Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Cup

Food is obviously an important part of the Passover celebration. The girls have been sampling the matzah bread today ("It's too crunchy, Mom. I don't like it."). There is also a lamb shank, a hard-boiled egg, horseradish, haroset (apples and walnuts ground up with wine, representing the mortar and bricks the Israelites made for the Egyptians), and parsley (representing life) dipped in salt water (reminding us that life is filled with tears). There is a good meal of roast chicken, roasted garlic potatoes, sweet carrots, salad, and cake (I'd like to start with matzoh ball soup, but I'm not a real Jewish mama and I don't keep chicken fat in my freezer, so I know I'd be making an inferior product!)

But the most important part of the meal and the ceremony are the various cups of wine (or sparkling grape juice since we have little ones). As in every element of the supper, each cup (four are drunk in all) symbolizes something. The four cups correspond with the four "I WILL" statements God made to the Israelites in Exodus 6: "I WILL bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians" is the first, the cup of Sanctification and Freedom. "I WILL free you from being slaves to them" is the second, the cup of Deliverance. (This is sort of fun too, because before you drink it, you get to dip your finger in it ten times and put a drop of wine on your plate each time to represent the ten plagues.)

After the two cups, the supper is eaten. Then the third cup is filled. This is the cup for the prophet Elijah. (In a traditional Seder, no one drinks from this cup.) When this cup is placed on the table, the children run and open the door for Elijah (the girls love that part!) At the end of the meal, everyone looks to see if Elijah has been, if the wine in his cup has gone down a fraction.

I don't know about you, but I never really thought or knew much about the meaning behind the Last Supper. I sort of just assumed that Jesus picked up a piece of bread on the table and a cup of wine and then made the statements about His body and His blood. That's meaning enough in and of itself, right? Not now though, for me. The book of Luke gives us three key words, and they are "After the supper." That is when Jesus picked up the cup. That is when the third cup is always served, the cup set aside for Elijah. Are you ready for what it is? It corresponds to the third I WILL statement: "I WILL redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment." It is called the Cup of Redemption. It is this Cup of Redemption that Jesus referred to when He wept in the garden, pleading that this cup pass from Him. But notice what He says afterward, "Not My will, but THY WILL be done." He knows that He must fulfill the I WILL statements made thousands of years before. After He wrestles with that in the garden, nothing more is said. He's ready to go straight to the hill. There He redeemed us with His arms outstretched. The mighty acts of judgment that we deserved were poured out on Him.

(from Rainbow Garden)

“Tell me about it,” said Mr. Owen at last. After I had told him everything, I trailed off miserably. It was all out, and what would happen now I couldn’t imagine, and yet strange to say my heart felt lighter.

“Do you want to hear how sin can be taken right away?” he asked. “It’s all here, written down for you.” I sniffed and nodded. I wanted to know so badly, but I still couldn’t say anything. So he read them aloud slowly, and I leaned against him and read them too—the verses I was to love so much later on, those verses written by an old man whose eyes had actually once seen his Savior hanging on the Cross.

“These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full…if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

“What does ‘confess’ mean?” asked Mr. Owen.

“Saying you did it,” I whispered shamefacedly.

“Yes, that’s right,” he answered, “it’s telling God about the sins you can remember and asking Him to take into account all you can’t remember and then believing that He laid them all on the Cross of Jesus and they were all paid for there. And then, because there is nothing between you any more, you can come straight to God and give yourself to Him to obey and serve Him forever. Would you like to do it?”

I nodded again.

“Then tell Him about it now,” said Mr. Owen. “Tell Him what you did, tell Him that you believe that Jesus has died so that it can be forgiven, and then thank Him for making you clean and leading you into the light.” So we closed our eyes, and he prayed out loud and I silently: “Oh, dear Lord, I want to tell you about the shell I stole and the lies I told and all the things I was so afraid and unhappy about. I am coming to You because Jesus died and You promised to forgive. Please wash me whiter than snow and make me Your own little girl. And come into my heart and make me brave and truthful, so that I can put right what I did. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.”

I opened my eyes and looked round half expecting to see some visible Presence standing near. As we walked back to the house, every far peak stood out separate and shining, revealed in the last light, and the clouds were flung like bright banners across the West. “Walking in the light,” I thought to myself, “that’s what it’s like—all gold with nothing hidden,” and I suddenly felt brave and strong and joyful…


My girls are too young to understand all this yet. They know Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Lucy is just learning that the Good Shepherd actually gave His own life for all the sheep. I love to watch it dawning in her face and her mind. It breaks her heart to hear of His suffering and death. As a parent, I wish I could make all my girls' decisions for them. I wish I could just choose Jesus for them forever, and that they'd never waver. But I can't. It has to be a decision they each make for themselves, individually.

On Thursday night, when I hear Lucy's sweet, childish voice asking Darren the traditional question of the Seder, "Father, why is this night different from other nights?" this is what I will think of: Because He took my place. He got what I deserved. He redeemed me...with an outstretched arm.

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