Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Thursday, April 5, 2007, Luke 22:7-20

7Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” 9They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?” 10He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters 11and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.” 13And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 14And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:7-20 (ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

During his three years of ministry I’m sure Jesus and his disciples had lots of meals together. Of course this meal, this one on the night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, was unlike any other they had had. There was something very unique about it. Not that every meal they had was an ordinary one. I’m reminded of the time that Jesus and his followers retreated to Bethsaida to get away from the crowd. Even though it was a remote place, the crowds found out that Jesus was there and they followed. Jesus reacted welcoming them, and teaching those who had gathered about the kingdom of God, and healing “those who needed healing.” When the time grew late, the disciples told Jesus to send everyone away to find places to eat and stay for the night, “It’s a long way home.” They protested. Jesus answer was unexpected. “You give them something to eat.” The disciples weren’t sure what Jesus meant because there were well over five thousand people. “But Lord,” they said, “we only have five loaves and two fish, unless you want us to buy food for them all.” “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” When everyone was seated, Jesus took the food they had, the five loaves and two fish, and blessed them, broke the bread into pieces, and gave it all to the disciples to give out to the people. Everyone there, all five thousand plus, ate the meal. It was like none other they had ever had. This meal was provided by Jesus. Over five thousand people had enough to eat from five loaves and two fish. That meal was everything they needed and some left over, twelve baskets full. I’ll bet that every time the disciples saw Jesus breaking bread after that they thought about God providing for people exactly what they needed.

Now the amazing thing about this meal wasn’t necessarily only the fact that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish. That alone is an amazing thing. But sometimes we get sidetracked on the big miracles that we can see. If Jesus can provide bread for a multitude we know that he can provide daily bread for me. There is really more at work here than just the filling of empty stomachs. Actually the disciples were used to seeing miracles from Jesus. We can see that that is true just paging through Luke’s Gospel. Luke carefully records for us a great many miracles of Jesus. And even the disciples had been given the ability to do them for a time. Just before this meal the disciples were sent out by Jesus to preach and heal. So the miracle of multiplying is an amazing thing. But there is something else going on here that St. Luke wants us to see. There is something more that Jesus is doing. First, when the crowd gathers, he welcomes them. He doesn’t send them away. Now these people were the typical people who were following him. They were sick, lonely, outcast people. They were people that normally didn’t get invitations to meal, or gatherings. But still, Jesus welcomes them to be with him. Second, he teaches. Jesus tells the people about the kingdom of God. He tells them what it means that God is drawing near to them. He tells them how their lives are already different, just because he is there. And just to show them the reality of what he is speaking about, he blesses the bread, breaks it into pieces and the people eat it. In those days, what ever blessing you spoke over bread that is shared is a blessing for all who share it. The miracle of making the five loaves enough for everyone was only making sure that all those people knew that they were invited to have a friendship with Jesus.

It’s not unexpected for Jesus to use a meal to say that kind of thing to God’s people. The Passover meal was the very same thing. The most important even in Israel’s history was remembered every year by a meal. After the first nine plagues in Egypt, Pharaoh wasn’t impressed enough with the God of the Hebrews to let them go. Through Moses God told his people to sit down and eat. A lamb was slaughtered. Its blood was smeared on the doorposts of their houses. And while God’s friends ate the flesh of the dead lamb, the angel of death visited the houses where God’s friends weren’t eating. Inside all the bloodless houses, the first born died wherever a lamb hadn’t died in his place. So every year after that, the Jews remembered the friendship of God, showed to them in the killing and eating of a lamb.

14This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast. 15Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16On the first day you shall hold a holy assembly, and on the seventh day a holy assembly. No work shall be done on those days. But what everyone needs to eat, that alone may be prepared by you. 17And you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:14-17 (ESV)

Do any of you know the first question that was to be asked by the youngest child at this meal? “Why this night is different from all others?” It was a “memorial meal” to teach the people what God had done for them. The lamb’s blood was to be shed to show them what it means that they were the people of God. That He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. How now their lives were different, just because God was with them. And just to show them the reality of what he was saying, the lamb was killed and eaten, and unleavened bread was broken and shared.

And now that brings us to this night, the night that begins the great suffering of Jesus for the sins of the world. The night Jesus had an earnest desire to share with his disciples. Everything for the Feast of Unleavened Bread was prepared. They gathered around Lord’s Table. The table was littered with what was left over from the Passover meal. They had killed and eaten a lamb. And there was unleavened bread. Jesus took the bread gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And then he took the cup of wine and gave it to them and said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Jesus was teaching again. He was telling them what was going to happen beginning that night was the real reason that he came. Within hours his blood would be poured out just as it was now begin being poured into them with the wine. Within hours his body would be broken just as it was broken with the bread that they were eating. But the key to what Jesus was saying wasn’t just the miracle of his presence in the meal. The really big miracle comes in the smallest words that he spoke. “for you.” “This is my body given for you. This cup is poured out for you.” Jesus was telling his disciples what it means that God had drawn near to them. He tells them that because of what he was about to do, their lives were already different. And just to show the reality of what he is about to do, he gave his true body and true blood in bread and wine for them to eat and drink. The miracle of what Jesus had come to do was show to them in a way that they could see and taste.

Then it was out to the garden… on to arrest… on to trial… on to crucifixion… and on to death. Jesus offers himself as the replacement lamb. He was killed and his body eaten for the sake of his friends who had gathered at his table.

Tonight, in a few moments we’ll do it again, in remembrance. It is no less miraculous than the feeding of the five thousand. It is no less miraculous than the night the blood was spread on the doorposts and the angel of death passed over. It is no less miraculous than the night the disciples gathered with Jesus over the Passover meal. Right here in this place, God is coming near to us in a very special way. We’ll eat the bread and drink from the cup, just as Jesus told us to do. Jesus is still teaching. The very body and blood that hung and suffered and died on the cross is going to be right here. The very same Jesus who rose from the dead is going to be here at his table again tonight. He wants you to remember what he has done for you. He wants you to remember his broken and bloody body hanging on the cross. He wants you to remember his death and his resurrection. It will all be shown to you in a very visual way right here, tonight. Jesus is telling you what it means that he is drawing near to you. He is telling you that because of what he has done your life is already different. It is all right here and the most important thing to hear when we speak Jesus words over the bread and wine in a few moments is those two very small but very important words… “for you.”

At this meal, you’ve been invited by Jesus himself. He says to you, “Look, my baptized child, look at my body and my blood given and shed for you. Through them you have forgiveness of your sins. Through them you are my friend. I am the very Lamb of God who has given myself up to death in your place. And even though death will come to you, right here in my body and blood you have my promise of life forever with me.”

It is an unusual meal. Amen.

The Peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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