Imagine for a moment sitting at the table at the last supper.
Jesus is surrounded by friends, eating fantastic food while celebrating Passover. Multiple conversations buzz around, and laughter bubbles up. The aroma of the food fills the upper room. Tension quietly builds in the corner. The wine flows into each person’s cup. Then Jesus speaks.
15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:15-20 ESV)
How would I respond to His words? Could I possibly grasp all He was saying? “Before He suffers”? Why must my Rabbi suffer? “This cup of wine is a new covenant”? How can this be?
Moments away from betrayal and suffering, Jesus chose to focus His attention on giving the gift of communion to His followers. He wanted them to have something to cling to in the future. He gave them a way to remember this moment and invite every future believer into this remembrance rite.
Jesus, not bound by time, could see believers remembering Him thousands of years in the future. He could see them coming together for this sacred practice in large and small groups. So he provided a way to sustain His followers until we join Him for the Supper of the Lamb in Heaven.
The simple liturgy He shared, complete with visual aids, tethers my heart to His every time I take communion. If I choose to be fully present and not half distracted by my thoughts, my soul tended by His presence.
Imagine the second half of Psalm 41 (verses 7-12) could have been a thought bubble rising just above Jesus’ head during this extraordinary meal.
7 All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me. (Psalm 41:7 ESV)
Even as Jesus reclined with his closest friends, He knew what people just outside the upper room were saying. Influential people are plotting against Him. He chose to continue to teach and generously share with His disciples.
Would a guest at the table like me have had any idea about the plots swirling around just outside this room? Would I have felt the tension inside and outside the room as the weight of glory pressed down on my Rabbi?
8 They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.” (Psalm 41:8 ESV)
Before He leaves this last supper table, Jesus can see ahead to his walk to the cross. He knows the extent of the beating He will receive. He can see how He will stumble and not get back up. His human body was too broken to keep carrying the cross.
9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me. (Psalm 41:9 ESV)
Jesus knows about the betrayal unfolding before his eyes. He has served this friend. He has loved this friend, and He chose this friend.
21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!” 23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. (Luke 22:21-23 ESV)
As he breaks bread with his closest friends, He sees the betrayal before him. Judas has chosen to turn Him in for some pieces of silver. How would I have responded? What does the face of treachery look like when it sits beside you? Would I also have been more interested in the who than the how?
10 But you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them! (Psalm 41:10 ESV)
Jesus knows God will raise Him from the dead. He clings to this knowledge as He continues to gently and firmly lead his disciples. He wants them to understand and draws near them at this final meal.
11 By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me. (Psalm 41:11 ESV)
Jesus can see the Romans and the Jewish leaders will celebrate squashing their perceived rebellion. They will believe they have killed him in a public display of power. However, their temporary advantage will not bring the triumph they expected.
Just when they believe they have won, news of His resurrection will sweep through the land.
12 But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever. 13 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen. Amen (Psalm 41:12-13 ESV)
Jesus demonstrated integrity in His final days in Earthly ministry. He knew where He was going, being seated at His Father’s right hand forever. He knew nothing could thwart the plan God unfurled before a watching world.
What would I have taken away from this sacred dinner? Would I have slowly realized more as the week wore on? Would I have longed to return there and remember Jesus? I am grateful this Holy Week to receive the invitation to come to God’s table, take communion and remember my Savior.
Lord, help me take a fresh look at Your table this week. When accepting the invitation to communion, allow me to remember all Jesus did on the cross. Please renew my focus. Thank you for my seat at Your table now and forever. Help me to share this invitation with others. Amen.