Meditations on Luke: Maundy Thursday

Luke 22:7-23

“Go and make preparation for us to eat the Passover.” (v. 8)

These words, straight from Jesus’ lips, have a haunting tone. Jesus is fully aware of what is about to happen. Nothing about our Lord’s passion is an accident, a mistake, or a coincidence; it is all part of the Father’s plan, and Jesus knows it. He goes into the events of this night knowing that he is about to eat his final meal with his disciples, and that afterward he will face betrayal, arrest, mockery, brutality, and death. And knowing all that, he tells his disciples to make preparations for the meal.

At one level, that seems odd. It feels like an exercise in futility. With the suffering and pain that await, why bother with formal preparations? Isn’t that a waste of effort and emotion? What difference will it make just a few hours from now?

Jesus is determined to follow his Father’s somber plan right down to the last detail. He won’t leave this meal to chance; the right preparations must be made. This meal is his final opportunity to remind his bewildered followers what it all means. This isn’t just any meal, after all. It’s the Passover, the celebration of the dramatic moment long ago when God acted to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Now, before the chaos ensues, Jesus wants to make sure we see the connection between that event and the events that are about to unfold. It isn’t some meaningless tragedy that awaits us; it is nothing less than God’s plan to save the world.

So Jesus takes some bread and gives it to his disciples and says, “Here, eat this. And do it in remembrance of my body, which I am about to give over for the life of this world.” He gives them some wine and says, “Here, drink this. And remember that it is the sign of the new covenant I am making with my own blood. Remember that the suffering and death that awaits me isn’t meaningless. Let this meal remind you that in and through this sacrifice, I am redeeming you.”

Could it be that the bread and wine Christians share at Communion still have the power to make holy the sufferings of this world? These symbols of our faith, which our Lord intentionally prepared for us, remind us that God doesn’t redeem us in spite of suffering; he redeems us through it. Today, suffering love is still no accident, no mistake, no coincidence; it is the power of God unto salvation. When we suffer with and for this world in the name of Jesus, we are showing forth the love of a God who is determined to redeem even this world that seems hell-bent on destroying itself.

The chaos, the betrayal, the pain, the violence—everything that Jesus experienced on that night is still with us. It’s in the bloodstained glass shards littering the streets of Brussels after the airport bombing, where officials are trying to identify the dead as I write. It’s in the abandoned buildings of a thousand cities where addicts are holed up in pursuit of their next fix. It’s in the hotel off the interstate where the human trafficking ring is housing its most recent victims. It’s in the oncology ward at the local hospital where patients are hooked up to a controlled poison in hopes that it will give them another shot at life. It’s in the living rooms of countless homes where marriages are quietly wasting away in a shroud of disappointment and failure. In short, Maundy Thursday happens anywhere people hurt, anywhere dreams disappear, anywhere our own hearts seem to betray us.

What do we have to offer to such a world? Not much, really; just the same thing our Lord offered us on that night long ago. Here is some bread. Here is some wine. Eat, drink, and remember the One whose suffering redeems ours.

Holy God, I marvel at your willingness to suffer for my sake. Help me to embrace the suffering in my life as the channel through which your healing love will flow.

This post originally appeared in Meditations on Luke: Daily Devotions from the Gentile Physician by Chris Cadenhead.

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