Draw Near to the Table

Maundy Thursday

Draw Near to the Table

Text: Mark 14:12-26

“Dinner’s ready, go wash your hands,” yells my mother down the stairs at me and my brothers.

We race to the bathroom. I turn the water on, wait thirty seconds and then turn it off (my sinful rebellion went so far as to pretend to wash my hands). We race upstairs and cram in around the table. Everything is in place, everything his hot and ready to eat. My parents had earned money, bought food, prepared a menu, cooked the meal and set the table and what were the first words out of my mouth most of the time? “Aw, I don’t like this casserole! I hate onions! I’m not going to eat that!”…

The ingratitude of children is astounding sometimes. I know because I have seen it, I know because I was, at one time, one of those ungrateful little children… You cook them a meal and it is the wrong meal. You by them a gift and it is the wrong gift. You make sure they have clothes that fit and they are always the wrong clothes. Never happy with what they have, children are always begging for more, newer and better things. The twenty video games they have are boring, they need another one. The two gigantic Rubbermaid’s full of Lego’s are not enough, they need that new set. The thirty Barbie dolls are not enough to keep them happy, they need more…

Draw near to the table this Maundy Thursday and see your Savior displaying a different way of life. Draw near and see a meal prepared just for you, a meal that prepares you for heaven…

An ungrateful, self-centered life is an ugly thing to witness. The really ugly thing about it is that little kids don’t grow up and instantly lose the ingratitude and selfishness that they displayed when they were young. When we humans grow up we just get better at fulfilling our self-centered all on our own. We may not continue to voice those same sinful desires but we do continue to convince ourselves that we have all the same needs for more, newer and better things, and this world doesn’t help either.

Every day we get bombarded with the message to pursue the things of this world. Advertising gurus have made their fortunes by inundating our sinful natures with ads that convince us that we deserve more. These ads tell us that our identity, happiness and self-worth are found in what we have. This world is all about me, myself and I and we are all too happy to be convinced that these ads are reality.

I am my car. I am my clothes. I am my bank account. I am my house.

I obey my thirst. I have it my way. I just do it. I deserve a break today. I double my pleasure, double my fun. I live the high life because I am worth it. I am looking out for number one. I wait for nothing. I have a million choices. I get what I want.

I do what is best for me. I spend my time where I want to spend it; no one wastes my time except for me. I have the world at my finger tips. If it doesn’t work I throw it out and get a new one. If I’m uncomfortable I leave, there is another place just down the street.

If I’m unhappy I’m missing something, I find it, I buy it. If I want it, I get it. I accumulate. I collect. I acquire. I take. I use. I devour. I consume.

I am not the center of the universe, but I am the center of my universe. I want to know what’s in it for me. I want to know what I get out of it. I’m here to find happiness. I live for comfort. I exist to be served; the world exists to serve me. I am the customer, the customer is king, I am king…

Then we stumble upon Jesus, reclining at a borrowed table in a rented upper room. The table he has set looks nothing like the tables we would wet for ourselves. The attitude this Jesus shows to the world looks nothing like the “me-centered” attitude that surrounds him… it looks nothing like the “me-centered” attitude that permeates us. What about Holy Week looks selfish to you?

Jesus, the creator of the universe, true God in human flesh rides into Jerusalem… on a donkey. No noble steed for this King, no ticker-tape parade, just some people throwing down used cloaks and foraged palms.

Jesus knew that he would be dead by the end of the week, so how did he spend his last days? Did he fly to see the Pyramids or the Grand Canyon? Did he get a massage? Did he blow his money, gorging himself on fine wines and foods? Did he sulk in his room filled with “woe is me” self-pity? No… he spent every day in the temple courts displaying his concern for the lost souls of this world, patiently preaching and teaching up to the very end.

Then came the time for his last meal on this earth… did Jesus demand to have his lamb taken back to the chef because it was a little dryer than he wanted it? Did he demand that his last meal be held at some fancy restaurant with an orchestra softly playing in the background? Did he demand that his disciples wait on him hand and foot? Did he take pains to make sure that his closest friends were all around him offering him support and empathizing with him over the pain he would soon undergo? No… he got down on his hands and knees, rolled up his sleeves and washed the dirt and grime of travel of his disciple’s feet, even the feet of the man he knew would soon be betraying him…

The table that was set before Jesus was not based on what he wanted because he was not in this world to get what he wanted at the expense of everyone else. What Jesus did that week he did because he knew it was exactly what his disciples needed, he knew it was what we needed. Draw near and see the table, prepared just for you….

