For the last week of our forty days together, we’ll be hearing from some other voices in our church. Today’s entry comes from Young Adults Director Zach Chronley.
And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
LUKE 22:14-20 (ESV)
I remember when I was planning on proposing to my wife. Early on in our relationship, I had attempted to casually ask her how she envisioned herself being proposed to. She hesitated, but after a moment had told me, “I think what matters most to me is that my three best friends from college are there.” I tucked that information away because as early as it was, I had already decided that this was the girl that I was going to ask to marry me.
In the months that followed, I found myself second guessing what it was exactly she meant when she said she wanted her friends to be there. Did she mean that she wanted an engagement party to follow my proposal? Or was she hoping her best friends to be literally present in that moment that I asked her? I decided to play it safe and chose the latter. I set into motion the task of inviting her three friends to secretly travel to San Antonio on the fateful day.
It was wonderful to see how her friends rose to the occasion, and we quickly conspired to find a day that worked for us. When the day was selected, I went to work, planning how it would all go down. I knew Leslie suspected this day was coming, so I decided to try and amaze her rather than completely surprise her. In the end I designed a little “scavenger hunt” that walked her through the places where we had shared key moments in our relationship. One of her friends would surprise her and pick her up and help her get ready. Her friend gave her a letter I had written that, unbeknownst to her, would lead her to another friend with another letter. This would repeat and then lead her straight to me.
I remember my heart beating fast when the hour came, with me proposing to her by a private pond at sunset just a few steps away from the place where we first met. Her three friends stood there, and when it was over we left the pond for a celebration with more of our friends and family. My heart was full as we were surrounded by so many people we loved. I’ll always treasure those moments.
In Luke 22, the disciples were amazed upon their entrance into Jerusalem. Jesus had been given nothing short of a king's welcome, and tensions could not have been higher. Jesus had spent most of the last several months at a distance from the holy city because the officials and the chief priests had made it very clear that they would do everything in their power to put him to death. An electricity was in the air. Everybody knew something important was about to happen. He had inspired such passionate responses throughout their travels, and the disciples knew they just as easily could be arrested upon reaching the city gates.
But after that ostentatious entrance, they felt at ease. The priests would never dare try anything against Jesus in public with the amount of support he received. While there was always the chance they could try to arrest him privately, even that seemed unlikely. After all, nobody knew where they were staying. Jesus had miraculously foreseen the place and had told them where to go and who to talk to about lodging. This is where we come to Luke 22:14, where we’re told the disciples all reclined with Jesus at the table.
Now as his disciples go to eat in celebration of Passover, a tradition they would have done their entire lives, Jesus – who as rabbi no doubt would have led the ceremony – suddenly does something very unusual. Jesus holds out what scholars believe to be the third cup, or the cup of salvation, which traditionally is set aside. But Jesus takes the cup and offers it to them all to drink of it, saying “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Now there are many reasons why his disciples might have been astonished at this, but probably none more so than to drink a cup of a new covenant in that day was essentially nothing short of a marriage proposal.
The Bible is very clear that the church is the bride of Christ. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul teaches of marriage and the mystery of two becoming one flesh and in verse 32 reveals that he’s really speaking of Jesus and his church. This Passover moment was when Jesus made these intentions clear.
I think back to my own marriage proposal when I see Jesus here declaring “I have earnestly desired…” Jesus desired this moment of union and offered it to his disciples. In Jewish tradition, a betrothed woman was called “one who was bought with a price.” Jesus was telling them here of the price he would pay, of the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood that was to come. We know that there is no greater act of love than this. His sacrifice is the grandest gesture.
In Jesus’ day when a proposal was complete the people would celebrate, and then a time of separation would occur, in which the groom would return to his father's house to prepare a place for him and his new wife to live. When the father deemed the time ready, he would send his son on a day and an hour that the bride did not know to take her to their new home. It’s no wonder then that John after recounting this same night, immediately follows this story with Jesus saying:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
As the bride of Christ we too are called to wait for him. When we celebrate communion, we “declare His death until He comes.” As we wait for our beloved Savior we celebrate that God has chosen us and that we are loved. In the words of Song of Solomon 7:10, we can say, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.”
The most important thing we can do in prayer is listen. Today, I encourage you to hear God speaking to you in this passage from Song of Solomon 2:10-14 and meditate on its truth.
My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away. O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the crannies of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.
Despite knowing that that we’re loved, it’s so easy to let our hearts “be troubled.” Jesus’ answer is as simple as it is difficult. Believe in me. As silly as it might sound, say this aloud today “Jesus, if I can trust that You love me enough to die for me, I can trust you with ______________ .” And fill in that blank with your troubles and your struggles. Your beloved hears you and cares for you today.