On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the followers came to Jesus. They said, "Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover meal?"
Jesus answered, "Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, 'The Teacher says: The chosen time is near. I will have the Passover with my followers at your house.' " The followers did what Jesus told them to do, and they prepared the Passover meal.
In the evening Jesus was sitting at the table with his followers. . . .
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread and thanked God for it and broke it. Then he gave it to his followers and said, "Take this bread and eat it, this is my body,"
Then Jesus took a cup and thanked God for it and gave it to the followers. He said, "Everyone of you drink this. This is my blood. which is the new agreement that God makes with his people. This blood is poured out for many to forgive their sins. I tell you this: I will not drink of this fruit of the vine again until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
Matthew 16:17-20, 26-30
When you meet Matthew's account of the Last Supper, one incredible truth surfaces. Jesus is the person behind it all. It was Jesus who selected the place, designated the time, and set the meal in order.
And at the Supper, Jesus is not a guest, but the host. The subject of the verbs is the message of the event: "he took. . .he blessed. . .he broke. . .he gave. . .".
And, at the Supper, Jesus is not the served, but the servant. It is Jesus who, during the Supper, put on the garb of a servant and washed the disciples' feet.
Often, We think of the Supper as a performance, a time when we are on stage and God is the audience. That's not how it was intended.
He, instead, fulfilled his role as a rabbi by guiding his disciples through the Passover. He fulfilled his role as a servant by washing their feet. And he fulfilled his role as a Savior by granting them forgiveness of sins.
And he still is.
Jesus said "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you. After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going."
Thomas said to Jesus, "Lord, we don't know where you are going. So how can we know the way?"
Jesus answered, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father, too. But now you do know him, and you have seen him."
Should a man see only populatiry, he becomes a mirror, reflecting whatever needs to be reflected to gain acceptance.
Should a man see only power, he becomes a wolf - prowling, hunting, and stalking the elusive game. Recognition is his prey, and people are his prizes. His quest is endless.
Should a man see only pleasure, he becomes a carnival thrill-seeker, alive only in bright lights, wild rides, and titillating entertainment.
Seekers of popularity, power, and pleasure. The end result is the same: painful unfulfillment.
Only in seeing his Maker does a man truly become man. For in seeing his Creator man catches a glimpse of what he was intended to be. He who would see his God would then see the reason for death and the purpose of time. Destiny? Tomorrow? Truth? All are questions within the reach of the man who knows his source.
It is in seeing Jesus that man sees his Source.
I have told you these things, using stories that hide the meaning. But the time will come when I will not use stories like that to tell you things. I will speak to you in plain words about the Father. In that day you will ask the Father for things in my name. I mean, I will not need to ask the Father for you. The Father himself loves you. He loves you because you love me and believed that I came from God. I came from the Father into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father."
God will whisper. He will shout. He will touch and tug. He will take away our burdens; he'll even take away our blessings. If there are a thousand steps between us and him, he will take all but one. But he will leave the final one to us. The choice is ours.
Please understand. His goal is not to make you happy. His goal is to make you his. And if that means a jolt or two to get your attention, then be jolted. Earthly discomfort is a glad swap for heavenly peace. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble, but be brave! I have defeated the world" (John 16:33).
What does God know? He knows how to navigate history. He wants to get you home safely.
Jesus went with his followers to a place called Gethsemane. He said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him, and he began to be very sad and troubled. He said to them, "My heart is full of sorrow, to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me."
After walking a little farther away from them, Jesus fell to the ground and prayed, "Father, if it is possible, do not give me this cup of suffering. But do what you want, not what I want." Then Jesus went back to his followers and found them asleep. He said to Peter, You men could not stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake and pray for strength against temptation. The spirit wants to do what is right, but the body is weak."
My father taught me the lesson early: Don't create havoc in the garden. You can play ball in the yard. But the garden? Leave it alone.
Satan learned the same lesson: Don't mess around with a garden - especially a garden that belongs to the Father.
The Bible is the story of two gardens. Eden and Gethsemane. In the first, Adam took a fall. In the second, Jesus took a stand. In the first God sought Adam. In the second, Jesus sought God. In Eden, Satan led Adam to a tree that led to his death. From Gethsemane, Jesus went to a tree that led to life.
