Embracing Grace: The New Covenant, Part 3

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 64

Scripture: Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:20; John 15:26. Jeremiah 3:14-15.

Photo credit: Gilabrand / CC By-Sa 2.5

According to the Christian liturgical calendar, today is Maundy Thursday, when we commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples. It coincides with the Jewish Passover feast but does not fall on the same day. The meal Jesus shared with his disciples was a Passover meal.

Passover is an eight day commemoration of the exodus by the Hebrews from Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II. American Jews observed the Passover meal in 2011 on April 18, beginning at sundown.1

When the descendants of Abraham had grown in number and had become so prosperous in Egypt that it threatened them, when the Egyptians had forgotten Joseph and what he did to save them during famine, Ramses II enslaved them. This was roughly 3,000 years ago. According to Exodus, Moses encountered God when he investigated a burning bush that was not consumed. God instructed this simple, stuttering shepherd what to do to free the Hebrews, but Pharaoh wouldn’t listen.

The resulting ten plagues that God unleashed on Egypt correspond to Egyptian gods, for any who wish to research it. It was God’s way of showing, rather than just telling them, that they worshiped false gods. The final plague brought death to every first born of both men and beasts. Though the land of Goshen had been protected from the previous plagues, on this one they were required to do something first – to mark the door lintels of their homes with the blood of a sacrificial lamb using hyssop branches to paint with. When the death angel passed by their dwellings, he would see the blood and “pass over.” This is where Passover comes from, or Pesach, in Hebrew, a word that, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, was coined by Tyndale in 1530.2 Pesach is from where we get the term, “paschal lamb.” This feast is also referred to as the Feast of the Unleavened Bread.3

When Pharaoh’s son died that night, he relented and let the Israelites go, but because they were instructed to leave immediately, they did not have time to bake their bread. So packing the uncooked dough, they fled into the desert, but not before the Egyptian people gave them generous gifts of gold and such, a sin offering to the God of Israel. They baked their unleavened bread in the desert, calling the hard crackers matzohs. This unleavened bread is today eaten during the Jewish Passover feast.

Photo credit: Yoninah / CC By-Sa 3.0

Though Israel was freed from slavery, they were not free from Pharaoh, for his heart hardened with rage and he ordered his army to chase after them in chariots and slaughter them all in the desert. Then God performed the miracle of parting the Red Sea. So the eight day Feast of Unleavened Bread, or Pesach, is a commemoration of these events. The first two nights are celebrated with Seders, a lavish meal, during which the history is retold and remembered. It is the most important event of the feast.

I found another layer of symbolism in the Passover Jesus celebrated with His disciples. In ancient Jewish marriage rituals, after the terms of the ketubah was accepted by the bride, the couple sealed the marriage covenant with a cup of wine. As part of the Jewish marriage ritual, two cups of wine are shared by the bride and the bridegroom. The first one was shared to seal the covenant as written up in the ketubah. The second cup is shared to complete the wedding ceremony prior to attending the marriage feast.

Jesus and His disciples commemorated Passover in the upstairs guest room of an unnamed man’s house in the city. It was here they were eating when He spoke new meaning into the feast:

Photo courtesy photos-public-domain.com

And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”4

This first cup of wine shared between the Bride of Christ (beginning with His disciples) and Jesus is the cup shared to seal the covenant of marriage after the Bride has agreed to accept the ketubah (after the Bride accepts Jesus as her Savior).

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessedand broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the newcovenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.5

This second cup of wine that Jesus is alluding to is the cup the Bride (the church) and Jesus will share together at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

Many times upon drinking this first cup of wine, the bridegroom would give a gift to his bride. It could be a coin, as represented in the mohar and part of the ketubah, or something else the groom held in high esteem and was valuable. Whenever the bride wanted a reminder of the bridegroom’s love, she would look at his gift, which reminded her of him. Today, this is most commonly demonstrated by the giving of an engagement ring as the bridegroom’s symbol of devotion. For the church, God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit, a tangibly separate event from receiving the gift of salvation. Like the engagement ring, the Holy Spirit directs our attention to the giver of the gift, to Jesus.

But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.6

Jesus did not stop with this great gift of the Holy Spirit, but we have been given even more: the fruit of the Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the conquering of spiritual death, a new heaven and new earth, a New Jerusalem, with the Tree of Life and River of Life, the streets of gold, and best of all, we are in HIS presence forever!

Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil. Public Domain.

“Return, O backsliding children,” says the LORD; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.7

Read: Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:20; John 15:26; Jeremiah: Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, in Jesus’ name. Thank you for giving to me this great gift as down payment of the marriage of the Bride to the Lamb of God. Thank you for opening my understanding in these “mysteries,” if only a little, for the foretaste of life forever with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

1”When is Passover?” Holidays. http://www.holidays.net/passover/dates.htm (accessed: April 21, 2011).
2Passover. Dictionary.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Passover (accessed: April 21, 2011).
3Passover. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Passover (accessed: April 21, 2011).
4Matthew 26:26-29. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
5Luke 22:20.  Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
6 John 15:26. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
7 Jeremiah 3:14-15. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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