Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Wednesday in Invocabit - The First Week of Lent


The Passion History – Part I: The Lord’s Supper

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The word passion means to suffer. Thus, when we speak of the Passion of our Lord we are speaking particularly of Jesus’ suffering, beginning with His temptation in Gethsemane through His burial and deathly rest in the tomb. Jesus’ passion was something that He permitted to happen to Himself. It was the will of His Father to which, in love and obedience, Jesus willingly submitted and suffered. Jesus went willingly to His passion, to His cross; no one forced Him. Jesus went to His passion out of love for His Father and out of love for you whom His Father loves so much that He gave His only-begotten Son. Jesus’ passion includes His betrayal by Judas, His arrest in Gethsemane, His trials before the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pilate, His mocking, scourging, crucifixion, death, and burial. Jesus predicted His passion to His disciples no fewer than three times, though they didn’t understand His meaning and, in fact, His meaning was hidden from them. His passion was for them. His passion was because of them. But, it was His Father’s will that He suffer and die and rise again, for God so loved the world in this way: He gave His only-begotten Son over unto death.

It was Passover, the festival commemorating the Lord’s deliverance of His people out of slavery and bondage in Egypt by the death of the firstborn culminating in their baptism in and through the Red Sea. It was this event that Jesus conversed with Moses and Elijah about on the Mount of Transfiguration. St. Luke tells us that they were discussing the exodus that Jesus was about to make in Jerusalem by His death and resurrection. Jesus is the New Moses. Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God’s offering. His exodus was through death on the cross, blazing a path into the Promised Land of His Father’s Kingdom. This was His purpose, the reason for which He was sent. Jesus is the seed of the woman promised to Adam and Eve and the serpent who would crush the serpent’s head. Jesus is the promised Lamb of God’s own providence who spared Abraham’s son and all sons of Abraham who share the faith of Abraham in the Word and promises of God. Jesus is the true Lamb of God which all those sacrificial Passover lambs prefigured and pointed to, because of who’s blood the wrath of God passes over all who are baptized into Him and trust in Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation. This was His purpose. This is why He was sent. The Son of God was sent to suffer and die for the sins of mankind. It was necessary and it was sufficient. The hour had come and Jesus was ready to fulfill His purpose, to lay down His life for the world.

Our translation says that Jesus earnestly desired to eat this Passover meal with His disciples. St. Luke’s Greek is more emphatic reading, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Just as He would frequently say, “Truly, truly I say unto you,” Jesus doubled His words to emphasize His great desire to fulfill His Father’s will and to redeem His people. However, what is even more interesting are Jesus’ words that He desired to eat this Passover “before I suffer.” The beginning of the Day of Passover, the 14th of Nisan, was regularly celebrated with a meal that was not the Passover meal, but which anticipated the Passover meal that would be celebrated at the end of the day, the next evening, Good Friday in this case, after the Passover lambs had been slaughtered between 3pm and sundown. Thus, the meal Jesus ate with His disciples at the end of the day on Holy Thursday was anticipatory of the Passover feast that would be celebrated the next evening before sundown. That is why Jesus said, “With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I say to you that I shall not eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” The fulfillment to which Jesus referred was His death on the cross the next day, the Day of Preparation, Good Friday, at approximately 3pm when the Passover lambs were slaughtered for the Passover feast to be eaten that night as the sun set and the Sabbath began. This explains why the disciples were not surprised at the absence of the Passover lamb, which would be slaughtered the next day. This meal anticipated that Passover meal, and Jesus was the Passover Lamb of God who would be slaughtered at 3pm on Good Friday.

In anticipation of the Passover meal and His own sacrificial offering as the Passover Lamb of God on Good Friday, Jesus shared bread with His disciples saying, “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” Then He gave thanks over a cup of wine and shared it with His disciples saying, “Drink of it, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Once again, the disciples did not understand His meaning, but neither were they scandalized by it, for they had heard Him speak this way before. They ate and they drank in anticipation of the next evening’s feast unknowing what was to transpire that very evening after supper when they went with Jesus to His familiar place to pray on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Meanwhile, aware that something truly marvelous was occurring, having begun with Jesus’ triumphal arrival in Jerusalem just days ago on Palm Sunday, the disciples bickered about places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom. In answer to their misguided confusion, Jesus taught them that He Himself, though their Rabbi and Master, greatest at the table, was among them as one who serves. To demonstrate this visibly and physically Jesus removed His outer garments, cinched up His robes, bent down and began to wash their feet. When He was finished, Jesus said to His astonished disciples, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me the Master and the Lord, and it is good that you say this, for so I am. If I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus wasn’t only teaching them humility and servant love, but He was preparing them for their Apostolic ministry, after Pentecost, when they would go boldly into the world preaching the Gospel and serving others, and laying down their own lives just as Jesus will lay down His life for them and for all. He said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his lord; neither is he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives anyone whom I shall send, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives him who sent me.” That remains true today as then. The Lord’s Apostles today are His pastors who preach to you the Gospel and serve you with His gifts. Whoever receives those whom the Lord has sent receives Him and His Father who sent Him.

None of them were perfect. None of us are perfect. But the Lord knows His own, His chosen. Even at that intimate table was one who would betray Him. “Already Satan had put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him.” Jesus said to the disciples, “The Scripture must be fulfilled, ‘He that eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me’.” “Truly, truly, I say to you that one of you will betray me.” They all wondered who it could be. Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I shall give the piece of bread after I have dipped it.” He gave the piece of bread to Judas and said to Satan, “What you are doing, do it quickly.” After receiving the piece of bread and at these words, Judas went out immediately, and it was night. Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in Him God is glorified.”

In His humility and service, in His betrayal, and in His sacrificial passion and death, the Father glorified His Son, and Jesus glorified His Father. The disciples did not understand how His passion, suffering, and death could be glorious, and we have often have trouble understanding that as well. That is why Jesus has left us the New Covenant in His body and blood, as a last will and testament that it is fulfilled, it is finished. All that was necessary to restore us prodigal sons and daughters to our God and Father has been fulfilled by Jesus. Jesus’ words, “This do in remembrance of me,” are not merely a call to reenact the meal, but to remember, and to live in that remembrance, that it is finished, that in Jesus’ death we have all died, and that in Jesus’ resurrection we have all been raised. Thus, the Lord’s Supper is not merely a reenactment or a memorial, but it is a living participation in Jesus’ death and resurrection as St. Paul proclaims: “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

Jesus earnestly desired to eat this Passover with His disciples before His passion. Later that same night He was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the High Priest’s guards, tried before the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pilate, was mocked and scourged, crucified, died, and was buried. God has provided the Lamb for the sacrifice. It is finished. Whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. This we do in remembrance of Him.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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