Tag Archives: Last Supper

Man the Mission: The Passion of Jesus Christ

given on Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016

Reflection: Man the Mission: The Passion of Jesus Christ


The Story continues today, Palm Sunday. Typically images of Palm Sunday is one of kids running up and down the aisles with palm fronds waving as though there were a parade. History has created images of a parade route lined with palms honoring Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, God promised written in the books of the prophets.

Yet the story continues and reading the scripture from Luke, we know Luke’s record of the last week of Jesus’ human life is the basis for celebrating Palm Sunday, but it also shares God’s passion for his mission that lead to the crucifixion of Jesus on the day before the Jewish feast of Passover.

God’s mission continues even through the birth, life, and death of his only son Jesus. Jesus was the incarnation of God’s passion for his creation. Jesus is God, and that means he is the man for the mission—and Jesus had chosen 12 men for his mission team. These were the men who joined him in the Upper Room for the Last Supper:

The Last Supper

. . . 14 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table.[a] 15 Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins. 16 For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.”

. . . 21 “But here at this table, sitting among us as a friend, is the man who will betray me. 22 For it has been determined that the Son of Man[c] must die. But what sorrow awaits the one who betrays him.” 23 The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing.

24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them. 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. 27 Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.

28 “You have stayed with me in my time of trial. 29 And just as my Father has granted me a Kingdom, I now grant you the right 30 to eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.


Imagine sitting at the table with your teacher. You have come to love him like a brother and have literally picked up and walked after him without even tying up loose ends at home. You have completely turned your life’s direction to pursue God’s mission. You were literally a handpicked member of the Jesus Team!

Consider what Jesus required of his team members. He had to have commitment, even if they had a business or a family. He asked them to come–no clothes, no material possessions. The request must have challenged these individuals, but they did choose to follow him.

Sitting in that upper room after only three years together, the words Jesus shares are filled with references to what is going to happen. At least the words seem subtle to us, yet this team knew how Jesus talked. He was teaching them in the same way the scriptures teach us—through metaphors, analogies, and parables.

Reading on through the chapters, more of the story shows the seriousness of Jesus’ final weeks for his earthly life. Even Simon Peter cannot figure out why Jesus would question his loyalty:

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

33 Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”

34 But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you out to preach the Good News and you did not have money, a traveler’s bag, or an extra pair of sandals, did you need anything?”

“No,” they replied.

36 “But now,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one! 37 For the time has come for this prophecy about me to be fulfilled: ‘He was counted among the rebels.’[d] Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.”

38 “Look, Lord,” they replied, “we have two swords among us.”

“That’s enough,” he said.


Be loyal. Be prepared. Jesus’ handpicked mission team did not seem very prepared to take God’s mission forward without him. Simon Peter is believed to be the favored of the twelve apostles, but even Jesus knew Peter would deny him three times under the pressure from the coming days.

Loyalty. Simon Peter certainly did not think anything could shake his loyalty to Jesus, but Jesus makes one more attempt to prepare the apostles for the persecution that would be inflicted upon the earliest Christians. The reference to having swords was such a hint as to the type of problems that would be following after he was gone.

In the brief years of teaching Jesus’ followers, the emphasis had been on the peaceful methods. Heal the sick. Love one another. Care for the poor. No mention was made of planning and carrying out a military battle plan; weapons were no match for love. Still in these last few moments of preparation, Jesus tells the apostles to prepare. For Jesus to man the mission he needed commitment, loyalty, and preparedness as well as content knowledge of God’s story, the Word, and the mission.

Only a few hours remained and all the enormity of the impending arrest tired Jesus. He turned, asking his apostles to go with him, to the Mount of Olives, for a time of prayer. For the mission team, he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” And then . . .

41 He walked away, about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. 44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.[e]

45 At last he stood up again and returned to the disciples, only to find them asleep, exhausted from grief. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation.”


The next few days challenged each Apostle’s commitment and loyalty. Judas, of course, could not remain faithful taking a bribe to turn Jesus in to the authorities.

