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Posts Tagged ‘last supper’

Artwork by Gretchen Smith

Most of us know the short verse, “Jesus wept” [John 11:35]. We might even get a warm and fuzzy feeling at the picture of a sympathetic Christ, weeping for his friend. But how often does anyone quote this verse in Hebrews, where Jesus cries out loud and sheds tears before God?

Hebrews 5:7
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

After a quick look at some of the commentaries, it’s interesting to me that most writers place all this “weeping and wailing” right before his death in the Garden of Gethsemane, as though this is the one time Jesus encountered his destiny and travailed before the Father. But I propose that the prayers and supplications of Jesus were ongoing. Think about it: how many times did Jesus miraculously escape the authorities? How many times did he suspect danger in his life, anticipate a shortened ministry, protect himself and his work by discouraging loose talk or gossip among his followers?

Jesus knew his life was forfeit but I can imagine him praying regularly, “Not yet . . . not yet. Give me a little more time.”

Jesus needed help and protection from God continually, not just in the garden, but throughout his ministry life. And in the same way that he emptied his heart and soul before God at Gethsemane, I believe he did this regularly and undoubtedly during many of those solitary prayers he sought out on the mountainsides, away from the disciples.

Lastly, I am intrigued by the idea of a noisy Christ. I mean, I don’t know about you, but a mental picture of Jesus roaring or wailing before God is difficult to wrap my mind around. And yet, why not? Isn’t it culturally appropriate? Would Jesus be “above” such behavior, such expression of need, desire, or supplication? Not at all.

I have experienced deep crying out to God and weeping but only at those times of deepest despair, betrayal, or fear. When I cried out to God at such times, I confess, it wasn’t that I put all my trust in God, I was merely bereft of hope, overwhelmed, and felt as if there was nowhere else to turn, I was “poor in spirit.” It was my last chance.

I wonder, were there circumstances and situations that Jesus did not expect to happen? Was he ever surprised (or surprised all the time)? Did he expect/hope his follower-disciples would “get it” sooner than they did (or did they get it while he was still alive at all?); was he troubled by the masses of people who easily followed him day after day for “bread and fish” but could not grasp the food of the Spirit; was he frustrated by his own inability to break through thousand-year-old traditions and beliefs? Did he cry out to God the day he called himself the “bread of life” and taught them about eating his flesh and drinking his blood–so many deserted him that day. I can imagine him saying, “Father, how do I reach them?”

And yet, each day, he submitted again and again and again to the role he was given to endure (in the order of Melchizedek); he pressed on. He woke up, he prayed, he taught, he ate, he miracled. And finally, he reached that God-ordained last day, that last supper, and that last prayer. My spirit tells me now: his garden prayers were not the first time he bled in sweat nor flooded the ground with his tears. His life in the Father was full of prayers and supplications every day.

Holy tears for me. Thanks be to God.

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Let us give meaning to the Bread and WineJesus loved to speak in stories, symbols and metaphors. The supernatural world is indescribable otherwise. Our language is unable to represent something we do not know or understand. The meaning is revealed over time.

I Corinthians 11:26
What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. You must never let familiarity breed contempt. [The Message Bible]

Bread and wine were used throughout Jewish history, from manna to unleavened bread to the Temple showbread. But, at the last supper, Jesus takes bread and intentionally breaks it and shares it with the disciples (and probably everyone else who was in the room, since I believe there were women and servers there as well, and it was not a “private” event as is so often depicted). He is setting up a symbol to be repeated and to have meaning throughout history.

So often, we think of the “bread” (what we now call communion bread) as something he is doing for us. We are consuming it, we are gaining. But today, I am thinking about the implications for him. He is symbolically cutting up his body for the sake of others. His death and sacrifice begins that night.

And all that He asks is that we remember and keep remembering. “Touch me, smell me, eat me, drink me, and be whole,” He says through the sacrifice. The Jewish rituals of old had prepared people for the New Covenant. It was still the same: sacrifice for sin, offerings for forgiveness, awareness for new beginnings.

Contemporary Christians have lost the deep significance in the consuming of Christ’s symbols of body and blood. Plastic drink cups and dry crackers are poor substitutes. In this regard, it’s very possible that “high church” folks have it right.

On Memorial Days, we consider the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives. It’s holy and solemn and thoughtful. Should Christ’s memorial be any less from week to week or month to month?

The body and blood, the bread and wine, has the power to transform us. I want to remember. I want to really remember today.

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