Your last meal
Last year I read a book handed me by a fellow in Texas on a previous trip. I politely thanked the author and put the book in my suitcase perhaps to read down the road. Eventually, I had a weekend and saw the book on my 'to read' shelf and gave in. The title was captivating, as were the subjects. These were death row prisoners for whom the author Brian Price was the chef. He prepared their ultimate meals before they were executed.
The book's description on Goodreads says, "With 44 darkly titled recipes such as Body Bag Baked Beans and Rice Rigormortis, a Texas death row chef shares insider details on the last meals of condemned prisoners. Photos."
I cannot say it was a great book; in fact, it was only facts, with little emotion, and few insights into the real thoughts and feelings of the death row candidates. But the whole idea fascinates me, even today. What would I want at my last supper? What would I not eat? With whom would I want to share this time?
As I write this blog, it's Thursday 18 April 2019. By itself that's not significant. But when I look up at the moon which is 98% full, I'm reminded of a calendar that's not Gregorian. It's the Jewish calendar and the Christian calendar which this year merge very well. Tomorrow night is the 15th of Nissan, the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. That holiday is the celebration of freedom for a people of slavery in ancient Egypt. 3 million slaves were released from their captivity by the blood of lambs placed on the doorposts of their huts and houses. The story is told each year how God delivered His people who didn't even have time to wait for their bread to rise, so they took the dough as it was and baked it without leaven. We eat matzo (unleavened bread) and bitter herbs (like horseradish) and many other 'teaching devise' foods to remind us that we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and God delivered us!
For those in my neighbourhood here in Bondi, some of whom are Christians, today is Thursday of Holy Week, nicknamed "Maundy Thursday." Holy Week for them is the time in the church calendar which memorializes the time initiated by Jesus' entry into Jerusalem in the last week of his earthly career. He entered on Sunday and each day things happened. Notable about today is the meal that Jesus ate on Thursday. It was a Passover seder, the same meal Jewish people eat (on 15 Nissan). So why do they call it "Maundy?" The Latin word is (John Dickson @johnpauldickson said today in his tweet: "from "mandatum" or "commandment", in the words of Jesus to his disciples on the night he washed their feet like a servant, before being betrayed by one of them: "A new commandment (mandatum novum) I give to you, that you love one another" (John 13:34) "even as I have loved you."
In the Older Testament, God already said, "Love your neighbour as yourself." (Lev. 19.18). So what is so new about this new commandment? It's not a love which is easy; it's a love which carries you to your own cross. In other words, love someone as you would want to be loved, ok, that's able to be done. But love like Yeshua loved, by going to the cross, by dying for our sins, that's sacrificial love and it's eternal love. That's the new commandment. Love that costs everything you have.
On Maundy Thursday some Christians have a tradition (borrowed from Jesus's day) of footwashing. Again in John chapter 13 this is recorded. It's a picture of how we should love one another. Then Jesus had the seder with the boys. And he gave up his life in a few hours by dying for us.
So Jesus' last meal, his last supper, was taken just hours before his execution. I imagined today that Brian Price could have written about this last meal in his book. Jesus even said, "I have longed to eat this meal with you (the disciples) before I suffer" (Luke 22.15)
With whom would you want to spend your last evening on earth? What foods would you want to eat? Yeshua (Jesus' Hebrew name) chose to spend it with some rag-tag wanderers, a collection of his followers who in just a few hours would abandon him until he rose from the dead. (That's another story!). And he chose to eat a Passover meal remembering our people's exodus from Egypt and God's power to save.
What will you eat tomorrow?
What will you be remembering?
With whom would you like to be eating?