Table Talk (The Last Supper)

Hal Missourie Warheim

From Book "5 BEST SERMONS"

In the lives and ministries of Jesus Christ and his band of disciples, the Last Supper was celebrated at the strategic point in the drama where things started to go badly and were soon to get a hell of a lot worse. When they met together that night in the guest room of one of the houses of Jerusalem, they were climaxing a three year ministry of teaching and healing that had become too popular, too prophetic and, therefore, terrifically dangerous. All over Palestine, from the shores of Galilee and the Samaritan towns and villages to the metropolis of Jerusalem, the Nazarene and his friends had won the hearts of the people but alienated the power elites. By now Jesus had an unpublished price on his head set by those who could manipulate life and death to keep the status quo. The machinery behind the scenes had already begun to turn and was soon to produce a clandestine arrest, a kangaroo trail, and a blood splattered cross. This was pretty much par for the course in Judea or in any other society Where prophets arose to challenge vested interests and idolatrous values. Jesus and his disciples were not na´ve about the fate of the people who Follow God in a ungod-like world, optimistic though they were about the Triumph of their mission. Jesus had come to Jerusalem thoroughly familiar With this city's reputation as a murderer of the prophets, and even the most Unaware member of his band must have sensed the high probability of Trouble. Indeed, Jesus had come to Jerusalem not because he was ambitious to preach to a big city church, but because this holiest of all places was also the citadel of everything that holds out against the invasion of God's kingdom. Jesus had come here with his friends to struggle for God against all unrighteousness. But, like so many Christians prophets in our own times, while they had come upon the scene in triumph, they were soon to know the bitterness of defeat. By the time Jesus and the others assembled around the table that night, The lines of battle had been clearly drawn. Depending on which side of Those lines one stood, The Temple of Jerusalem had been cleansed or violated; The Mosaic Law of the Sabbath had been broken or fulfilled; Israel was about to inherit the kingdom of heaven or in danger of losing It's religious heritage; The Galilean was a blaspheming heretic or the Son of God. As this storm of conflict for the soul of a nation gathered in Jerusalem, Jesus Christ gathered his disciples in an upper room. Contrary to the belief of many American Christians as evidenced in their Cultic behavior, what Jesus did with his friends up there around the table at This crucial point in the struggle was not to hold the first church dinner or To organize a bowling league. Christ gathered his friends around that table for A battle-briefing to prepare them for his own crucifixion and theirs. This Prophet of Prophets knew how the warfare would go. He told them That this mission would cost him his life. He anticipated the suffering, the Humiliation and death. In these predictions, Jesus was not clairvoyant; he Simply perceived as realistically as anyone in history the radical, resistant strength of evil in the world, which would kill anyone one who is determined to oppose it. Over the falsely optimistic protest of his followers who didn't want to believe it, he told them that he would be torn from their midst, that Jerusalem would have yet another victim, and that they who had built their hopes and centered their lives on him would know what it means to be disillusioned, dejected, and alone. Jesus Christ was aware also of the mettle of those men who stood with him In the struggle. "One of you will betray me", he said. "Which one of us Lord?" they questioned, "Is it I?" "Indeed, when the fat is in the fire, every last one of you will lose his nerve and give up the fight for it is written, 'I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' " "No, not I, Lord," they said, "I can believe it of the others, but, even if I must die with you, I'll be faithful to the end." "O, truly, I must say to you, before this thing is over, you will have prostituted everything I stand for seventy times seven. And, then, when Right is on the cross and Love is in the tomb, you will realize just what you have done and who you really are, and your hearts will be hot with shame and your wretchedness from grief will heed no bounds." But Jesus also believed that God is sovereign and holy. Against Righteousness, evil could not have the final say. His own death would be The strategy of victory and, despite their timidity and weakness, his Friends would be called again to follow him all the way. In continuing Christ's warfare against the forces of evil, each one of them would have his own cross. As Jerusalem had hated him, the world would hate them. They would be stoned by mobs and rejected by their friends, kicked out Of the churches and dragged before the courts. For the rest of their lives, Whenever they were faithful, they would be in trouble, suffering the hell Of fighting for heaven in a world at war with its God. In this manner Christ briefed his disciples for the struggle as they ate their last meal together: Evil will tear me from your midst, and you will be disillusioned and alone. You will all betray me and suffer the grief of guilt. You must take up your cross and follow me to victory by way Of Calvary. This is not the kind of speech that troops like to hear before going into Combat even if they know the war is won. It is not the sort of message that Is likely to become gospel for any typical American church. But, in every Jerusalem of the world, there is perhaps, a tableful of people who will care Enough about right and truth and love to want to follow in the way of Jesus Christ. For these, as for the first disciples, weak and fearful though They may have be, Jesus Christ has something more to say, namely: When the struggle is going badly and promises only to get worse, "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you." When you are broken-hearted and drowning in your guilt, "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you." When you have been obedient and are nailed to the cross, "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you." These words proved to be no empty promise. Jesus was not just whistling in the dark. After their master's death, the disciples' dreams came crashing down. Sealed within his tomb were all their dreams and hopes. Everything they had worked for, believed in, lay in shambles and defeat. And then he came to them! While retreating down the Emmaus Road, hiding out behind locked Doors, going back to their nets and boats, Jesus Christ, the risen, victorious Son of God came to them. And by his presence these people who were dead were raised to new life. He breathed on them and their spirits felt fresh power. He spoke to them and their faint hearts lost their fears. He walked with them and their guilt was salved with peace. He broke bread with them and gave them of his life to eat. He filled their lives with song, and then led them back to die. For nearly twenty centuries of continual warfare against the forces of Evil and unrighteousness, these have been the experiences of the men and Women who follow in the way of Jesus the Christ. By the wisdom of God it has been our destiny to be called up for service at a time in America and in the world when things are going badly and threaten to get a hell of a lot worse. In such an age, we have been summoned to be warriors of God and not sextons of a fort. Therefore , as we gather about this table to be prepared and sustained for the struggles ahead, let us all be clear about what to expect. There will be countless crucifixions of all that is right and good and true. And, for anyone who deeply cares about these things of God, there will be bitter disappointments and the anguish of despair. There will be, also, betrayal of these things of God among us and within Each of us. And anyone who serves the Christ in earnest will feel the Throbbing wounds of shame. Furthermore, if and when we're faithful and determined in what we do, we Are bound to get ourselves in trouble, and a hostile world will run us through. But, in all these things--despair and guilt, persecution and peril and sword --shall we be separated from the victorious God-in-Christ? No! "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you." And this, as many of us know, is not empty promise. By Christ's presence, though we are dead, we will raise to new life. He will breathe on us and our spirits will feel fresh power. He will speak to us and our hearts will lose their fears. He will walk with us and our guilt will be salved with peace. He will break bread with us and give us of his life to eat. He will fill our Lives with song and lead us forth to die. And because God is sovereign and holy, against righteousness and evil Will not have the final say. The giving up our lives in God's service Will be the strategy of victory, and "in all these things, we will be more Than conquerors thought God who loves us."

Harper Collins Publishers

 
      


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