Satan was never invited to the Garden of Eden. If he has invaded a garden of your life, then invite Jesus to reclaim it. He will enter and do what he did at Gethsemane. He will pray, and he will protect, and he will reclaim.
Knowing everything that would happen to him, Jesus went out and asked, "Who is it you are looking for?"
They answered, "Jesus from Nazareth."
"I am he." Jesus said. (Judas, the one who turned against Jesus, was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, "I am he," they moved back and fell to the ground.
Jesus asked them again, "Who is it you are looking for?"
They said, "Jesus of Nazareth."
"I told you that I am he," Jesus said. "So if you are looking for me, let the others go."
Remarkable. They stand only a few feet from his face and don't recognize him. Not even Judas realizes who stands before them.
He reveals himself. "I am he." His voice flicks the first domino, and down them tumble. Were the moment not so solemn it would be comic. These are the best soldiers with Satan;s finest plan; yet one word from Jesus, and they fall down! When Jesus speaks, Satan falls. Doesn't matter who the evil one has recruited.
Jesus has to ask them again whom they seek. "Who are you after?" When they answer that they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, he instructs them, "So if you are looking for me, let the others go."
What is this?
Jesus commanding them? We turn to the commander, expecting a reply. But not only are they silent, they are obedient. The apostles are set free.
Jesus stood before Pilate the governor, and Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
Jesus answered, "Those are your words."
When the leading priests and the older leaders accused Jesus, he said nothing.
So Pilate said to Jesus, "Don't you hear them accusing you of all these things?"
But Jesus said nothing in answer to Pilate, and Pilate was very surprised at this.
Every year at the time of Passover the governor would free one prisoner whom the people chose. At that time there was a man in prison, named Barabbas, who was known to be very bad. When the people gathered at Pilate's house, Pilate said, "Whom do you want me to set free: Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?" Pilate knew that the people turned Jesus in to him because they were jealous.
While Pilate was sitting there on the judge's seat, his wife sent this message to him: "Don't do anything to that man, because he is innocent. Today I had a dream about him, and it troubled me very much."
But the leading priests and older leaders convinced the crowd to ask for Barabbas to be freed and for Jesus to be killed.
Pilat said, "I have Barabbas and Jesus. Which do you want me to free for you?"
The people answered, "Barabbas."
\Pilate asked, "So what should I do with Jesus, the one called the Christ?"
They all answered, "Crucify him!"
Pilate asked, "Why? What wrong has he done?"
But they shouted louder, "Crucify him!"
When Pilate saw that he could do nothing about this and that a riot was starting, he took some water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. Then he said, "I am not guilty of this man's death. You are the ones who are causing it!"
All the people answered, "We and our children will be responsible for his death."
Then he set Barabbas free. But Jesus was beaten with whips and handed over to the soldiers to be crucified.
Perhaps you, like Pilate, are curious about this one called Jesus. Pilate's question is yours. "What will I do with this man, Jesus?"
You have two choices. You can reject him. You can, as have many, decide that the idea of God becoming a carpenter is too bizarre. Or you can accept him.
Pilate could have. He heard many voices that day - he could have heard Christ's. Listen to his question: "Are you the king of the Jews?" We wonder about his motive. So did Jesus.
"Is that your own question, or did others tell you about me?" Jesus wants to know why Pilate wants to know. What if Pilate had simply said, "I'm asked fo myself. I really want to know." If he had asked, Jesus would have told him. But Pilate didn't want to know. He just turned on his heel and retorted, "I am not Jewish." Pilate didn't ask so Jesus didn't tell.
Pilate vacillates. Four times he tries to free Jesus, and four times he is swayed otherwise. So many voices. The voice of compromise. The voice of expedience. The voice of politics. The voice of conscience. And the soft, firm voice of Christ. "The only power you have over me is the power given to you by God." Jesus' voice is distinct.
Pilate thought he could avoid making a choice. He washed his hands of Jesus. But in not making a choice, Pilate made a choice. Rather than hear Christ's voice, he heard the voice of the people.
