Thursday, March 27, 2008

With Desire, I Have Desired

And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, "I have earnestly 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." And he took a cup, and when he had given 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." And he took 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 likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. St. Luke 22:14-20

The Holy Triduum (Three Days) of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are rightly considered the Passion of our Lord Jesus the Christ. Passion is a word that has many connotations in contemporary English: great love, strong emotion, firm conviction, even lust. In Middle English, and in Latin prior, however, the word passion referred to suffering, particularly Christ’s suffering, beginning, most pointedly, on Holy Thursday.

Truly Jesus began His Passion Thursday evening as He reclined to eat the Passover with His disciples. He said “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” The two words “earnestly desired” are, in Greek transliteration, epithumia epithumāsa, two forms of the same word “desire”. Jesus says literally “with desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you.” This kind of intentional redundancy was a common rhetorical device in the ancient world, both in the Hebrew and in the Greek languages, to emphasize the importance, depth, or significance of something. Jesus’ earnest desire to eat the Passover with His disciples is best understood when one considers the type of love He had for them. Jesus’ type of love is essentially defined in John 15:3 - Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Greater love is not possible than the sacrificial love that Jesus was about to exhibit for His friends in the Passover meal and in His bitter suffering and death.

Of course, this was no ordinary Passover meal. Jesus, the Great Rabbi (Teacher), interpreted the Passover meal, indeed the entire account of the exodus out of captivity and bondage in Egypt, in terms of Himself as its fulfillment. The unleavened bread of the Passover is Jesus’ body. The wine in the Cup of Blessing is His blood. And as the angel of death sheathed His sword and passed over the Hebrew posts and lintels marked with the Passover lamb’s blood, so death cannot claim those so marked with the Holy Blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Greater love is not possible!

Jesus so loved His disciples, and all men, that from the very bowels of His being He earnestly desired to fulfill the Passover for them. In passionate agony and bloody sweat He prayed three times to His Father that there might be another way, but submitted, willingly, to His Father’s will. The Lamb of God went uncomplaining forth to die, His blood marking the post and lintel of His cross that the Angel of death might pass over once again. It is fulfilled, it is finished.

Still, our resurrected and ascended Lord and Savior Jesus Christ earnestly desires to eat the Passover with you. From the bowels of His love and compassion He eagerly desires to sup with you. Still He offers to you His holy body, His holy blood in remembrance of His Passion and for the forgiveness of your sins. This is but a foretaste of the feast to come, the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that has no end, but He is present with His Words and His Wounds to join you to Himself now, that you may eat and drink with Him in the Kingdom of God.

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Blessed Easter
Pastor Ellingworth

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