Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Lenten Journey: Climbing to Calvary - Day THIRTY-EIGHT - MAUNDY THURSDAY

Mark 14:12-25, New Living Translation

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal for you?” 

So Jesus sent two of them into Jerusalem with these instructions: “As you go into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” 

So the two disciples went into the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there. 

In the evening Jesus arrived with the twelve disciples. As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me." 

 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?” 

He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!" 

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body. And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” 


"This is my body." 

"This is my blood." 

I wonder, how many times have you heard those words? 

They are deeply familiar to any person who counts themselves a follower of Jesus. 

Sometimes these words can lean towards rote and dead ritual.

But sometimes, many times, maybe even most times...
     they are the breath of life, 
          the cusp of hope, 
               the seal of redemption - 
                    the promise of the future.

Always, they are reminiscent of this event, 
     this strange evening meal with its co-mingling of the old and the new, 
     this mix of the expected and the bewildering. 

     A mysterious expedition...
     Gathering in a tight circle..
     Wishing his betrayer had never been born... 
     Blessing the bread, 
          tearing it to pieces, 
               parceling it out to his friends,
                    naming it his body... 
     Thanking God for the wine, 
          passing a single cup for them all to share, 
               naming it his blood.

A sober conversation, strange, and layered with portent and sadness. 

They were all in a liminal place that night, standing on the threshold of a new age, one that had not yet been seen in the entire history of the universe. 

I wonder, what did they sense? 

What did they guess? 

Were they as clueless as ever? Loving their teacher, but eternally confounded by his cryptic words and actions? 

I'll admit to feeling more than a little sorry for them all. Because Jesus chose them, because Jesus loved them, I cannot judge them any more harshly than I would judge you or even myself. I'm pretty clueless a lot of the time.

But Jesus... well - Jesus doesn't seem to be too concerned about their cluelessness.

He simply wants them near, all those muddle-headed friends. 

Jesus wants them around him that last night. He wants to do the traditional thing together - the special foods and the special prayers and the remembering of the story.

But he also wants to teach them, right up until the very end - taking those common, oh-so-familiar things... 
     the bread... 
     and the wine...
          breathing newness into them. 
     Breathing life,
          and hope,
               and redemption,
                    and covenant-keeping,
                         and LOVE into them. 

For here is a very true thing, something Jesus knew about us:       
     what we love, we consume. 

That's who we are, we human creatures. 

We chew it 
     and we swallow it 
          and we take it into our very cells 
               and we find what we need to do the next thing. 

And these simple, elemental things, they are our very life, are they not? 

They are our very life. 


Holy Mystery, even as we take your body and blood into ourselves, we ask you to take us into yourself. We're weary with walking, we're trying to stay with you - but you know our frame. You know we are weak, that our steps falter, that our intentions are far from pure, that our motives are mixed. Any one of us could be that betrayer in the room with you.

But... but we want to be fed and nourished by the good food that is you. So as we tear the bread this night, as we sip the cup - fill us to the brim with your goodness. Nourish us, that we might stand with you tomorrow. Tomorrow at the cross, and Saturday at the tomb. We need to go the whole way with you, Jesus...the whole way.