"14When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19Then he took a loaf of 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.” 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this." - Luke 22:14-23
We begin this week at the table with Jesus, and in it we can hear an assurance and a caution.
The assurance comes as Jesus gathers the twelve around the table for a shared meal and one more opportunity to encourage, teach, and prepare them as disciples. "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer," Jesus tells them. His eagerness displays Christ's desire to spend time with us as good friends spend time: sharing burdens and drawing upon one another for strength; laying out what is on our hearts; inviting our friends to be in prayer for us as we look forward to what is ahead.
Daily prayer presents us with this same opportunity. Although we were not there for that Passover feast, God's promise is that fellowship with Jesus is still feasible and available. Drawing near to God through prayer and by quieting our minds for thirty minutes or so allows us to experience God's friendship and consolation. And in this space, we can find Jesus' willingness to continue to teach us and give himself to us for our healing and nourishment. In this space, Jesus invites us to share with him the things we see coming before us, asking God to give us peace where we might be anxious, clarity and passion for our work, and courage to love boldly. In this space, Jesus also begins to reveal God's will to us - plans that may go beyond our own preconceived notions or expectations and that may stretch our faith.
The assurance is that Jesus really does enjoy spending time with you; he appreciates hearing what is on your mind or what weighs heavy on your heart; and he is interested in helping you get a better sense of God's purposes. More than that, the assurance is that Jesus is interested in providing the things we need on a daily basis and for our salvation.
The caution comes at the end of the meal in Jesus' words regarding Judas Iscariot. It is important to remember that Judas was at the table with Jesus. And, yet, something within him kept him from remaining in fellowship with Jesus. Whose to say what was going on within Judas at this moment, but it does seem that part of Judas' struggle was a loss of hope and faith in God's plans (and ultimately God's love). Feeling no longer confident in what God was doing in Jesus, Judas began to feel it was important to take matters into his own hands. Judas' doubt or anxiety, in other words, led him away from Jesus, and - ultimately - caused him to experience extreme heartache.
So often our own troubles begin at the point where we grow uncertain and anxious. In our weaker moments, we lose faith in God's power to be God, or we lose hope in God's ability to overcome the overwhelming forces we see mounting around us. So, in our desire to do something, we attempt to take control of the situation, just as Judas did when Jesus' life seemed in danger.
The caution is what results when we go down this path of anxious activity. In our attempt to make things better on our own, we often find our plans coming undone before us. And, instead of our fears being eliminated, we find they are multiplied since we are now moving away from God who casts out all fear.
So let us pray for God's grace that we might remain with Jesus. And may we find God's peace overcoming our own anxieties and fears as we come back to the table with him.