“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.”
You might think that Jesus, knowing that in just a few hours he would be nailed to a cross, would have had more important things on his mind than a meal. If someone came up to you, and told you that you were going to be killed in less than 24 hours, would you sit down for a meal? Many people would skip eating all together: after all, if you really knew that you were going to die in less than 24 hours, why feed your body? Wouldn’t there be more important things to put first?
But if you would answer “yes, I’d sit down for a meal,” then ask yourself, “Would you sit down for a banquet?” Would you spend about three out of your remaining 24 hours at a banquet? That’s what Jesus did. Of course, to use the word “banquet” is still selling short what Jesus did at the Last Supper. The Last Supper was a meal. It was a banquet.
The Passover Meal was the ritual meal of the Jews saying that the sacrifice of their ancestors had been worth it, and that if they had to choose for themselves, they would do it all over again: that freedom from slavery is worth the price that had to be paid, because God had something greater in mind for His Chosen People than slavery.
Some Jews, like Judas Iscariot, thought that that “something greater” was a powerful Kingdom on earth. But Jesus came into this world for something that goes beyond any earthly hopes, plans, or desires.
Jesus came into this world to destroy the power of sin and death. Jesus came into this world to offer freedom from sin, not from Pharaoh. Jesus came into this world to open up again the gates of Heaven, not the Red Sea. This is the freedom that Jesus won by dying on the Cross. But tonight, Jesus institutes the Eucharist, as a sacred meal—a sacrament—that lets us share in the power of the Cross, that makes us present at Calvary.
This Sacrament of the Eucharist is the foretaste of all of the goodness that God has prepared for us. Jesus gave us this Sacrament on the night before He died as a way of sharing in His promise to deliver us from every form of slavery, from every one of our sins, and to lead us from this world into something that is greater and that lasts forever.