Friday, March 11, 2011

Day 3 of Lent :: The Last Meal

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. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."
(Luke 22:14-16)

Of all the ways Jesus could have chosen to spend the last hours of His life with the disciples, He chose to eat a meal. Jesus alludes to the fact that this wasn’t merely any meal, it was a meal He had “eagerly desired” to eat with them for some time. How long had He waited? Days? Weeks? Months? What about centuries? What if there were something embedded in this meal that illustrated the greatest reason God had sent Him to earth?

For most of us, meals and food are simply a means to an end – to eat, be fed, and to physically survive until the next carbo-fueling. This was not the case in ancient times. Meals were never merely for physical nourishment alone, they were for the purpose of companionship. “In Eastern cultures,” writes Ray Vander Laan, “harmony between people is not simply a matter of laws but a relationship of the heart.  In order to create or reestablish harmonious relationships, involved parties eating a meal together to celebrate their reconciliation and to covenant not to seek revenge in the future.  After the meal, neither party will ever bring up past offenses.”[i] In fact, the English word companion, is derived from the Latin roots cum (with) and panis (bread). In part, at the Last Supper, God was declaring His desire to enter into covenant companionship with us through Jesus Christ.

It is often said that, “We are what we eat.” Joseph Grassi writes that, “this motif is especially strong when the host furnishes the bread and serves it by hand after breaking it. Thus the command, ‘Take, this is My body,’ is a challenge and invitation to be truly identified with Jesus as a disciple. The shared cup strengthens and brings out the covenant aspect. For example, at a Jewish wedding, even to this day, bride and bridegroom drink from the same cup to signify their covenant with one another. Mark writes, ‘So all of them drank from it.’”[ii] This Last Supper then, was a covenant meal of peace between Jesus and His disciples. No wonder Christ had “longed” to share this meal. For it was for the very purpose of establishing peace between God and humanity that He came.

Reflection: Imagine you are sitting at a table across from Jesus. You may find it helpful to actually sit at a table with a piece of bread and something to drink. With the bread in hand, ask yourself (in the presence of God), is there anything between us? If you become aware of something, confess it to God and ask for His forgiveness. Are you able to receive His forgiveness? Is there an area of your life where you find it difficult to accept His love and forgiveness? Remember that it is with-bread (cumpanis) that we are reminded of our companionship with God through Christ. Thank Christ for the covenant that He sacrificially made with us.

[i] Ray Vander Laan, Faith Lessons, Volume 11, 179.
[ii] Joseph A. Grassi, Jesus is Shalom: a vision of peace from the Gospels, 13-14.

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