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Why Do We Care about Passover?

Updated: Mar 22

Sean Michael Jackman and Elaine Pearson


Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, is the commemoration of Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist. “Maundy” is a reference to the mandate Jesus gave us: “…a new commandment I give to you…” (John 13:34). The events we commemorate on Maundy Thursday are those of the Last Supper – Jesus’ Passover meal with His disciples just before His arrest.


This year, Passover takes place between April 22 and April 30, falling squarely on Holy Week. This makes sense, as the events of Holy Week take place against the backdrop of the Passover celebrations. However, because the two dates are calculated based on different criteria, they do not always coincide. Read more about that here.


The Passover Seder meal contains 6 specific food items, each with a particular significance. Read more about that here.





Why should we be interested in the Passover feast? In the notes to The Living Last Supper, Ruth Elaine Schram says this:

For centuries before Jesus came to earth, each year when the spring harvest began, the Jewish people were instructed to remember the emancipation of Israel from slavery in Egypt by observing Passover. Ritual prayers of blessing were learned and recited. All leaven was removed from the house, a specific set of foods was prepared on dishes used only for this occasion, and a ceremony was performed by each family through which the story of the Exodus was retold.


The instructions for the Passover feast were given to Moses before the Ten Commandments! It pre-dates all other feasts, and its importance was made clear when Jesus chose to celebrate this feast during His last hours.


The Passover Supper is rich with beauty and symbolism, but its significance is lost to many Christians today.


 The unleavened bread represents the sinless Savior; it is broken and half hidden away, representing His death and burial; it is later uncovered and eaten. Many families involve the children in the story by making a game of hiding and searching for the bread.


The Matzo bread used for this ceremony is grilled, so it has stripes that remind us that Jesus was beaten; it has holes in it, which remind us that He was pierced.  When Jesus says to His disciples, “This is my body,” it gives the bread a whole new level of meaning.


The blood of a lamb figures heavily into this ceremony as well. In Egypt, the Israelites painted their door posts with the blood of a spotless lamb. When the angel of death saw this, he “passed over” those homes and spared the first-born from the last of the ten plagues – the plague of death. When John refers to Jesus as “…the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” it becomes clear that the Israelites had been presenting a picture of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for 1500 years before His birth by celebrating the Passover!


So, you see, the Passover meal has significance for us, as well!

 

On Maundy Thursday, March 28 at 7:00 pm the St. John Chancel Choir, the choir of Emmanual Lutheran in Livonia and a small orchestra will be joined by twelve readers to present “The Living Last Supper” by Ruth Elaine Schram. This event has been several years in the making.


During the fall of 2019, several ELCA churches in west Metro Detroit had been discussing the idea of presenting a special musical work for Holy Week as a joint venture.  We settled on the dramatic telling of the Last Supper by Ruth Elaine Schram, The Living Last Supper.  By late November of that year, we had purchased the scores and began practicing in our respective churches with our own choirs. 


The score calls for piano accompaniment augmented by an instrumental group of strings, oboe and clarinet.  We were excited about the idea of offering this work during Holy Week 2020.


And then COVID.


It’s been four years since COVID first upended our lives and brought tragedy to so many individuals and families.  While we used some of the music for online anthems and presented the monologues during some Zoom services, we were only able to share a portion of this entire piece, and in sections. We are glad to finally be able to present this beautiful piece on a theme which is central to the Christian faith. 


Leonardo da Vinci's Renaissance masterpiece “The Last Supper” is brought to life in this remarkable work through character monologues, expressive melodies, and dramatic enhancements for an unforgettable communion celebration. One by one, the disciples speak, expressing their innermost thoughts in brief but poignant monologues, including their astonishment at Jesus' assertion that one of them would betray him.


We hope you will join us for The Living Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, April 28 at 7:00 pm. We will also stream in the Zoom (Meeting ID 874 9245 5509) or on our facebook page. We trust that this will be a moving experience for you and will enhance the completion of your Lenten journey.

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