. . . 47 But even as Jesus said this, a crowd approached, led by Judas, one of the twelve disciples. Judas walked over to Jesus to greet him with a kiss. 48 But Jesus said, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49 When the other disciples saw what was about to happen, they exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” 50 And one of them struck at the high priest’s slave, slashing off his right ear.

51 But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.


The mission team selected and lead by Jesus was down one Apostle, but the final days were racing ahead. Three short years of teaching, healing, and serving were almost completed. Were the Apostles ready to take up the mission of God and transform the word?

Luke continues the story. Peter had not believed he could deny Jesus three times and he was one of the most trusted of the Apostles.

54 So they arrested [Jesus] and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”

57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”


Peter’s first denial, yet the night was not over:


58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”

“No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.


Luke’s story records a second denial.


59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”

60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.


And Peter denied knowing Jesus the third time!


61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” 62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.

63 The guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating him. . . .


The mission of God depended on Jesus’ ministry to secure success in combatting evil.  The events of the three days after Judas betrayed Jesus frightened the Apostles. The stress caused them to run and hide. They knew the passion of Christ first hand. They knew their commitment, their loyalty and their preparation—or not.

The very system that taught the young Apostles was challenged. The crowds had stopped Jesus along the side of the road to learn more about living God’s story. Are we honestly ready to join in God’s mission with passion like Jesus or go on to the next community prepared to share the story of God’s love and forgiveness?

Reflect and pray about your own world. Do not put off preparing for God’s mission. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, even Saturday are the darkest of days. The story continues showing the ridicule, the physical beating, the taunting, and even the stripping that Jesus endured before being hung on a cross, left to die slowly on the hill between two thieves.

Can you join the mission team? Can you honestly say you are committed? Are you loyal attending church regularly, joining in Bible studies, and volunteering to serve? Finally, are you prepared? Jesus will come again and we are redeemed by our faith in God. Be committed. Be loyal. Be prepared to share the story in any manner that you can and God’s mission will be successful.

Closing prayer: (UMH 281)

Almighty God,

you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

to suffer death o the cross.

Grant that we may share in his obedience to your will

and in the glorious victory of his resurrection;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

One God, now and ever. Amen

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Palm Sunday: Telling the story

The Word & Thoughts:Palm Sunday Chronologically: a parallel review of scripture   NIRV

  • Explain the use of the Chronological Bible
  • Pivotal shift—moving from ministry to the people to the final instructions to the Apostles
  • Palm Sunday is the visible fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9 given 600 years earlier


John 12:9-11(audience—New Christians and searching non-Christians)

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there, so they came. But they did not come only because of Jesus. They also came to see Lazarus. After all, Jesus had raised him from the dead.

10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus too. 11 Because of Lazarus, many of the Jews were starting to follow Jesus. They were putting their faith in him.


Matthew 21:8-11(audience—the Jews)

A very large crowd spread their coats on the road. Others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Some of the people went ahead of him, and some followed. They all shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!” (definition of Hosanna: Save now!)

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up. The people asked, “Who is this?”

11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus. He is the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”


Mark 11:11(audience—the Christians in Rome, where this gospel was written)

11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything. But it was already late. So he went out to Bethany with the Twelve. (Bethany is about 3 miles from Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives is between the two areas.)


Luke 19:36-37, 39-40(audience—Theophilius, which means one who loves God, the Gentiles, and people everywhere)

36 As he went along, people spread their coats on the road.

37 Jesus came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives. There the whole crowd of disciples began to praise God with joy. In loud voices they praised him for all the miracles they had seen. . . .

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd spoke to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “tell your disciples to stop!”

40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”


John 12:16-19

16 At first, Jesus’ disciples did not understand all this. They realized it only after he had received glory (the Resurrection). Then they realized that these things had been written about him. They realized that the people had done these things to him.

17 A crowd had been with Jesus when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead. So they continued to tell everyone about what had happened. 18 Many people went out to meet him. They had heard that he had done this miraculous sign.

