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It was on a Saturday

Take It, Eat it, Remember, Drink All of It - Maundy Thursday Meditations

Last supper kertoly

Art - Kernstok, Károly, 1873-1940. Last Supper, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. 

https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57337 

The Table of Love

“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. “ – John 13:1

Jennifer was on the phone with her best friend, Lillian as her mother, Sue, decided to eavesdrop. The subject was the love lives of their friends and acquaintances. Amidst the giggles and gasps, hearing only one side of the conversation, a tapestry of love found and lost began to be painted.  John was in love with Sally even though he was in love with Myrtle last week. She told him that she was no longer in love with him, so he had to find someone new. Sue blushed and considered the “talk” she would be having with her daughter later that evening.

Jesus was no faint-hearted lover. He was not subject to likes, dislikes, and mood swings. He did not start things and leave them dangling. He understood that human love could be flighty and fleeting. But His love was eternal and unconditional. He wanted His disciples to understand that and internalize it. If there was one message He wanted to leave with them, it was the message of His love.

So, he took a towel and washed their feet. It was not only a menial task, but one that could be tedious and disgusting. In the moments that followed, He taught them more about how to receive and give His love than they could absorb in one sitting. They would reflect upon His words and deeds for the rest of their lives as we do today.

Whenever we come to the Lord’s Table, it is a table of love. It is a reminder that having loved us, Jesus’ love continued to the cross and, from the cross, through the resurrection and into eternity.

O love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
(George Matheson, 1882)

Knowing What Jesus Is Doing

“What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know thereafter.” – from John 13:7

The great wonder of the Christian life is that we can come to know what our Lord is doing. We don’t start out knowing; we come to know “thereafter.”

There is a bowl at Jesus’ feet and a towel in His hand and He is doing the unthinkable, taking on the role of a common house slave and scrubbing the filthy feet of His disciples. Peter is resistant. He cannot cope with the indignation to the Master. After all, there had been some terrible oversight that no servant had been scheduled for this task. He is offended for Jesus that this menial role had seemingly been thrust upon Him, but He was, as yet, unwilling to take it upon Himself.

He did not know then that Jesus had thrust it upon Himself. He much less knew why. He could neither know nor imagine that He would take the bowel and towel himself in the days to come and embark upon the life of a servant.

None of it makes sense in the old way of thinking that says a person must assert himself or herself and claw a way to the top of the heap. None of it figures for the man or woman trapped in the faded notions of superiority, rank, caste, or position-endowed significance.

What was Jesus doing? He was teaching, leading, demonstrating, and modeling a new way of thinking and a fresh lifestyle that had to be caught more than taught. He was introducing His disciples to another way of looking at leadership and meaning for life. He was elevating the lowest to the highest, the last to the first, and the spirit of servanthood to the place of greatness.

It was a preamble to the cross and only by reflecting on the cross would Peter or any of us, ever begin to know at Jesus was and is doing.

Master

“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.” - John 13:13

“…  The Master is come, and calleth for thee.” - John 11:28

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet.” - John 13:14

“Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.” - John 20:16

He is our Master, who so identifies Himself. But he is also the Master who calls us by name and washes our feet as a lesson to us that the true Master is he who serves.  He is our Master and Lord and example. If any could demand mindless obedience, it is he.

From the beginning of His ministry as He began to call out disciples, He was recognized as the Master-Teacher of life. When he came to Bethany for Lazarus and called for His sisters, it was as the Master. When he gathered with His friends in the upper room (for he had come to call them friends), it was the Master who bent down to perform the role of a slave.

Then, at the garden tomb, the one who had endured the indignity and pain of the cross called for Mary. And she recognized him as Master.

It is not our knowledge of Him or recognition of His position that makes Him the Master, but His knowledge of us and His call in our lives. The Risen Christ stands before you. He is calling your name.  Can you see him? Can you hear him? What shall you call him?

Acknowledge Him today as the only rightful Master of your life.

Glorified

“Now is the Son of man glorified and God is glorified in Him.” – from John 13:31

You must take it all as a package or there is no glory. Jesus understood that these final days were one great redemptive event – from mingling with the crowds and teaching them, to provoking the Sanhedrin with His very presence, to the upper room, the washing of feet, the prayers in the garden, and on to the cross. It was the process of God glorifying Himself in His Son. It was all part of the package: His life, death, and resurrection were one magnificent demonstration of the power of God.

Jesus had spoken similar words when some gentiles had come looking for Him. He responded that the coming of these men was an indication that He was soon to be lifted from the earth and to draw all men unto Him. Lifting could mean exaltation or crucifixion. In this case, it meant both. He moves from tragedy to triumph in a split-second intersection of time and eternity.

This time he speaks of being glorified as He confronts the one who will betray Him. This is strange to our warped thinking. But this is Jesus who donned the apron and wiped His disciple’s feet. This is the one who taught that the path to greatness is servanthood. This is the Master of great reversals.

Our Lord never lost sight of the big picture. He didn’t stop with cross in His panoramic view of His mission. He didn’t even end the story with rising from the dead. He taught His friends that He was going to the Father through this path of glory and that He would come to them in a new way to indwell them, that they might do even greater works. He promised further that He would come again visibly to introduce a grand new eternal day. It was about glory. It is still about glory.

