Some Christians claim that Jesus only ever directed one’s attention to God, that he did not draw attention to himself. One can hardly imagine a greater argument against this than the Gospel of John, which opens “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being….” And that Word, of course, was Jesus. Here, John rewrites the opening of the Torah to replace the Creator with Jesus.
Moreover, John overwrites Pesach with Jesus, making Jesus into the Passover lamb. It is clearly absurd that he attributes the fulfillment of the command not to break the Passover lamb’s bones to Jesus’ bones not being broken. And one ought to strenuously object such obvious abuse of scripture, when one is asked to take it seriously. However, the absurdity of such a claim lends itself more to amusement than to establish serious theology. But the claim that Jesus is the Passover lamb is more significantly troubling than it initial absurdity suggests.
Making Jesus the Passover lamb directs one’s attention from what God did to what Jesus is supposed to have done. I feel I hardly need to explain the Passover lamb. The story is well known. Exodus 12.26 tells us the meaning of the Passover lamb: “You shall say, ‘It is the passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, when he struck down the Egyptians and spared our houses.” It is to remind Israel of their deliverance by God. But John expropriates the observance, hi-jacking it to place his own meaning upon it. John takes the sacrifice meant to remind Israel of the Exodus and the great deliverance of God and makes it about the death of Jesus instead. Some will argue that one can remember both things with the sacrifice, now. Adding the crucifixion to the things memorialized in Passover doesn’t mean that one cannot think also of the Exodus. So, now God shares the spotlight. Clearly, attention has been given to Jesus.
But someone could say that Jesus didn’t point to himself. They could say that John pointed to Jesus, but that was later, in explaining Jesus. Jesus’ ministry was to point to God, and that’s what he did. Anyone who says this is mistaken.
Jesus clearly draws attention to himself, rewriting the meaning of the unleavened bread. It is related, just like the lamb, to the Exodus. God established the Festival of the Unleavened Bread, and He says, “You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread, for on this very day I brought you out of the land of Egypt: you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a perpetual ordinance” (Ex. 12.17.) Not only does God fix the festival to mark the Exodus, He establishes it in perpetuity.
Contrast this to Jesus. The Last Supper is at the beginning of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. So, when he takes the bread and breaks it, it is already taking away from God and drawing attention to himself when he says, “Take eat, this is my body” (Mt. 26.26). He says nothing about remembering God. Instead, the disciples are to remember Jesus. In Luke, he takes even another step. “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22.19). Jesus overlays a ceremony to remember himself over one that was meant to remember the acts of God.
It is not credible to say that Jesus only drew attention to God and never to himself. Because he sometimes said things to which few people could object, does not mean that he never said anything objectionable. Just as the NT at times wrote about honoring God and sometimes about honoring Jesus, so did Jesus divert attention from God to himself. He made a divinely ordained festival to be about himself, distracting from the mighty acts of God in freeing the Jewish people from cruel oppression. To argue that he never drew attention to himself is simply untenable.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal