It’s a big night for Jesus and those around him. The cast of players is large and things are being set in motion that will profoundly change the world and everyone in it for all time to come. Only Jesus, and then a bit later Judas, know what is happening around them. I wonder if Judas even knows the why of what he was doing. Have you ever done something and in the middle of doing it wondered why you were doing that thing? Playing his part in this grand drama Judas is drawn into a series of events that changes the trajectory of world history for all time.
Judas is not known to have been one of the more honest disciples but I’m reasonably certain he hadn’t signed up for this. It is probably a surprise to him that he is the one to betray Jesus. Can you picture the reactions of all those gathered that had their hands on the table when Jesus says, “21 But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” (Hands jerking back) As I was writing this I was wondering to myself if that was an effective and/or appropriate use of humor and I decided that based on the disciples fairly juvenile actions that it probably was.
Sunday we talked about how we usually visualize things in the Bible as being neat and tidy unless the descriptions says otherwise. Likewise, I suspect most of us see Jesus and the disciples as very serious adult men who were deep thinkers about everything all the time. I’m not so sure that’s an accurate description.
It isn’t called out as such but it strikes me that the juvenile action that stands out is for them to just kind of blow by the betrayal bit and start a debate who is the greatest. C’mon fellas, JESUS JUST TOLD YOU HE WAS GOING TO BE BETRAYED, which oh by the way means he is going to die, and you’re arguing about who is the greatest. What? Are you twelve? Apologies to 12 year olds. You’re SUPPOSED to act that way. It’s what being 12 means. These guys? They are adults and they are the ones that will be witnesses to Christ’s trial and crucifixion. They will be the witnesses to Christ’s resurrection. And they will be the ones to take Christ’s message to all of the world. They are also apparently a bunch of juvenile adults arguing over who is the greatest.
Thank God for Jesus. Jesus knows everything that is about to transpire. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” It’s almost like he knows what is coming in the next couple of days and wants to prepare his disciples for what is coming. They apparently need it as the full impact of breaking bread and drinking wine together has not done much in the way of getting the disciples attention. Jesus is going to be betrayed, tried, and crucified and these guys are arguing about who is the greatest.
This is Jesus’ last supper and he is having it with his close friends and followers. One last meal before things get very real for everyone around him. It begs kind two dangerous questions. How have you participated in preparing ourselves and those around you in their faith and if you knew your time was up tomorrow, what would you do tonight?
The second one is fairly straightforward but is dangerous because it is one we love to ignore. We ignore it because in spite of the promise of resurrection we don’t like the idea of death and since we don’t like the idea of death, we’re going to live forever. Since we are going to live forever we don’t have to attend to tomorrow because we’ll always have a tomorrow.
Until we don’t and therein lies the danger. We live as if we’ll always have a tomorrow even though we know we actually won’t. Even so, we don’t say and do the things we should. What those things should be are different for everyone but it’s worth doing some thinking about. And not waiting until it is too late.
The other question is equally dangerous if in a less dramatic way. How are we participating in preparing ourselves and those around us in their faith? We have a tendency to be fairly quiet about our faith and to a certain degree that’s fine. No one likes a bullhorn in their ear spouting whatever various and sundry kinds of nonsense. But we have this really cool story with some extraordinary, counter cultural promises.
Communion is a counter-cultural meal. Many years ago, Pastor Jon Nelson of Seattle protested the deployment of a nuclear submarine christened USS Corpus Christi, named after the city in Texas but corpus Christi is also Latin meaning Body of Christ. Think about THAT for a second. A nuclear submarine called the body of Christ. For his protest, Pr Jon was arrested and thrown in jail. Some friends wanted to share communion with him. They brought a loaf of bread (no knife) and wine in a plastic bottle (glass was out of the question). The prison authorities confiscated the bread and wine as contraband.
Jon’s friends were distressed for they so wanted to share communion with him in prison. But when they told Jon what had happened he broke into an enormous grin: “Communion as contraband! That’s it, isn’t it?” he said. “Communion as contraband. Threatening to the powers who that think they own the world.”
The body and blood of Christ really are threatening to the powers of this world and the culture that surrounds that power. The powers of this world and the culture that surrounds that power point to a focus on self and doing whatever is necessary to exalt the self. The body and blood of Christ point us to the one who is about to go to the cross and give that body and shed that blood for us. The body and blood of Christ point us to the cross.
Do this in remembrance… of him.