In the Upper Room?

Series: Preacher: Date: March 29, 2018 Scripture Reference: Matthew 26:20-31

Let’s follow through with what I said we’d do this past Sunday. I want you to imagine what it was like that Thursday of the first Holy Week. Jesus has spent the day in the temple teaching and healing. As He and the disciples leave Jesus gestures back at the huge temple complex and tells them it will be destroyed one day—not one stone will be left on the other. This opens the door for Him to talk about the end times—His second coming—the judgment. This leads to parables like the one about the ten virgins. As they walk along the sun begins to set—and the disciples ask Him where they should go to make preparations for the Passover meal.

But Jesus is way ahead of them. He’s already secured a room. He tells two of them to go ahead into the city where they would meet a man carrying water.  That man would take them to the place—an upper room—where Jesus has arranged for them to observe the Passover. I’ve been to the place in Jerusalem that they say is the same UPPER ROOM. Here’s a picture. It’s not—it was built four centuries AFTER that first Holy Week—but there’s a good chance it was built in the same location—on the ruins of the home that had the ACTUAL Upper Room. It would have been the home of a wealthy person because in Jesus’ day it was customary for them to built upper rooms in their homes. It was sort of a bonus room that could be used for guests or for large gatherings. Think of a Ballroom in the Victorian Era and you get the idea.

Okay—try to picture it in your minds. The man leaves the fresh water near the entrance of the door. It is to be used for washing dirty feet and hands. Inside are tables—low to the ground with enough room for Jesus and the twelve to recline. Well, these two disciples hurriedly purchase all the food required for the Passover. They set things up and by the time they finish, Jesus and the other ten have arrived. Now with that image in your minds take your Bibles and turn to Matthew 26. Follow along as I read verses 20-31.

20 – When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.

21 – And while they were eating, He said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray Me.”

22 – They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”

23 – Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray Me.

24 – The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

25 – Then Judas, the one who would betray Him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”

26 – While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is My body.”

27 – Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.

28 – This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

29 – I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

30 – When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

31 – Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of Me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”

For two thousand years now, Christians have been doing what we are about to do. They’ve gathered in rooms like this one to re-create the events of that night. As you can see we have our own “disciples” who got here before us and set everything up. Christians around the world have done the same thing. I mean, this has become a special meal for Christians to celebrate. The question I want us to deal with tonight is “WHY?” “Why re-create the events of that night?” “What makes this meal so special?”

(1) Well, one answer to this question would be the fact that it is based on an old RECIPE.

And, speaking of recipes, for the past couple months Sue and I have been enjoying something called the BLUE APRON.  At the advice of our kids we signed up for it—and I have to say. It’s pretty neat. We just do it a couple nights a month but I guess you could sign up for every night if you could afford to do so. The Blue Apron people send you everything you need to prepare a certain meal: the meat, the vegetables, the eggs, the pasta, the spices, the oils—the entire deal. I like it because its fun to prepare together. I mean, it’s more fun than just going out to eat. You don’t have to dress up or leave a tip. Plus it exposes me to tastes I’d never experienced—like Fennel. Has anyone ever had Fennel?  It looks like a cross between an onion and a stalk of celery and it tastes kind of like lickerish when it’s raw. We’ve had curry and other spices—not to mention a variety of pastas and meats and creams. It’s pretty creative how the people at Blue Apron get all this to you. It comes special delivery on the day you are to prepare it in a box in which the perishables are packed between two slabs of ice. They also include all the spices and oils in little envelopes or plastic bottles. And—of course it also comes with a RECIPE—printed on laminated cardstock so that, if you want, you can make that meal again on your own.

Well, the Passover meal that Jesus shared with His disciples that night before His arrest was based on a recipe that God had given the Hebrews 1500 years earlier. The ingredients and instructions as to how to prepare it were very carefully passed on to each new generation. And here’s why. God wanted His chosen people to remember how He saved them from Egyptian bondage.  He wanted this memory stamped indelibly on the minds and hearts of all future generations.

