For You

For You

Maundy Thursday
Mark 14:22-42

It was a Passover meal, shared in an Upper Room – a meal remembering how God had delivered Israel out of slavery in Egypt. It was a meal like every other Passover meal they’d ever eaten… until it wasn’t. Jesus, their teacher and friend, took a loaf of bread, blessed it, and gave it to them and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them. “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many.” This was definitely off-script! This was not like any other Passover meal they had ever eaten.

Imagine how these words must have sounded to them: my body; my blood; for you. Jesus was right there with them, very much alive. Sure, he had said things about how he was going to die. But what could he possibly mean by saying that the bread they were sharing was his body and the cup they were drinking was his blood? They must have felt confused, and maybe afraid.

There is a saying that has been popular for a number of years (perhaps 20 or so): Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood in reverse. It seems to me that in that moment, Jesus’ disciples probably had no idea what he meant. After he died, after he rose and ascended into heaven, they began to understand, at least in part, what he meant. Living forward, but understanding in reverse. As the young church looked back on Jesus’ words, and as they ate this new meal together, their understanding gradually grew.

We still don’t fully understand this meal centuries later. And there are differences between denominations in terms of its meaning and in terms of what happens in the meal.

The most important thing about this meal is that it, like Jesus’ death on the cross, is Jesus’ gift to us. Every time we eat this meal, we proclaim that, “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.”

In this meal, Christ comes to us in ordinary elements – bread and wine – and fills us with his presence, giving us nourishment and strength for our journey.

Right after they shared this strange new Passover meal together, and had sung a hymn, they went to the Mount of Olives together… Jesus and the eleven went, that is, since Judas had already left. Jesus said to the eleven, “You will all become deserters.” Peter immediately said, “Even though all become deserters, I will not!” Jesus then tells Peter that he will deny Jesus three times before the cock crows twice, and Peter replies, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” All of them said the same.

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” These words of Jesus actually come a few verses later, after he has three times returned from agonizing prayer only to find his friends asleep. But they fit here, too. Peter and the others had a strong willingness to stand by Jesus and to not deny him. But when it came time to do so, they all denied and deserted him.

Denied, ran away, slept when he had asked them to stay awake… these followers of Jesus could not follow through on their promise to stay by Jesus’ side.

It’s tempting to think that we would have done better. But would we? Would we, really? Ponder in your meditations and prayers over the next few days whether you would have stood by Jesus to the point of your own death; ponder whether you have ever denied him or run away from a chance to speak of him.

The disciples, the early Church, the Church through the ages, and we ourselves struggle to be faithful followers. We fear consequences and so remain silent. We look the other way when the Spirit of Jesus is calling us to act against injustice and hatred.

Jesus knew that his disciples would scatter. And he loved them and fed them anyway. Jesus knows that we will fall away and will not always share and act on the faith that is in us. But he loves us and feeds us anyway.

I read a poem this week credited to someone whose social media name is “the woman by the well,” and I would like to read it as a meditation to close this sermon. If you are comfortable doing so, please close your eyes.

“For You” was/is a sermon preached by Pastor Pam Schaefer Dawson in conjunction with our worship gathering on Maundy Thursday — March 28, 2024.  The text upon which it was/is based is Mark 14:22-42.  To access a copy of the evening’s worship bulletin, click here: Worship Order 20240328