Friday, March 29, 2013

Last Words: A Maundy Thursday Meditation


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, for they were afraid of the people. 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. Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it." They asked him, "Where do you want us to make preparations for it?" "Listen," he said to them, "when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, "The teacher asks you, "Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" ' He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there." So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.  ~Luke 22:1-13

I think our best comparison would be the Thanksgiving meal.

Think of all the preparations you make for a Thanksgiving meal, or, if you have now entered that blessed time when, as my mother used to say, the stove is getting dusty, the preparations you used to make. The menu selection—like the Passover meal, the Thanksgiving meal tends to have some central non-negotiables. The shopping. The preparation of the foods, the cooking, the timing of it all. The cleaning of the house! (That probably comes first for most people. Where it appears on my list is perhaps revealing of the order in which these things occur to me…) The setting of the table. Will there be candles? Of course there will. This is a special meal. This is a once-a-year meal, and each year we pin extravagant hopes on it—not just on how it will taste, or will the bird be perfectly done, but will the people we care for, those gathered around the table, like it, will they open up and connect with one another. Will the meal feel the way we hope it will feel. Will there be love?

Maybe that’s just me.

The preparation for the Passover meal is always thorough (I’m pretty sure they do the cleaning part first). To the Passover meal Jesus celebrated with his friends… his famously last supper…was added a layer of expectation and anxiety that surpasses even the most fraught Thanksgivings most of us have had to endure. I mean enjoy. I have lived through my share of less-than-ideal Thanksgiving suppers, but I am pretty sure no one on the guest list was also on an official death-list. I’m 99% sure Satan did not enter one of the guests prior to the commencement of the festivities. 

 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes." 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." 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. ~ Luke 22:14-20

Famous last words.

These are not, of course, Jesus’ very last words. All the gospels record words of Jesus from the cross, the very last hours and moments of his life. But here we are listening for his last words to his friends.

I have been thinking about how we say goodbye lately. I think a good “goodbye” at the end of life is rare, and having witnessed one recently, having seen the way a saint of our church was able to say goodbye to all her family before sighing her last and easing into the arms of God, I am particularly attuned to the words Jesus is sharing with those who knew and loved him best. This is what I hear him saying.

I have been longing to share this meal with you, Jesus says.

And… there are more meals to come. There is a great feast in store.

But for now… I would like to feed you with my very life. You who have gobbled up my words, you who have feasted your eyes on the dancing ones who used to be still, and the seeing ones who used to be blind, and the singing ones who used to be mute, and the ones living in community who used to be outcast… I would like to feed you with nourishment that lasts. I would like you to eat this bread and take my life into yours. I would like you to drink this cup and know that the time of the new covenant is here… the time when God’s desire for us is written on our hearts, the time when we will belong, always, to God, and to one another.

I want you to do this. I want you to share this meal, and remember that I gave you my life. I love you that much. And I want you to ponder what that means for how you should love one another.

But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!"  Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this. A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. ~Luke 22:21-27

And there it is. Betrayal, side by side with love. Leaders, side by side with novices. Lording over, side by side with humble service.  These are Jesus’ last words to his nearest and dearest, the ones who would decide that the story didn’t end with him, and wouldn’t end with them.

I have been longing to share this meal with you, Jesus says. This meal in which I show you what love looks like.

And… there are more meals to come. There is a great feast in store.

Thanks be to God. Amen.


  1. It really is amazing - the betrayal side by side with love.....the power, as you suggest, of THAT love.

  2. Blessed by your words! Again, my sister we are in sync - Last night the Centurion, The Crossmaker, Judas and Mary the Mother of Jesus - recalled why last night was not like all other nights. Betrayal - Dogmatic following of orders - Craftsmen whose creations are misused, Mothers who lose children, in the midst of this Jesus shows us hope - In remembrance of the one who delivers us - just as Moses delivered the Hebrew Children. The meal has so many dimension past present and future. Thanks for your words may I share some of them on Laurens face book page?

  3. Yes, of course Soul Sista..... Sorry I didn't see these comments sooner!