Lenten Devotions 2015: Revisiting the past, hoping for the future.

8598545928_986be6e792_zThe Jewish religious authorities, Sadducees, and Pharisees of Jesus’ time often accused him of breaking away from the orthodox Jewish teachings and practices. He was hated for creating trouble or confusing people, because of his unorthodox approach to the Mosaic Law, to the extent that fearing the consequences of his actions, Jews had him crucified. Nevertheless, the night before his crucifixion, Jesus Christ celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem with his disciples in a very traditional manner. No, he did not even leave it for the last moment, but had it planned in advance with the help of his friends and disciples (Matthew 26: 17-19).

Jesus observed the Passover because he fully believed in the past and also in the hope it provided for the future. However, unlike many Jewish authorities, he refused to be stuck in the past and its traditions. Jesus knew that the Passover was significant not only for its historicity but also for what it promised for the future of the people of God. The Passover not only reminded people who they were and where they had come from but also filled them with the hope of a coming Messiah who would establish God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Therefore, in that “Upper Room” in Jerusalem, Jesus kept the Passover for remembering the slavery and the sufferings of the Israelites and the salvific story of the Exodus. Jesus remembered with his disciples the wanderings, failures, and the victories of his people in the past and the amazing story of holding onto the hope of their own home in the peaceful Promised Land. On the other hand, as was Jesus’ custom, he made a significant departure from the traditional Passover meal. Jesus took the ritual bread, dedicated it and declared it as his own body. Jesus also took the traditional cup of wine, which promised the return of the Prophet Elijah, and declared it as his own blood that signifies forgiveness and the ultimate promise of his own return along with the hope of His Kingdom.

“While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the[d] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26: 26-29 NRSV).

Notice that after the Passover meal, Jesus left the house with his disciples in a symbolic action as most Jews would leave Jerusalem where they had come to observe the Passover. Similarly, you and I, who are abundantly fed by the Lord’s life, must leave the place of our fellowships, our conveniences, our comforts, and go out to do what Jesus has taught us in his last Passover observance. Let us go out to love and serve our fellow believers even to the extent of kneeling before them and washing their dirty/smelly feet. Let us go out of our rituals and traditions that bind us and restrict us to the past; instead, let us look and work for the future, freedom, and hope that Christ brings by establishing His Kingdom. Amen.

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Lenten Reflections 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 38

Day 38, Thursday, April 4, 2012

Peter's Denial by Rembrandt, 1660. Jesus is sh...

Peter's Denial by Rembrandt, 1660. Jesus is shown in the upper right hand corner, his hands bound behind him, turning to look at Peter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Jesus was in Jerusalem in His last days during the festival of Passover for which Jews had gathered from around the world. The city was bustling with activities related to the Passover feast. Jesus, too, wanted to celebrate the Passover with His disciples. Therefore, He didn’t leave anything to chance, but planned in advance where He wanted to celebrate the Passover—an upper Room in Jerusalem, because it was difficult to find a suitable place in the city at this time (please read John 13:1-11). As Jesus gathered with His disciples in that upper room, John states, “It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jesus’ love for His disciples did not diminish over the years. His love was not dependent on circumstances or what these men would do to Him or after Him. In fact, He knew that one of them, Judas, is going to betray Him with thirty silver coins in just a couple of hours. He knew that one by one, they will all leave Him alone to be persecuted by the Jewish authorities. He knew that Peter was going to deny Him that very night. He knew about each one of them and their motives for following Him in the past years. And yet, the Bible says, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1) It was not a love to the end of the day or years, it was not even a love that lasted until “death do us apart.” Rather, it was Jesus’ genuine, divine, self-giving love, which He continued to shower upon them. He loved them so much that He expressed it by taking his garments off, picking up a basin and a towel, and stooping down like a slave to wash their smelly feet! Thus, He loved the Twelve to the point of being hurt and wounded by them.

 Jesus loves us all the same way, today. Whether we’re faithful to Him or not, whether our service to Him depends on our circumstances or not, Jesus still loves us and will continue to do so until the end. His love is eternal and will take us into eternity. Jesus loves us today even when we hurt him and bring His name into shame every day through our actions. There’s no true love than Jesus’ love for us to the point that He becomes vulnerable to be betrayed by the object of His love. No one ever said it better than C. S. Lewis:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket–safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is Hell” (The Four Loves, p. 169). Amen!