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “This isn’t getting us anywhere. Look how the whole world is following him!”


Closing Prayer: (from the Book of Worship, no. 514))


            Let us remember Jesus:

            Who was mighty in deed, healing the sick, and the disordered,

            using for others the powers he would not invoke for himself.

            Who refused to force people’s allegiance.

            Who was Master and Lord to his disciples,

                        yet was among them as their companion and as one who served.

            Whose desire was to do the will of God who sent him.

            Response: O Christ, our only Savior, so come to dwell in us that we may go

            forth with the light of your hope in our eyes, and with your faith and love

            in our hearts. — Amen


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How did Jesus teach? The Beatitudes & The Last Supper

given on Sunday, October 6, 2013–Worldwide Communion Day

Scripture Base:  Matthew 5: 5-12 and Luke 6:20-23

Teaching and preaching seemingly follow similar methods and often the two careers seem to merge.  In fact, the training is very similar especially in classes concerning delivery of content.  The difference between the two careers is primarily the audience, as one might expect.

The Sermon on the Mount officially signaled the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.  The audience was defined as the Jews, originally, but opened up to any interested person who was within hearing distance of this man.  Certainly the first notice taken of him was in the tabernacle where the Jewish rabbis were listening and interacting with him as a child even as a student.  Yet as early as 12, the scripture tells us that Jesus may have been more a preacher than a student.

Personally, I would love to learn more about this young man between 12 and 30.  Was his development typical or did he develop an aura of mystery around him causing people—family, friends, neighbors, even strangers—to start whispering about him in an almost fearful manner?

The stories of Jesus’ pre-ministry life are scanty at best, but I cannot believe that he was just quietly growing up and being trained as a carpenter.  I think there must have been a sense of calm and peace surrounding him visible in his actions and his eyes.  I think he was soft-spoken, but gifted at knowing the inner thoughts of others.

How else could one man, walking along the dusty paths along the Jordan River, up and over coastal mountains, in and along the village paths, call out the name of someone completely absorbed by the task at hand, and have them drop everything, walk towards him, and begin a journey without a thought!  I know there had to be a unique presence about Jesus.

The beginning of Jesus’ ministry is the Sermon on the Mount and the list of Beatitudes is recorded as the introduction to his teaching.  At the point he becomes aware of the large crowd growing around him and the Apostles, he shifts from preparing them for their new career to teaching and/or preaching to the curious onlookers.

What do the Beatitudes teach?  At the first reading, one might consider them to be riddles.  The words twist and turn, stating one thing, then flipping into another.  The wording is a cause and effect statement in reverse:  God blesses those (the effect) who did (the cause).  But then comes the concrete result—the Kingdom of Heaven is just one result.

Breaking down each statement like that, certainly demonstrates the rewards outnumber the expected behaviors.  One new law erases the Old Law, primarily based on the Ten Commandments:  love your neighbor as yourself.  How you are to do that is outlined in the Beatitudes:

  1. Realize your need for God
  2. Mourn for one’s loss
  3. Be humble
  4. Hunger and thirst for justice
  5. Be merciful
  6. Be pure of heart
  7. Work for peace
  8. Do right even if others do not
  9. Stick to your beliefs even if others make fun of you.

10. Be happy

These are seemingly so simple that I am sure the change in one’s lifestyle during those ancient years really did appeal to the masses.  Remember that at this time the ‘good life’ was for those in power and for the priests in the tabernacle.

Which brings us back to the audience and Jesus’ teaching style.  If the tabernacle was so holy that only certain areas were open to the people, the working class, as we might know them today (or maybe we should call them the working poor class).  Add to that group of people, the ones living and working around the area that were not even Jewish, who were living outside of the Jewish faith.

Any speaker who can deliver a new idea with such success that the crowds start growing and growing into an unmanageable crowd who could only fit along the road on the side of a mountain, must be a gifted teacher and/or preacher.

