As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts. In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom. We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.
In this week’s #Lent14 posts, we are departing from the Lectionary and are turning instead to events during the life of Jesus that involved Dinner Parties. As we travel in Central Asia, one of the things that we are continually struck by is the amount of life that happens around the dinner table. In fact, in one Central Asian nation, we were told, “If I invite you for tea, we’re friends. Yet, when I invite you for food, we become family.” This week we are joined by four dear friends and pastors to our ministry who have agreed to offer a meditation for us.
Today, we are excited to once again have a special guest post from Rev. Mark Foster. Pastor Mark is the Founding Pastor of Acts 2 United Methodist Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He married his wife Chantelle in August 1991. They have two sons, John Mark and Noah. Pastor Mark is led by the Spirit and is passionate about seeing people come to know Jesus. We met Pastor Mark in October of last year when we began to attend Acts 2 UMC. We are blessed to have him as both a Pastor and a friend, and are honored that he has written today’s guest post.
Now the festival of Unleavened Bread, which is called the Passover, was near. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to put Jesus to death…
Passover is the quintessential story of Judaism. Israel’s identity is tied to the covenant of land as promised by God. To get to this promised-land, Moses would need to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt to the land which was promised. However, the ruler of Egypt would not let them go until plague after plague decimated everything the Egyptians loved and held dear.
The final plague was a spirit of death that killed the first born of the Egyptians but “Passed Over” the homes of faithful Israelites who had followed the Lord’s instruction to paint their doorposts red with the blood of a spotless lamb. Each year, the families would gather and remember God’s faithfulness. In America, our Thanksgiving meal complete with turkey would be similar remembering God’s provision to the pilgrims. Passover was the same story every year on the same month in the spring for the same people for roughly 1300 years. It was and is the story of how God saved the Jews over and against the Egyptians, ultimately drowning both the Egyptian charioteers and their horses in the Red Sea. And that was Passover, until Jesus… Those two words, “until Jesus” are perhaps the most powerful words in anyone’s life.
I was lost… I had no hope… Despair had overtaken me… Life was meaningless… My addiction had me by the neck… Anger ruled my home… My appetites left me eternally hungry, cold, and lonely… Unforgiveness was killing me… Death had won… until Jesus.
These words were and are so powerful in fact, that it threatened and threatens anyone who made or makes the rules, enforced or enforces proper behavior, was or is responsible for fairness and the Roman way or American way. Until Jesus, might made right. Until Jesus, tax collectors, prostitutes, and children were clearly outsiders. What do you do with someone who blesses, sets free, and welcomes those you have just cursed, imprisoned, and sent away? You kill him.
Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was one of the twelve; he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them. They were greatly pleased and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began to look for an opportunity to betray him to them when no crowd was present.
So what do you do when someone is out to kill you? You prepare Thanksgiving Dinner with your family and closest friends. You invite the betrayer to dinner, bless those around you, thank God for the meal and God’s faithfulness, and do the dirty work of washing feet.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John…
…they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
Then he took a loaf of 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.”
For more than one thousand years, the wording describing the Passover meal was about bitter herbs, salt water, and unleavened bread… until Jesus. Now Jesus was speaking about “my body.” Jesus was breaking from the traditional language used at the meal each year since the time of Moses.
And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
The disciples were confused at this point. The covenant was not new, but dated back to the 19th Dynasty about 1350-1200 B.C. And, the blood was of a lamb, not human! The blood Passover covenant was understood as between God and God’s chosen people the Jews… until Jesus. What had been an animal sacrifice to save one people, Jesus changed to His sacrifice for ALL people. All people. Even betrayers?
But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.
Rev. Adam Hamilton points out that for Judas to dip his hand in the bowl with Jesus at the table (as the scriptures indicate) would have seated Judas both in a place of honor at the table and closest to our Lord reclining intimately next to him. This is how Jesus treats those who would do him harm. He blesses. The world had not seen anything like this…until Jesus.
Later, Judas leaves and betrays, Peter protests and denies, the rest run and hide.
The women weep and mourn. Blood and water flow, breath stops, the tomb is sealed. The world shakes, goes dark, and waits. And waits. And waits. Until Jesus… on the road to Emmaus…
… was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
It was just another day and another stranger on the road, another meal, another loaf of bread… until Jesus.