Sisters of Life: Protecting Life in All its Forms
CINCINNATI—According to the accounts in Matthew, Mark and Luke, on the night before he died on the cross, Jesus celebrated with the Twelve a Seder, a Jewish Passover supper.
Born and raised Jewish, author Marc L. Greenberg became a Catholic 10 years ago. It came as no surprise to him that the Twelve expected Jesus to attend a Seder for the first night of Passover. What they did not expect at this "last supper" was to hear him announce the eucharistic sacrifice of his body and blood. The apostles brought to this night their Jewish traditions. As a Catholic convert from Judaism, Greenberg carried these same traditions into his conversion.
The connection between Passover and the Eucharist can be found in Marc L. Greenberg's April article, "The Lord's Supper: Ancient Story, New Beginning." After March 23, the article will be posted at: http://www.AmericanCatholic.org.
The Torah, the first five books of the Bible, explains why the Passover Seder meant so much to the Twelve. As the Book of Exodus opens, the Israelites, who were once welcomed into Egypt, had become slaves. Fearing that the Hebrews had grown too strong, the pharaohs enslaved them for 400 years. Then God sent Moses to lead the people out of slavery. To spare the Israelites and to prepare them for departure from Egypt, God instructed each family to obtain a lamb with no broken bones. After the lamb was slaughtered before the assembled people and its blood was applied to the doorways of their homes, the people were to be dressed and ready for travel, and to eat the lamb that night.
"I still remember my childhood Seders," Greenberg writes. "My grandmother cooked all week and served the meal with dishes and tableware used only at Passover. My great-grandfather conducted our family Seders, making sure that nothing was changed or omitted."
If that was what the Twelve expected, they were in for a surprise. Jesus prepared them for a unique revelation at their last Passover supper together. Jesus had coaxed the apostles along a three-year journey of transformation and faith. Although he tested their understanding of both the law and the Messiah, he did not reject their Jewish traditions.
The apostles heard Jesus' preaching and parables. Many disciples followed him. When a crowd in Capernaum asked Jesus for a sign that he was the one sent from God, they reminded him of the bread or "manna" that their ancestors had received as a sign during the Exodus. Jesus replied: "I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died....I am the living bread that came down from heaven....Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day" (John 6:48-51,54).
"Once I came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, this formed a powerful foundation for my decision to become a Catholic," Greenberg writes. "I had to surrender my expectations about what it meant for me, a Jewish man, to encounter Jesus Christ and the mystery of faith. To my surprise, I found that Jesus was waiting patiently for me to find him. Once I believed in Jesus as Savior and Son of God, there was no turning back."
God had led the Jewish nation out of Egypt centuries ago, saved by the blood of sacrificial lambs, to free their ancestors from slavery. Jesus announced that he would shed his blood to save all mankind from a greater slavery, a slavery to sin.
"I now saw the Passover celebration with new eyes," Greenburg writes. "Jesus is the Messiah, the incarnate law, the living Word of God. On this night he did not offer a parable. He spoke directly: ‘Do this.' And you will have communion with me and life everlasting in the Kingdom of God."
Permission is granted to reprint this release.
The other article posted will be
"Praying the Steps: A Good Friday Tradition"
by Assistant Managing Editor Susan Hines-Brigger.