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Eager to be at the table with His enemies - a reflection by Adrianne Thompson

It makes sense that since Jesus is the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” (Heb 1) that when He came on the public scene, there were a number of jaw-dropping moments. One of them is recorded in Luke 4, right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he went to the synagogue in Nazareth, scrolled to the part he was looking for and read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” He then sat down and with everyone’s eyes fixed on him he said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 

Mic drop.

We can’t even begin to properly imagine how shocking that moment was. How bold his claim. How provocative. How hopeful. Through the course of his three year ministry Jesus fulfilled those words again and again, giving hopeful, authoritative proofs of his Messianic claim.

Today, Thursday of Holy Week, we come to another utterly shocking moment about what "Jesus being the exact imprint" of God means, as Jesus continues to get clearer and clearer with his disciples about why He came and what He is about to do. 

In order for us to imagine how shocking, clarifying and illustrative the first “Lord’s Supper” was for the disciples, we have to get out of our cultural context a bit. As recorded in Luke, the meal they were sitting down to was some kind of Passover meal. The Passover was a required feast commemorating the miraculous exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Every year Jews traveled to Jerusalem to remember their 400 years of slavery, the way that God brought 10 plagues upon Egypt, and the way that during the final plague, God’s people were “passed over” because of a lamb’s blood on their door when the angel of death killed the first born son of each home. 

At this point God’s people had celebrated the Passover for 1,300 years. They know how it goes, and they know what it symbolizes. My kids have heard the words “On the night that Jesus was betrayed he took the cup” so many times that I have to elbow them from talking along with Pastor Matt during the Lord’s Supper. That’s kind of what the rituals around the Passover might have been like for the Jews.

So, Jesus as the presider of the meal gets up and the disciples expect to hear him say something like “this is the bread of our affliction. Our ancestors suffered in the wilderness so that we could be free.” But instead Jesus interrupts the flow and says “this is my body which is given for you.” 

[screeching tires]

“When Jesus says [the bread] is my body,” Tim Keller says “What he is saying is that this is the bread of my affliction. I am going to suffer to give you the ultimate freedom...freedom not just from political and economic oppression but from sin and death itself. It is my suffering that is going to be the ultimate liberation for you.”

Likewise, when Jesus picks up the cup they’re expecting certain words, but instead he is clear that He is offering them a new covenant. A new way. Only through the protection offered by Jesus’ sacrificed body, can God’s people escape slavery to sin and the wrath of God. Jesus is the ultimate liberty for God’s enslaved people. Indeed He is the Lamb whose blood takes away the sins of the world. The rich provocative symbolism would not have been lost on them.

As Jesus clarifies the deeper meaning of the Passover during dinner, you can imagine the stunned disciples sitting there trying to take it all in. It is almost like He repeats the line in Luke 4: Today what the Exodus was pointing to has been fulfilled in your hearing. Only in hindsight are they really able to understand, but it seems as though throughout Jesus’ ministry even into Thursday evening he is doing what he offers to the disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection: “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” 

*While all of this is amazing to me, builds my faith and causes me to feel wonder and joy, it can also feel a bit academic or like cerebral knowledge in some ways. So in closing I’d like to offer what has my heart alive and undone about the passage.

In Luke’s account we’re told: “And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” And then in a few short verses we’re told that Judas and Peter are at the table with him, both of whom are about to turn their backs on Jesus. In Mark’s account it says that Jesus knew that all of the disciples would fall away (Mk 14: 27).

I am undone by the combination of the Lord’s vulnerable affection and eagerness toward his disciples and his foreknowledge that they will turn their backs on him. Why wouldn’t he just keep his emotions to himself? Why show them so much desire, so much tender love and mercy? Why leave himself so unprotected from their rejection? 

As I think of Psalm 23 that we've been meditating on day and night, my soul feels achy and sorrowful and so full of hope and joy at the same time. Indeed God prepared a table before Jesus in the presence of His enemies that night. Every person at that Last Supper table was a natural enemy of God. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” 

So, yes, on Thursday of Holy Week God prepared a table before Jesus in the presence of His enemies. And He was eager to be there with them, just as He is eager to be with you.

Indeed that week Jesus’ head was anointed with oil, an oil to prepare his body for burial (Mark 14). Jesus' head was anointed with that oil so that I could have the oil of gladness instead of mourning (Isaiah 61:3). 

Indeed His cup overflows. That night He knew the cup He would drink would be overflowing with the wrath and judgment of God. He drank it to the dregs so that I could have the cup of salvation.

Revelation 7:14-18 offers a beautiful picture of the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 23: "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eye."

In closing, brothers and sisters, one tiny personal and practical word. We’re all tempted to give up on this family from time to time. Most weeks I want to hide in my house, terrified of the vulnerability and exposure I feel for putting myself out there. I'm terrified I'll fail. I’m terrified you’ll hurt me, betray me, talk about me behind my back, roll your eyes. I want to protect myself by keeping distance, yes way more than six feet. I want to protect myself by pulling back. Hiding. Running. I feel ashamed at my failures.

What is going to keep us connected as a nurturing family is to truly behold Jesus eagerly desiring to be at the table with people who treated Him as enemies. If I knew how people would harm me, in my flesh I would pull away. But with full knowledge that they would fail Him, Jesus pursued them anyway. He served them even though they would abandon him. He can show us the way. We don’t have to hide and run in self-preservation or shame, we can follow Him trusting that His ways are right. He can help us in our weakness and fears.

See from his head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Hallelujah what a Savior.


Hunter and Adrianne and their four kids have been a part of Northside Church for 8 years. She feels like the luckiest person in the world to get to be on the worship team. She loves talking about the Bible with women and walking with people closely as together they grow in being known by God.

Comments

  1. I'm from outside your worship community...yet inside your church family, especially as I love Adrianne like a daughter. :). I felt moved, challenged, inspired and hopeful in reading this blog post. I have been meditating similarly lately on being at a table, prepared by the Lord, in the presence of my enemies. I don't feel eager about it. I don't feel equipped or worthy, either. But! But Jesus said (in John 16) that it was to our advantage that He go away, because then God would send a Helper--the Holy Spirit. When I consider that I am not at the table alone, that I am with all of the Jesus-lovers and the Helper, then my attitude changes. The essential work was finished by Jesus on the cross and in His resurrection. We're all at the table just to be in conversation with the enemies, to learn to love them and to tell them the good news of love that includes them. When I think of it that way, and remember the Helper, I begin to share Jesus' eagerness. Thanks for the post, Adrianne!

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  2. Thank you for teaching and encouraging us. I'm grateful for how the love of our suffering Savior enables you to step out and be vulnerable in ways that are edifying to the body of Christ.

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