The Passion of Jesus
Title: The passion of Jesus
Text: Luke 22:14-20
Date: April 1, 2007
Point: Embrace the passion that Jesus has for you
We’ve nearly reach the end of Lent. Some of you are checking your pockets now and saying, “No, I still have plenty here.” Lent is a season of the year that many Christians in the world for thousands of years have observed to mark the weeks leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. It’s a time to contemplate our emptiness before God. Do me a favor and empty your pockets onto the pew (if you have pockets). Those of you with pockets, I want you to stand up. Now turn your pockets inside out. That’s it: just let them flap out like that. Do you know what these are called? When the Great Depression hit in 1929 and continued through most of the 1930s, the nation’s people and economy were devastated. Unemployment, poverty, and homelessness soared. Herbert Hoover had the misfortune of being president at the time and seemed unable to get the country back on track. So men would stand in food lines and walk around town with their pockets turned inside-out to show that they were penniless. They called this turned-out pockets Hoover flags. And that’s what this season of Lent is all about—our penniless before God—our emptiness and frailty—our sinfulness and need for repentance. It’s a time to reflect on our need for God.
And so, here we are at the last week. Christians for centuries have called this week “Passion Week.” It marks the last days of Jesus from the Last Supper with his disciples in that upper room to his crucifixion and burial. Some of you may have seen the movie, The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson which is a dramatic portrayal of these last days.
When I think of passion, I think of something kind of indecent, something that borders on the edge of being out of control. Passion conjures up images of heavy breathing and intense desire. It is something that is done more with the heart than with the head--something emotional rather than intellectual. Ask young lovers what passion is. They’ll be able to tell you easily. Those of us who have been married awhile can remember those days of passion. Passion is like having fire in your blood. Why do they call these days the "passion" of Jesus? What does it have to do you and me?
Let’s start by turning to Luke 22.
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” (Luke 22:7-8, tniv)
Passion Week begins with a meal. We sometimes hear it called “The Last Supper” because, well, because it was Jesus’ last meal before his death. But to understand more fully what this meal is about we have to go back to its origins. So, stick your finger in Luke 22 and turn to the left to Exodus 12… The Jews are in slavery in Egypt. They’ve cried out for someone to come and rescue them. So, God sends them Moses. Many of you have probably heard some of the stories about the 10 plagues that God sent on the Egyptians to persuade Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to let God’s people go free. There were frogs, gnats, flies and all sorts of problems in various degrees ranging from merely inconvenient to downright painful. But after 9 plagues came and went, Pharaoh still refused. The 10th plague would finally be the one. But there are some instructions for the Jews before the 10th plague is sent.
Read Exodus 12:17-28. Comments: symbolism of yeast
passing on the tradition
So, this meal that came to be known as the Passover meal was eaten on the night before the Jews were set free by God. Verse 11 tells us, “This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.” This is the meal that over 1,400 years later, Jesus and his disciples take part in. Over 1,400 years! We don’t have any concept of that much time. If you consider that the United States has only been a nation for 230 years, it helps to put it in a bit of perspective. Does your family have any traditions that you take part in every year? If you do, you know how important and formational they are to your family’s identity. We have a tradition at our house of praying a simple prayer before our meals. It has been the same prayer since Kaitlyn was old enough to talk. Sometimes the children say it along with Becky and me, other times they don’t. Earlier this week, we prayed the prayer, but Kaitlyn was kind of jabbering away about something during the prayer. The food was set in front of her, but she wouldn’t eat it. “We didn’t pray!” she said. Well, we did of course, but Kaitlyn had completely missed it. She insisted that we pray again so she could eat. Traditions become important identity-shaping events and this ancient Passover meal was a powerful, meaningful event that connected the Jewish people to the hundreds of previous generations. With that in mind let’s turn back to Luke 22.
Read Luke 22:7-14. Comments: a man carrying a jar of water (typically a woman’s job)
reclining at a table to eat (a Roman invention)
Jesus and his disciples have taken their place around the table. It looks something very unlike what we’ve seen in Leonardo da Vinci’s painting that has been the object of much attention over the last few years. They’re reclining on couches, propped up on one elbow, with their heads toward the table and their legs extended behind them away from the table. They’re ready to eat this meal like countless Jews before them for over 1,400 years.
