Friday, February 01, 2008

Jesus Wasn't Always "Biblical"

It's always bothered me somewhat in the back of my mind that Jesus reclined when eating the Passover with his disciples. Just recently this bother has come to the forefront of my brain and I realized that it means that Jesus did not always do Bible things as prescribed by the Bible.

When the Passover was originally instituted, the Israelites were told to eat it dressed, with staff in hand, standing, and in a hurry (Ex. 12:11). To my knowledge, these instructions were never rescinded. And yet by the time Jesus eats the Passover, he has dropped the Biblical pattern for the "new" pattern of his culture, one of relaxed leisure (Luke 22:14).

Furthermore, originally the instructions stated that one was not to leave the house at all on the night of Passover (Ex. 12:22b), yet Jesus led his disciples out of the house after the meal (Luke 22:39). Again, Jesus fails to "be Biblical".

What do we do with this information? For those of us who have traditionally been sticklers for doing Biblical things in Biblical ways, this is a mite uncomfortable.

Discomfort is good for us; like exercise is for the muscles, spiritual/mental discomfort is for the soul.


Nathan R. Hale said...

Wow, so this is a challenging thought. I do think that it reinforces the idea that in many cases it's not the WAY we do things, but WHY we do things that's important. The question that's raised in my mind is this: What's the distinguishing factor between a "law" who's spirit we respect, and moral "code" that we must obey?

Josh Tucker said...

Hale, the idea you touch on — that it is WHY we do things that matters, moreso than HOW — is actually pretty right on, here. And there was a very specific reason for Jesus' reclining at the Last Supper.

One of the things that Jesus did extremely well was to take a custom, tradition, ritual, etc., which had meaning to the Jews, and adopt it, giving it even deeper meaning on new levels.

To an extent, this is what Jesus did by reclining. You see, in the Roman Empire, reclining while eating is a sign of freedom. Only free people reclined — slaves and servants did not. By reclining, and having his disciples do the same, Jesus is delivering a clear message: You are free.

What he's done here is to take a tradition that already represented freedom — from slavery, bondage, and captivity — and bring it full circle. At the same time, he is busy injecting new meaning into the rest of the Passover Seder — or perhaps it would be more correct to say he was revealing new meaning, since it can be argued that the the symbolism of the Seder, as it relates to Christ, was always there, prophetically.

Notice, in the Seder, there are four cups. The third, the one taken after the meal, is the Cup of Redemption. It is this cup that Jesus uses for communion.

The matza, as well, is hugely symbolic. There are three pieces (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), and early in the meal, it is the middle piece (Son) that is broken and hidden away (this is called the afikomen). Later, the children seek out and find the afikomen, representing the resurrection. It is this piece of unleavened bread that Christ used for communion.

Furthermore, the matza represents Christ in that it is without leaven (sinless), striped (lashings), pierced (nails in hands and feet, wound in side), broken (his death), hidden (buried), and brought back (resurrection).

This is only part of the symbolism found in the seder, prophetic symbolism which Christ fulfilled, thereby revealing a whole new level of meaning in the Seder.

Given this, it is only fitting that in a ritual ceremony that essentially represents Jesus life, purpose, and message, he should communicate to his followers that they are free by having them act like a free men and recline.

As for leaving the house, I don't know about that one. There was certainly a reason, and it may simply have been that the time had come and he had to fulfill his purpose.

Anyhow... found this via Google Reader, shared by Nathan, and thought I'd share some insights I had into the Messianic Seder. Maybe that helps in some way.