Legend has it that Pilate's wife became a believer. And legend has it that Pilate's eternal home is a mountain lake where he daily surfaces, still plunging his hands into the water seeking forgiveness. . .not for the evil he did, but for the kindness he didn't do.
There were also two criminals led out with Jesus to be put to death. When they came to a place called the Skull, the soldiers crucified Jesus and the criminals - one on his right and the other on his left. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, because they don't know what they are doing.>"
The soldiers threw lots to decide who would get his clothes. The people stood there watching. And the leaders made fun of Jesus, saying, "He saved others. Let him save himself if he is God's chosen One, the Christ."
The soldiers also made fun of him, coming to Jesus and offering him some vinegar. They said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!" At the top of the cross these words were written: this is the king of the Jews.
One of the criminals on a cross began to shout insults at Jesus: Aren't you the Christ? Then save yourself and us."
But the other criminal stopped him and said, "You should fear God! You are getting the same punishment he is. We are punished justly, getting what we deserve for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
Jesus said to him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
The first criminal reads the sign that announces Jesus as the king of the Jews. He hears Jesus pray for those who kill him. Something about the presence of the carpenter convinces him he's in the presence of a king.
The other crook has a different opinion. "Aren't you the Christ? Then save yourself and us."
Suddenly someone tells him, "You should fear God! It's the voice of the first criminal. "We are getting what we deserve for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong."
Finally someone is defending Jesus. Peter fled. The disciples hid. Pilate washed his hands. Many could have spoken on behalf of Jesus, but none did. Until now. He makes his request. "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
The Savior turns his heavy head toward the prodigal child and promises, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
To those at the foot of the cross, the dialogue was curious. They couldn't imagine it. How could a sinner be saved?
Paul explained it like this: "Christ took away the curse the law put on us. He changed places with us and put himself under that curse" (Gal. 3:13).
At noon the whole country became dark, and the darkness lasted for three hours. At three o'clock Jesus cried in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani." This means, "My God, my God, why have you rejected me?"
When some of the people standing there heard this, they said, "Listen! He is calling Elijah."
Someone there ran and got a sponge, filled it with vinegar, tied it to a stick, and gave it to Jesus to drink. He said, "We want to see if Elijah will come to take him down from the cross."
Then Jesus cried in a loud voice and died.
The curtain in the Temple was torn in two pieces, from the top to the bottom. When the army officer who was standing in front of the cross saw what had happened when Jesus died, he said, "This man really was the Son of God!"
They killed him. He was buried in a borrowed grave, his funeral financed by compassionate friends. Though he once had everything, he died with nothing.
He had every right to be a pot of boiling anger. But he wasn't. He was joyful.
Sourpusses don't attract a following. People followed him wherever he went. Children avoid soreheads. Children scampered after this man. Crowds don't gather to the woeful. Crowds clamored to hear him.
Why? He was joyful. Jesus embodied a stubborn joy. A joy whose roots extended deep into the bedrock of eternity.
What type of joy is this? What is this cheerfulness that dares to wink at adversity?
I call it sacred delight. It is sacred because it is not of the earth. What is sacred is God's. And this joy is God's.
At that time there was a strong earthquake. An angel of the Lord came down from heaven, went to the tomb, and rolled the stone away from the entrance. Then he sat on the stone. He was shining as bright as lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The soldiers guarding the tomb shook with fear because of the angel, and they became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, "Don't be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here. He has risen from the dead as he said he would. Come and see the place where his body was. And go quickly and tell his followers, 'Jesus has risen from the dead. He is going into Galilee ahead of you, and you will see him there.' " Then the angel said, "Now I have told you."
The women left the tomb quickly. They were afraid, but they were also very happy. They ran to tell Jesus' followers what had happened. Suddenly, Jesus met them and said, "Greetings." The women came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Don't be afraid. Go and tell my followers to go on to Galilee, and they will see me there."
Why did the angel move the stone? Was the death conqueror so weak that he couldn't push away a rock?
Listen to what the angel says: "Come and see the place where his body was."
The stone was moved - not for Jesus - but for the women; not so Jesus could come out, but so the women could see in!
Mary looks at Mary and Mary is grinning the same grin she had when the bread and fish kept coming out of the basket.
