Reflections 2015

 

Mark 10 v 17-31

 

The following is a reflection based on our reading about the rich young ruler, written from his perspective.  I have taken a few literary liberties and gone on to imagine what might have happened after the event referred to in the reading.

 

“I suppose if I look back I had always lead a privileged life of luxury.  But of course since I was born to it, it just seemed normal to me.  As I young child I guess I just assumed that everyone had servants at their beck and call, ready to attend to their slightest wish.  My father had inherited the bulk of his father’s fortune when he died. My grandfather had been a government official working alongside the Roman officials.  I don’t really know quite what he did, but it had obviously paid very well as he had been able to build a huge mansion in which we all lived together.  The job must have been passed down to my father as he was also a government official.  I took for granted that the house we lived in had mosaic floors, paintings on the walls and carvings decorating the downstairs rooms.  I suppose I never thought that my peers at the synagogue school didn’t all sleep at night in a carved wooden bed, with woollen blankets and a pillow.  I must admit that I hadn’t really lost too much sleep thinking what sort of conditions other people lived in – I was too busy enjoying the life of luxury that I led.

 

I went to the synagogue school when I was 5, where I learnt to read and write.  By the time I was 10, I and my friends started to learn from the Tora and learnt all about our laws and practices and what was expected of a good Jewish boy.  A lot of our learning was done by repeating verses from the Tora, until we knew them by heart and could recite them without reference to the scrolls.  Of course the most important laws we learnt were the commandments, because we had to keep these very strictly.  By the age of 18 I had finished my formal education at the synagogue, but I wanted to study more, so I went to our rabbi and sought more instruction from him.  We had many many discussions of what we thought was meant by all the laws, including those additions that the Pharisees had made, that were a bit harder to keep to than the basic ones we had learnt when we were younger.  So I had sat at the feet of the Rabbi Shammai and spent my days discussing the finer points of our Jewish laws.  My family was rich enough for me not to worry about starting a job as soon as I finished studying, and my father had made me a very good allowance that was mine to spend as I chose, so time was my own then.  When I was ready to start working, my father had secured me a well-paid job working alongside him for the Roman governor.

 

When I was about 21, I heard people around me talking about someone called Jesus of Nazareth.  He seemed to be the latest fashion in teachers, so I listened to what they were saying about him.  I thought it might be worth my while to get to know him, to see if there was more that I could do to get ahead and be even more prosperous in this life and beyond.  Obviously God must have been pleased with our family over the years, because we were very rich; that was always known as a sign of God’s blessing and approval.  But I wanted to see if there was any more that I could do in my life, to make sure that God blessed me even more and gave me eternal life.  I asked around to try to find out where the Teacher (as people called him) could be found.  He didn’t seem to be like the rabbis who sat in the synagogue to teach their disciples; he seemed to be itinerant.

 

I finally tracked Jesus down when he was in the area of Judea.  When I came upon him, he had apparently been answering some questions that were put to him by some Pharisees in the crowd. They always liked getting down to talking about the nitty gritty of the law; they could argue about that all day. They were asking him about divorce and whether it was lawful for a man to write his wife a certificate of divorce.  After he had finished his discussion with the Pharisees, he seemed to be trying to get away, but the crowds were pushing forward and asking him to bless their children.  He seemed to have endless patience with the children.  I had a job to get through the crowd of people, and by the time I got to where I thought he was, he had moved away.

 

I ran after him and fell to my knees in front of him.  I thought I would come straight out with my question, so I said to him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He turned the question back onto me.  Trust a teacher to answer a question with a question!  They always did that when they were teaching us, to try to catch us out.  He asked me why I called him “good”, as only God is good.  And then he quoted some of the commandments to me – do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and your mother.  Well as I said, I learned these commandments when I was just a boy.  They had been drummed into me by the teacher.  And of course I had kept them.  I hadn’t ever done anything really bad.  Only the pranks that all boys get up to – don’t they?  I told Jesus proudly that I had kept all these commandments.  I wanted to know what else I could do to earn God’s blessing and secure my place in heaven.

