And when the hour was come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. And He said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say to you I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come (Luke 22:14-17).
It is the end. From that strange moment when Jesus blinked across the universe from heaven into Mary's womb, until now, He had experienced the human situation. He had known limitation, finite humanity, frailty, and the relentless track of fallen angels. He had walked His path as Messiach. The bullseye of Satan and his imps painted constantly on Jesus' back, He continued to Calvary. Now, but hours from the cross, He has come to the end. Everything is at stake. The very armies of evil are barking at His heels. His work in this phase of His mission is at the point of completion.
It is time for one last gathering round the table. Let's gather round with Him.
The words of Jesus tell us much. "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you."
Evolution is impersonal. Humanism is impersonal. The god of deism is impersonal or at least indifferent. The god of the new spirituality is transparently just ourselves. the god of Islam is downright vicious (read the Koran and see if you agree).
But the God of Christianity is personal. With desire Jesus desired to eat this passover with His disciples.
Just at that time when God might have indulged a sense of superiority, after three plodding years with disciples so slow to catch His Spirit, just when He might have said, I'll take some quiet time now for myself before the critical last steps, Jesus has different feelings entirely. The training is at an end; the most extreme crisis they will ever face is upon them; and Jesus wants to be with them in this so-personal way.
It is around the table that we often have our closest moments with friends and family. So now Jesus has gathered His disciples. It is the last substantial interview they will have together this side of the cross.
It is the end.
Nor is the work finished which Jesus has begun in them. They are woefully behind schedule. It is time for an emergency seminar, a quick small group training, an urgent cram session before the final test. But really, it is a time for the humanity of God. It is time for the personal God to spend in personal connection with His ragtag troupe.
Like it was so many years ago in the garden of Eden, when He personally spent time with Adam and Eve, He is here again to invest Himself in His peopole and to share.
God is not merely a personal God; He wants our good. Through His prophet Jeremiah He tells us this very thing:
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).
Thus was God's desire for good expressed through His prophet during the captivity. He would bring them out although so many times they were their own worst enemy. God wants good for us.
He is not a neutral hyper-intelligence. He is a caring God. He gave Himself for you and would have come and been nailed to the cross just for you. Now, you might not have done that for you. You might not have done that for your spouse or your neighbor.
He would and did.
He wanted to have this time with His disciples before He suffered on the cross. Make no mistake; Jesus was not indifferent to the extraordinary suffering He would undergo. It is just that He was willing to pay that price for us.
The penalty of the law fell upon Him who was equal with God, and man was free to accept the righteousness of Christ and by a life of penitence and humiliation to triumph, as the Son of God had triumphed, over the power of Satan. Thus God is just and yet the justifier of all who believe in Jesus.... The sacrifice to which infinite love impelled the Father and the Son, that sinners might be redeemed, demonstrates to all the universe--what nothing less than this plan of atonement could have sufficed to do--that justice and mercy are the foundation of the law and government of God (The Great Controversy 502-503).
Did you get that? Because of Jesus, we are freed to triumph as the Son of God triumphed. But we need to be sorry for sin. We need to come down off our sense of self-importance and be in humiliation before the Lord. God's free grace is for all who will embrace it. But if we are not embracing Christlikeness, we are not embracing the grace of Christ.
Jesus suffered for us. Top that. He didn't owe you anything. But He gave His life for you. Many Christians have never actually seen the cross. They have this superficial sense about some kind of distant transaction between heavenly intelligences that gives them a "get out of jail free" card.
But getting out of jail means receiving the atonement. Not a fake, plastic atonement, but an atonement that originates in a love for others so strong that it impelled the Father and it impelled Jesus and it impelled the Holy Spirit. To be impelled is to be moved forward by force.
In 2 Corinthians we are told that the love of God constrains or impels us. Well, that was the same love that constrained or impels Him. It is that love which is willing to give an extraordinary gift, not a low cost one.
Jesus tells the disciples that from that day, He will not partake of the communion until we experience it with Him in the regeneration. Now here we are 2,000 years from the cross and we are still here. Jesus still has not partaken. For those who think the whole conflict between good and evil was finished at the cross, there is a disconnect somewhere.
God is bringing an entire end to sin. The cross was much more expensive than we ever have thought, and heaven is not going to stop short of a redemption as valuable as the Redeemer. The kingdom is coming.
The risk is that we become settled and satisfied, that we dismiss the kingdom as something far away and almost unreal. It is hard to anticipate something real in the future that should be real to us now but isn't. If we are in failure to experience the reality of the kingdom now, we forget that Jesus fully experiences the delay right now. In a few moments we will drink the juice of the grape and taste the unleavened bread. But Jesus won't. Jesus is still ministering for us, still impelled to bless and help and change us. He is indeed our King but He is not relaxing His diligence. He is ministering for us even this hour, 24/7, in the Most Holy. He's looking forward to that day in the kingdom. He is denying Himself for us now.
My goal is not to drop a load of guilt on us, but to remind us of the desire of God. As He longed to come at last to that actual Passover event, so He longs for us to experience the reality of His kingdom now. He is for you. He loves you still. Today we can rejoice that the desire of God has not lessened. His purpose has not been modified. His plan of salvation has not been trimmed down or plasticized. His truth is the same strong, tall truth that it was when He trusted in His Father and died on the cross for you.
Just as Jesus came to the end of His first coming, so too we are coming to the time of the end of His ministry in heaven. He will return for us. Let us not grow faint. Let us not grow weary. God has not changed His plan of atonement. Nothing less than this plan of atonement is still active. All that Jesus has earned He still offers. His mercy is available still. Let us be bold and glad and trust Him.
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