It Was Supposed to be Just a Simple Dinner Party

Gratitude Day 437

Thurs., Apr. 9, 2020

Luke 22:1: And now the Passover celebration was drawing near—the Jewish festival when only bread made without yeast was used. 

It’s the last night of Jesus’ life. He’s just had the Passover meal with his 12 closest buddies in an upper room. During the course of the meal, Jesus shares with his friends that soon, one of them, will turn against him. They are all shocked; maybe even the one, Judas, who will do the betraying.

I love a good dinner party. My heart is happy when I know people are coming to our house for a meal. Preparing the food, setting the table, putting out the finishing touches to make guests feel special: this is my wheelhouse.

Maybe this is why Maundy Thursday is one of my favorite days in the Christian calendar. Jesus and his buddies are celebrating one of the most important Jewish traditions: the Passover meal. A meal rich in history and tradition and storytelling. It begins with this traditional dinner … but my, oh my, does it turn into SO. MUCH. MORE.

First, it’s about finding the right location. Jesus and his friends are in Jerusalem. They will need to find a location, big enough for all of them. Done. Check.

Then, when the disciples arrive, it’s Jesus, the host, who washes their feet. What’s up with that? Why does a servant do this? But they have clean feet. Check.

The dinner is progressing nicely. They are remembering all the important parts of when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and the commotion that happened before Pharaoh FINALLY let them go. But there are some unexpected things that happen as well. Let’s listen in on what Jesus might have wanted to say that night.

“One of you will betray me,” Jesus says. Hmmm. They are all wondering if it is themselves, aren’t they?

“Even you, Peter, who has been so loyal to me. Before dawn, not once, but THREE TIMES you will deny knowing me.” Sucks to be you, Peter, doesn’t it?

“Pa-lease … can you stop arguing about who is the best amongst you? It’s so 50 B.C., not 30 A.D. Seriously.”

“See this bread made with out yeast? The bread God instructed the Israelites to make the night of the last plague in Egypt. Well, no need to think of it as bread anymore. Think of it now like my body.” OK, isn’t that a little weird?

“(Holding up a cup of wine), this wine? It now represents my blood. Just like the blood that the Israelites painted around their doorposts so the angel of death would sail right by.” OK, bread for your body. And now wine for my blood? You lost me there.

It’s turning out to be quite the dinner party, isn’t it?

Yet, it’s the dinner party in which Jesus gives us the gift of Holy Communion. At this party, we begin to see more clearly what Jesus anticipates will happen to him.

If you are feeling a little lost about what to do this Maundy Thursday, let me share a few ideas:

  • Read the story. It’s in all four gospels. I like Luke’s version of the story. It’s found in the 22nd chapter.
  • Take turns and wash each other’s feet in your household. It may sound a little strange. But the first time I was included in a foot washing, it made such an impression on me. I realized: yes, I am the one who is to become like a servant and stop thinking the world revolves around me. Maybe you will see Jesus’ gift to the disciples in a slightly different way.
  • Make some matzoh soup or something from a traditional Jewish Passover meal. Look up what a seder plate is on the internet and share pictures during dinner. Most importantly, have dinner together with your family. Read the story. Share your insights while breaking bread.
  • Sing a song together. The last thing Jesus and the disciples did before they go to the Garden of Gethsemane is, they sang a hymn together. Pick an easy one. Sing one verse. It doesn’t matter what it sounds like.
  • Towards evening, walk about a mile, which was about the distance Jesus and the disciples walked to the Garden. Notice how much different a path looks later in the day. Use a flashlight like a torch to guide your path.

By the end of the night, this little dinner party had a whole new meaning. Jesus had been arrested. The disciples are afraid for their lives. What will happen tomorrow?

Stop back tomorrow … and we’ll discover together.

For how well Jesus’ last dinner is captured and recorded in scripture, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Holy God – How quickly life changed for the disciples in literally a matter of hours. Their worlds were turned upside down. Maybe, just maybe, they understand how we feel right now. May we celebrate an evening meal tonight and remember. Amen.

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