With each sunrise, we step closer to Easter. In case you haven’t noticed, Easter is April 20. Most likely, you’re reading this just before Palm Sunday or sometime during Holy Week.
This year, the Lenten season—the 40 days leading up to Easter—has felt poignantly appropriate. We experienced one of the coldest Texas winters in recent memory. Just when we’d think (or at least wish) the warmth of spring had arrived to stay, a cold front would blow through. Temperatures would drop below freezing. Again. Some plants in my flowerbeds still bear the marks of the last devastating hard freeze, and I occasionally wonder if they’ll recover.
Poetically and metaphorically, a cold and dark Lent feels perfectly appropriate. For 2,000 years, Christians have observed Lent to remind ourselves of our need for salvation, of our need for Jesus’ atoning sacrifice.
When I started writing this editorial, warm sunshine and light breezes buzzed Texas with a springtime kiss. But by the time I started adding the final touches, cold winds blew clouds and chill back over the plains.
Still, each warm spell is just a bit warmer than the last. And each cold snap is just a bit milder than the one before. The increasing warmth reminds us spring is taking hold and Easter can’t be far away.
So, as I pondered—and longed for—Easter and attendant springtime, the Apostle Paul’s account of the last experience Jesus shared with his disciples attracted my attention. We call it the Last Supper. Here’s what Paul says …
The night he was betrayed…
“The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
This passage is so familiar, we almost can recite it by heart. Most of us hear it practically every time we participate in Communion, the Lord’s Supper.
As we journey toward Easter, we naturally consider the Supper a haunting, holy metaphor for what Jesus was about to experience. He literally offered his body to be broken and his blood to be spilled as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
A prescription for behavior
However, we do well to think about the Supper not only as a reflection of Jesus’ sacrifice, which saves us and redeems us, but also as a prescription for our behavior. We note the disciples experienced that sanctified moment and, within hours, all abandoned Jesus. We must inquire about our own faithfulness.
We claim the title “Christian,” which literally means “little Christ.” As Christians, our mission is to mirror or imitate—however finitely, however faultingly—our Savior, Jesus the Christ. Unlike Jesus, none of our sacrifices can save or redeem others. But like Jesus, each of us is called upon to sacrifice for others. Just as Jesus allowed his body to be broken and his blood to be spilled to redeem “whosoever will” accept his sacrifice, as “little Christs,” we are commissioned to sacrifice ourselves for others.
Few, if any, of us ever will sacrifice our whole life for someone else. However, as we follow Jesus, we practice good stewardship of our years when we sacrifice pieces of our lives—chunks of time—for others.
Minister to the ‘least of these’
We’re most fully like Jesus when we mirror what Jesus said in his inaugural sermon he came to do: “to proclaim good news to the poor, … freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4). And we know we’re serving Jesus when we minister to those he called “the least of these”: the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner (Matthew 25).
As we long for Easter, may we anticipate victory over death and full life in Christ. And as we accept his name, may we imitate his love and sacrifice for others.