"Go quickly and tell his followers, 'Jesus has risen from the dead. He is going into Galilee ahead of you, and you will see him there.' "
One surprise still awaits them.
"Suddenly, Jesus met them and said, 'Greetings.' The women came up to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Don't be afraid. God and tell my followers to go on to Galilee, and they will see me there.' "
That same day two of Jesus' followers were going to a town named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking about everything that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and began walking with them, but they were kept from recognizing him. Then he said, "What are these things you are talking about while you walk?"
The two followers stopped, looking very sad. The one named Cleopas answered, "Are you the only visitor in Jerusalem who does not know what just happened there?"
Jesus said to them, "What are you talking about?"
They said, "About Jesus of Nazareth. He was a prophet who said and did many powerful things before God and all the people. Our leaders and the leading priests handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him. But we were hoping that he would free Israel. . . ."
Then Jesus said to them, "You are foolish and slow to believe everything the prophets said. They said that the Christ must suffer these things before he enters his glory." Then starting with what Moses and all the prophets said about him, Jesus began to explain everything that had been written about himself in the Scriptures.
They came near the town of Emmaus, and Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they begged him, "Stay with us, because it is late; it is almost night." So he went in to stay with them.
When Jesus was at the table with them, he took some bread, gave thanks, divided it, and gave it to them. And then, they were allowed to recognize Jesus.
Two disciples are walking down the dusty road to the village of Emmaus. Their talk concerns the crucified Jesus.
Just then a stranger comes up from behind and says, "Who are you discussing?" They stop and turn.
One of them asks, "Where have you been the last few days? Haven't you heard about Jesus of Nazareth?
God, in disquise, listens patiently, his wounded hands buried deeply in his robe.
He must have been touched at the faithlessness of this pair. Yet he also must have been a bit chagrined. He had just gone to hell and back to give heaven to earth, and these two were worried about the political situation in Israel. "But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel."
We are not much different than burdened travelers, are we?
Our problem is not so much that God doesn't give us what we hoped for as it is that we don't know the right thing for which to hope.
Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction.
In Jerusalem Saul was still threatening the followers of the Lord by saying he would kill them. So he went to the high priest and asked him to write a letter to the synagogues in the city of Damascus. Then if Saul found any followers of Christ's Way, men or women, he would arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem.
So Saul headed toward Damascus. As he came near the city, a bright light from heaven flashed around him. Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me?"
Saul said, "Who are you, Lord?"
The voice answered, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Get up now and go into the city. Someone there will tell you what you must do."
Blue-blooded and wild-eyed, this young zealot was hell-bent on keeping the kingdom pure - and that meant keeping the Christians out. He marched through the countryside like a general demanding that backslidden Jews salute the flag of the motherland or kiss their family and hopes good-bye.
All this came to a halt, however, on the shoulder of a highway. That's when someone slammed on the stadium lights, and he heard the voice.
When he found out whose voice it was, his jaw hit the ground, and his body followed.
Jesus could have finished him on the road. He could have sent him to hell. But he didn't. He sent him to the lost.
The message is gripping: Show a man his failures without Jesus, and the result will be found in the roadside gutter. Give a man religion without reminding him of his filth, and the result will be arrogance in a three-piece suit. But get the two in the same heart - get sin to meet Savior and Savior to meet sin - and the result might be another Pharisee turned preacher who sets the world on fire.
So we do not give up. Our physical body is becoming older and weaker, but our spirit inside us is made new every day. We have small troubles for a while now, but they are helping us gain an eternal glory that is much greater than the troubles. We set our eyes not on what we see but on what we cannot see. What we see will last only a short time, but what we cannot see will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
While in Colorado for a week's vacation, our family teamed up with several others and decided to ascend the summit of a fourteen-thousand-foot peak. Drive above the timberline and tackle the final mile by foot. You hearty hikers would have been bored, but for a family with three small girls, it was about all we could take.
Our four-year-old Sara had it doubly difficult. A tumble in the first few minutes left her with a skinned knee and a timid step. She wanted to ride. First on my back, then in Mom's arms, then my back, then a friends back, then my back, then Mom's. . .well, you get the picture.
All of us need help sometimes.
