Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Privilege of Serving

James H. Buford joked that he was presiding over his “last supper” Monday night (March 11, 2013) when the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis hosted its 95th annual dinner meeting – the last with Buford as president. The overflow crowd of 1,200 chuckled at the biblical reference. There was no thought of Buford elevating himself by comparison to Jesus Christ. In fact, Buford clearly was humbled by his own legacy (28 years) of service. He first became overcome with emotion while thanking his staff for their hard work and dedication.1 Our lesson this week is a study of the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus shared with His disciples in the closing days of His earthly ministry. This lesson is the first of a six-part study under Unit II, Resurrection Hope, for the Easter season. The text is recorded at Luke 22:14-30. The devotional reading is recorded at 1 Corinthians 10:14-22.

It was almost time for The Feast of Unleavened Bread when the period began with the Passover and extended for seven (7) more days during which no leavened bread was eaten.2 The Passover was held on the fourteenth of the month Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year. The seven (7) days were from the fifteenth through the twenty-first of said month. On the day of unleavened bread, all leavened bread would be put away from the Jewish homes (prior to the fourteenth of the month). The Passover was to be sacrificed. Luke 22: 1, 7

Jesus made ready for celebrating His last Passover meal. He sent Peter and John into Jerusalem with instructions to locate a man carrying a pitcher of water. This would be highly unusual in the eastern culture as it was ordinarily the women who carried the pitchers of water. The Lord told the disciples to ask for guest chambers. He knew the man would lead them to more than guest chambers. They received a large, furnished upper room to make ready for their Passover. Luke 22:8-13

‘And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”’ Luke 22:14-16 The Lord knew the origin and importance of the Passover. Ex 12:15-27 It was implemented by God in the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage. They were to keep it as an ordinance unto Him annually. When the hour came to begin the celebration, the Lord Jesus sat with the twelve apostles to keep the feast for the last time. He knew the heart of Judas, who had sought to betray Him (vs. 4-6), and yet the betrayal had not been made known publicly. He continued to include Judas with the other apostles as He dined and welcomed the Passover. Jesus knew He was about to suffer for His Father’s glory. He held an earnest, passionate desire to eat of the Passover Supper with the apostles before He suffered. He was about to leave, and they needed to be prepared. Jesus turned the ceremonial meal into a sacred altar upon which He would become a sacrifice for the new life in God’s kingdom. This would give all who believed upon Him the opportunity to eternal life and access to His Father. Jesus’ willingness to suffer gave Him a distinction of self-giving service to God’s kingdom that none of His disciples had anticipated. He had become the Passover Lamb.

‘And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.”’ Luke 22:17-18 Jesus picked up a cup and blessed its contents. The cup was not the cup used during sacrament but was the cup ordinarily used before or during the Passover meal. After He gave thanks He passed the cup from one to another until it came to the last apostle. Then He reminded them once again that He would not drink of the fruit of the vine again until His Millennial Reign. Notice that Jesus took on the role of server during the meal. The description of the Passover meal ends at verse 18.

‘And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.”’ Luke 22:19-20 In these verses we see Jesus’ reinterpretation of the Passover into the Lord’s Supper. This was the sacrament. First, the bread is symbolic of Jesus’ body which would shortly be given for you. Next, Jesus offered the cup which was symbolic of His blood to be shed on Calvary. It was representative of a new covenant between God and humankind. They were told to take of His body and blood. And it has been taught since that ‘…as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.’ 1 Cor 11:26-27 We are to take the Lord’s Supper very serious. ‘The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?...Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils.’ 1 Cor 10:17, 21

‘”But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table. And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!” And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.’ Luke 22:21-23 Here we have the beginning of the discussions after the Passover meal and the Lord’s Supper. Jesus reveals that He is aware that one among Him will betray Him. His words were similar to those stated by King David in Psalm 41:9, ‘Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.’ Christ foretells that Judas has betrayed him, even though it was part of God’s divine plan. However, Christ threatens the traitor. Neither the patience of the saints under the sufferings nor the counsel of God concerning their sufferings will be any excuse for their having any hand in their sufferings or persecutions. The Son of Man will depart as determined by God. He goes to the place to be betrayed and be delivered to counsel. Christ was not driven to his sufferings. The betrayer will be held responsible for his act of betrayal despite the fact it was part of the divine plan. The disciples were frightened among themselves. Christ had stated that one amongst them had betrayed Him but had not identified which apostle. They were in a state of suspicion, surprise, and even self-distrust. The apostles did not know which of them would do such an evil thing. They inquired which of them could do such.

‘And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.”’ Luke 22:24-25 The discussion among the disciples soon became an argument among them. Jesus found them disputing about positions of greatness in the kingdom. They were just discussing the awful betrayal of their Lord, sign of humility. Now they were discussing “which of them should be accounted the greatest”, a sign of pride. Jesus was still at the table and, as their ever-loving Teacher, class was in session. He lovingly explained how there are rulers and wealthy people who affect world affairs and exercise their control over the Gentiles, gaining a reputation for themselves through their public acts of generosity. They are called benefactors.

‘”But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.”’ Luke 22:26-27 Jesus called his disciples to be different from the benefactors. He explained to the apostles that His kingdom would make a difference in service. Those who would be great would be as the youth. They would not expect titles, powers, and offices of pomp in His kingdom. The greats in His kingdom should stoop in lowly service to others. They would be humble as taught by Jesus, the Master Servant. On one occasion He took a towel, girded Himself after the manner of a servant, and washed the disciples’ feet to teach them how to serve and what their feelings toward each other should be. John 13:4-17

‘”Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”’ Luke 22:28-30 The Lord commended the apostles for remaining with Him in His temptations. He knew they would flee as soon as He began to go through His suffering. They had theologically misunderstood both the implications and meaning of His Passover meal and The Lord’s Supper – as it related to Jesus’ life as a willing sacrifice for God’s kingdom. However, they loved Him and had/would endure(d) much for the privilege of serving Him in His Name. For that Christ, therefore, had no problem passing on to them His kingdom authority, just as it had been passed to Him by His Father in heaven. They would use this authority to continue the work of building the church after His death. Their service would be rewarded.

When we partake of the Lord’s Supper we must recognize its significance and what it cost Jesus. Remember Him always and be inspired in love, unity, and service. In thanks for what Christ did in fulfillment of the divine plan for us, let us pray, ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.’ Rom 15:13 Let the Church say Amen.


Written by Deborah C Davis

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