 

Then he gave me a strange look, like he really wanted to help me because he liked me.  What he said next came as a complete surprise to me.  “Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come and follow me.”  Well I mean to say, that really threw me.  I gave all the offerings that were required of me, that were used to help the poor, so I was already giving to the poor wasn’t I?  And why would I want to sell everything and be poor myself?  Everyone knew that a sure sign of God’s blessing was wealth and riches, so how could making myself poor get me any more sign of God’s approval?  I was rich so therefore God must be blessing me.  I was disappointed in his answer, and I really wasn’t wanting to give up my status and go traipsing round the country like this man seemed to do with his disciples.  It seemed to go against everything that I knew about from my teaching and discussions with the rabbis.  Besides, I was far too comfortable in my way of life to do anything extraordinary like that.  I mean, you could see that the people who followed him were the poor and sick – they presumably followed him for what they could get from him.  And I didn’t want people to think that God had withdrawn his blessing from me because I was suddenly poor; I had a reputation to keep up didn’t I?

 

I turned around and went back home, back to the comfortable life I knew and wanted.  But I must admit that what he said continued to bug me whenever I thought about it.  I had heard people saying that maybe this man Jesus was the Messiah that we had been waiting so long for.  But how could he be?  Surely he would be someone powerful; someone who could overthrow the Romans for us and let us be a free nation again.  But then, did I really want the Romans overthrown anyway?  After all, I and my family made a very good living from working for them.  The more I thought about things, the more confused I became.

 

 If I really thought about it, I knew that basically the Law of Moses should mean that there were no privileged Jews like us, because we were not supposed to take backhanders from anyone to maintain our positions.  Let’s face it the number of taxes that were imposed on the Jews, what with the Roman taxes and the Temple tax and the moneychangers making money out of the poorer people, who had to change their money into the Temple shekel to buy their sacrificial offerings; they were guaranteed to stay poor, weren’t they?  And similarly, we were more or less guaranteed to stay rich.  The more I thought about it, the more it didn’t really seem that the present system was fair or just.  I suppose I thought that Jesus would give me some way out of it, by doing a bit extra to satisfy my conscience, that admittedly was bothering me a bit, but without actually having to change anything substantially, and certainly without giving up my standard of living.  I didn’t want to lose that because by doing that it would seem to be a public sign that God was no longer blessing me if I became poor.

 

When it came to Passover time, I decided to make the journey up to Jerusalem; it was always good to be seen to be observing all the festivals properly.  But I didn’t bargain for what I heard while I was there.  At the Passover feasts, people were saying that the man Jesus had been tried by both the Sanhedrin and the Romans and had been executed by crucifixion.  I can’t think what he could have done that could possibly have warranted that cruel death.  I thought that after all he had only been yet another wandering preacher who had come to nothing.  So it wouldn’t have been any good me selling up and following him like he said, would it?  I mean, I might have been thrown into prison for consorting with him and that wouldn’t have done me any good.

 

I hung around Jerusalem for a couple of days visiting friends that lived there, and after a while there began to be reports circulating that Jesus had been seen alive.  They were saying that some of the things that the old prophets had foretold had been fulfilled by Jesus being crucified and then raised from the dead, and that Jesus himself had predicted his own death and resurrection to his disciples.  I talked to my friends about what was being said and they told me that they had heard that Jesus had said “I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”  When I heard that he said he was Truth, that rang a few bells from my days with the rabbis.  We were taught that God is Truth, and here was Jesus saying that he was Truth.  Maybe it wasn’t too much of a stretch to say that Jesus was claiming to be God.  Oh my!  No wonder the Pharisees had been up in arms at him.  They too must have realised what Jesus was saying.  But if that was indeed what he was claiming, and that the way to heaven was through him……….

 

Well that brought me back to thinking about what Jesus had said to me.  Go and sell everything and then come and follow me.  Maybe it wasn’t too late to find out about his teachings now.  Maybe I could meet with some of his disciples to ask them about all the thoughts that seemed to be whirling around in my head now.  If all that he had said was true, maybe it wasn’t just wealth and position that made you good enough to have eternal life.  Just maybe I had been on the wrong track for years and the status and position and wealth that I had always taken for granted as a sign of God’s blessing and approval were not the way to buy yourself eternal life.   Maybe you couldn’t even buy yourself eternal life; after all Jesus had said that he was the way to heaven.  Maybe all the wealth and money just got in the way of everything.  Perhaps in themselves they weren’t wrong; perhaps it was what they represented, and the fact that when it came down to it most people didn’t want to give up their good standard of living.