Well, how do you do that? How do you insure that forgetful people won’t forget something that important? If you put it in a scroll it will interest only the scholarly. Plus, in time it will crumble and fade. So, God, the Master Teacher, devised the perfect memory method. He commanded His people to reenact that first Passover night every Spring in a ceremonial meal that would appeal to the physical senses of every generation, sight, sound, hearing, touch—and of course taste. The recipe for this meal was designed to remind His people that there was a time when they had needed saving—and that He had saved them.

If you’ve ever experienced a Passover meal—or Seder—then you know what I’m talking about, for it is a meal of strange recipes and flavors:

  • salt water to remind the people of the tears shed during their years of slavery in Egypt;
  • bitter herbs, like horseradish, so people would remember the sour flavor of bondage;
  • a fruit paste with cinnamon sticks to remind people of making bricks of clay and straw when they were captives of the Pharaoh,
  • and most of all a lamb to remind them of the spotless yearling that was killed by each Hebrew family and whose blood was sprinkled on the crossbeam of a doorpost, so the death angel would pass over and spare the life of the firstborn in that home.

I could go on and on listing all the symbolic truth that was “stirred” into this meal according to God’s old recipe. It is literally packed full of symbols of important spiritual truth—carefully preserved to teach them about both God’s character and His kingdom. Because it is, in a very real sense, the Hebrew people learned their theology at the supper table.

But the fact is the Passover meal was much more than a meal to REMIND God’s people of the PAST, it was also an appetizer to make them HUNGER for the FUTURE. You see, this old recipe foretold another spotless Lamb, the Lamb of God Who would sprinkle His blood on another wooden crossbeam—as He protected us all from death by dying in our place. Well, that first Maundy Thursday night Jesus took the old Passover recipe and used it to emphasize this aspect of God’s plan. He used it to teach His disciples that this old meal was really just the sampling, the sampling of the feast of salvation He would soon bring. On the eve of His death on the cross, Jesus took this old recipe and used it to pique His follower’s taste for the eternal salvation they all hungered for.  As He broke the unleavened bread He said, “Take and eat, this is My body.” As He took the cup of redemption He said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”  In these two statements He instituted His Supper, a meal built on God’s old recipe, a meal that symbolizes the fact that like the Hebrew people, you and I needed saving—and through His atoning death Jesus saved us.

This leads to a second reason this supper is so special.

(2) You see, it is a meal that exposes our hearts.

It is a meal designed to reveal our sin and show us that yes, we all do NEED saving. Look at our text again. It says that at His Supper table that night Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray Me.”  The disciples were very sad and began to say to him, one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”  Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray Me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”  Then, out of earshot of the others, Judas, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” But, look at verse 31 where Jesus said, “This very night YOU WILL ALL fall away on account of Me, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”

Now—think about it. Wouldn’t you say that these are odd statements to make at a supper table?

This is a strange meal in that it drives one guest away and leaves the rest unsettled and the Host with a broken heart. The truth is communion IS a strange meal, because it is a meal where we open our lives to God’s examination. It is a meal in which we remember our sins—OUR betrayals—all those times we broke God’s loving laws in thought, word, actions, and inactions, all the times we broke His heart. It’s a meal to remind us—to SHOW us—that we are ALL guilty of sin.

This week I read about how police in Pennsylvania captured a thief literally RED-handed. You see, this man had stolen a pot of meatballs from his neighbor’s garage. I think the neighbor was cooking on a grill and had gone inside to get something. That’s when the man next door made his move. When the neighbor came back and saw the pot missing—he looked over and saw his neighbor standing in front of HIS house with sauce on his face, and shirt—and hands. Well, it didn’t take a Columbo to figure out who had stolen the meatballs. Officers in Luzerne County arrested Leahman Glenn Robert Potter and charged him with burglary, criminal trespass, and theft. Police arrived recovered the missing pot in the street but the meatballs were long gone.

Police officials were unable to confirm any further details, but sources claim to have verified a motive in the theft—the meatballs were apparently delicious. Potter was arrested and held on $25,000 bail.

