Posts Tagged ‘Last Supper’

This is a lesson based on a Maundy Thursday service. Put yourself in the disciples’ place. What would that meal have been like for you?

The Comfort of the Familiar

(The Disciples’ Last Passover)

You know how it is – you’re tired; you’re stressed out; it’s been a tough few days (or weeks, or months) and all you want to do is “space out”. Yeah, space out… put some old movie on the tv that you’ve seen a thousand times and can practically recite every word – put it on and just let the familiar wash over you like a cleansing shower. You don’t want to have to figure out the plot, or “who-dun-it” or “will she get the guy…?” You don’t even want to think – you just want the comfort of the familiar.

I don’t mean to be irreverent or sacrilegious, but I wonder if that might not have been the attitude of the disciples going into that last Passover meal? Think about it…

The past few months had been increasingly stressful. Ever since Jesus’ question of “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” And Peter’s declaration of “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”! The atmosphere had changed. Jesus seemed more determined to be heading toward – something – that the disciples couldn’t quite put their finger on… Every time they turned around, He was talking about going to Jerusalem and being handed over and dying – or “lifted up” as He called it. What in the world was He talking about? And not only that, but the tension between the disciples had become palatable! “Who’s the most important?” “Who’s the greatest?” “Where are we going to sit when He comes into His glory?” “How’s it all going to work?” “Where’s it going to be?” “When’s it going to happen?” And on and on they went. Every time Jesus mentioned dying, they ignored the statement and began discussing – or rather arguing about what their status was going to be. They just didn’t get it.

And what was up with all the secrecy? “Go into the village and you will see a donkey with a colt tied beside her, untie them and bring them to Me. And if anyone asks you what you’re doing just say ‘the Lord needs them’ and he will let you bring them…” How did He know there would be a donkey with a colt tied with her…? He certainly didn’t seem so secretive when He went riding into Jerusalem in broad daylight with all the people shouting “Hosanna!” But, on what should have been a joyous occasion, they noticed that Jesus was sad… even crying at one point…

And then there was that whole “Passover meal” maneuver – “Go into the city and look for a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him to his house and say to him ‘The Master says “where is the guest room…’” Yeah, ok… oh wait! A man carrying a pitcher of water? (Cue the “Twilight Zone” music here.) How could He know that? And why was He trying to hide His movements from them of all people? If He couldn’t trust these twelve men after living with them for three years – I mean – who could He trust?

Yes, these past few months had truly been like an out of control roller coaster ride, so I think the disciples were looking forward to the Passover meal like we look forward to that “mindless activity” that allows us to put ourselves on autopilot for at least a few hours. Think about it – they had each participated in the yearly Passover celebration for their entire lives – 30, 40, or maybe even 50 years for some of them. They knew what would happen, when it would happen, and how it would happen. They could recite the Haggadah (the ritual) in their sleep! They each had likely filled the role as the youngest child asking the four questions concerning the reason for the meal, as well as filling the “head of household” role in their own homes. And, as important as this celebration was – still – one could relax and enjoy the “comfort of the familiar” for at least one night. Yes, this night would be, to the disciples, what “comfort food” is to us… or so they thought…

And then the meal began…

First, the festival candles were lit, and after a response, Jesus lifted the first cup of wine, the cup of sanctification or blessing, which represented God’s promise of “I will bring you out…” and each of them drank of it.

After that, the head of household, or host would wash his hands in preparation for the remainder of the meal, however, when Jesus stood to wash His hands, instead of simply washing His hands, He took off His outer garment, wrapped the towel around His waist just like a servant would, and went to the entrance table and took the pitcher of water and basin that had been prepared for their dusty feet. The disciples immediately began thinking, “What in the world is He doing??? Then… He began to wash the feet of each one of the disciples, including Judas. And He said to them, “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Well, that certainly put them in their place! But, after that unusual interlude, the meal, and ritual continued. The bread of affliction was broken, and the story retold. The questions were asked, the responses made, the foods eaten, and the Psalms sung… all according to the Haggadah, the order of worship. As the hours passed the disciples seemed to have forgotten that Jesus varied from the usual when He washed their feet, because really, the service hadn’t gotten started good when He did that. And He was always using “teachable moments” as they came up, so really there appeared to be nothing unusual about this Passover celebration… until… Until the second cup, the “cup of judgment” was lifted. When Jesus lifted this cup, and they all knew full well that this was “the cup of judgment”, He said, “One of you will betray Me…” He even added, as if they thought they hadn’t heard Him correctly, “the one who is eating with me.” Well shoot! They were all eating with Him! And so they began asking, “Surely not I, Lord?” meaning, “It’s not me, is it?”

As this discussion was going on, Judas leaned over and said, “Surely it’s not I, is it Rabbi?” But with all the talk, the disciples missed what Jesus said, and the next thing they knew, Judas got up and left. Well, perhaps Jesus needed Judas to go get something else for the meal. Judas did have the money, after all. But, after Judas left, Jesus then turned back to continue the Passover meal. He picked up the middle loaf of the three loaves of unleavened bread, held it up, said a blessing over it and then to their utter surprise said, “You see this bread? This bread is My Body”, and then He broke it in two! Well, actually He ripped it in two! And then they completely understood. He is going to die!  His body is going to be ripped apart. These words were not part of the Haggadah, this was something completely new.

Then He took the third cup of wine – the cup of redemption, thanked God for it and said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” As Jews, the disciples all knew and understand that in order for there to be redemption, and in order for there to be a covenant, that blood… must… be… shed. And Jesus was saying that it was His blood that was going to be shed.

When He said these words, the Passover Seder was forever changed. The disciples may have come to this night wanting just a few hours of the comfort of the familiar – but what they got changed their lives forever. They would leave this place asking lots of questions, which Jesus would answer on His way to the Garden of Gethsemane. He would pray for them, and then spend time in prayer for Himself. He would be tried by six illegal trials, beaten, flogged, humiliated, spit upon, and finally crucified. And then, after three days… He would rise – the “first fruits” of all believers!

The disciples would keep the great commission to take the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to all the world. And for that, most would die a martyr’s death, but they never again discussed who would be the greatest, and I don’t think they sought out “the comfort of the familiar” ever again, either.


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