A few even grow cynical. Woe to the explorer who reminds them of their call. . .pilgrims are not welcome here. And so the pilgrim moves on while the settler settles. Settles for sameness.
I hope you don't do that. But if you do, I hope you don't scorn the pilgrim who calls you back to the journey.
By the way, a good scene awaits you as well. The Hebrew writer gives us a National Geographic piece of heaven. Listen to how he describes the mountaintop of Zion. He says when we reach the mountain we will have come to "the city of the living God. . . .To thousands of angels gathered together with joy. . . .To the meeting of God's firstborn children whose names are written in heaven. . . .To God, the judge of all people, . . .and to the One who brought the new agreement from God to his people. . . .To the sprinkled blood that has a better message than the blood of Abel" (Heb. 12:22-24).
And imagine seeing God. Finally, to gaze in the face of our Father. To feel the Father's gaze upon you.
He will do what he promised he would do. I will make all things new, he promised. I will restore what was taken. I will restore the smiles faded by hurt. I will replay the symphonies unheard by deaf ears and the sunsets unseen by blind eyes. The mute will sing. The poor will feast.
I will make all things new. New hope. New faith. And most of all the Love you have sought in a thousand ports in a thousand nights. . .this Love of mine, will be yours.
What a mountain! Jesus will be there. You've longed to see him. Interesting what the writer says we will see. He says we will see Jesus' blood. The human blood of the divine Christ. Covering our sins. Proclaiming a message. We have been bought. We cannot be sold. Ever.
What a mountain.
Believe me when I say it will be worth it. One view of the peak will justify the pain of the path.
By the way, our group finally made it up the mountain. We spent an hour or so at the top, taking pictures and enjoying the view. Later, on the way down, I heard little Sara exclaim proudly, "I did it!"
I chuckled. No you didn't, I thought. Friends and family got you up this mountain.
But I didn't say anything. I didn't say anything because I'm getting the same treatment. So are you. Riding on the back of the Father who wants to make it home.
After all, he knows what it's like to climb a mountain. He climbed one for us.
Everyone who has ears should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
I will give some of the hidden manna to everyone who wins the vistory. I will also give to each one who wins the victory a white stone with a new name written on it. No one knows this new name except the one who receives it.
I can't say I've given a lot of thought to my given name. Never figured it made much difference. I do recall a kid in elementary school wondering if I were German. I said no. "Then why do you have a German name?" I didn't even know Max was German. So I decided to find out.
"Why did you name me Max?" I asked Mom when I got home.
She looked up from the sink and replied, "You just looked like one."
Like I say, I haven't given much thought to my name. But there is one name that has caught my interest lately. A name only God knows. A name only God gives.
What am I talking about? Well, you may not have known it, but God has a new name for you. You will have a new home, a new body, a new life, and you guessed it, a new name.
Makes sense. Fathers are fond of giving their children special names.
Now maybe you didn't get a special name. Or maybe you have received special names. Names like "loser" or "cheat," "cripple," "infected," or "divorced." If so, I'm sorry. You know how a name can hurt. But you can also imagine how a name can heal.
Especially when it comes from the lips of God. Isn't it incredible to think that God has saved a name just for you?
Your eternity is so special no common name will do. So God has one reserved just for you. The best is yet to be.
And so I urge you, don't give up. Be there when God whispers your name.
Max Lucado, And the Angels Were Silent,
Questar Publishers, Multmomah Books,
copyright 1992 by Max Lucado
Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven,
Word Inc., Dallas, Texas,
copyright 1990 by Max Lucado
Max Lucado, A Gentle Thunder,
Word Inc., Dallas, Texas,
copyright 1995 by Max Lucado
Max Lucado, God Came Near,
Questar Publisherds, Multnomah Books,
Max Lucado, He Still Move Stones,
Word Inc., Dallas, Texas,
copyright 1993 by Max Lucado
Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm,
Word Inc., Dallas, Texas,
copyright 1991 by Max Lucado
Max Lucado, Six Hours One Friday,
Questar Publishers, Multnomah Books,
copyright 1989 by Max Lucado
Max Lucado, When God Whispers Your Name,
Word Inc., Dallas, Texas,
copyright 1994 by Max Lucado