Of all the things he could have done that Thursday night – the night before his execution – there was one thing he eagerly desired to do:
“You’ve no idea how much I’ve looked forward to sharing this meal with you…” Luke 22:15
He really wanted to have dinner with his mates.
Only deniers, doubters, deserters and the desperate in the mix, but he still longs to sit down and break bread with us.
Judas, how could you?? What were you thinking? This is the Messiah! You’ve watched him up close for three years – seeing blind eyes opened, the lame walk, the dead raised. Heck – you’ve preached and healed people yourself. You’ve heard the greatest teaching ever… had a front row seat to the Kingdom of God coming. This is Jesus. How could you?! For money?! And not even that much!! What were you thinking? How could you?
Yet, we know how he could, don’t we? Because we’ve done it many, many times ourselves. Crashed out when the crunch week came. Traded in a tough time with Jesus for a bit of quick titillation or some little trinket. Took the short term fix instead of the fellowship of his suffering. Pocketed a bit of cash in place of taking up our cross. Aligned ourselves with the status quo, though it conspires to kill Jesus. Isn’t Judas one of the people most easily relatable to this holy week?
All disciples betray Jesus.
We betray him at the worst time for the worst reasons.
Maybe we don’t kiss him for cash, but we’ve all fled during his time of need.
We can deal with the guilt and regret of this by bringing our own judgement on ourselves. Tragically and unnecessarily cutting short our life like Judas.
Or, like Peter, we can weep bitterly over the evil that’s been exposed in us, but dig our fingernails into hope. Despair of ourselves, but trust that Jesus, our bloodied, broken and betrayed Jesus, still might just have something for us.
Who knows, it might not be that long till barbecues on the beach.
Some days, like the one we remember today, Jesus was tired, tetchy, and in need of a decent meal. In terms of conforming to the image of Christ in this regard, I don’t feel I’m doing too badly…
He then engaged in the kind of behaviour that would have resulted in him politely being asked to exit the Garden Centre.
He’s full of mercy, grace, truth and love, and he really can’t stand fruitlessness – especially on an empty stomach.
This should shock us a little. Crack our complacency a touch. The Jesus we follow, in the most important week of his life, cursed a fruitless plant and killed it.
A guilt driven, “hey let’s get super busy and make some fruit happen!” response would only engage us in leaf management, which has never succeeded long term from Eden onwards.
The subsequent teaching makes it clear – ‘mountain moving fruit’ is no problem – we simply need to ask.
The issue then is connection. Abiding. Asking. The John 15 stuff.
So, connect with him today. Get to the source. The fruit follows.
Not every day perhaps, but today, Mutinous Monday, let’s remember this aspect of Jesus’s life and character:
He entered into a place of worship and caused carnage.
He physically forced people from a room like a security guard. Turned over cash registers like an anarchist. Prevented people coming through like a bouncer unconcerned about it all kicking off.
This was no benign clergyman musing out loud, “As we approach Easter…”
This was a working class northerner in his early 30’s manhandling people.
We don’t approach Easter.
Easter squares up to us.
He’s revealing who he is.
Riling the religious establishment.
Raising up the prayer movement.
Like every Sunday.
“Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.”
Even in the bleakest and bitterest moments – beaten and betrayed by your brothers, favourite jacket blood soaked and torn, lost to your father, high hopes crushed, left for dead, people trafficked, forced to go to a foreign land, heading for an Egyptian prison – the most powerful force in your life continues to be: The Covenant Faithfulness of Yahweh – For your good and for the saving of many.
Croydon High Street. January. Sunday afternoon. Shadowing a scouse evangelist, Scott.
“Can I ask you a quick question? Have you seen this picture before? Do you pray?”
The dapper looking guy in his twenties engages with the conversation. Scott talks to him about Jesus, about Jesus knocking on his door.
“You work in banking don’t you?” “Yeah, I do, how did you know that?” “Yeah, how would I know that?” Me thinking ‘how did he know that?!’ – the guy looked like a hairdresser.
“You went in to banking to impress your father, didn’t you?” This was in fact the case, and me and the guy were moving toward flabbergasted.
“Can we pray for you?” “Sure, ok”
The guy was visibly moved by the prayer and moved on with the words, “I’ll never forget this meeting, thank you so much.”
“We look for the fruit that’s ready to fall.” Says Scott, for whom this interaction doesn’t make the top 5 most interesting of the weekend.
Sure, Derren Brown could replicate this. David Blaine could better it. Could have been a lucky guesses. But maybe, just maybe Jesus still speaks to Scousers like he spoke to Samaritans, and some proportion of Croydon’s 400,000 inhabitants are ready to hear and take steps forward today.