Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Sharing your table...

Matthew 26:17-30 : The passover meal!
17 Now on the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near. I will observe the Passover with my disciples at your house.” 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had instructed them, and they prepared the Passover. 20 When it was evening, he took his place at the table with the twelve. 21 And while they were eating he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” 22 They became greatly distressed and each one began to say to him, “Surely not I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus replied, “You have said it yourself.”

26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take, eat, this is my body.”27 And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, from now on I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

I've taught on the above scriptures many a time during my serving role in children's ministry. For those not totally aware of the history or meaning of these verses from the bible - it's explaining to us what occurred  during Jesus's last full encounter with all His disciples together - famously known as the 'last supper.' Jesus's final meal before He was to be crucified on the cross.
It's a huge part of the Easter story throughout modern day church and a time for us to understand the final hours of Jesus's life and the facts behind the story.
In these verses, Jesus has summoned His disciples (12 men He chose to spend much time with, mentor, build up and ultimately send out to build His church upon His departure of earth) to prepare a space for a meal together where He could prepare them for his impending capture.
Whenever I've taught this story, or simply read it at my own leisure, I've always read it from the angle of Jesus spending time with His most precious friends. That it was a special and intimate occasion. And that it was one of the 'lovely' parts of a story that soon became quite harrowing on many levels. And whilst I think I'm correct in thinking those things...the last couple of days I've been drawn to this scripture in a new sense.
The past couple of days I feel I've gained a new perspective into these verses...that a message so clearly written has only just reached these eyes.

I'm drawn to Jesus sharing the table with His betrayer.

If we look at verse 21, we see that whilst the meal was being consumed, Jesus changes, what I believe, was quite a light -hearted atmosphere amongst friends, by declaring the "truth" that one of these men was going to betray Him. The scriptures tell us in verse 22, that everyone became "very distressed" at this news. Picture the scene for a moment - 13 men - as close as brothers, who have witnessed and shared so much together, who love one another - especially Jesus, with all their hearts-sharing a meal, having banter, conversation and quality time together, hearing from the person they admire the most and have stepped away from their previous lifestyles to commit themselves too - hearing that one of them...around that table, would betray Him.
The bible tells us, that they weren't just a little bit sad at this revelation, they were VERY DISTRESSED. I imagine food being dropped back onto plates, looks of horror and upset on faces, and the wild, frantic questioning of "surely not me, Lord!"  

Who would want to betray their closest friend? 
Who would want to betray Jesus?

The scriptures go on to tell us in verse 25, that it was to be Judas who would be that person. And if you were to continue reading through Matthew chapter 26, you would read that indeed, Judas was the person to tell the guards where Jesus was - he led them to Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and revealed who Jesus was with a kiss to the cheek. The story that follows is of Jesus's arrest, torture and ultimately His death. 

Whilst it would be easy to judge poor old Judas, lets not forget he had a role already pre-destined to play in the story. He was needed so that we would see scriptures fulfilled and our eternal destinies changed forever. There is much more we could probably discuss about what he done - but right now I want to get to my main point of writing this post - the part where God has challenged me like never before...and I feel He wants me to encourage and challenge you with...

Who do you need to share your table with?

Because right there, back in the verses that spoke of the last supper, if we open our eyes, there's a beautiful example laid out for each of us to rise up to.
Jesus knew Judas was going to betray Him - He always knew. He was God in human form - He knew. Whilst my human reaction would be to pull Judas up on the fact I had entrusted him with being in my life, had mentored him, encouraged him and made time for him-whilst every ounce of me would want to punch him on the nose for betraying my trust and friendship and to tell him to "jog on" from thinking he would spend time at my last meal - well Jesus didn't. He could of. After-all, He was God in human form - He could do anything He wanted. But He didn't.
Instead He loved Judas, He invited Him around His table, He ate with Him, He shared with Him, He prepared Him. Yes, He made Judas aware of what was going to happen, which must have been the most awkward, embarrassing and traumatic words Judas would have wanted to hear...but Jesus then went on to share communion with his friend. 

Jesus loved His betrayer!

One thing I never try to do is belittle people's circumstance. Believe me, I have endured enough of those funny old things myself to know how incredibly difficult it is to overcome hurt. Being betrayed by anyone, but especially someone you love, have shared life with, made yourself vulnerable too and have trusted, is one of the most heart-wrenchingly traumatic experiences to go through. Forgiveness is a long winded journey. It can take a life-time to move on from past hurts.
But what about this....what about following the example of the One person who will never let you down, who loves you and only wants the best for you. 

What would it look like for us to share our table -whatever that table may look like - with someone we might not necessarily feel like doing it with?

This is what God's challenging me with right now. I don't quite know why...and I don't yet know who this person/s could be...but what I do know is when God speaks to us about something, we are called and instructed to trust Him and follow His lead...and example. 
I don't know your situation necessarily, but I encourage you today, right here, on this chilly January evening, that God does. Whether you know Him in your life or not...He knows you my friend. He wants the best from you. My goodness...He was betrayed yet shared His table so you and I could experience His eternal love in our lives. That's kinda a big deal I'd say.

No-one ever said it would be easy...this thing called life...but it needn't be any harder either...we have a choice. And that choice is to live being the best we can be. Whilst we can't control other peoples actions and behaviours, we can control ours. 

Let your actions and behaviours be a blessing and a breakthrough - whatever your table looks like - with whoever you have around it with you!

Be blessed x

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