Jesus and Meals
a Holy Thursday homily based on John 13:1-17, 31b-35
by Pastor Moe
People of God gathered around the table of promise, the table
of life and hope – grace and peace to you from God our Maker, from Jesus, our
host, and from the Spirit of God who gathers us. Amen
It was the night in which he was betrayed… These words mean
so much… They speak to us of life and of healing and forgiveness and promise.
These words do for us a miracle, and that miracle is that they show us our
Savior. They show us God, and they show us God’s love. These words have been
repeated for centuries, in sacred surroundings, in cathedrals and churches and
chapels, in nursing homes and hospital rooms… on the shores of vacation lakes
and in parks and gatherings in private homes.
These words are a miracle, and these words – even the very
first time that they were spoken – are an inspiration, and they are an answer
to prayer. It means so much to us… In those times of our lives when we are in
pain, either physical or emotional or spiritual pain, these words are a blessing
because they do the very thing that they promise: They bring to us the real
presence of a Savior who loves us, and they bring comfort and strength and
encouragement, forgiveness and healing and life.
And even the first time that they were spoken, they did that
very same thing. And they came that very same way – as an answer to prayer.
And the prayer was the prayer of Jesus.
It was the night in which he was to be betrayed, handed over
to the people who wanted him dead – the people who in fact would kill him, see
him dead the very next day. And he was given up by one of his closest friends.
Jesus knew that this was it. The end was here, and there was still so much to
do. And part of the fear that he had to live with that night was that these
people, these 12 followers of his, could not make it on their own.
Time and again he had seen it happen… It looked like they
had it right, but no – in the end, again and again – they just didn’t get
it. So here he was, in the final hour, so much to be done, and so little time.
Jesus did not want to be taken away from them; he did not want
to be taken away from us. And Jesus prayer, recorded in John’s gospel, is a
prayer for unity, and for community and for togetherness… Literally it is a
prayer for communion, it is a prayer that all who he left behind would not be
left alone. At it was a prayer that God granted.
The meal that Jesus shared with his disciples was a very
special meal. It was a Passover meal, a religious celebration and a rite of
remembrance. It was a meal that looked back to the days of slavery in Egypt, and
it celebrated freedom and the delivery from bondage.
This was a meal that was shared with family and friends, and,
more than that, it was a family worship service that had been ordained by God.
It was a meal that was already layered with religious meaning and significance.
And it was a rite – a ritual – it had not been changed in centuries. And in
an inspiration and an answer to prayer, Jesus did something that was
unthinkable: He changed the rite.
In this setting with his friends, a meal that was already a
spiritual meal and a feast of remembrance, Jesus looked at those who were
gathered with him around the table, and he did not want to leave them alone. He
did not want to go away. He wanted them to remember. And he knew that they
needed him to be there.
So in the course of the meal, in the Berekah, the prayer over
the meal, Jesus took the bread in his hands, and he gave thanks in the ancient
words, “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings
forth bread from the earth.” And then he did a remarkable thing. He changed
the words of the rite. “Take and eat… This is my body… Do this in
remembrance of me.”
The disciples did not understand what was taking place – How
could they know? Not yet… But in time they would understand. Because another
part of Jesus’ hope for them was that they would remember…
Re – member-ing… That means to put something back
together. To reconstruct, to relive, to re-experience… And that is Jesus
prayer. For the disciples, and for us, each one of us.
Faith is based on the experience of the living Jesus – not
as someone who lived long ago and far away in a place called Galilee, but faith
in a real, living person who lives right now, this very moment in a community of
believers. And he does live here. He is alive even now, and he is as much a part
of this community of faith as is the person who is sitting next to you. Jesus is
so real that you can reach out and touch him… And we do.
Because we are included in the prayer of Jesus, that prayer
that God did and does answer. Jesus prayed: “I ask not only on behalf of
these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,
that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they
also be in us… so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in
me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know… John
He is here. After the supper had ended, he took the cup and he
gave thanks to God, and he said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood,
shed for you and for all people, for the forgiveness of sin… Do this for the
remembrance of me.”
And we do this, and we remember. He is here… For you. Jesus
and meals… So many meals, so many sinners, so much forgiveness. He is here to
nourish us still. Thanks be to God. Amen