Today is what is called Maundy Thursday in the Christian church. It is the day that Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples. It was a moment for him to prepare them for the new way things would be after he was gone. I have sometimes wondered why Jesus taught so often in metaphor, and I believe one reason is because the naked truth can be too painful to receive. Some truths just hurt too much. They are not palatable. We would reject them. And this is certainly true in the metaphor of broken bread and shared wine.
Luke 22 tells us “When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table…. And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me’” (v. 14, 19). We know that this symbolic gesture was a foreshadowing of the physical breaking Jesus would endure in the coming hours, but I believe Jesus was also preparing us for the breaking we all will endure. The breakings that are common to mankind, that are indicative of living, that are the mark of growing and changing. The painful breakings we endure where parts of us die, parts that need to die, they are allowed to die. The breaking that comes as friends and family leave this earth and leave us behind. What greater gesture than for Jesus to show us— you will be broken, I’ll go first.
Breaking, dying, then resurrecting. This is the way of becoming better and better versions of ourselves. This is the way of shedding ego, lies, old habits, dysfunction, relationships, and prejudices. These old patterns once held us. They got us through difficult situations and seasons of our lives and then they outlived their purposes. Old beliefs start to hold us back, hinder us from moving forward. They must be broken, and when they do it is terrifying. It’s terrifying to let go of an illusion that I once believed was actually keeping me safe in this world or even alive; yet Jesus prepared us that these breakings would come and offered this assurance— I give thanks for what this breaking is working in you. I share in the breaking with you. As you endure it, remember me.
But he didn’t stop there, he offered a solace. Matthew 26:27, 28 says “Then he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” Again, this is a foreshadowing of the blood Jesus will physically shed in the coming hours. And as is his way, it is also a metaphor for the emergence of new things, resurrection. The only way we can allow breaking and dying is with the assurance that something new will come after this pain. Jesus didn’t just tell us to break and die. He also demonstrated what new life looks like. He offered the promise that he is the cocoon that holds us while we disintegrate. He is the grave that holds our many dying forms. I can’t let parts of me die and contain myself at the same time. God does the containing. This extension of the cup is a new promise of a new way— as you suffer, change, let go, and grow, there will now be the power of a grace to cover your messy processes. Breaking and dying is painful and ugly. We are not our best selves during these seasons, but they are the way of broken things. We have forgotten this in our culture that wants to be free of all pain and suffering at all times. We like all things neat, tidy, predictable, and orderly, but that’s just not how life always unfolds. Grace is the cup that allows for messy change inside of it. God is a God of allowing. Allowing breaking. Allowing dying. Allowing the emergence of something new.
So on this special day, whatever stage of the process you are in, may you take comfort in remembering Jesus’s gentle symbols for a not so gentle process. May you learn to allow all stages and seasons of life and of your own growth. May you learn to receive graciously then let go when it is time. May you learn to love with your whole heart then say good-bye when loved ones must go. May you learn to live with a heart that is ever breaking then ever being restored. In every death is a beginning. May you receive the broken bread and the cup. And may you emerge on the other side, something altogether new.