Monday, April 18, 2011
Bread Broken Together
HOLY WEEK, or THE WEEK OF CHRIST'S PASSION
DAY 41 OF 46
This evening, Passover begins at dusk. Evangelical Christians aren't obligated to observe this historically Jewish commemoration, but for several years, some friends and I have gathered for a relatively traditional Seder.
Nothing exclusively Kosher, you understand, and me being a teetotaler, I don't drink wine when we partake of the four cups. We simply don't see the need to not take advantage of the rich symbolism inherent in the Passover Seder.
This year, I have been asked to prepare a brief New Testament meditation to share during dinner. And it's based on the Passover passages from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I thought it would make an appropriate start for this Holy Week.
Fellowship In Christ, Our Passover
We eat here tonight surrounded with friendly associations and generous hospitality. Yet the last Passover Christ celebrated, He celebrated in the presence of mortality’s penultimate fiend.
An observance commemorating God’s covenantal relationship with His Chosen People would become, in the Upper Room, the launching pad for an even greater covenant between God and His elect.
Through the Last Supper, we see both in Christ’s honoring of tradition and recognition of God’s sovereignty not only our Savior’s affirmation of the timelessness and intentionality of His Father for His nation, but Christ’s own resolute patience, endurance, and commitment.
His disciples either didn’t take the initiative of making the arrangements themselves, or they were led of God to allow Jesus to perform more miracles in the appointments and provisions for this feast. Christ could have conveniently arranged for Judas Iscariot to be elsewhere that evening; perhaps not delaying His arrest in the Garden, which Judas apparently had already plotted, but at least allowing His last Passover to be a time of poignant fellowship among his 11 loyal followers.
Instead, how grueling that meal must have been for Jesus! Not only knowing that his betrayal would come within hours; such a tortuous inevitability would be more than enough to cancel out any ordinary appetite! But that His betrayer was sharing a holy meal with Him at the same table! Recall Paul’s later teaching on seeking forgiveness from any brother or sister in faith before partaking in Holy Communion. How galling it must have been for Christ, forcing Himself to sit through what must have times seemed like a charade of religiosity on the part of Judas.
Yet how often do we either feign innocence regarding sin, or attempt to contrive a façade of submission to our Savior?
How often do we look at our Christ and say, “Surely not I, Lord?”
Granted, Judas’ deceit and eventual betrayal were ordained of God to accomplish the purpose for which Christ had come into the world. But as children of God, and joint heirs with Christ, how much more grievous our sins, since we have knowledge imparted to us by the Holy Spirit of Christ’s passion for us? And we still insist on our own way?
Indeed: who crucified Christ, the Bread of Life, if not every sinner who's ever lived?
And so it was, that God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us – Romans 5:8
How great the love that our Father has lavished on us – that we should be called His children – 1 John 3:1
And children, then also heirs with Christ – Romans 8:17
Hebrews 10:19-31: A Call to Persevere
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."
It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
So today, as we share a table and a meal in congeniality and affection, remember Him whose last time at this table must have been fraught with heartache. As His disciples then feasted on food and heritage, let us feast on our Passover who is sacrificed for us – 1 Corinthians 5:7
He is our savior from sin, our friend in sorrow, our sanctifier through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the coming King.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. Hallelujah!