Reflections on Easter
At IgniteLife church we gathered on Good Friday and reflected on the cups of the Passover meal, noting that there were only three cups at the last supper. This is supported by the fact that Jesus spoke of His body and blood as He shared the bread and cup. This was traditionally the cup of blessing (berakah) that signified the beginning of the Passover meal.
The meaning of the four cups is set out below. There are parallels between God’s promises to Israel and to Christians.
1st cup (Cup of Sanctification, kiddish) is the blessing/cleansing before the Passover meal. God's promise to Israel: I will take you out of Egypt (the plagues). God's promise to Christians: I will take you out of darkness.
2nd cup (Cup of Proclamation, haggadah) is the remembrance of the exodus from Egypt. Deut 26:5-11 is read, Ps 113 and 114 are sung. God's promise to Israel: I will save you from slavery to the Egyptians (journey to Ramses). God's promise to Christians: I will save you from slavery to sin.
3rd cup (Cup of blessing, berakah) is the beginning of the actual meal when the matzah (or matzo) bread and wine are consumed. God's promise to Israel: I will redeem you - the splitting of the sea left Israel safe. God's promise to Christians: I will redeem you back to Myself - the splitting of the curtain in the temple opened direct relationship between us and God.
4th cup (Cup of Praise, hallel) signifies the completion of the meal when Ps 115-118 are sung as a sacrifice of thanksgiving. God's promise to Israel: I will make you into a nation. God's promise to Christians: I will receive you into My kingdom - your citizenship is in heaven.
When we gathered on Resurrection Sunday we reflected on four aspects of the resurrection record in Matthew 28 and learnt a little about hot cross buns.
‘Cross’ buns were probably first baked by the pagan Saxons at the beginning of spring in honour of the goddess Eostre (probably the origin of Easter). The cross represented the rebirth of the world after winter and the four quarters represented the four quarters of the moon, the four seasons of the year and the wheel of life. It is possible that the first Christian use was by a monk in the 12th Century. In 1592, during the reign of Elizabeth I, the London Clerk of Markets decreed that the sale of spiced buns was forbidden except at funerals, at Christmas and on Good Friday. It is believed that the first reference to ‘hot cross’ buns was in ‘Poor Robin’s Almanac’ in the early 1700s and the term first appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1733.
Legend has it that hot cross buns never spoil. The oldest known hot cross bun is believed to have been baked in Colchester for Good Friday in 1807. Another was baked in 1903. The currants in this one have long since perished, but there is a stalk left.
Turning now to the four aspects of the resurrection record in Matthew 28:
1. God intervened. It was an angel of the Lord who rolled away the stone (vv 2-3). Although God is not a ‘control freak’, He is sovereign and intervenes in human history at critical junctures.
2. It was two women who were trusted to take the message of the resurrection to the disciples. How like God to affirm the value of women! Unlike the disciples, these women had enough faith to go to the tomb to seek Jesus (see vv 1 and 5).
3. The religious leaders of the day suppressed the inconvenient truth of the resurrection. The chief priests bribed the guards to lie and say that the disciples stole the body overnight (see vv 11-15).
4. Perhaps surprisingly, Jesus did not remonstrate with the disciples or commend the two women. He did not chide the disciples for their unbelief nor for running away. He got right down to business and commissioned them to make disciples themselves. Not only that, He encouraged them by declaring, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth’ and promising them, ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age’.
And herein lies the climax of the Easter season: we are all called to engage in the so-called ‘Great Commission’. That this is so is established by the ‘I am with you, even to the end of the age’ promise. Jesus is with us (by the Holy Spirit) as we make disciples until He comes again.
Questions for discussion
1. When was the fourth cup of the last supper consumed? (Hint: Read John 19:28-30.)
2. In what sense could Jesus say on the cross, after partaking of the fourth cup, 'It is finished'?
3. Do you think there are any other parallels between the meaning of the Passover meal for Jews and application for Christians?
4. In what way was the resurrection of Jesus inconvenient for the chief priests?
5. Meditate on the words of Jesus at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Do you feel empowered for evangelism by the knowledge that Jesus has 'all authority' and promises to be 'with you always'?