Today is the second Sunday of Lent. We begin our Lenten series “Were You There…” by reflecting on Luke 22:7-38 Were You There… at the Supper? It’s time for the Passover, the feast where Israel remembers how God saved them from slavery and led them into freedom and the Promised Land. Jesus takes the Passover and fills it with new meaning, pointing us to the freedom we are given through Jesus’ sacrifice for us as the Passover lamb, who frees us from our sin. As part of our service today, we will be re-enacting the foot washing with Jesus and his disciples and doing a reading of the whole Lord’s Supper. We are doing this in place of the usual form to help us understand the meanings behind the Passover and the various elements of the Lord’s Supper.
Were You There… at the Supper?
Were you there that night we celebrated the Passover with Jesus just before he was crucified? It was a confusing night; first Jesus sent John and I to prepare the Passover meal by going into the city, finding and following a stranger to his house where he let us use one of his rooms big enough for all of us to share the Passover meal together. It always struck me how that whatever we needed always seemed to be there; I know it’s not coincidence, that God provides for us, but it always seems to surprise me. I wonder if it’s because I don’t always trust enough that God does provide.
Then at the meal, Jesus started talking again about suffering and “not eating it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God, but the Passover is all about remembering how God saved us from slavery and then met us at Mount Sinai where he gave us the Law as a covenant to bind us to himself; “I am your God and you are my people,” is at the heart of the covenant!
Jesus then took the unleavened bread, made in a hurry so they could respond quickly to what God did, and Jesus then said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” We took the bread and ate and it felt like a gift, even though we didn’t understand what Jesus was doing at the time. Was Jesus telling us something by saying his body is given for us, this sounded at the time as if he was giving his life for a cause and his cause is us. Then Jesus took the cup of blessing, the last cup of wine for the Passover, a symbol that God is the giver of all good gifts and then consecrates the meal to the one who ate, and Jesus called it, “a new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
It reminded us of the prophet Jeremiah when God said he was going to make a new covenant with us, but it was going to be written on our hearts instead of the stone tablets given to us at Mount Sinai. Again, it sounded like Jesus was getting ready to die, and his death was going to be for us. we’ve been waiting a long time for this new covenant to come; is Jesus telling us that he really is the Messiah who has come to save us, but how does that fit with his talking about suffering and death?
The most confusing thing happened when Jesus began to talk about one of us betraying him; now looking back I see that he was talking about Judas, but we didn’t know that at the time. I even marvel now that Jesus even served Judas since I understand now that Jesus was showing us how the supper points us to salvation. James even leaned over and whispered those verses from Psalm 41 about a close friend turning against the psalmist and how Jesus seems to be saying that’s going to happen to him. We all wondered who Jesus was talking about.
I’m ashamed to say that we then started arguing about which one of us was the greatest. What a dumb argument when the greatest of all time has just washed our feet and then served us a meal we will never forget. Jesus stepped into our argument, to our shame and embarrassment, and reminded us that we are called to be different, that as his followers and children of God, we are called to humility and servanthood, and thinking back to the meal, serving even those who turn against us. I learned a lot that night, even though it didn’t sink in right away.
I couldn’t believe it when Jesus turned to me next with a warning, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” There’s no way I would ever turn from Jesus, at least that’s what I thought then, was Jesus saying I’m the close friend who’s going to betray him? Never, so I told Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus shocked me by telling me, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times what you know me.” I was horrified and heartbroken that Jesus could even say that, now imagine my shame when it became true. Yet Jesus never gave up on me, even though I must admit I was tempted to give up on myself. It hurt to realize how easy it is to turn against Jesus, but I was strengthened knowing that Jesus also drew me back.
Lent’s a time of reflection and getting ready to celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death for us. Lent is also a time to get honest about ourselves and recognize just how much we need Jesus. This is a time to remember who we are, who Jesus is, and the power and grace found in Good Friday and Easter. We’re going to travel the path of suffering that Jesus walked, trying to understand from people who were there what was going on and why so that we can be shaped by the Jesus’ story.
Luke touches on so many things in this story of Jesus and his disciples. He touches on providence in how the place for the meal is provided for, an opportunity for Jesus’ disciples to learn more about who Jesus is. Luke touches on how following Jesus and encountering him can often lead us into uncertainty about what he’s doing and our place in it, then there’s the reassuring knowledge that Jesus prays for us that we will have the strength to stand against temptation and recognize what Satan is trying to do in or lives, but how, even after we mess us and fail Jesus, Jesus still calls us to be there for each other as Jesus calls Peter to strengthen his brothers when he turns back.
In the last supper, Jesus uses the Passover meal to point to how the theme of God’s salvation of his people points to what’s coming up in Jesus. This account from Luke shows how the Passover and the Lord’s Supper is about God’s relationship with regular people with all their strengths and flaws. In this account of Jesus’ Passover meal with his disciples, we see Jesus’ sacrificial spirit, a humility, as Jesus reminds his disciples, that we’re all are called to live into. Jesus is the host, and he should have been the one being served, instead he served them, even washing their feet as we read in John, and Jesus is one the road to serve them in an even deeper way by offering up his life for theirs so they could have eternal life, even if they don’t get it yet. The disciples are arguing about how they should be the greatest, somehow not recognizing in Jesus the humble, sacrificial love that should shape all his followers, including us.
Jesus is sharing this meal to help his disciples, after the fact, to recognize just who he is and what he’s doing in taking this journey to the cross. Meals were important times, times to offer hospitality, to build relationships and show grace. This is why Jesus doesn’t kick Judas out before the meal, he’s offering Judas another opportunity to follow him. The Catechism reminds us of the promises we receive when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper: “First,as surely as I see with my eyesthe bread of the Lord broken for meand the cup shared with me,so surelyhis body was offered and broken for meand his blood poured out for meon the cross.Second,as surely asI receive from the hand of the one who serves,and taste with my mouththe bread and cup of the Lord,given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood,so surelyhe nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal lifewith his crucified body and poured-out blood.” It goes on to reassure us that, “It meansto accept with a believing heartthe entire suffering and death of Christand therebyto receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.” The shift in the Passover is from being saved from slavery to the Lord’s Supper’s focus on how Jesus saves us from sin and death through the forgiveness of our sin, bringing freedom from the chains sin wraps around us, and the gift of eternal life.
These are beautiful promises, but they don’t mean that we’ll always understand what’s going on or what Jesus is doing and why. Often that knowledge only comes later on when we look back on the events of our lives to see where the Holy Spirit was working and how. Most of our lives we walk forward in faith and trust, shaping our lives on the path that Jesus calls us to walk, even if it can be really hard at times, believing with hope that “God works for the good of those who love, who have been called according to his purpose.”