"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. But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this."
–Luke 22:14-23 ESV
Most of us have a collection of “Why” questions. Your collection might look like this:
“Why am I going through this?”
“Why do I feel alone?”
“Why am I the only one struggling?”
“Why was I the one downsized?”
“It was his/her decision, why does it effect me?”
All of us deal with the "Why" questions in some form or another. These questions swirl around in our heads, and for many of us, they seem to control our lives.
What if this Holy Week, we could change the question? What if there was one question, if properly answered, could reframe all of our “Why” questions?
When I read the “Why” questions, I hear desperation, loss, pain, loneliness, hopelessness. In the upper room, I hear the answer for a different question.
The question isn’t “Why?”
The question is “For whom?”
In the midst of our confusion and questions, Jesus utters these words, “This is my body, which is given for you.”
For whom did Jesus die? For you– for your questions that seem unanswerable– Jesus died. For the part of your heart that breaks when you think about that situation– Jesus died.
Author David Lose writes, “…we hear in these two words the shocking, unimaginable, and utterly unexpected promise that everything Christ suffers – all the humiliation and shame, all the defeat and agony – he suffers for us, that we might have life and light and hope in his name!”
May our "Why" questions be framed in the knowledge that Christ died for you!
–Luke 22:24-30 ESV
This is one of those passages that puzzles us. Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet. Now they are arguing with one another over greatness. We read the passage with perfect hindsight thinking, “Seriously guys! How did you miss it?”
When are honest with ourselves, we know we often ‘miss it’ too.
Jesus points out an important issue, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them…But not so with you.” This is a simple truth in the Kingdom of God. In the world, lordship equals being placed over someone. In the Kingdom of God, the leader is the one who serves.
Warren Wiersbe writes, “True greatness means to be like Jesus, and that means being a servant to others.”
If you will allow me to put a little Nazarene spin on that quote– Holiness means to be like Jesus, and that means holiness is expressed by being a servant. Holiness is best defined by what we do. Christ was not know by what He didn't do- He was known by what He did!
As the people of the Kingdom, our lives are rooted in the gospel and patterned on Jesus’ life. I believe the challenge for us is not to simply redefine the word success, but to live a life that redefines what holiness looks like- "And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, 'If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all' (Mark 9:35 ESV).
–Luke 22:31-34 ESV
If you are like me, I read the story of Peter’s denial with a tinge of hopelessness. “If Peter can’t stand, how can I stand?”
I believe a closer examination of these three verses breathes life into a dark time in Peter’s life. The Greek text reveals something the English translations miss.
The uses of the word you in verse 31 is plural. Here Jesus is speaking to the eleven disciples before Him.
However, Jesus changes the number of the word in the next three verses. Each time you is used, it is singular. Here Jesus is addressing Peter. You will note, that I bolded the singular uses and italicized the plural uses.
Why is this important? Here is a fact we often miss- Satan demanded all of the apostles. Then we read that Jesus prayed specifically for Peter. Look at what Jesus prayed, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”
When I read the stories in the remainder of Luke’s Gospel and in Acts, I think Jesus’ prayer was answered. No where do we read that Peter’s faith failed. We do read that his courage failed in his denial a few verses away.
I know each one of us has a time (or multiple times) where we feel our courage has failed. The important thing is not that your courage failed. The important thing is that your faith didn’t fail.
Do you want to know the incredible thing? Jesus is praying for you that your faith may not fail! Then we hear Jesus give us some instructions for once we realized we have failed, “And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus is praying for your faith to not fail and this Holy Week, my we rest in that fact that the King of Heaven is praying for you!
I believe that looking at Easter as the celebration at the end of a longer observance, shows the events of this week in their proper context. This context brings out the beauty and richness of Easter morning!
One book that I have found myself drawn to year after year is Bobby Gross’ Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God. In this book, Gross gives us a great description of Maundy Thursday:
“On Maundy Thursday, the eve of Christ’s death, we focus our attention on the Passover meal he shared with his disciples. On this night he instituted what would come to be called the Lord’s Supper, in which the eating of bread recalls his broken body and the drinking of wine remembers his spilled blood. By his atoning death he inaugurated a new covenant with all who put their faith in him. Also, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet in an extraordinary gesture of humble service, after which he gave a new commandment or mandate (Latin mandatum, from which we get “Maundy”). So we think today about self-giving love, Christ’s for us and ours for one another.”
As we focus today on that Upper Room, I would ask that we focus on the beauty of Christ’s love for His people. What strikes me about this story is certainly Christ’s actions, but on another level is how Christ turns the events back to his disciples.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
–John 13:14-15 ESV
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
–John 13:34-35 ESV
The beauty of Maundy Thursday is that the actions of Christ did not end in that room. He showed us what love is and what love truly looks like. Observing the Paschal Triduum is best displayed as we live out Christ's self-giving love in our world.
Last night as I had the opportunity to pray with many of you at our communion service, I was reminded of a post from one of my friends, Christa Klosterman, from seminary. She captures, in a beautiful way, the connection between the Upper Room and the events of Good Friday.
“When I moved into the parsonage, I became the caretaker for the 20-year-old Concord grape vine in the backyard. This past weekend, with my mom's help and wisdom, I made communion juice for both of my congregations for the coming year. The juicer I used heats water under the grapes and ‘steams' them until they break open, thus releasing the sweet juice. At the end there is also some stirring and mashing to get all the juice out of those grapes. I don't think I will ever serve communion the same way again. Broken and poured out is the goal of the juice making process and a visual reminder of this peculiar plan God has for rescuing the world through a broken, defeated body. You can't get to that sweet and tasty juice without the breaking. Perhaps there is a drawback to buying communion elements ready-made at the store?”
I love the connection this imagery makes between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Grace is demonstrated in the brokenness. Today is the day we remember that we are given life through the brokenness of our Savior.