Lectionary Commentary 2: Holy Thursday

February 18th, 2012

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14

The Passover story of Exodus 12 is the story of God’s redemption of God’s people. The lamb was sacrificed for the redemption and rescue of the people. Ritually, the blood of the lamb marks one as a chosen child of God’s. It is also the crucial background of Christian teaching about Jesus as the Lamb of God. In the sacrifice of the lamb, the sins of the people are paid. It is blood atonement; only blood will do as payment for sins and liberation from Pharaoh. Old Testament scholar Brevard Childs remarked in a speech: “Israel remains a people who have been redeemed, but who still awaits its redemption.”

The early Christian writers constantly read this passage as an allusion to Christ. He is the Lamb of God to which Exodus refers. The preacher must both be sensitive to the original Passover context as offered in the Hebrew Bible and grasp the way in which the New Testament sees Jesus as a fulfillment of this passage.

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

The Apostle Paul opens this passage by emphasizing that he is passing on a core incident and conviction that the early Christian movement embraced. The institution of the Lord’s Supper is not a casual accident that can be lightly dismissed; it is central to the Jesus tradition. This passage at once points us back to the Exodus Passover story and leads us forward to its completion in Jesus offering himself as body and blood at the table that night.

The faithful should take care not to jump quickly to the Lord’s Supper as merely a memorial meal. The text directs us that it is an institution of the real and continuing presence of Jesus in our midst. We are commanded to do this until he comes again.

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