Are you ready?
27 Feb 2010, Pr Sue Redman
(Sue is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
Are you ready?
It was a Thursday, the 14th of Nisan, and according to Jewish tradition, it would be a big day. The Jews would be celebrating the Passover, or their exodus from Egypt, which meant a whole pile of things like homes being searched and cleared of leaven; the Passover lamb being taken to the priests in the morning, retrieved in the afternoon, then roasted and prepared for the evening meal; someone deciding on the kind and order of dishes to serve with the lamb and the number of cups of wine required. Someone deciding on what hymns would be sung, who would recite the Exodus story, who would say the prayers.
Yes, it would be a big day and the disciples knew it. But everyday seemed like a big day these days. Just the day before they'd arrived in Jerusalem from Bethany and they'd been greeted by what seemed like the whole of the city. Someone had heard that Jesus was coming and they'd all turned out to meet him - waving palm branches and singing hosannas. Everyone knew that sooner or later Jesus would be crowned King but today, today they just needed to focus on the Passover. They didn't even know where they were going to eat yet . . .
As you may know, this story is recorded in the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 14, and you might like to open your Bibles and read it with me. Mark 14:12-16,
"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 water jar 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."
According to the Gospel of Luke 22:8, the two disciples that Jesus sent into the city were Peter and John. These men were sent to do three things: 1. Meet a man carrying a water jar who 2. they were to follow to a house where they would speak with the owner about 3. eating the Passover meal in his room upstairs. Have you ever noticed these three details before? Have you ever thought about what they might tell us? A man prepared to carry a water jar. A homeowner prepared to share his assets. A room already furnished and prepared for the Passover meal.
My guess is that these details will tell each of us different things but because I'm the preacher today and it's appropriate that I share, I'm going to share three things that I once read they tell us. (1)
- The man carrying the water jar was prepared to be humbled. Jesus had told Peter and John that they were to go into the city and there they would find a man carrying a water jar. It goes without saying that thousands of people lived in Jerusalem in Jesus' day. Thousands more flocked to it for the Passover season. And yet Jesus told Peter and John that they would easily find the man they were looking because he would be carrying a water jar. The truth is that not many men would have been prepared to do this in the Ancient Near East. It was a woman's job and most men would have hesitated to do it. But here was one who was willing to be humbled if that's what Jesus asked.
- The homeowner was prepared to share his assets. We don't know this homeowner's name because the Bible doesn't tell us. Some have suggested it might have been Nicodemus, or Joseph of Aramethea or the father of John Mark, but really we don't know. What we do know however is that this man must have been a man of some means because anyone with a large house in crowded and expensive Jerusalem would have to have been wealthy, very wealthy. But that's not what makes him stand out. What makes this man stand out is the fact that he was prepared to share his wealth; he was prepared to share his assets with Jesus. He was willing to give Jesus whatever He asked him to give.
- The room was already furnished and prepared for the Passover meal. Most rooms would have been small in Jerusalem but apparently this was a large room, a special room. Apparently the same room the disciples would gather in after the crucifixion of Jesus (John 20:19) and the same room where the believers would receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was an upper room; one that would have sheltered its occupants from the greedy merchants and noisy masses on the crowded streets below. But again, this is not what makes it significant. What makes it significant is the person who'd been willing to prepare it. Someone who we never even think about; someone who to this day remains a nobody. "Furnished and ready," Jesus said it would be, and I can see it now - beautiful carpet, a long table, candles, perhaps a couch, a pitcher of water, a basin, a towel.
Maybe the reason these three details stand out because they stand in stark contrast to the details we find in the Gospel of Luke. Unlike the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke reveals what wasn't prepared that day. Unlike the water carrier, the homeowner, and presumably a servant; unlike the room, the Passover meal and the program, the Gospel of Luke tells us what wasn't ready and what wasn't ready were Jesus' disciples. Jesus' disciples weren't ready for their Last Supper with Jesus and we know this because we find them still squabbling about who would be the greatest in His Kingdom.
I don't think it was an oversight on Jesus' part that saw no servants being hired for that Last Supper. I think we can safely presume, both from the fact that Jesus had thought of everything else and the way He responded to His disciples' squabbles, that there was a reason He left hiring servants off His to-do list and we actually find this reason in John 13:3-5,
"And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him."
And verses 12-17 go on to say,
"(And) after he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, 'Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord - and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed to do them.'"
"For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you . . . If you know these things, you are blessed to do them."
What Jesus was doing here was preparing His disciples for His departure; showing them how He wanted them to live when He returned to heaven. He didn't want them squabbling about who was the greatest or who was the leader or who was "right." He wanted them humbling themselves - even unto death - which is why He was illustrating how to serve.
In just a few minutes, each one of us will have opportunity to also follow Jesus' example and wash each other's feet as a symbol of our willingness to serve. But before we do that, I'd like to read something from The Desire of Ages. In The Desire of Ages, Ellen White says that,
"The ordinance preceding the Lord's Supper is to clear away . . . misunderstandings, to bring man out of his selfishness, down from his stilts of self-exaltation, to the humility of heart that will lead him to serve his brother. The Holy Watcher from heaven is present at this season to make it one of soul searching, of conviction of sin, and of the blessed assurance of sins forgiven." (2)
This footwashing ceremony is actually a rather solemn occasion. It has to be because the forgiveness of our sins depends upon it. There's no point us reciting our Lord's Prayer if we're not willing to act on it. We might as well be a Pharisee standing on a street corner if we're willing to ask God to forgive us our debts and yet we're not willing to forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:9-13) Jesus was very clearly when He said in Matthew 6:14 and 15, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
These verses tell us that no matter how hurt we've been, no matter how justified our anger; Christians are called to forgive to the point of being willing to serve, and if all that sounds a bit big let me remind you that nothing is impossible with God. Neither the healing of hearts so we can begin, or re-begin the process of forgiveness, nor the desire to humble ourselves, even unto death and if you'd like to talk about this some more, I'd love to chat.
For now, as we start thinking about footwashing and the Communion Service which follows, it's obvious that the table is ready. The utensils are ready, the linen is ready and the emblems are ready. But are we ready? Are our hearts prepared? Are we ready to become the least in God's kingdom? Are we willing to have our pride beaten, our indignation bruised, our self-righteousness, resentment and bitterness removed? Are we willing to let go of our need to be right, our need to be a somebody? Are we willing to be reconciled with one another so that we can be reconciled with God?
You might like to take a moment before you leave for footwashing this morning . . .
1 I'm so sorry. I wrote this sermon a number of years ago and unfortunately I don't remember the source!
2 Ellen G White, The Desire of Ages, p 650.
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