Put yourself in that upper room that night in April. Put yourself in the place of one of the disciples…

The Passover Seder probably seemed pretty normal at first. You had experienced a few of these with Jesus and you had been having this meal in this particular way every year for your whole life. The cup is passed around and all drink. You eat your meal of unleavened bread and lamb roasted over a fire. Everything seems in order, conversation is casual, just another Passover meal… but then Jesus drops the bomb… “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.”

Your mind instantly begins racing… Is he talking about me? What have I done this time? “Surely not I” is the response given by all the men reclining around the table. The atmosphere instantly becomes uneasy, the tension is thick.

“It is one of the Twelve… Woe to the man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Who could he be talking about? Is it me? For all I know it could be. This Jesus was different and all knew it, he never displayed any of the sinful, selfish impulses that the twelve did, he constantly had to reprimand one or another of the disciples. What did I do this time?…

The meal continues, but now there is definitely something different about this meal. Jesus whispers something to Judas, he gets up and leaves. What is going on? Who is going to betray Jesus?

Then, as he was apt to do, Jesus abruptly changes the course of the conversation.

“Take and eat, this is my body… take and drink, this is my blood given for you… for the forgiveness of sins.” It’s as if Jesus didn’t care that one of his disciples was going to betray him. It’s as if Jesus didn’t care that before the night was through all of the disciples would abandon him. Instead of focusing on what they were doing wrong and the ways they would soon fail him he changes the focus away from trouble and sin to… forgiveness.

Draw near to the table and see a meal that prepares you for heaven!

This is the inexplicable way that Jesus deals with sinners. Instead of dwelling on the sin, instead of pulling a guilt trip, instead of instantly condemning the sinner, Jesus offers forgiveness. Jesus offers just what we need to wake us up from our self-centered lives. Jesus offers himself.

How long do you think it took for the disciples to realize all that went on in that upper room? Did Jesus have to explain it all to them before he ascended into heaven? Was it the first time they walked through the temple and saw the sacrifices going on as usual after Jesus’ resurrection?

The innocent lamb without any stain or blemish is silently led to the slaughter. The priest lays his hand on the lamb’s head, passing the sin of the people onto the lamb. This innocent lamb is killed for the sins of others. The blood is drained into a bowl and sprinkled on the altar and the people. The body is burned, the dark smoke ascends into the heavens, a pleasing aroma to God… and just like that, with the death, body and blood of an innocent creature forgiveness was offered… Is this starting to sound familiar to you yet?…

Jesus, without any stain or blemish was silently led to the slaughter. On him was placed all our sins. This innocent man was killed for the sins of others. His body is broken and passed in the supper. His blood is blessed and received at communion… and just like that, with a death, through the body and blood of an innocent man forgiveness is offered.

This is the new covenant that Jesus was talking about! This is what he was trying to explain and show us in that upper room the night before he died! Jesus is the new paschal lamb whose death forgives us for all the times we have lived in selfish sin!

This new covenant, this holy supper has been enjoyed by Christians on a regular basis ever since that first Maundy Thursday night. Millions of Christians have turned to Jesus and received the forgiveness of sins through his precious body and blood mysteriously given with the bread and wine. Millions of Christians have stood or sat or kneeled side by side for thousands of years confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of the world.

Just as this new covenant, this holy supper has united millions of Christians to each other, it has also united us to our head, Christ. In offering his body and blood for our sins, Jesus has won forgiveness for each and every one of us. On that Maundy Thursday night he set a table at which we can regularly find refreshing forgiveness for our continuing battle against sin.

Draw near to the table and see a meal prepared just for you, for your forgiveness. Draw near and see a meal that has the power to forgive your sins and strengthen your faith until we eat this meal again with Jesus in heaven. Draw near and be refreshed in Christ’s supper, refreshed to live your life not in service of self but service to God and neighbor. Draw near and find the strength to live for Christ until we all feast with Christ at the heavenly banquet table.

AMEN

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About vicarhoff

I am thrilled and honored to be serving as vicar/intern at Christ the King Lutheran Church and School for a whole year!

Posted on April 6, 2012, in Church, Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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