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Lenten Devotional: March 28, 2024

by LeighAnne Cheeseman


When we lived in Mississippi, our Small Group met every Tuesday night for dinner and Bible Study. For almost a decade, we gathered weekly around a kitchen table and shared a meal as we shared life. The week we moved, our Small Group—our closest friends in the world—hosted a dinner for us. It was one final time to sit around the table, alternating between laughter and tears as we reflected on our years together over one last meal.


At the Last Supper, Jesus shared one final meal with His closest friends. The event is retold in Matthew 26:20-30 (NIV):


20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?” 23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “You have said so.” 26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”


Maundy Thursday invites us to pause and reflect on Jesus’ Last Supper. I can imagine Jesus, sitting at a table, surrounded by His closest friends in the world. I wonder—was He able to laugh at shared jokes and memories, or was His heart too burdened, anticipating what the next hours would bring? Was He able to enjoy the company of His companions, or was He distracted by fear of the pain He would endure? Did He savor the bread and the wine, or did it turn to ash in His mouth?


The shadow of the cross covered that table. Jesus knew what awaited Him in just a few short hours’ time. He knew Judas, seated beside Him, would hand Him over to the authorities and religious leaders for a handful of silver. He knew Peter would deny Him. He knew He would die an excruciating death—a death designed by Rome to instill fear and maintain power over the masses, a death He did not deserve. He knew.


And still.


And still, He shared a table with the man who would betray Him. He sat at a table with a man who would deny Him three separate times. He sat at the table with sinners as He waited to go to the cross… for sinners.


Friends, Judas and Peter weren’t the only sinners at that table. As Jesus sat there, inevitably thinking about the cross, you and I were at the table with Him. You see, in those moments and hours as Jesus prepared for His death, He was surely thinking of us, across the ages, who He loved so much. As He prepared to face the pain, torture, and death of the cross, surely He remembered us, the sinners He came to save. And while He knew we would sin and rebel against Him, He still chose the cross. He still chose us.


If you attend Holy Week services in person at the church this weekend, I encourage you to take a moment and visit the Narthex. Make the time and space to reflect on our beautiful stained glass window featuring the Last Supper. Picture yourself there, sitting amongst Jesus’ closest friends in the world, and ask yourself:


  • What sins do I bring to the Holy Table?


  • Am I the Betrayer? The Denier? Am I following along with Jesus, but not sure if I believe yet that He is the Savior?


  • Do I see the shadow of my cross, the one I deserve to hang on and die from the weight of my sin?


Joy Harjo, the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, has a poem titled “Perhaps the World Ends Here.” One of the final stanzas reads, “At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.” At that Holy Table, there was surely joy but there was also sorrow. Suffering and remorse loomed nearby, foreshadowing the cross. However, the world did not end at that table. Instead, hope was prepared and salvation was served. And for that, we give thanks.


Dear Father God,

Prepare our hearts for reflection. Help us shed the pride that keeps us from fully experiencing the power of your love. Let us recognize and acknowledge that we are sinners, so we may more greatly understand the meaning of Easter.

Amen.

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