A Reading from Scripture Luke 22:14-20 NIV
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.[a
Today is the sixth Sunday in Lent and Palm and Passion Sunday. This is the beginning of Holy Week — it begins with Palm Sunday moves through Maundy Thursday at the Seder dinner in the Upper Room to the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday to the glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The ancient church began to remember these very important days of our Christian heritage from the very beginning.
For us to fully understand and appreciate Easter – we have to walk through the ever-darkening days of Holy Week – towards the darkest day of the Christian Year – Good Friday — good because it is the day that proclaims God’s purpose of loving and redeeming the world through the cross. – It is good – because now we look backward through the lens of Easter to the day of the crucifixion.
Earlier, I showed how to fold a cross from the palm branch. It is quite easy if we try several times to fold it. This is a meaningful exercise as we are reminded what the meaning of Holy Week is. So, let us begin to work with the events leading up to the dinner at the table in the Upper Room.
Palm Sunday —- it is a time of celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem — a time when the crowds lined the streets – joyfully anticipating a change — the king had arrived —- Finally — change was happening – the people felt salvation in the air — to the dismay of the Jewish leadership and the Roman occupiers. But the celebration did not last too long – no – like a lot of events in life the celebration was short lived — celebration turned into rejection and accusations – accusations turned into trials – trials turned into torture and then death.
Imagine a king – the king that you have been waiting for a very long time — a king is coming that will liberate your people from the occupation of the Roman Empire – is riding a donkey into Jerusalem – and the people are going wild with excitement — the palms are waving, and cloaks are being placed in the path of the new regal riding on a donkey.
But look there is something that is amiss in this picture – it does not confirm to our usual thinking of a celebration and parade. Some king you would surmise — where is the prancing white stallion with the king mounted in regal battle garments and the regiments of soldiers to backup and emphasize his power and dominance?
No – we have Jesus coming in on a donkey – he has walked probably 90 miles from Galilee and now only rides a small donkey about 2 miles into Jerusalem —all of this to fulfill the prophecy in Zachariah 9:9 – “Lo your king comes to you: triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey.”
But things change in an instant—in several days – the cheers are gone, and condemnation arises. Several days at the beginning of the week have been of challenge and turmoil – and the end is nearing. During this time, Jesus enters the sacred Temple where money changers and Passover food vendors are hard at work for the Passover crowds. Jesus, in rampage — wipes out the money changer boots and overturns the vendors stalls. My house will be a house of prayer—not a den of robbers. Later we read that Judas agrees to betray Jesus. Then it is Thursday – the preparation of the Passover meal – the Seder.
It is Passover time in Jerusalem and Jesus has instructed his disciples so that they can celebrate the Passover by a Seder dinner. The disciples find the Upper Room and begin to gather the necessary food for a Seder dinner. There are five items on the plate: a hard-boiled egg; a roasted lamb shank bone; a spring vegetable such as parsley; a mixture of fruit, wine, and nuts; and either prepared or fresh horseradish. Some Jews include a sixth item represented by lettuce. Passover is the remembrance when the Jews were about to be liberated from slavery in Egypt. The last plague would be the angel of death that would Passover Egypt and kill all first born – but would Passover the home of the Jewish slaves if they placed the blood of a lamb on the door lintel.
The aim of the Passover meal was to remind the people of Israel that it was God who had liberated them from years of slavery in Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. Jesus became flesh and blood to liberate humanity from slavery – not to Egypt or any other earthly government or power – but slavery to that old-fashioned word sin and also slavery to fear and the very real bondage that this can create in our lives.
This is one of the most important part of the Christian Gospel of Jesus Christ, because of the significance of the Holy Communion where we remember this Last Supper that Jesus and his disciples enjoyed together before his betrayal and subsequent death. There is also a lot of symbolism within the story which would have meant so much to those listening but might well be lost for us in a non-Jewish setting.
Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper, He did the same thing with the cup: “This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember Me.
What we must realize is that every time we eat this bread and every time, we drink this cup, we reenact in our words and actions the death of Jesus. We will be drawn back to this meal again and again until Jesus returns. We must never take this for granted.”
Before Jesus died on the cross, He had a final meal with His friends, the Disciples. He wanted to give them something to remember Him by when He was not with them, so He used the bread and the wine that they were having with their Passover supper that night. The bread and the wine are both symbols that represent Jesus. The broken piece of bread reminds us of His body which was broken when He was nailed to the cross. The wine reminds us of Jesus’ blood that He shed for us on the cross. Jesus loved us so much that He gave His body and blood for us, so we could be forgiven when we sin. That is a lot of love for every one of us.
When we take the Lord’s Supper (Communion), it is important to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us. It isn’t something we should just do without thinking about what it truly represents. It was given to us by Jesus Himself, so we would not forget His great love for all of us. Next time we take Communion, remember what it stands for and how wonderful a thing Jesus did for us.
Let us say a prayer together. Dear Jesus, thank You for giving us the Lord’s Supper to remember You. We know You gave Your body and blood for our sins, so we could always be forgiven when we do wrong. When our church takes Communion, let us remember just how important and holy our participation in it is. In Your holy name we pray, Amen.