Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Last Supper: A Whole New Kind Of Kingdom - Jeff Wiersma

Jesus loved to teach in parables. At this Passover supper, he was trying to teach his disciples that the new kingdom God was launching was not concerned with taking or maintaining power.

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” 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.” He did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is ... my blood, poured out for you.”

When Jesus broke the bread and passed the cup with his disciples to celebrate Passover, he gave them a tangible symbol of his impending death. Jesus identified himself as the sacrificial lamb from the Hebrew story of Passover and deliverance from slavery in Egypt, an analogy that was unmistakable to these Jewish men who were his followers.

Can you imagine the confusion the disciples must have felt?

Jesus had told them that he was the Messiah. He was the promised one sent from God, the one whose arrival their people have been waiting centuries for. They believed that the Messiah would forcefully lead them out of the oppression of Empire and establish a new kingdom of Israel. Yet they are being told by Jesus that his body would be broken for them!

The disciples were expecting the Messiah to be like the Moses of the Passover story, not the lamb that was slaughtered. Yet Jesus is speaking of his blood being poured out as a sacrifice! Think about it - the disciples had no way of knowing that Easter would follow Jesus’ execution. They must have been completely bewildered!

Jesus loved to teach in parables. At this Passover supper, he was trying to teach his disciples that the new kingdom God was launching was not concerned with taking or maintaining power. Jesus’ mission as the Messiah wasn’t about giving those carrying out oppression a taste of their own medicine. The Messiah's work was not playing the same game as or turning the tables on those doing harm - because violence and oppression dehumanize both the perpetrator and the victim.

Rather, Jesus’ mission was about setting an entirely new table where, by grace, all are rehumanized and free from the cycles of oppression, violence, and hate. Jesus is saying that sacrificial acts of love are the way that God’s kingdom works to reaffirm the basic, inherent dignity of all.

In the context of the Passover, Jesus was trying to help the disciples see his impending death as the first action in a liberation movement of radical grace on a universal spiritual scale, not a nationalistic scale.

I’m sure that all of us have seen instances when a small act of kindness and giving has set amazing transformations into motion. Jesus understood this quite well. Throughout his life, Jesus transformed ordinary loaves of bread into something extraordinary; moments of radical, unqualified love for whoever needed love at that time, regardless of and in intentional subversion of the oppressive social order of that time.

At the last supper, Jesus transformed an ordinary meal into the launch of God’s extraordinary kingdom of love and grace.