March 25, 2007
5th Sunday of Lent
"Thursday: Broken Bread And Broken Trust"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.
 When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money. So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
 So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him,
 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?'
 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there."
 So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
 When it was evening, he came with the twelve.
 And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me."
 They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, "Surely, not I?"
 He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.
 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born."
 While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body."
 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it.  He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
 Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
 When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Here we are in our "Way of the Cross" our journey with Jesus through His last week of ministry. Today in our journey is Thursday. Next week we celebrate Palm Sunday and the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem and everything that followed that week. During Holy Week we will actually gather to worship and remember on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
But today we look just at Thursday through Broken Bread And Broken Trust.
It all began with a Meal. Which Lead to the Garden and the Kiss, then the Sword and the Healing. But it all began with the meal.
They all came. Everyone of them. One by one. Jesus, the light of the world. Peter, James and John, Jesus' closest friends and leaders in ministry, who would accompany Jesus later, to the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed and they struggled unsuccessfully to stay awake. We light a candle for each of them.
There was Andrew, Peter's brother. The one who actually introduced Peter to Jesus. Andrew it seems was always being left in charge of leading the others when Jesus, Peter James and John went off somewhere together.
Matthew the former tax collector, whose changed life would lead to writing of one of the Gospels.
Thomas, the twin, who would unfairly be labeled the doubter because he wasn't with them when Jesus appeared to the disciples for the first time after His resurrection.
Simon, a Zealot, just like Judas, but with different loyalties.
Philip who introduced Nathanael to Jesus.
Nathanael also known as Bartholomew, probably the youngest. The one who asked the traditional 4 questions of the Passover Seder meal.
James the son of Alphaeus. One tradition says that he was the brother of Matthew and a tax collector like his brother. Others claim he is the son of Mary the wife of Cleopas who witnessed the risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus.
Thaddeus or the other Judas, the son of James, often referred to as Jude Thaddeus or Thaddeus Judas, so as not to confuse him with Judas Iscariot.
And that only leaves Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. A thief who used to take money from the common purse. We light a black candle for him.
Their presence lit up the table just as Christ did.
A. That meal was and is the most important meal of the Jewish faith. It was an Independence Day of sorts, an Independence Day combined with family tradition, laughter and a depth of seriousness that rivals any other faith. It was a night whose roots went all the way back to the time of Moses. The words were sacred tradition.
On that night, Jesus took bread and wine and changed everything up.
B. Bread, simple unleavened bread that symbolized freedom and the hurried nature of Israel's escape from slavery. This bread became a symbol of freedom from sin through forgiveness; forgiveness bought by the death and resurrection of Jesus. None of which made any sense at all to any of the Disciples gathered at that meal.
The changes started with a piece of bread; a very special piece of the bread, hidden in the pocket of a Matzah Tosh. This piece of bread was broken in half. One half was used for the bitter herbs. The other half was wrapped in a linen cloth and hidden away like a body in a tomb, a piece of bread which was so important the Seder couldn't be finished without it. It was and is the best piece. And this is the piece Jesus took and said, "Take eat, this is my body."
C. And then the wine, a common drink, sometimes more sanitary than the water, symbolizing the blood of the lamb which marked the doors of the Israelites when Pharaoh named his own punishment and proclaimed the death of every first born child. And now, this First Born Child of God, God's only Son, the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world, stood before his Disciples and proclaimed the wine as a symbol of His blood which would be poured out, like the blood on the door posts, as a sign of life and a sign of the forgiveness of the sins of the world.
Jesus used the third cup of wine in the Seder or Passover ritual. This third cup was known as the cup of redemption. It was at this juncture in the ritual, that those gathered would stand, the door would be opened for the coming of Elijah, the prophet, the one who would announce the coming of the Messiah.
D. On the table during the Seder there is a special cup. It's called Elijah's Cup. It sits next to the plate which holds all the symbols of the flight for freedom, the parsley, the bitter herbs, the haroseth, the boiled egg, the lamb shank and unleavened bread. This cup is called Elijah's Cup because it is reserved for one of two people. Only the Prophet Elijah or the Messiah could drink out this cup. This is the cup Jesus drank from. This is the cup He used as the Cup of Redemption.
With their eyes wide in uncertain understanding, they drank, afraid to ask. But they drank. With questions running rampant through their minds, Jesus leads them to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives just outside the Golden gate of the city. The gate which led to the Temple.
