Sermon by Andy Wurm for Maundy Thursday 2019
At the last supper, Jesus shared bread and wine with his closest disciples. He took a simple meal, a simple ritual, and imprinted it with himself, so that by repeating it, people like us could remember him. Remembering Jesus in that way is not just remembering him though – not in the sense we usually use the term to just mean recalling to mind. Here it’s more a case of making present.
But the writer of John’s gospel tells us there is much more going on here. This last supper of Jesus is connected to all that will follow, which means when we re-enact the last supper, we to will connect with all that follows.
Basically, what’s going on here is Jesus is giving himself to his disciples, to the world and to us. But then there’s the question of what we will do with that.
Two words that are significant here are handing over (one word) and eat. But what’s interesting about these two words is that they can both mean two different things. The word for ‘handing over’ can also mean betray, and the word for ‘eat’ can also mean ‘destroy’. So the gospel writer is telling us that what occurs can have two meanings. So, Jesus handing himself over, can also mean he is betrayed. Jesus giving his body and blood can also mean he is destroyed by one who eats it. And there is more than one who eats a morsel of bread, so the possibility of destroying what’s given is there for all who are present.
In the last supper, Jesus hands himself over to his followers, by imprinting himself on the bread and wine. He transmits himself to them and to us. So they, and we therefore, become the recipients of his body and blood.
We are the new owners of all that he is. Hence in our Eucharistic prayer we recite Jesus’ words ‘this is my body, which is given for you, do this in remembrance of me’. In other words, do this to become me, so from now on you will be my body, my life’. And so also in the Eucharist, we proclaim ourselves to be the Body of Christ. In washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus imparts a final lesson on what that means.
After we have finished stripping the church, we hear what comes next, which is Judas heading off to betray Jesus. Some of the early church theologians talked about that as Jesus was putting himself on a hook, and the devil taking the bait. By not resisting what Judas and others will do and all that follows, Jesus will be trapped by their cunning plan. But the very act of trapping him and then killing him will expose their behaviour for what it is, and so dethrone their righteousness, by which they justify and mask the rivalry and competition which runs their lives and the systems which they serve.
Jesus can claim that Now the Son of Man has been glorified, because all that stands in the way of humanity becoming what it was created for is being deconstructed.