While the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt, the Lord gave the following instructions to Moses and Aaron: “From now on, this month will be the first month of the year for you. Announce to the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each family must choose a lamb or a young goat for a sacrifice, one animal for each household. If a family is too small to eat a whole animal, let them share with another family in the neighborhood. Divide the animal according to the size of each family and how much they can eat. The animal you select must be a one-year-old male, either a sheep or a goat, with no defects.
Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. Do not eat any of the meat raw or boiled in water. The whole animal—including the head, legs, and internal organs—must be roasted over a fire. Do not leave any of it until the next morning. Burn whatever is not eaten before morning.
These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover. On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord. This is a law for all time.”
Exodus 12:1-14 (NLT)
Maundy Thursday is the day we begin to commemorate Jesus’ final days on earth. As we move from Thursday through Easter Sunday the focus of our reflection is fixed on every action of Christ. This is what Lent has been preparing us for; we as a church have arrived at the pinnacle of our year.
The focus of Maundy Thursday is on Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. While the Gospels differ on the exact day and time, they all agree that it occurred during the time of the Passover. Most people would agree that the Last Supper was probably the traditional Passover meal (or Seder) that commemorated the Israelites freedom from Egypt. So, when we in the Church participate in Communion, there is a strong connection to the Passover meal and ceremony. While the traditional Passover meal has changed over the years, the basic Passover meal consisted of the roasted lamb from the sacrifice, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. This is the meal the Israelites ate while the Lord “passed through” Egypt killing all the first born sons and “passed over” all the houses that had blood from the sacrificed lamb painted on their doorposts. As God said to the Israelites, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.”
What is interesting to me here is the symbol of the lamb’s blood on the doorposts. This is what causes the Lord to “pass over” certain houses. It is not specifically because those inside were Israelites. Although, the Israelites were given the command so they were more likely to have the blood painted on their doors. Technically anyone who caught wind of the command could have painted the lamb’s blood over their doors. Also, the Israelites could have chosen to save others by instructing them what to do or inviting them into their houses protected by the lamb’s blood. Simply being an Israelite did not save anyone that night. Simply being an Egyptian did not condemn anyone to death that night. It was only through the protective covering of the lamb’s blood that anyone was spared the horror of having their first born son dying. Any Egyptian could have been spared if they had lambs blood painted on their doorpost.
Maundy Thursday most likely gets its name from the Latin word “mandatum” which is the Latin word for “command”. This comes from Jesus’ “new command” to the disciples at the Last Supper recorded in the Gospel of John.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
John 13:34-35 (NLT)
Love is to be the new driving force behind the community that Jesus is inaugurating with his disciples. Love is what gathers them around the table. Love is what brings them into God’s house, under the protection of Christ’s blood on the doorposts. Not nationality, not a political party or movement, not a creed, hairstyle, tattoo or skirt length.
A love that drives Jesus to act as a servant and wash his disciples’ feet. A love symbolized in the words, “This is my body, broken for you…this is my blood which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.” A love that threatens the authorities and drives them to arrest Jesus. A love that causes Jesus to say to those crucifying him, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
A love that drives God to send His first-born son as the sacrificial lamb at Passover, “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
It is Christ’s blood that now covers the door-posts of the Church, saving all those that seek its protection. Doubters, tax-collectors, sinners, betrayers, boasters, believers, men, women, slave, free, Jew, Greek, Samaritan, Egyptian, Israelite, American, Russian, Arab, black, white, young, old, abuser, abused, broken and bankrupt. As the lambs blood protected anyone, regardless of nationality or creed, at the first Passover so too does Christ’s blood save those under its protection today. Christ’s new mandate to “love one another” should cause those who are knowingly protected by the blood to live in such a way that others would seek to enter Christ’s house. It is a love that should also drive us to seek to invite others to be covered by Christ’s sacrifice. It is also a love that should not discount the covering over our neighbors’ house because they do not look like us, eat the same food or did not paint their doorposts in a similar fashion.
Let us remember Christ’s new mandate this Maundy Thursday to “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” May that love bring more people under Christ’s sacrificial protection and more people to the communal Passover table, the meal of Thanksgiving.
Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.
1 Peter 3:18 (NLT)
So also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people.
Hebrews 9:28 (NLT)