The Sermon on the Mount was a beginning.  The crowds were curious, the tone was inviting, and promises sounded appealing.  Jesus was teaching these first followers methods to simplify their lives.  Following the Old Law was demanding and built upon fearful consequences.  Jesus’ message was different and provided hope to the masses.

For three years, Jesus continued walking the dusty paths, speaking to individuals, to families, to educated and uneducated.  The legal authorities were noticing a change in the communities, the priests were watching, too.  I even suspect that attendance during Sabbath services was diminishing, too.  Change was in the air!

In fact the change was also affecting the community’s daily business.  The legal authorities were becoming agitated, not to mention the Jewish priests.  The teaching and the preaching were not stopping, but the new followers enthusiasm became overshadowed by fear.   The movement grew but also became more secretive.  The crowds were closely watched, who was following whom was noted.  Still Jesus continued teaching, preaching, and healing with his following growing and growing.

As that Passover Week rolled around and three years of work was nearing completion (the Sermon of the Mount began Jesus’ career) now the Last Supper was going to close his earthly career.  The setting changes, the audience diminishes, and the seriousness of the gathering shifts to a tone of caution.

Jesus the teacher is now preaching.  He must reinforce his message and he needs his disciples to understand the importance of their role with each other as well as the newest followers.  He has taught, preached and healed without ceasing, but his time was ending.

Parents and teachers know that their role changes when children and students grow up and move on.  Jesus knew this too.  The promises shared in the Beatitudes would not be fulfilled if he did not complete his earthly job.

The Last Supper signaled the transition of teaching, preaching and healing from him to his Apostles.  And, as the Apostles hear the words we now use in the communion liturgy, they graduated with fear into new roles.  They were now to be the teachers, the preachers, and the healers.

Still, the setting and the tone of that final meal was filled with casual conversation, with laughter, with hope, with calm until Jesus commanded their attention and began explaining what was about to happen.  The clamor in the room stopped, the silence filled the room, and Jesus’ words filled the void (Matthew 26:21-24):

I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.  . . .One of you who has just eaten from this bowl with me will betray me.  For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago.  But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him.  It would be far better for that man if he had never been born.

Shock, bewilderment, defensiveness, horror, disbelief, and fear:  the emotions at that moment are far different than the emotions of the crowds listening to the Sermon on the Mount.  The hope and the promises listed in the Beatitudes suddenly become just distant memories as Jesus’ prepares his handpicked Apostles for the final phase of his ministry.

The simple act of sharing a meal with those closest to you creates a bond of trust.  The Last Supper, also known as Communion or the Eucharist, does this for each of us yet today.  We symbolize that meal with Jesus each time we take the cup and the bread.  As we remember how Jesus’ spent three years teaching, preaching, and healing, we also renew that bond with God.

God loves each and every one of us so much, that he came to this earth as Jesus to teach us, to preach to us, and to heal us.  The words of hope and promises delivered in the Beatitudes are as meaningful today as they were 2,000 years ago.

The rule, the one rule, simplifies our lives so much that we want to share it with others, too, because we know the difference it has made in our lives.  It is a rule that creates the Christ-filled lives we experience here on earth as well as leads to the promises of eternal life with God once our earthly lives are completed.

Thanks be to God for the gift of his Son and of the Holy Spirit as we live our lives to His glory.  May we be the Church, teaching, preaching and healing others so they may experience the grace and the love of God.

[At this time, join in the ritual of Communion.  Take the cup and the bread as a symbol of the bond between you and God.]


Closing Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, Jesus your son, and the Holy Ghost,

Thank you for the gifts you have given us

so we may join You in teaching, preaching, and healing.

We acknowledge our human weaknesses,

but we believe in your grace and your forgiveness.

Help us share that sense of hope found in the Beatitudes

with those who are lost and forlorn.

May our skills be instrumental in the transformation

of the lives of your children, young and old alike.

Through the sharing of the bread and the wine,

renew our bond, our commitment to You and to each other.

To Your glory, amen.

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