I’ve always liked Thursdays. I’m not quite sure why, though I guess I could throw a few theories out there. Mostly, I have really just loved Thursday evenings.
Some of it may have had to do with the TV shows that were on those nights when I was growing up. Tuning into NBC on Thursday evening was a real treat back then.
Four shows in a row—Cosby, Family Ties, Cheers, and Night Court. You couldn’t beat that for television, and you still can’t to this day.
What’s more, Thursday night is always on the cusp of the weekend. Fridays at school were always a little more enjoyable than the other days.
They seemed to fly by and, before you knew it, the weekend was here. Friday nights were always packed with activities, and Saturdays were fun for the entire day.
Sundays were difficult for me, because throughout the day loomed the awful truth—school was returning the next day.
I guess you could say that, in a sense, Thursday was better than the weekend. There was nothing to anticipate once you were living in the weekend.
You were surrounded by whatever good stuff you were thinking about throughout the week. But on Thursday night? There was incredible anticipation.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase: The anticipation of something is actually better than the thing itself. Well, in some instances, it’s true.
Thursdays seemed more alive because there was something significant on the horizon. I really do think that anticipation has a greater impact.
And that stands true, whether the thing we anticipate is good or bad. You know how it is. Your fear or worry over something is often worse than that thing itself.
And that’s what makes this particular Thursday so interesting, especially in light of our passage for the evening.
Within this passage, Jesus makes an interesting statement: I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
Jesus “eagerly desires”. There is certainly an air of anticipation in that statement. In this case, however, the anticipation differs from any we have experienced.
In one way, Jesus is about to do something no other human would ever (or could ever) do. He was about to bear the burden of the sin of the world.
Secondly, the significant thing that Jesus anticipated most certainly did match in magnitude His level of anticipation.
Yes, on that fateful Thursday night, Jesus gathered for one last meal with His disciples. The account we will read is found in the 22nd chapter of Luke.
Let’s take a look at what transpired that evening. I’ll begin our reading with verse 7, reading through verse 15. (Read Luke 22:7-16.)
There’s this popular literary device known as foreshadowing. This particular chapter of scripture is rife with it.
The previous verses, 5 and 6, tell of Judas looking for his opportunity, when no crowd was present, to betray Jesus and hand Him over to the religious leaders.
If you were reading this account for the first time, you would sense something brewing. You would hear ominous music in the background as you read on.
And then comes the time for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, or the Passover Feast.
This is perhaps the most famous and treasured of days for Jews. The people shared in a commemorative meal, hearkening back to their days in slavery in Egypt.
The meal was to be made with unleavened bread because it was to be eaten in haste.
There was no time for delay. Deliverance was coming and they had need to be ready for it. Bitter herbs were served with the meal, so that the people might remember the bitterness of their oppression. The main course of the meal was lamb.
But, in addition to eating the lamb, they were commanded to paint its blood on the doorposts of their houses. God’s angel was coming to visit Egypt.
He would slaughter the firstborn of everyone in Egypt, unless he saw the blood on the doorposts of the house. The Jews were delivered from death by the blood.
After the horrific event, Pharaoh let God’s people go. God instituted a memorial celebration, so that His deliverance would be remembered through the generations.
So Jesus, who came to fulfill the Law rather than to do away with it, planned on taking part in this celebration with His disciples.
He gave two of His followers, Peter and John, an order to go get the meal ready.
Not only were they told to prepare the meal, but they were also told where to prepare it. They would meet a man, carrying a water jug, within the city.
They were to inquire about a room for the Passover meal, and he would provide one. Lo and behold, it happened just as Jesus said.
Let it be known that, though things seemed to be spiraling out of control behind the scenes, Jesus was still very much in control of what was happening.
This upcoming meal would be one filled with mystery and uncertainty. Perhaps Jesus was letting His men know that, in the midst of it, His hand was on the wheel.
And yet, it all seems a little bit strange. Why would Jesus be so eager to eat this meal? To be sure, there’s the element of tradition.
There’s also the significance of what the meal stands for—the mighty power of God in delivering His people. This would certainly be near and dear to Jesus’ own heart.
After all, He was there. He, being God the Son, has been around from the beginning.
I guess it’s just the end of that sentence that I find so curious. I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
Jesus knows what’s around the corner. You and I, if we have some familiarity with the gospels, know what’s around the corner
The disciples, of course, know nothing. But Jesus, on the very night He will knowingly be betrayed, is eagerly desiring this meal.
Your first thought might be something along the lines of, “Who could eat at a time like this?” I suppose some of us eat when we are nervous or afraid.
But imagine what must have been going through the mind of our savior on this very night. He said as much—He knows that suffering is on the way.
