April 21, 2011

Holy Week- Maundy Thursday- What's For Supper?

We have now reached Thursday of Holy Week, or as some know it by Maundy Thursday. Today is the day that Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples. You know the story right; the night Jesus was to face betrayal, torture, and death he wanted to have supper with his disciples.

Jesus was the host, he made the arrangements, and he had a lot to do any say in a very short window of time. The last supper may well be the most important dinner party the world has ever known. Today we are going to ask with a childlike wonderment, what's for supper?

What is interesting is that all four Gospels take time to reflect on this event but they have some differences. Mark and Matthew offer us a sort of no frills story, just the basics, Luke and John cover those as well but they also toss in some extras. 

Let’s start with, Matthew 26:17-30.  The story unfolds as we come to expect. Bread is broken, wine is poured, Jesus predicts his death, and everyone swears their loyalty to Jesus up to and including their own deaths.

But buried in this familiar passage is some of the most amazing news humanity has ever been given.  Here we are offered up a new covenant for supper.

During one of Israel’s lowest points, when their very survival seemed to be threatened, God promised that he would one day make a new covenant, a different covenant with his people. This covenant would be internal, not external. They would not be given a new set of rules to follow but a heart ready to serve God.

And a new heart is something that we desperately need. If we were to scan the newspaper on any given day and what would we find? Will we find stories of poverty? Even with the world as populated as it is there is more than enough food and water to go around. And yet people go without, at the same time others eat themselves to death. Would we find stories of tragedy? Pain, suffering and crime are unending.

It seems obvious that humanity has a heart problem. And Jesus is offering a heart solution. Not more rules. Not more rituals. Not even more religion. Jesus is offering more of himself, he is offering more God.

The promise of the new covenant is one of the most beautiful verses in the bible, ‘I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, nor say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

As Jesus broke the bread and poured the wine he said that this covenant begins now, and that it begins with him. He would make it possible for us to have new hearts, and he would make it possible for us to be made right with God.

Next we will turn to Luke 22:7-30. Like in our previous passage all of the elements we would expect are present. Jesus breaks the bread, and he pours the wine. He predicts his death, and the disciples swear their allegiance. But Luke tells us a little more about what happens while all the disciples were declaring their allegiance to Jesus, a dispute arose.

If you were to scan the gospels for the words ‘a dispute arose among the disciples’ you will find that they only fought about one thing, which among them is greatest. In response to this on going argument Jesus reminded them that the way they were acting was not appropriate for the kingdom that he is confirming on to them. This is what we discover in Luke that was served for supper, a kingdom.

But please note how that kingdom is described. It is not supposed to be run by military might, economic growth, intellectual development, the pleasure principle, or even ones pursuit of personal rights and freedoms. Any number of kingdoms and countries had been governed in some way by some combination of those principles. But this kingdom was meant to be different. It would not be ruled by power, prestige, or privilege, instead it was to be ruled by servants.

Jesus is inviting us to participate in the kingdom, not just join it. He is asking us to help it take shape, not just count our blessings that we made it in. That means there are no bench warmers in Christ’s kingdom. No one is here to simply take up space. We have a role to play in Christ’s kingdom; we have become stewards charged with the task to serve as Christ served.

Now most meals that I get invited two only contain two courses. But Jesus wasn’t done; he had a third course up his sleeve. To find out what it was we turn to John’s account of the Last Supper, found in John 13.

A lot could be said about John. But one thing is for sure, he doesn’t like covering old territory.  Here we don’t read about the breaking of the bread or the pouring of the wine. Here we see Jesus stand up from his place at the table and do something that shocked everyone. He, ‘took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.’

Jesus the lord, Jesus the master, Jesus the teacher, Jesus the host, got up and preformed a servant’s task. The disciples were baffled, they couldn't understand why Jesus would do such a thing.

Jesus is presenting the third thing he had prepared for supper he was showing us a new way to live. This is an easy example to understand, but incredibly hard to carry out. But I don’t think for most of us it is a sense of self importance that keeps us from treating others more highly than ourselves. It is a fear of being used, it is a fear of being shoved to the ground and treated like dirt. And the truth is people do have a tendency to treat people who serve as if they were in some way of less importance.

We fear being treated poorly, we fear being shoved down. But let me say this, you can’t shove someone down who knelt of their own accord.

As you go about your day today and your stomach inevitably reminds you that you are hungry, take time and reflect on all Jesus said and did at the Last Supper. Likewise next time you take communion remember how much more was given that night then a little bread and wine.

Jesus Offered Up So Much More Than This

***Today's blog is adapted from the sermon I gave Sunday April 17th 2011, by the same name.***

***Please note dividing events into individual days during Holy Week is up for interpretation. I am using a time line providing by Bible Gateway.***