 

We Jews do love to spend hours discussing the law and philosophical things, so I talked to my friends who had met some of the people who had heard more of what Jesus had taught.  Apparently Jesus had said that it was hard for a rich man to get into heaven, but that with God it was possible.  So he was saying that for a rich man like me, getting into heaven was not easy.  This seemed to go against all that I had been taught when I was growing up.  But what Jesus seemed to be saying was that anything like money, position, mansions got in the way of really knowing God, because we end up thinking more about all those things than the things of God.  I came round to thinking that maybe Jesus was right – I suppose that when it came down to it, I loved my home, my money and all that went with it more than I loved God, and that meant that I was actually breaking the first commandment that had been drummed into me – “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me.”  How many times had I recited that commandment?  And I had told Jesus that I had kept all the commandments! 

 

Well it now seemed to me that what Jesus had been saying to me was that anything that came between us and truly worshipping God, was like putting another god before the Lord.  If God does bless us with wealth, it comes with a responsibility to use it wisely for his glory and to help others.  It doesn’t necessarily mean I have to become penniless myself, as that would not help others, but you know there is a good feeling when you do something for someone else.  I guess that I have the means to do this because I am rich.  In a way that’s what the Law of Moses is really all about, and it seems that Jesus was just building on that.    I can see now that I am not obeying the spirit of the Law, because if everyone truly did their duty under it, there should be no poor people and more equality.  That sounds good when you say it, doesn’t it, but how much harder it is to do it!  Like others I want to hold onto my riches for myself and the standard of living to which I have become accustomed; that’s a natural inclination and it takes a lot of getting over.  Now I’m getting myself into one of those circular arguments that the priests and scribes are so fond of!

 

In the end I think I came round to understanding what Jesus had been trying to say to me.  I just had to decide what I was going to do about it………………………..”

 

GRF

15/8/15

 

 

 

 

A meditation on the highs and lows in Peter's life

 

 

“You know looking back over these last 3 years or so, since Jesus first came into my life, I can see that there have been some good times and some bad times.  I suppose everyone’s life has its peaks and troughs; we can’t be on a high all the time, but sometimes I can see that from the highs I came crashing down very quickly.  Well they do say the higher you rise, the further you fall!

 

I was just an ordinary fisherman going about my work with my brother Andrew and my friends James and John.  OK so I am quite a big fellow, and people used to call me the Big Fisherman sometimes, as a bit of a nickname.  I’d heard all the talk about the carpenter called Jesus of Nazareth.  I thought at first he was just another one like that John the Baptist fellow, who lived like a wild man and went about preaching repentance and baptising people, telling them about the one who was to come after him, but when I saw Jesus, I knew at once that he was different.  There was just something about him.  Something indefinable that drew you to him.  You couldn’t put your finger on it or even really put it into words, but I knew it was something good.

 

We were washing our nets that day early on, when Jesus walked our way, and the next thing I knew he got into our boat and asked us to put out a little way from the shore, so he could talk to all the people that seemed to follow him wherever he went.  After he had talked to the people, he told us to go out into the deeper water and put down our nets.  Now I was an experienced fisherman and we’d been out all night and caught absolutely nothing; I knew there were no fish around but… well… for some reason that I couldn’t fathom, I did as he said.  Well ….. we caught so many fish we thought the nets would break.  I was afraid of him then because he seemed to be able to look into my very soul and know my thoughts and besides that, he seemed to be able to find fish just like that!  I asked him to go away from me, because I thought he could see all my sins, but he told me not to be afraid; from now on I would catch men.  Well I and my brother Andrew, along with James and John, upped and followed him just like that.  I didn’t have to think about it, I just went.  That was a high moment in my life I can tell you.  There was all this talk around about this man Jesus and the miracles he had done and he had asked me – Simon the fisherman to go with him, because presumably he needed me.

 

And of course as we followed him, I and the other men he called his disciples, the twelve of us, all witnessed the miracles he did on a daily basis.  Being the big man that I am came in useful in crowd control, when people pushed forward to get to Jesus so they could be healed, and people took one look at me and did as I said.  That made me feel good.  Of course the children kept pushing in the crowds and wanted to get to the front to see Jesus, like children always do, and I was doing an important job in keeping them back.  But then Jesus told me not to stop them, but to let them come to him so that he could bless them.  That felt a bit like a slap in the face to me after I had been trying to protect him from them.  I suppose it was a blow to my ego really.  But it brought me right back down again!

 

There were times when Jesus singled me out, with James and John, when he was going to do something special, like when he brought the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue ruler, back to life.  He took just the three of us into her room with him to see what he did.  That was really special, seeing him having power over life and death.  Not long after that, Jesus sent all twelve of us out and gave us the power to do some of the things that he was doing, like healing people and driving out demons.  Well of course it was a really good feeling to be able to go about healing people.  Obviously by this time I had realised that he was definitely someone very special and when I thought about it all carefully, I realised that he really was the Messiah that we had been waiting for.  He had to be if he could give us the power to do those things.