Take a walk in the garden this morning where there is an empty hole in a rock, a barren place where death once dwelt. What do you notice but emptiness? He is not there. He is risen! The work of redemption is done. It was worth it all. The pain and the suffering have accomplished their ends. He is alive and we can live also. What name do you give to your pain of the moment, your struggle of this hour? Call it suffering or call it glory. It all depends upon whether you view it from the present or from resurrection.

Now is the Son of man glorified

Urgency

And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men. -Exodus 12:33

Immature people act upon urges and are, thus, moved by a spirit of urgency. It is the inner prompting of the flesh to act in haste or panic. Like the Egyptians, we are tempted to react in horror to the manifestations of God’s power rather than respond in faith and obedience.

Urgency is a poor substitute for priority. When we establish an understanding of what is truly important based upon God’s abiding principles and mission, we need to stick with it. The reality is that the moment we prioritize our ministries, diversions will emerge, distractions will appear, and urgency will shout in our ears, “Stop and take care of me NOW!”

We need to be able to say “no” to urgency any time it steps outside the boundaries of our priorities. Yes, there will be emergencies that must be faced as they arise. There will be extraneous details that must be handled. The problem arises when every urgent matter presents itself with the same emergency motif and ministry life becomes one great series of emergencies. We have fire departments to put out fires.

What is your focus? Make sure it receives a prominent place on your calendar and that you do your best to follow your calendar. Leave time for incidentals. Leave cushion for emergencies. Live by grace because you won’t meet all of your goals. But, know this, if you heed every urgent cry, you will meet none of them because your life will be controlled by something far less than your God-given priorities. Let us live lives that are driven by God’s purposes through us. Let us patiently and with great determination, allow everything else to fall away.

Unspeakable Gift

“What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward    I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.” – Psalm 116:12-13

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” -  II Corinthians 9:15

Listen to the cry of the psalmist: “How can I give anything to God that would come even close to expressing my gratitude for all His blessings.  What can I bring Him that He has not first given me?”

“I cannot even describe the matchless gift He has given,” Paul seems to say, “but I thank God.”

Here is the power of our commitment to give of our resources and our selves: God's indescribable gift. It is His gracious "givingness" that informs, inspires, and infuses us with the wherewithal to be giving people with the capacity to make and keep commitments. In fact, any commitment we make to God is in the form of a trust. We know that we are incapable of the necessary follow-through, but He is and is faithful to continue His work in us as we express the desire of our hearts to Him in commitment. First, He gave and then He lights a fire of grace within us that makes us giving people who are committed to Him.

What shall we give Him? Let us bring Him hearts that are prepared to receive His grace. Let us offer our old lives in exchange for His new life.  Let us take the gift of salvation and call upon His Name. We can bring Him no greater gift than our willingness to receive all that He offers through His love.

We cannot begin to speak of His saving goodness, but we can give Him thanks in spirit and in word. On this Thanksgiving, thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!

The Hour I First Believed

“I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted” – Psalm 116:10

“ We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.” – II Corinthians 4:13

When did believing begin for you? Can you trace its progression through the stages of development? Can you identify a moment or an hour when all came to fruition and declare that as the hour you first believed?

For most of us the progression is a series of disjointed memories, but we can go back to a time when we made a statement of faith, a profession of our belief. That was, for us, the hour we first believed, and in that hour, grace was most precious.

Let us return to that hour and renew our faith. Let us return to that moment and reaffirm our commitments.

Let us return to that time and recommit our lives to Jesus Christ. Let us go back and remember how precious that grace appeared.

Let us gaze upon the beauty of grace as we once beheld it.

Let us receive grace anew with joyful hearts.

Let us be thankful again, as we once were, for the marvel of it all. Undeserving, unlovely, unrepentant, unbelieving as we were, grace invaded our lives. Everywhere we turned, we encountered grace. We sought to flee from its pursuit only to be hunted down at every turn by the Hound of Heaven.

And then we stopped running. That was we hour we first believed. And as Francis Thompson testified, we heard His voice:

"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."

And we joined in the song of Charles H. Gabriel,

“How marvelous, how wonderful! And my song shall ever be.
How marvelous, how wonderful is my Savior’s love to me.”

We Show Forth

“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come.” – I Corinthians 11:26

As we eat and drink earthy elements of simple substance, we proclaim an eternal truth that transcends all formality and exalts the lowliest of deeds to the loftiest meaning.

Every day, we take a little nourishment to feed our bodies and drink a little something to refresh us in our thirst. Without food, we have no energy and our cells cannot reproduce. We die. Without water, we quickly dehydrate and our bodies cannot sustain life.

Jesus said that when we eat the bread we are to think of His body and to do so in remembrance of Him, His life giving, life affirming, and yet lifeless body on the cross, given for us. Certainly we do so in anticipation of His resurrected body on the third day and His living body on earth beginning at Pentecost. But nothing erases the image of His broken body given for us.

We drink the cup and the sweetness of the grape does not cloud the memory of His poured out blood. We are to “drink ye all of it” as a reminder that He poured out all of His blood for us. Without the shedding of blood, sin remains. Without blood in our veins, we have no life. We drink willingly and reverently and remember Him with gratitude and love.

But Paul says that every time we do this, we are making a visible announcement to the world that He is coming again in His glorified body. He promised to come to us and He has in the Spirit and He will in person. He promised to never leave us and He never has. He promised to prepare a place for us and come again and receive us to Himself and that is what we show forth every time we celebrate His presence at His table.

 

 

 

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