(St. Luke 22:7-20)
In the Name X of Jesus. AMEN!
Beloved in the Lord,
Gathering in the Upper Room
It is the day of unleavened bread. The Lamb is to be sacrificed and the Passover is prepared for us to eat it. Jerusalem is a buzz with expectation. Pilate is anxious. The betrayer’s heart, full of disappointment, covets gold and silver. Jesus sups with him nonetheless. Tonight, the deliverance of Holy Israel is manifested in a meal for all who have been named by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Our Redemption is at hand.
Thus we are given to follow the man with the water and there make preparation. The Baptizer has pointed the way – “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The man with the water has met us, named us with God’s name and given us a place to gather. Here we make preparation to celebrate the paschal feast in sincerity and truth. Here is the upper room – the “kataluma” of God. And here the Savior reclines at table with us. Jesus, our Immanuel is God with us. And God with us is God with sinners, God for sinners. Jesus is not ashamed to be numbered among the transgressors. No, beloved He’s not ashamed to call you friend. He earnestly desires to share this feast with you and all people, all who draw near – all who are not ashamed to call Him Lord, to claim Him as King, to receive Him as Savior.
Difficulties of Faith
It is no easy task to follow Jesus by faith. Fallen as we are the heart constantly covets the path it can see. But what we see is often our stumbling block. What we see is suffering, rejection, pain, anquish, and affliction. What we see we often feel. Feeling what we see we often follow where things feel good. Following where things feel good we lose our sense of discernment. Right and wrong become relative. And when right and wrong become relative then everything that feels good is right and everything that feels bad is wrong. Everything that hurts is to be avoided and everything that excites is to be pursued. Everything that is fun is then good and everything that is not fun is boring – and boring is bad. Morality becomes subjective. And when morality is subjective then I become a law unto myself.
Both Peter and Judas fell into this trap. Peter and Judas both want a Christ who doesn’t suffer. They want to follow a man who is great and glorious and mighty and majestic, who gathers the crowds together, unites the nation of Israel and wars against the gentiles. Both want a Christ who lives and doesn’t die, who wins and never loses, who advances without surrender. Peter takes up the sword for Jesus against Malchus and he is rebuked. Rebuked by the Christ who will not war against men, Peter denies him three times. Judas, disappointed by a Christ who refuses to win, takes 30 pieces of silver and betrays him to the Jews. Both reject the suffering Christ. Both refuse to take up their cross and walk after Jesus. They are following what they believe is right seeking to avoid what surely isn’t fun.
How are you and I any different? We struggle to walk by faith. We covet the fun and love the exciting. Happiness is what makes us feel good and what makes us feel bad is surely not good for us. We love ourselves and protect our feelings more than we love our neighbors and their needs. We love families and covet the memories made more than taking the time to form their character in the Word of God. Yes, beloved it is a difficult thing to walk by faith and follow after Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world and we love darkness. Jesus shines on us and we don’t necessarily like what we see. Jesus walks towards suffering and we don’t want to go that way.
Going the Way of the Cross
But Jesus goes that way because Jesus loves you more than He loves Himself. Jesus goes the way of the cross because the way of the cross is the way of righteousness. The way of the cross is the path in the desert. It is the river of righteousness in the wasteland of this world’s perversity. The way of the cross is the way of God’s salvation. It’s the right way.
Truly it is a difficult way for it is the way of suffering, it is the way of blood, sweat and tears. This way, the way of the cross is the way of death. It is not a fun way. It’s not a feel good way. It’s not an exciting way. In fact you and I have been conditioned over the years to avoid such a way. But it is the way of Jesus. Walking this way Jesus walks ahead of us. He goes first that He can blaze a trail for us. This is why we walk by faith and not by sight. What we see depresses us. What we feel often hurts us. But what we hear is the Savior’s voice leading us through death to eternal life. To get through death Jesus must go and suffer and die. To get to Easter He must endure Good Friday.
Good Friday is tomorrow. Tomorrow is the cross. Tomorrow is not Good for Jesus. Good Friday is good for you and me and the world. As the baptizer preaches, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The way of the cross is the way of the Lamb and this is good for you and me. It doesn’t look good – in fact it looks quite horrible. And it doesn’t feel good especially when I truly begin to realize why Jesus is up there. He’s up there for me. He’s bearing my sins. He’s suffering my death. He’s undoing my curse becoming a curse for me. And if I didn’t know about Sunday – there’s no way I would take up my cross and follow Him. If there were no Easter, Good Friday wouldn’t be so good for me and you and the world. But there is Easter. Easter is Sunday and Sunday is the day of rejoicing.
Faith follows the Word
Tonight is Thursday and tonight we are gathered with Jesus in the upper room. We are not given to walk by sight. Walking by sight would lead us away from here. We are not given to follow our feelings. There are many other places in this world that can make us feel good, manipulate us physically, emotionally and spiritually. Those places usually are not good places and should be avoided at all costs. But in this place, this Kataluma of God, there is Jesus. And in this place Jesus is speaking. You and I are called to repent of our sins and turn our ears towards the Savior’s voice, close our eyes and open our ears. His voice is His heart manifested in words. Giving His Word He gives His heart. Hearing His Word you hear His heart with your heart. And what does your heart hear? “Take and eat. Take and drink. This is my body. This is my blood given for you for the forgiveness of sins.” What is this bread? Christ’s body risen from the dead. What is this wine? The blood of Jesus shed for mine. If we follow what we see we will deny this. For the eyes see only bread and wine. And bread and wine cannot forgive sins. Following what we see we lose Jesus. But if we follow what we hear, we cling to the Words of the One who would not deny us. We hear bread and body, wine and blood. Hearing creates and sustains faith. Faith receives Jesus’ body – just as He said. Faith receives Jesus’ blood – just as He said. Faith receives the forgiveness of sins – just as He said. Everything given is everything just as He said. Everything received is just as He said.
Gathering at the Altar
Beloved in the Lord, let us then cast off all the sins that so easily entangle us and let us follow the man with the water, heed the baptizer’s sermon and lend our ears to the Savior of the World. Here the Lamb who was slain reigns over sin, death, and devil. He is seated at the right of God bearing the marks of the cross but He is risen and He is for you. Tonight He has prepared for you and meal. Tonight the baptized are delivered from their sins as the Passover Lamb is given us to eat and to drink. Let us answer the call. Let us follow the voice. Let us heed the Word. Let us eat and let us drink and let us recline at table with the One who loved us into death and the grave but is risen for us. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!