Likewise the diners are dressed for action, with a girdle round the waist, sandals on their feet and a staff in their hand.
The blood of the lamb will mark the houses of the faithful and Lord will spare them.
It is a night full of nervous tension and even excitement.
This is a meal for people who are preparing for battle perhaps, or for people who are getting ready to escape from oppression. It is a meal to be eaten in an atmosphere of nervous expectation and a hope that hardly dares to raise its head!
It’s a meal for those who hope to survive the night ahead!
The meal of the new Passover, Jesus’ Last Supper with his dearest friends has a different look about it.
Some of the age-old rituals, established in the Exodus reading are still there, the lamb, the herbs and so on. This time there is really only one person who is on the move. This time there is only one person whose life appears to be at risk.
The rest of the company seem relatively settled in their places of residence, secure enough in their identity and ready for a good party rather than a risky journey into the dark night.
They are in for a surprise of course. Jesus seems aware of what is about to happen to him. He even seems ready to face the dangerous journey that is awaiting him. He challenges their relatively comfortable world with disquieting words about his body being broken and his blood being spilt.
He speaks of the betrayal that is afoot. He calls them to join him on his journey, to watch and pray with him, to stand by him.
This Passover meal is about the liberation of their hearts and minds from the burdens of sin rather than the burdens of political oppression that was the lot of the early Israelite community.
This Passover meal is an invitation to break free from the comfort zone that only appears to be safe, and to embrace a life that is not concerned with its own safety, but with the liberation of all creation from the burden of sin.
Jesus introduces a new and everlasting Passover in which people’s hearts are liberated, even while they still live in circumstances of oppression and communities or families that are ruled by fear.
Jesus introduces the Passover of the heart, which is often enough a far more risky journey than a stealthy escape from a mob of Egyptians as was the case with the first Passover.
The people of the new Passover eat and drink in order to be ready for the journey within. They dress appropriately for this journey so as not to be weighed down by unnecessary clothing.
The people who accept Jesus’ invitation to eat and drink the meal of the new Covenant with him, are really ready for anything that life throws at them.
They are afraid of nothing since their salvation is already assured and their hearts are already at peace.
For us tonight, the Apostles provide excellent and reassuring models. They reckoned that they were ready but they either fell asleep or ran away into the night when the pressure was on. They only re-surfaced when all the dust had settled and the danger had passed.
They had trouble understanding what Jesus was going on about and why he allowed himself to be captured so easily.
They puzzled over his silence in the face of Pilate’s and Herod’s interrogation.
They had little stomach for a Passover meal that called them out of their safe identities and lifestyles.
He still loved them however, washed their feet and returned to reassure and instruct them further when his resurrection was accomplished.
In our hesitations, in our blindness, in our fears, he comes and washes our feet too. We struggle still to understand what he was really about, but he still bends down and washes our feet.
We continue in our sin and ambiguities, and still he washes us.
We fall back from our best intentions and promises to our selves, and still he washes our feet.
His invitation is uncompromising and faithful.
This night, may our response to him deepen in faithfulness, truth and courage.
With a girdle around our waist, sandals on our feet and a staff in our hand, may we encourage each other to take this journey of love that the new covenant requires and in this find our way to our truest home.