On the road to Easter - part 1
The Last Supper
If you had one more meal before you died, who would you like to share it with?
We're now just 4 weeks away from Easter. The hot cross buns have been out since Christmas, so we've had plenty of warning. But Easter can sneak up on you. It can often surprise Christians I think. Because this is the main event and it's easy to not be prepared for it. This is the central part of the story of the cross of Jesus. The end of his life, the event of his crucifixion and the hope of his resurrection - all in one weekend. Are you ready to give time and thought to this important part of our year?
As we have been reading through the gospel of Luke on Sundays, we've been listening to Jesus' teaching as he heads towards the cross. he knew what was about to happen. He knew he was going to Jerusalem to die for our sins. And so every parable, every story, every conversation, every action Jesus does is in light of the cross. So as we draw closer to Easter reflections and celebrations, let's start at that famous last supper. Jesus' last meal with his disciples.
19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table.22The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!”23They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.
Jesus sits down with his disciples to share the Passover meal - a Jewish meal of remembrance to remind them of the exodus from slavery in Egypt. A meal with bread and wine and lamb and spices. And as Jesus shares the bread and wine with his disciples, he changes the meaning. Updates the meaning. Fulfils the meaning. No longer will they eat the Passover remembering the Exodus. Today, it takes on a new significance. As Christians, as followers of Jesus, this meal is now in remembrance of Jesus - giving up his body and blood as the sacrificial lamb for our sins.
If we are followers of Jesus, it's good to know this well. The Last Supper takes the Old Cove4nant meal of the Passover and defines it under a New Covenant. It makes Jesus the sacrificial lamb who has deliver4ed us from the slavery of sin and death into eternal life. This is what we remember every Easter, but also what we remember every time we share in the Lord's Supper.
What is amazing at the same time are the next verses:
24A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
As Jesus sits at this table, for his last meal, with his closest followers, preparing for his death the next day, they argue about who is the greatest. Presumably, they were wondering who was second in charge, or who was going to "lead the team" after Jesus departs, although they still didn't realise he was about to die. Jesus could have been angry, but instead, he uses this time to teach them that being the greatest is to be like him - a servant. Being great in the kingdom of God means being the least in the world.
Here was Jesus sitting with the one who was about to betray him, and sitting with his friends who are fighting over who is better, and Jesus calmly says: Don't be like that. Don't be like the world. Greatness isn't about being "over" people. It's about serving "under" people.
This is a strong rebuke to those of us who think highly of ourselves or our position in this world. It's a rebuke to stop ruling and start serving, humbly. And to those who feel small, weak, unimportant, or insignificant, that is no way to measure greatness in God's kingdom. God's kingdom is measured by servanthood. Disciples of Jesus who are the least in this world are the greatest in God's kingdom.
So as we share in the Lord's Supper on Thursday night or Easter Day, let's keep in mind how our great King became the servant of all and laid down his life as the greatest ever act of love. He was among us, our King, our Lord, and our Saviour, as one who serves.
Heavenly Father, as we draw closer to Easter, please remind us of what it means to be truly great in your kingdom. Help us to have the heart of a servant, the heart of our Lord Jesus. Help us to lay aside our worldly greatness for a heavenly kingdom. Help me to approach Easter with a humble and thankful heart for the servant King who has given his life for me. Amen.