It is pretty good to be welcomed into someone’s home to take your place at the beautifully adorned table. Everything seems new and clean and ready for you. This a gift to you from your hosts. This meal will rejuvenate you, make you feel new again.
Jesus welcomes his friends into this ancient meal. He gifts them this meal but also makes it new right in front of them. He does that same for you tonight. The table is set, the candles are lit, the seat is open, and the host says, “Come and take your rightful place”.
Jesus made this old meal new. He transformed the Passover meal into our meal – a meal of life and healing and hope for all who believe his word about himself and about themselves.
All this is the new meal for the new community, the new kingdom, the new creation, the new hope and the new life God always promised the world and delivered in this Jesus.
Jesus suffering, unjust condemnation at the hands of those with blood on their hands; his close friend’s betrayal and retreat, his grieving family, his own grief, his teaching, his healing, his releasing of those imprisoned in dark power of evil and illness – all of it was to give us the gift of a new day, a new way, a new meal, a new community, a new life of hope lived in assured hope that there will be a great and final day of light and joy despite everything that happens to us until then.
Jesus walked that via Dolorosa – that way of human suffering, trusting that even in such harsh things to come, it would all lead to the new life and hope coming. It would lead to a new banquet, a new wedding meal between he and his bride, the holy community of faith in his Father’s grace.
This new Passover holy meal is the means by which this crucified and risen Messiah dishes up his forgiveness and new life for struggling, sinful, sometime desperate people, time after time.
A lot of people struggle to believe all this about this meal. For so many it is just a remembering kind of thing – a time to remember, pay our respects to the great man or to God, as if Jesus is not really here and the bread and wine are only that.
But friends, this meal was made new from an old meal that was way more than simply remembering that night in Egypt when the blood of the lamb kept the angel of death away.
This meal we set forever in the heart of every family and backed up with ways to teach it, live it, be it, speak it and do it forever. It was how an ancient people stayed connected to not just their story but the very presence and promise of God for them through thick and thin – and they certainly had their ‘thin’.
How much the more, now that the meal has been turned into a feast of God’s love not just for one kind of people with one story(Jewish people) but all people from all stories; and from remembering a past event to living in the present moment of promise.
How can that be?
Because of Easter Day. That’s what Jesus is heading to and pointing them to as he washes their feet. A new way to be a community. A new way to be new; to be human.
God entered human death and rose above it. Goats and bulls and pigeons are gone from the temple as is the temple as a place of God’s presence. Now Jesus is the once-for-all time and people sacrifice and the new temple anywhere we share his body and blood together.
So, we re-tell this story from the eyewitness accounts. It anchors this story in our history and our present – in real time, in the real world for our real life, our human life, our human longing for hope.
Because of all of this, the new has come. He comes to make you new this Easter – not to make you good, not to push you to be bad, not to corner you into guilt or to shame you before others, as he himself was. He comes to make you new, like that fine dining meal in the home of friends or at the grand banquet hall of the wedding feast in the company of good friends.
Despite our betrayal, our lack of courage in the face of hard testing, our many injustices in word and deed done to others, our despair over our own weakness, and despite our astounding pride that really does believe we don’t really need this suffering man or his message of the cross, of this meal of forgiveness and life, the new comes anyway.
He comes anyway. He comes now. His love for you, stated in public in blood and pain is stated again now.
Draw near, friend. Look closely into his pain. Learn of his suffering. Know his shame.
He takes your suffering, your searching for and trusting everything more than him and this meal, your pain and your shame from you this night.
Jesus, draw my soul to Calvary
Enable me to stand before your cross in wonder
Let me see how you died for me
My sins grieve me now.
I am cold as stone.
Lamb of God look at me
For your great love I now adore you
In your wounds enfold my heart
As I in tears stand before you
As I watch you pain and woes
Full of grief, yet my heart overflows
Take my heart and make it yours
Always and only wholly yours.