Luke 19:28-40 Isaiah 50:4-9a Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 Philippians 2:5-11 Luke 22:14-23-56
At the Passover Meal, Jesus says, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” He takes the bread, gives thanks for it, breaks it and says, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” We are familiar with these words as they are said each time we celebrate the Eucharist. Today, over 2000 years later we still “Do this in remembrance of [him].”
We are also familiar with what comes next, Jesus takes the cup of wine, gives thanks, blesses it, and shares it with his disciples, saying it is his blood – the blood of the new covenant. What happens next – the betrayal, the arrest, and the crucifixion, is also familiar to us. In our Eucharist Prayer we note each of these events, but our focus at the Eucharist is on sharing the meal with Christ – in remembrance of him.
In the passion narrative we just heard, Jesus passes the cup of wine, then says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.”
Upon occasion, as a priest, people have come to me to tell me why they are not receiving communion. Most often it is because they do not feel worthy. Yet, Christ sits at the table with his disciples knowing that he will be betrayed by one of his trusted. Throughout his ministry, Jesus eats with sinners and outcasts. He preaches that we are to love our enemy, to resist the temptation to strike back – and here, he dines with the man who will betray him.
The table we prepare in remembrance of Christ Jesus is open to each and every one of us – there are no exceptions to our invitation to dine with him, to receive his love. We may like to villainize Judas, but he has a place at the table as well. Jesus does not limit his invitation to his table to those who are worthy to those who are faithful. He does not judge those who come to him before allowing them a seat at the table. No, and neither should we.
Instead, we are called to follow the example of Jesus. In our reading from Philippians, we are taught to, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross.”
Holy Week, with the reading of the Passion Narrative today and again on Good Friday, and with the Tenebrae and Maundy Thursday services are our times to focus on the sacrifice Jesus makes for us. As Episcopalians we like to say, “We are an Easter People!” But we cannot fully appreciate the joy Easter brings unless we experience the sorrow of Good Friday.
At the beginning of Lent you were invited to the observance of a holy Lent. I invite you now, to immerse yourself this most Holy Week as we prepare for the Passover of our Lord, in which we will ultimately share in his victory over death.
Let us pray. Lord Christ, we give you thanks for the love you make known to us in the breaking of the break, and in the example, you set for us by sitting at the table with sinners and those who betray you. Help us, we pray, to follow your example and welcome everyone to our table. Help us serve others as you serve us. We offer our prayers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen