Although Israel did not have a holiday called “Labor Day,” the Hebrew Scriptures contained strong words (in passages like Deuteronomy 24:14-15, Isaiah 58:1-3 and Proverbs 22:9) about exploiting workers, or (even more broadly) ignoring the needs of the poor.
39 They baked unleavened cakes from the dough they had brought out of Egypt. The dough didn’t rise because they were driven out of Egypt and they couldn’t wait. In fact, they didn’t have time to prepare any food for themselves.
40 The length of time that the Israelites had lived in Egypt was four hundred thirty years. 41 At the end of four hundred thirty years, on that precise day, all the Lord’s people in military formation left the land of Egypt. 42 For the Lord, that was a night of intent watching, to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For all Israelites in every generation, this same night is a time of intent watching to honor the Lord.
14 When the time came, Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles joined him. 15 He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 I tell you, I won’t eat it until it is fulfilled in God’s kingdom.” 17 After taking a cup and giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 I tell you that from now on I won’t drink from the fruit of the vine until God’s kingdom has come.” 19 After taking the bread and giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
When Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Give us the bread we need for today” (Matthew 6:11), he connected to memories of God caring for his people. Unleavened Passover bread reminded Hebrews of God rescuing them from Egypt (cf. Exodus 12:1-18). It defined their spiritual identity: “Only unleavened bread was eaten during the yearly Passover (Ex 12:8), a reminder to Israel that even when settled in Canaan they remained a pilgrim people.”* With the cross just ahead, Jesus expanded the meal’s meaning for his disciples. Now the bread and wine would recall his even greater act, dying and rising again to set all people free.
Lord Jesus, you delivered your people from slavery in Egypt. You defeated hatred and death. Keep me anchored to your power to lift my life out of the shadows and into your eternal light and life. Amen.
* Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III, general editors, Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, USA, 1998, p. 908.
** Richard B. Vinson, study note on Luke 22:16 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 157 NT.
We usually read these verses about Passover and last supper at Easter time as a reminder of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. While we should always keep the cross before us, as I read today's scripture I was struck by the immediacy of the faithful, immediate response of the Israelites and Jesus once God's will was revealed to them. When God says it's time to leave Egypt the Israelites don't even wait for the bread to rise, they pack up and go. Immediately after taking part in the Last Supper Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and await his arrest. To say that great things were accomplished through these acts of faith and obedience is an understatement, but even today we see amazing acts of justice and mercy motivated by prayer and listening to God.
In this week's sermon Pastor Adam talked about how God depends on our faithfulness to answer prayers and be a blessing to those in need. Last year one of our younger members used her gifts and interest in baking to raise funds for the Backpacks for Hunger program. While the bread was delicious, Ava's generosity in devoting her time to this effort and the joy she has in donating the proceeds give new meaning to the prayer "give us this day our daily bread."
Have you been praying that God do something about an inequity that's been troubling you? Be bold in your prayers and listen for the whispers that might be nudging you to become the solution.
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