In Luke 22.7-22 we read Luke’s narrative of the final meal that Jesus shared with his disciples. Today is Maundy Thursday: the day when we would usually be gathering in our churches to celebrate the Eucharist together, breaking the bread and sharing the cup with one another as we enter the last days of Holy Week where the events of 2000 years ago are at the forefront of our minds.
This year, however, it is completely different. Our churches are closed and we are in isolation as we protect ourselves and others by preventing the spread of Covid-19. We cannot gather together to share the Eucharist and follow Jesus’ instruction to “Do this in remembrance of me”. Our lives are probably feeling somewhat like those of the disciples as they went into hiding following the arrest of Jesus.
On reading Luke’s account of the Last Supper you might, like me, find that Jesus’ words resonate: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”. We are all eager to share the Eucharistic feast with one another; it is a formative part of our Christian liturgy and those times when we gather together. So much of the ministry that Jesus lived out was in the context of sitting around a table sharing a meal with others. And we will undoubtedly feel the suffering of Jesus in the feelings of being separated from one another that we do at the moment.
Jesus’ words didn’t just stop at that point though. He continued on: “I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God”. Jesus knew that a period of suffering and separation was ahead, but he also knew that a time of reconciliation and wholeness when he could eat the Passover meal again was the final destination.
If today was not Maundy Thursday, the ordinary church calendar would have us remembering the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran Pastor and Theologian. Bonhoeffer was executed in Flossenburg Concentration Camp on 9th April 1945, two weeks before the United States Army liberated it. His theology was very much focussed in seeing Christ as the reconciliation of God with the world and the Christian life being one very much focussed on the imitation of Christ himself. He did not advocate retreating from the world, but very much acting within it. During his time of imprisonment prior to execution, he wrote many letters of encouragement to people and ministered to those around him in the camp. Suffering as he undoubtedly did, and knowing he was going to a death at the hands of an executioner, he imitated Christ by continuing to live out his faith – and doing so in the hope of the resurrected Christ who has put an end to sin, has restored that which was broken and gives the assurance of an eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Christ looked to the time when he would be able to eat and drink the Passover feast in the Kingdom of God. I wonder if we should follow Bonhoeffer’s example of imitating Christ in looking forward to the time when we shall share the Eucharist again with one another? Before long, we will do so as Brothers and Sisters of the Kingdom of God here on earth.
To help us consider this, Frances Newton De Souza’s The Last Support (1990) provides us with a modern reinterpretation Leonardo’s Last Supper – you can read about the picture here: https://www.sothebys.com/en/articles/a-monumental-reinterpretation-of-leonardo-da-vincis-last-supper
As you reflect, listen to Matt Redman singing “Abide with me”.
Lastly, here is a prayer for you to pray - the additional collect for Maundy Thursday:
God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ was obedient to the end and drank the cup prepared for him: may we who share his table watch with him through the night of suffering and be faithful.
I hope that this reflection, art and music will be food for thought – and also food in the present time for hope in the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ.