One of the more interesting historical possibilities concerns how the Nobel Prize came into existence. Many people know that the prize is named after Alfred Nobel, a Swedish man who lived in the last half of the nineteenth century. He was a prolific inventor who earned over 350 patents. He had an element (Nobelium) named after him. And, there are a couple of companies still operating today that bear his name.
Apart from the awards, Nobel is best known as the inventor of dynamite. In fact, that is how he would be remembered by us today if it weren’t for an unlikely event that reportedly occurred in Cannes, France, just eight years before his death. Nobel’s older brother, Ludvig, had been living in Cannes and died there is 1888. One of the newspapers erroneously reported not the death of Ludvig—but the death of Alfred! The headline read, The Merchant of Death is Dead. It went on to characterize Nobel as someone “who became rich by finding ways to kill people faster than ever before.” Here’s where the uncertainty comes in—no copy of this obituary has ever been found and historians differ as to whether it ever existed or not. But whatever might be true about that, something apparently caused Alfred to think about the legacy he would leave behind. He decided to use the money he had made from his inventions to fund five prizes to be awarded annually. Alfred Nobel is known today not as a merchant of death but as a far-sighted humanitarian whose good deeds have long outlived him. He turned his legacy of death into a legacy of life.
In Luke 22, we’re told that the Passover was approaching. How were the leaders of Israel preparing themselves for this feast commemorating God’s mercy and deliverance? They “were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus.” He was a threat to their power base so He had to go. Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, offered his help. A deal was made and money promised. It was as cold-hearted as it was pre-meditated but they were “delighted” (v. 5) to find a way to kill the One who obeyed God fully and loved people completely. Theirs was a legacy of death.
If there were those who were intent upon bringing death at the Passover, there was an Israelite who was committed to bringing life. Before they ate, Christ told them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (v. 15-16). If there was ever someone who lived in the moment it was Jesus. Yet He told His disciples He had been looking forward to this occasion. He understood that by going to the cross He was fulfilling what the Passover ultimately pointed toward—God reigning through the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. His was and is a legacy of life.
When the church eats the broken bread and drinks the crushed grapes today, we are locking arms with all of the people in the centuries before Christ who participated in the Passover. As those whose status has changed from death to life, we are bearing witness to the life that is uniquely in Him.