Today is Maundy Thursday; for Christians, the beginning of the celebration of the most important festival in the annual calendar, remembering the betrayal, trial, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
To set the scene:
Following his baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus has spent about three years travelling and teaching. Along the way he has gathered around him a band of followers, who we refer to as the disciples; 12 of whom were his closest friends and companions. During their time together, the disciples have been witness to incredible events, including blind men made to see, the lame caused to walk, the deaf made able to hear, bread and fish multiplying enough to feed a huge crowd, a storm supernaturally stilled and, most recently, a dead man brought back to life - events guaranteed to elevate Jesus to celebrity status.
Wherever he has travelled, they have heard Jesus telling stories of the kingdom of God and, as time has passed, they have also seen the opposition, trickery and plotting of the religious leaders of the day; angry that Jesus has dared to contradict their humanly imposed traditions and to question their self-inflating priorities.
In the midst of all of this, Jesus decides to visit Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover; the major Jewish festival of the year. His disciples think he is mad! Doesn't Jesus realise how dangerous this is? He is walking straight into the stronghold of his greatest enemies; the men determined to put a stop to him, by whatever means necessary.
Undaunted, Jesus continues on his chosen course, entering the city riding an unbroken colt, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy:
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zechariah 9:9 (New International Version)
And now, on the first day of the festival, Jesus shares the symbolic Passover meal with his closest friends, after which he takes a piece of bread and breaks it. He shares it amongst his disciples, telling them that the broken bread symbolises his body which will be broken for them. They don't understand, but hear his command to do and to remember.
Then he takes the cup of wine, passes it round and tells them that this represents his blood which will be poured out for them. Do this, and remember!
So today, knowing how events unfolded, we do this and we remember...
that broken bread and wine outpoured...