And this is no ordinary suffering. He is preparing to endure physical brutality, the likes of which we’ve never seen—the likes of which we will mention tomorrow.
What’s more, there’s also the emotional suffering of betrayal, abandonment by friends, and saying goodbye to His own dear mother.
And then there’s the spiritual suffering. We mentioned abandonment by His friends. What about the fact that Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
What about the intensity of bearing the burden of the entire world’s sin and guilt?
So, perhaps, we should consider that it isn’t the food that Jesus is anticipating. Think about it like this.
One of the highlights of my week is my lunch date with my wife, Kelley. While we each have our preferences of where we eat, the food at the lunch isn’t a big concern.
I’m not overly focused on the actual meal. We could be eating just about anywhere, eating just about anything—I said just about, mind you.
What matters most is the company. What matters most is what happens at that table—the conversation and relationship development between my wife and me.
Perhaps this is what Jesus anticipates as He looks forward to this meal. He will be dining with friends. Think about His relationship with these 12 men.
It’s probably difficult to quantify or fully describe or understand it. For the better part of three years, these men spend an inordinate amount of time together.
They lived together. They ate together. They traveled together. They were most certainly friends. They knew each other’s tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses.
Jesus, being fully human, likely longed to share one last hour together before, quite literally, all hell broke loose.
In addition to the company, I’m sure Jesus was anticipating the conversation. Look at the most famous part of their conversation, beginning with verse 17.
(Read Luke 22:17-22.) Do you see what Jesus is doing here?
First of all, take note of the “new covenant” that Jesus mentions. What He’s doing here is establishing a new institution or tradition.
At the Passover, where people commemorate and remember God’s deliverance, Jesus is commanding His followers to commemorate and remember what He is about to do. The old has passed away.
That’s not to say that there’s something wrong with the Passover. It’s just that there’s a greater deliverance at hand here in the person of Jesus.
Jesus eagerly desires to teach His disciples this new ordinance. That’s why He is so looking forward to this meal. These 12 are about to become vessels of God’s grace.
In turn, they will pass that along to others, throughout the generations, until the whole world is filled with the message of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ.
In teaching them this practice, Jesus is also letting them know why He is about to suffer the things He is about to suffer.
In the gospel of Matthew, when he mentions the cup—which is the blood of the new covenant—he states that the blood is “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”. The Passover celebrates deliverance from physical bondage in Egypt.
The Lord’s Supper celebrates deliverance form spiritual bondage to sin.
In reality, Jesus sits at a table filled with people who need deliverance. Of course, His betrayer joins Him at this table.
But also at this table are doubters. Weak-willed men. Fearful men. Violent men. Dishonest men. Men who value rules and social standing over actual people.
Men who speak without thinking. Men who hurt each other. Prideful men. And I’m sure the list could go on and on.
But that’s what Jesus was doing on this Thursday night. He was setting up a lasting tradition for us to remember the deliverance from sin that only He can provide.
Justice had to be served. Humanity had to pay the price for its sin. And, in the fully human Jesus, humanity did pay the price. Sin was fully and completely punished.
We’ll talk more about that tomorrow night. For tonight, you need only know about the body and the blood.
His body was broken for your sins and mine. His blood was shed—poured out, if you will—for your sins and mine.
And so, tonight, we come to the Lord’s Table to follow Jesus’ command and remember the deliverance He provides.
We will do things a little bit differently tonight. You see the table set before you.
You also see the smaller tables, where the Lord’s Supper elements are. In a moment, I will pray. And then I will ask you to come up, when you are ready.
Once up here, we ask that you do two things. First, as Jesus commanded, partake of the Lord’s Supper, as we normally do.
But then, I ask that you come to the table setting here before me. Take a look at it—observe the struggles that may well have been present at that table on that Thursday night so many years ago.
Then, take one of the blank cards you will find on that table. We are asking, tonight, that you might right your own personal struggles on that card.
Take all the time you need. Go back to your pew and sit and ponder, if you like. Then, when you have finished praying and meditating, please leave quietly through the main entrance.
You will notice two boxes located by those doors. Place your card with your struggles on it into the box. No one will ever look at it.
It’s between you and the Lord. It’s also meant to symbolize the burden of your sin being cast upon Jesus.
Once done with that, please leave in silence. We ask that there be no talking until you have left the building. We also ask that you leave in anticipation.
We know what will happen tomorrow night. It will be tragic. It will be necessary. In its own strange way, it will be beautiful. And we look forward to worshipping together tomorrow night. Would you pray with me?
No need to come all at once. For now, continue praying. When you are ready, come partake of the Lord’s Supper and then visit the main table with the index cards. God bless …