We can chuckle or wonder if that was too severe of a penalty—but point I want to make here is that you and I—we are just as guilty as this meat-ball loving neighbor. We are covered with sin—and communion is a special meal because it shows us this fact. Let me just stop and say—this is Lord’s Supper is a meal that should not be trifled with. I mean, as Paul warns us in 1st Corinthians 11:27-32 this meal should not be taken in an unworthy manner. Now, this does not mean that sinners cannot eat here. Of course not. Otherwise this room would be empty. But it does mean that we disrespect this meal if we take it without first inviting the Lord’s examination and forgiveness. We need to stop and ask God to shine the light of His truth on our lives—revealing the sin that is in all of us. Let me put it this way. This meal is designed to bring out the very worst in us for it exposes our sinful hearts.

Nancy Mairs wrote, “I don’t partake because I’m a good Catholic, holy and pious and sleek.  I partake because I’m a bad Catholic, riddled by doubt and anxiety and anger; fainting from severe hypoglycemia of the soul.” Well, Nancy Mairs is right. In partaking of this supper, we admit our sin and need for Jesus’ forgiveness.

(3) And then finally Jesus’ supper is special because it is a meal that satisfies our deepest hunger.

You may remember learning in school that our taste buds have five essential types of flavor sensations: sweet, salty, savory, sour and bitter. This week I read that scientists have now added a sixth taste: STARCHY. A professor Joyun Lim from Oregon State University, explains the justification for the recent addition. Her researchers found volunteers who could identify starch-like tastes in various carb solutions, even after being administered a solution that blocked the taste of sweetness. Lim said, “Asians would say it was rice-like, while Caucasians described it as bread-like or pasta-like. They said it’s like eating flour.” Of course, starch has yet to be completely enshrined in the proverbial Hall of Taste. This is because food scientists insist that primary tastes be recognizable, have identifiable taste receptors on the tongue, and trigger a useful physiological response. Lim and other scientists are working on finding those taste receptors, but for useful physiology, one need look no further than elite athletes.

There’s a reason why bodybuilders, distance runners, and basketball players all use terms like “carbing up” or “carb loading” to describe their culinary habits. The cliché is true—the body knows what it wants and it hungers for it.

Well, this meal is special because it reveals a SEVENTH thing we all hunger for. We hunger for fellowship with God. We long for His love—His guidance—we thirst for His presence and the peace it brings. Life has taught us that we can have everything this world has to offer: wealth, education, prestige, even religion and still hunger for something more. Trying to find satisfaction in the things of this world is like trying to fill your stomach with lettuce, it just doesn’t satisfy. We hunger for more.

Years ago Barbara Walters did one of her interview specials in which she talked to three celebrities: Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, and Walter Cronkite, three “C’s.”  Johnny Carson came across as the typical jaded playboy hedonist. Everything he said telegraphed the fact that he was living for pleasure, but having tried everything and been everywhere he was fed up with the whole thing. Walker Cronkite was the suave humanist, the worldly philosopher. Now retired and wealthy, he is enjoying life as best he can. Both Carson and Cronkite were like the people Isaiah addressed in 55:2 for they had devoted their lives to laboring, “for what does not satisfy.” Johnny Cash, on the other hand, humbly admitted his background of alcoholism and dope addiction and the fact that he had virtually destroyed a marriage and wrecked his life—trying to satiate his inner hunger for more. He openly told Walters that then he had met Jesus. There was a peace in his eyes and contentment in his voice as he spoke of a hope for the future, which neither of the others had.  Johnny Cash made it very clear that he had found that Jesus is indeed the Bread of Life, bread that satisfies far more than mere physical hunger. There are more important hungers in life and we all have them and they can only be satisfied in relationship with Jesus.

The pleasures of this world are temporary and fading, only a relationship with Jesus can satisfy the immortal longings and the insatiable hunger of the human heart and soul.  As St. Augustine once prayed, “Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless without Thee.” Only in Jesus do we find food for our souls, food so satisfying that as He says in John 6:35, those who come to Him, “will never go hungry, and, never be thirsty.”  This supper is meaningful because it reminds us of this truth that all our hungers are satisfied in relationship to Him.

As we come to partake of His Supper I invite all Christians present to join us. Even if you are not a member of this church, If you are His, this is yours. Peggy, Kevin, and I will stand behind the kneeling benches, and after a time of examination and prayer, when you feel ready, come and we will serve you.


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