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:14-16, tniv)
Once again we’re at a place where our English translations simply do not do justice to what is actually being said here. Literally, the Greek actually reads: “And he said to them, ‘With passionate desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you.’” The word is used in other places to describe hunger. Here, Jesus reclines at the table with his disciples, ready to eat a meal. But the hunger Jesus has is not simply for the food. Rather it is to be in the company of his friends.
You can relate to that can’t you? You have had times where you are going out to have a dinner with friends and you could care less what is on the menu. Instead, it is the joy and the energy of being with people who know you and who you know. I remember clearly how important going to Friendly’s restaurant after church shortly after I become a Christian. Sometimes the meal was just as important as the worship service we were at earlier in the evening. The camaraderie and fellowship became an important part of my initial walk with Jesus. I’ll never forget those friends.
“With passionate desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you,” Jesus said. But this isn’t why we call the last week of Jesus’ life on earth the Passion of Jesus. Notice that Jesus desires to eat the Passover before he suffers. The Greek word for suffering is the word pascw. That’s where we get our English word passion from. The Passion of Jesus is his suffering, for he is about to be offered up as the Passover lamb. He is transforming this centuries-old meal. Jesus is now the sacrificed lamb that is offered so that humanity might be set free. His death becomes the fulfillment of the 1,400-year-old Passover meal.
At the beginning I said that the word passion conjures up images of things that border on the edge of control, something that is done with the heart more than the head, something wild and uninhibited. What does it mean when we understand now that the passion of Jesus means his suffering as the Lamb of God? It means that we have a friend who freely offered himself for us. It means that Jesus’ love for us is more than a simple exchange—his life for ours.
I’m going to risk a Star Trek illustration here. At the end of the second Star Trek movie, the Starship Enterprise has been severely damaged. The ship and everyone aboard it are about to be destroyed. The only way to save it is to enter a compartment in the engine room to release the pent up radiation. But in doing so, the chamber will be flooded with deadly radiation, killing anyone in it. Spock, the emotionless Vulcan and second-in-command of the ship, realizing what needs to be done before anyone else, quietly exits the bridge and enters the compartment before anyone realizes what he has done. He releases the pressure and all are saved—all except him. The captain and the ship’s doctor realize what has happened and they rush to the transparent wall that separates them. “Why, Spock?” They ask. A much-weakened Spock replies before his death, “The good of the many outweigh the good of the few, or the one.” A logical decision made by one who is ruled by logic. It is simply a matter of numbers—a mathematical reality.
But that is not the passion of Christ. It is not merely a logical decision, not merely a simple matter of the lives of many outweighing the life of one. It is not simply a matter of the head over the heart. Instead, Jesus passionate suffering on our behalf encompasses Jesus’ entire personhood. Jesus, with full knowledge of his impending suffering, is the one who says, “I have passionately desired to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer.” Through his passion, Jesus brings us redemption and freedom from those things that would seek to keep us enslaved.
Suffering brings emptiness
Our congregation has been through much in the last year and a half, and especially in the last 2 months. We have suffered. Suffering and loss have a way of leaving us empty. We experience suffering in any number of ways—at the hands of others, from the sin in our own lives, through the ordinary pains and losses of this world. We have a Savior who has suffered along with us. He is not immune or indifferent to our suffering. And he says to us this morning, “With a passionate desire, I have desired to eat this meal with you.” We are extended an invitation to be embraced by a love that understands suffering—understands pain, rejection and loss. He does not run from our pain, but instead embraces us. That is what is meant by the Passion of Jesus—a suffering, passionate love that has endured everything to bring us to God as a whole, free, and transformed community.
The Supper bring fullness
We all come to Jesus with empty pockets. There is no different between you or me. There is no difference between one who does not believe and me. There is no difference between an addict and me. We all approach Jesus with nothing to our credit—nothing to offer. But when we come to Jesus, empty though we may be, we never walk away empty-handed. We live filled and fulfilled.
That is what this Supper symbolizes…
The only thing that stands empty that comes into contact with Jesus is the tomb in which he was buried.