A. Standing in that place is an amazing thing. Did you know there are olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane that are over 2500 years old. That means they were there in the time of the prophets. Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel and Malachi all could have stood in this same spot overlooking Jerusalem. There's one tree that could be as old as the prophet Jeremiah.
This is a piece of a branch from that tree. No, I didn't vandalize it. A freak winter snow, 22 inches of heavy wet snow covered Jerusalem just before my first trip. Limbs and branches were broken off. I took this with the permission of the groundskeeper. Jesus could have prayed under this tree. The Disciples could have marveled at how old it was when they stood around it and remarked that they were standing where the prophets stood.
B. This Olive Garden is filled not only with Olive trees but with the herb rosemary. It lines the walks and is tended like hedges. It's pungent odor permeates the place. It's there for a reason. Rosemary is the herb of remembrance.
There's nothing to suggest it in Scripture, but I like to think maybe rosemary was growing in the Garden even in Jesus' time. I think Jesus went to the Garden to breathe deep of the smell of the Rosemary, to kneel in the presence of the living history of those trees who witnessed the prophets. I think Jesus went there to remember.
Bowed down with the weight and burden of the sin of the world He was about to bear, Jesus prayed, and remembered. In His prayer He cried out for mercy and courage and strength for the friends who couldn't stay awake. And He cried out to God, "Take this cup from me." and He remembered. Tempted to turn away, He remembered. He remembered His purpose. He remembered His calling. He remembered the love God has for Him. And He remembered His love for us. The smell of rosemary filled Him and He remembered. He remembered.
And as He remembered, that's when they came. Feet marching, the sound of swords in leather scabbards clattering against the leather greves and armor of the Temple Guard. The sound of spears being used as walking sticks. Murmers and whispers. The shuffle of feet. The smell of torches and fear. The jingle of coins in a pouch. Thirty coins to be exact. Thirty pieces of silver. That was the price of betrayal.
And the instrument of betrayal. The means by which the message, "You're done for" was conveyed was a kiss. A kiss on the cheek.
The guards stopped. The torches didn't really make it that much easier to see. Jesus was still busy praying. Judas knelt down and kissed him on the cheek. I wonder if Jesus felt the burning of that kiss for the remainder of His days? I wonder if He feels it now? Surely a kiss like that would have left some physical evidence behind. Something to make it linger.
Jesus, still filled with remembrance, knowing He would suffer. Knowing His fate, His heart breaking, Jesus accepted the kiss from the one He had called friend. And then they grabbed Him.
The sudden movement, the noise, the sound of the kiss, I didn't know what but it startled the sleeping disciples. And that's when Peter jumped up with sword swinging. In startled anger, He wanted to defend Jesus. But even more, Peter wanted the events of the evening to cease unfolding. He didn't want to be put to the test. He didn't want to be put to the test and fail in denial.
The sword swung. The blood flew. And the ear of Malchus fell.
I think it's curious that we know the name of this servant of the High Priest. This servant of the sworn enemy of Jesus. I think it's curious because this is the last miracle Jesus performs. In one flick of the finger or the blink of an eye, Jesus could have destroyed this group. But he didn't. In compassion Jesus tells the Disciples to put away their swords. And then without even thinking, His death imminent, yet His love and compassion for humanity still oozing from His very pores, Jesus reaches out and heals the man.
In stunned silence, the Guards and Conspirators drag Jesus off for His trumped up sham of a trial.
And one by one, the Disciples would scatter and desert Him. Until all that were left were three.
Peter who would run into the terror of the night as the cock crowed and he realized that he had denied Jesus not once but for the third time.
And Judas, who would follow behind for a little while but then, I think, finally came to himself and couldn't stand who he saw, who he had become. And he couldn't see any other way out. He didn't think he could be forgiven because he couldn't forgive himself.
So he did what no one has a right to do, filled with anger, regret, grief and remorse, Judas snuffed out his own life. He betrayed the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah for thirty lousy pieces of silver. And then he threw God's greatest gift, life itself, back into God's face.
Only one candle remained. Only one would follow Jesus to Calvary and stand at the foot of the cross with Jesus' mother. And that was John.
When the Light of the World was hung on the cross to die; When the Bread of Life was broken for our sakes, when the Light of the World was extinguished that day, only one disciple remained by his side.
That first Holy Thursday started as bright and as filled with promise as any other day. What began with a Meal, Lead to the Garden and the Kiss, then the Sword and the Last Healing. And it ended with Jesus being arrested.
You know, sometimes it's good to simply remember. And be thankful.
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