Beloved in the Lord,
The Lord moves toward us that we might drawn near to Him. Therefore the Christian’s life is one of following and receiving. When asked where they might celebrate the Passover, Jesus tells them to follow the man with the jar of water and go where he goes, enter where he enters and there make ready for the feast.
During the Feast the Lord moves nearer than could be imagined. He does the work of a servant. He bows low and bends the knee. He does what no disciple chose to do for each other, nor even for Him. He washes feet and then He hosts the meal.
With the twelve we can do nothing but follow. They followed by sight. We must follow by sound. They watched. We listened. They were cleansed. We are baptized. They were given a feast. The table of the Lord is set. Jesus is in their midst. Where two or three are gathered in His Name there He has promised to be. The Lord moves toward us and gathers us together in this place, on this night, the night on which He was betrayed. We are no different than the twelve. Fallen humanity is invited to the table. We are there . . . so to speak . . . with Peter the denier, and James and John the sons of thunder, and yes, also Judas – the one who betrayed him. Our Lord is not ashamed to gather with such a crowd. He is always moving toward sinners so that sinners learn to follow and to receive. For the Christian’s life is one of following and receiving.
“And as they were eating, Jesus said, ‘truly I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” And they began to be sorrowful asking “Is it I?” All of them wondered because all of them indeed failed. Rather than follow and receive each of them in their sinfulness sought to lead and to take. There is little difference between betrayal and denial and arrogance and selfishness. The heart of humanity, fallen as it is, doesn’t want to follow and doesn’t want to lead. It is as much a matter of our “will” as it is our heart. Our depravity is far graver than we could ever imagine. Thus we are scandalized by grace. Scripture teaches that Jesus moves towards sinners, but we don’t want to admit that we can’t move towards Jesus. As St. Paul says in Romans 3:10-18:
There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet areswift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
There is no fear because we believe we can lead. We believe we can take. We believe that we can do a lot more than scripture says we can. And so we try and we fail, and we try again, and we fail again. Trying and failing to be your own god, to contribute to your salvation even in the slightest manner, to muster up some sort of goodness in yourself idolatry, denial, and betrayal. Thus the disciples question, “Is it I?” is also our question. And the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Prompted by such revelation, for only revelation can awaken the heart and quicken the spirit to repentance, our ears are turned once more towards Jesus. He identifies his betrayer. He speaks of His denial. And Yet He does not move away from these men, He does not turn back from His work, nor could for Love compels Him onward – Love for you and love for His Father. No! Jesus continues to move toward us that we might draw near Him.
In the midst of the feast, after they had supped, Jesus took bread and wine. He blessed them with His Word. “Take and eat, this is My body. Take and drink, this is My blood.” Bread – body! Wine – blood! Common elements are common no longer. For now they bear the Word incarnate. Jesus’ Word is unlike the word of mere mortals. His Word creates. His Word brings things into existence. His Word Works! His is not an idle word, but a Word that does what it says. His is a giving Word, a gracious Word, a Word for weak knees and failing hearts, a Word which gives Himself even as it gives forgiveness.
For this is the chief blessing of this supper, Jesus gives Himself. Jesus moved toward us poor sinners with the forgiveness of sins. It is the forgiveness of sins which draws our hearts out of its captivity. Thus hidden here under the bread and the wine is His true body and true blood for the forgiveness of your sins. Jesus is here, incarnate, for you. When He says, “for you,” He actually meansyou, and you and you and you and all who are in listening distance, all who hear the Word of the Lord, believe and are baptized.
Thus Jesus offers Himself to Peter the denier, James and John the sons of Thunder, to Judas who betrayed Him, and to you who would much rather be a leader than a follower, and a taker than a receiver. His love knows no bounds save the boundary of unbelief. For Jesus will not compel you to receive and to follow. He will not force Himself on you. He’s not that kind of God, not that kind of Lord. He is gentle and He compassionate. In Humility he merely offers. He sets the table and invites you to join Him. He speaks tenderly and desires to give Himself to you, that receiving Jesus you also receive the forgiveness of sins.
This is how our God works. He leads. He goes first. He gives and He offers and He suffers the burden of love even to the point of death, even death on a cross. Leading, going, giving, offering, dying for you He purchases the your redemption with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.
Working this way for you, He bids you believe, trust, have faith. And faith is no work of your psyche, nor is it the product of your heart. That would be leading and taking, not following and receiving. Faith follows and faith receives. Faith hears the promises of the savior and takes Him at His Word. Faith is the open hands of the beggar receiving food from the benefactor. Therefore, beloved cast your ears upon the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him to the table. Open your beggarly hands and let heavens benefactor fill them with good things, godly things, bread and wine, body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. Do not be like all the unbelieving Word who suppose they are wiser than the Lord, better understand His own words, and deny the Savior’s salvation. Do not be like Peter who brought down curses upon Himself. Do not be like Judas who sold His soul for 30 pieces of silver. Follow the Savior. Receive His gifts. He delights to give Himself to you for you and your salvation.
Beloved in the Lord, the way of God is towards sinners for sinners. We Christians are invited to follow and to receive. For such is the way of faith and life in Christ. He moves toward us and draws us near to His side. Like John we recline in His bosom when we gather round about this altar. Like the 12 so long ago, so also now we eat and we drink and we make merry. For the Lord has delivered His people. He has given Himself for our redemption. He has loved us to the end. And now His love is poured out for the world. Come, beloved. Eat! Drink! Follow! Receive! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!