The Yiddish word “chutzpah” when used to describe someone is usually not a compliment. Chutzpah is over-the-line audacity, thinking way too much of your- self and letting others know about it. Though the original Yiddish term chutzpah had strong negative connotations, sometimes it can be used positively for some- one who is exceptionally bold, but remaining just within the lines of propriety.
Jesus showed what looked like chutzpah in the Passover meal we know as The Last Supper. Those of us who have grown up in church might easily miss this because what Jesus said is so familiar to us as they are uttered during every Communion: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.” But for the disciples of Jesus gathered with Him for a final meal, the words were brand new. The Passover meal, was filled with traditional actions and meanings. It was a time to remember how God had saved His people from slavery in Egypt. Yet, while serving as host for this meal, Jesus inserted Himself in a most daring and unprecedented way.
To understand how the disciples felt, imagine yourself in church one day for Communion. Your pastor stands up, breaks the bread, and says “This bread is really all about me today. In the future, when you celebrate Communion, remember me most of all.” That would be utter egotism, right? Blasphemy, really. It would be chutzpah of the worst kind.
There’s only one possible justification for such language. By radically redefining the meaning of the bread, and then the cup, Jesus was creating a new way to signify God’s new act of salvation. God was about to do something even more astounding than the exodus from Egypt. Through the broken body of Jesus, given for His dinner companions, God was saving all of humanity from slavery to sin and death. This wondrous act of salvation would be remembered every time followers of Jesus share together in the bread, broken and given for them.
So, yes, what Jesus said was amazingly bold. It was chutzpah of the very best kind. What Jesus communicated was anything but arrogant. He was offering Himself for us, His life for our lives. Jesus’s chutzpah was borne, not out of an overblown sense of self, but rather out of utter humility and sacrificial servant- hood as He would soon fully assume the role of the Suffering Servant of God, the One whose suffering and death bring life and freedom for humanity. That is surely something worth remembering . . . often. In the season of Lent, we pre- pare for a deeper, truer experience of the saving work of God through Christ. May you take time to remember the wonder of Christ’s body, given for you.
Thank You, Jesus, for giving Your body for me. May your gracious sacrifice stretch my soul with joyful, awe-filled gratitude.