop work and participate in a 9 day Festival with The Passover meal at its centre. This is their most holy festival.
Is the master storyteller done with this story? No way! He’s only warming up. Jump forward to around 30AD. We find that the storyteller is now making what we might call a cameo appearance in the story himself. But this is actually no cameo. It is actually the reason the whole story exists. We are about to witness the most amazing pivot, the most incredible culmination of over 1300 years of Passover celebrations, and to have the storyteller himself take the lead role.
Jesus - fully God and fully human - is about to sit down and have the annual Passover meal with His disciples. As the great storyteller He knows exactly what has been, and what is coming next. This is a huge moment. Historic. In fact it changed everything, for all time. Forever.
Jesus eats the Passover meal with His disciples, working their way through the ritual prayers, cups of wine, bitter herbs, singing the Psalms, reciting passages from the Torah. Towards the end Jesus takes the unleavened bread, breaks it into pieces to share with His disciples, and says... “This is my body, broken for you. Eat it in my memory." Luke 22:19 MSG.
The storyteller is breaking with tradition here, adding a new piece. It made no sense. Not then. Not the day before. But this is no ordinary story teller. Indeed not.
This is about to become so rich with symbolism, metaphor, historic references and future predictions that no other story anywhere can ever match this. This is the God of the universe telling us what was, what is, and what will be. This is the great "I AM" being Himself. Outside of space and time, inserted into the the story Himself...
I AM the Way
I AM the Truth
I AM the Life
I AM the bread of Life
And so on.
The next day is momentous. The Passover meal crosses over from being a celebratory feast of a historic act to why the great storyteller had set in place over 1300 years earlier. Here was its culmination.
A death. A lamb. But this time God Himself as The Lamb. Blood poured out. This time the blood of The Lamb of God - Jesus, of a being both fully God and fully human. So this is no ordinary blood, and does not just offer a ‘passing over’ for one family, but for the entire family of humanity. Of all time. This is why Jesus, and only Jesus can say "your sins are forgiven".
1300 years of taking a stack of three pieces of flatbread. Removing the middle piece, breaking it in half, hiding half of it, sending the children to find it, re-uniting with the other half between the other two pieces, before praying over it all and sharing it around. Get the picture? Three pieces. Father, Son, Spirit. The breaking in half and separation of the middle piece. The re-uniting. Loaded with metaphor. Loaded with symbolism. Loaded with love.
The story has not ended. The symbolism goes on. Each time we take communion we can now see the sense of Jesus’ words at the Passover in 30AD. The storyteller was, in His grace and love, linking us into what He was about to do, and linking us by His beyond description sacrifice into this wider family, saved by the blood of the The Lamb of God.
He instructed us to ‘do this until I come’ and so we do.
We can be absolutely sure of this.
This story started over 3000 years ago rather dramatically.
It then ramped up beyond imagining with the breathtaking and life-giving insertion of God Himself into the story.
Stand by for the ending - or new beginning.
It is going to be...
- Graham Burt, Festival Director