Jesus’ weary feet trod the stairs to an upper room.
He was on His way to eat a feast with his friends. An incredibly ancient meal, with a lamb at the centre. This meal spoke of God’s people not dying, of not coming to a sticky end. The lamb they ate took their curse instead — dying in their place.
This was a normal meal celebrated every year, to remember the story of God saving His people out of slavery in Egypt. A meal that bought them freedom.
But read the accounts of this particular meal, on this particular evening, in this particular group of friends and you’ll notice that nobody is talking about the lamb. Of course they ate it together, but it wasn’t centre stage. Compared to what happened next, the lamb is not worth mentioning.
Jesus made this ancient meal incredibly new: He offered something new to eat and something new to drink. The medicine for what was eaten long ago, and for all the billions of other times we have despised or rebelled against the one who first spoke.
The cure for every single ‘no’.
Something that goes deep enough — and has life enough — to fix the damage done by the fruit from the forbidden tree.
But it’s not magic. It is not a thing to be done that changes us. It is not something we can buy. It is not something we can earn. It is not something that will run out. It is not something we need to fight each other for. It is not something that anybody living in this world can be excluded from by any other.
Jesus picked up some bread while they were eating the meal. Never taking any good gift for granted, He spoke words of thanks to God for providing it. He broke off a chunk for each of his friends.
He said to them: ‘Take it, this is my body.’
Then He took a cup, spoke words of thanks again and passed it around the table for his friends to drink. He told them it represented His very own blood, which would be poured out for many as the sign of a new covenant, a new promise, a new relationship between God and His people.
But how could He give His body and His blood?
Within a day of that meal, Jesus was hanging, dying on a Roman cross. He gave up His body, just like He said. His blood spilled like a river from His side, moistening the ground below.
The ancient warning was now being acted out in one very sticky end.
As God the Father watched on (or averted His eyes in horror), His words spoken long ago echoed down through the ages:
‘If you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will certainly die.’
Jesus certainly died.
He was thoroughly, comprehensively, excruciatingly crucified.
This murder seems like the ultimate rejection of God, a clear message to say that we don’t want Him to speak any more, do any more, think any more, demand any more. We don’t want Him to dictate our lives. We don’t want anything to do with Him.
If — in my whole life — I could only ever hear one person speak, I would want to hear words from Jesus’ lips. I would repeat whatever words I heard over and over and over again in my head. I’d try to hold on to the voice, the intonation of every syllable, the accent. I would try to visualize where I was when I heard them. I would treasure the words in my heart. I would always be trying to understand them. They would be life to me.
They were the words that originally spoke life into our wonderful world. And they are the words that were spoken to heal it.
Words that powerful and life giving cannot be put to death by humankind. We are not that great and mighty — we are flawed and needy.
I’m not talking abstractly. This man, Jesus, who spoke life and hope into our world breathed again. He spoke again. He was seen again. He ate again.
He smiled again. And He will come again.
God’s original vision of life and freedom in His presence was never lost. That garden full of life at the beginning of the story was made through Jesus and for Him.
Yes He died, but now He lives. The bread and the wine are signs of accepting that Jesus died in our place, but it is also a sign of sharing fully in His new life.
The invitation to eat the bread and the wine is an invitation to be free again. Not a do-whatever-you-like freedom, but a freedom to live in God’s presence now and to look to a future, when He makes the world new once more. When we can again be bedazzled by its full brilliance.
Imagine the moist, fertile soil curling up around your toes.
But this time not in a new world waiting to be filled, but a remade world, full of people and life. Not a world cut off from the One who made it, but a world that honours Him, from the tops of the mountains to the depths of the oceans.