Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Jesus' Preparation and Hospitality

Photo Courtesy of: Jametlene Reskp

Now on the first day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples.” So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover. When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.  Now as they were eating, He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” And they were exceedingly sorrowful, and each of them began to say to Him, “Lord, is it I?” He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the dish will betray Me. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.” Then Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?” He said to him, “You have said it.” And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

                                                                                                 —Matthew 26:17-30

I love the scene we are given in this passage from Matthew 26. Here, at a time when Jesus is now only a day away from being crucified—killed in a most horrible and excruciating manner—we see the tender heart He had for His people. Knowing full well what lies ahead of Him and the pain and heartache He will endure, He nevertheless shifts His focus to His disciples. The time has come for the Passover meal, and Jesus has already, ahead of time, prepared specifically where it is where their group of friends will share the meal. He has been proactive to prepare a place for them, thinking of their needs and operating out of a place of forethought, preparation, and hospitality.

With all that is coming for Jesus the next day, He takes the time to slow down, to gather in close with His disciples, and celebrate this important feast in an intimate and special way. This is what has become known as the Last Supper, and it is on this day that Jesus instituted what we know now and commemorate as the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper. Jesus takes this time to commune with His disciples, to break bread with them, to share wine, and to encourage and prepare their hearts, in both word and song, for what lies ahead.

Truly, this is not just any meal. This encounter is one of more than just breaking bread and drinking wine and fellowshipping as friends. This is a conversation, a passage from Scripture, that is most rich in its doctrine and theology. Over dinner, Jesus speaks on subjects pertaining to the New Covenant, the remission of our sins, and even eschatology—the “doctrine of the last things.”

In this passage, Jesus presents to us the best example we have, a first-hand picture, for how to practice hospitality. Jesus does not rush around and strive; He does not overwhelm or stress Himself with the preparations. Instead, He begins them well ahead of time, setting everything in motion early so that everything will come together when it is time for dinner and guests and fellowship.

Once His guests arrive, His focus is on them. He is interested in meeting their physical needs through food and their spiritual needs through doctrine, theology, and spiritual practices. He meets their mental and emotional needs by letting them know ahead of time a little bit about what would transpire, while also encouraging and supporting them in and through it. Talk about an example!

As believers, we know that we have been tasked with the mission and ministry of hospitality. We are told, unequivocally, that we are to be hospitable and not to forsake the extending of hospitality. But too often, we hit a wall in this area because we act a little too much like Jesus’ friend, Martha. We begin with our service rather than our relationship with the Lord. We rush ahead of time spent with Jesus to instead focus on our to-do list of tasks we feel we must accomplish before our guests arrive. Then, we begin to disdain service and hospitality because of all the stress and overwhelm it seems to bring us.

The answer to this age-old struggle is to begin as did Mary—to be at the feet of Jesus,  communing with and learning from Him. Starting off on that right foot will lead to a most enjoyable, fruitful, kingdom-impacting ministry of hospitality. May we heed Jesus’ example, rather than continuing on in our own predisposition to strive, and have all our lives changed for the better as we do!

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