The following was delivered Sunday Feb. 15, 2009 at Southwest Church of Christ as thoughts before the Lord’s Supper. Credit should be given to Scot McKnight for raising the questions about Yom Kippur and Passover – See “A Community Called Atonement”
Paul writes to the disciples at Corinth, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
But what does it mean to proclaim the Lord’s death?
What is it exactly that we are proclaiming?
A better question might be, “What did Jesus think of his own death?”
While Jesus, I think, knows for at least most of his ministry that his death is imminent, it isn’t until the Passover Meal with his disciples that he really translates the meaning and purpose of his death.
For most of us, we assume Jesus thought what we think – that he has to go to the cross because we have sinned and God must punish our sin, so Jesus must die to take on the shame and punishment of our sinfulness.
First I want to affirm you if you think this, because it’s right. It’s just not the whole story.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus chose the time of Passover to interpret his death? Why not Yom Kippur?
After all, Yom Kippur is the Jewish season of atonement! And Jesus certainly interpreted his death as atoning?
But the significance of Passover is greater and deeper still. At Passover the Jews celebrated their God who made available a sacrifice. A sacrifice which not only provided relief from God’s righteous judgment, but also paved the way for deliverance from the empire.
And this is what we proclaim. When we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim that our humble King – the King that chose death and shame over glory and power – has delivered us, not just from judgment and death, but from empire. Because the story of Christ and his kingdom is different than the story the empire tells us. The empire tells us that only the strong survive, that only the powerful are significant and shape history, and that riches make you valuable. He has called us out of that empire and it’s false story, and into a peculiar kingdom. Where weak is strong, failure is success, poverty is riches, and our King is a slaughtered lamb. This is what we proclaim to a watching world. That our lamb has conquered – powerlessness has overcome power – and we have been set free!
This is what we proclaim – Vicit Agnus Noster – Our Lamb has conquered.
Let’s seek God’s Blessing
We come to you as your people, Your called out ones, seeking your presence at your fellowship table. Father, we thank you for this bread, and seek your blessing on it. By participating in this meal, may we, as a peculiar community, be made ever more into the likeness of your Son, Jesus. Amen.
Take and eat. This is the body of Christ.
Before we drink this cup, we consider Christ’s question to his disciples, when he asked them, “Can you drink the cup that I will drink?” And we are suddenly aware that your Son has called us to participate with him in his death, in his story. And we want to boldly proclaim in your presence, a resounding yes! We will participate in your son’s story. We will proclaim his death until he returns! And we are eternally grateful to you for calling us to this table to drink this cup. Amen.