 

Once, when we disciples were with Jesus when he had been praying, he asked us all who we thought he was.  Well as I say I knew by then that he was the Messiah, so I immediately said “You are the Son of God.”  Jesus said that I was blessed because his father in heaven had revealed this to me.  He went on to say that I was now “Peter, the Rock on which his church would be built, and the gates of hell would not overcome it.”  Well that was the real high point of my life at that time.  Jesus had singled me out as being blessed by our Father God in heaven.  I felt ten feet tall then and like I could overcome the world.  Jesus had faith in me to build his church.  I walked about with my head in the clouds for quite a while after that.

 

But then, as usual, my big mouth let me down again.  Jesus started to tell us that he would have to suffer and die and be raised on the third day.  I couldn’t take in what he was saying and protested that this could never happen to him.  He couldn’t die!  Where would we be without him? And what about all the good things he was doing?  Jesus rounded on me then and said to me “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you don’t have in mind the things of God but the things of men!”  Well that completely deflated me – calling me a stumbling block to him.   I came crashing down, feeling totally confused.  I still didn’t understand then, why, if Jesus was the Messiah we had all been waiting for, he would be killed.  I felt that I couldn’t let it happen, but Jesus insisted that this was his destiny.  I was upset and hurt, and felt about two feet tall now!

 

I didn’t know quite what a rollercoaster life would be at that time, because not long after that, Jesus took the three of us, James, John and me, up a high mountain, leaving the other disciples behind at the bottom of the mountain.  We had no idea what was going to happen, but suddenly everything became very bright; Jesus’ clothes looked a dazzling white and then two men appeared and started talking to Jesus.  I don’t know how, but instantly we knew that it was Moses and Elijah that he was talking to.  It was the most glorious thing I have ever experienced.  Well I wanted time to stand still so I could have that feeling for ever, so I suggested that we build booths on the mountain, so we could stay there together and talk with them, but while I was saying this, the crowning moment came – we all heard a voice saying “This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”   Well all three of us were terrified at this and fell down to the ground in awe.  I thought if we had heard the voice of God, as I knew that’s what it was, we would all surely die there on that mountain.  But Jesus reassured us as he always did and told us not to be afraid.  That was the ultimate high moment of my life thus far.  One that, as I said, I wanted to last for ever.  There was such a wonderful feeling that I don’t have the words to describe.  If I live to be a hundred I will never ever forget every second of that time.  Of course, we couldn’t stay there forever, so we had to come down the mountain and resume what we had been doing.

 

I seemed to be the unelected spokesman for the disciples, so I often ended up answering questions that Jesus posed to us, or asking him the questions that everyone else wanted to know the answer to.  It didn’t seem to matter though, because he always seemed to know what we were thinking or had been saying, even when he wasn’t there.

 

When Jesus sent me with John to get the room ready for the Passover meal, I had no idea that this would lead to one of the very lowest moments of my life.   When Jesus got up and went round washing our feet before the meal, I was horrified and of course protested that this was the job of the lowliest slave and not something that he should be doing, but Jesus insisted that he had to do it, to show us what he expected of us.  So being my usual impetuous self, I asked him to wash all of me.  But of course he said that wasn’t necessary.  It was only necessary to wash our feet.  He said that by doing this, he was showing us how we had to act – with humility, like a servant. 

 

Then Jesus told me that he had prayed for me, that my faith would not fail.  He told me when I had turned back that I should look after the others.  I of course protested that I would willingly go with him even to prison and death.  I didn’t think my faith in him would fail.  But Jesus said that before the cock had crowed I would deny three times that I even knew him.  Me - deny knowing him – I would never do that; I was his rock; he was going to build his church on me, so I wouldn’t fail him; that could not possibly happen.   But of course he knew me better than I knew myself.  And before the night was out I had protested vehemently to three different people that I wasn’t one of his disciples and I didn’t know him.  When I had said that the third time, I saw the sad look he gave me as he turned round.  There was so much in that look – it wasn’t judgement or criticism, but a weary look of love.  It wasn’t “I told you so” or any of the other things that I was saying to myself.  But of course I knew that I had let him down in his hour of need and I really hit rock bottom hard.  I hated myself and what I had done to him – the one who had so much faith in me, who loved me so much.  How could I say that I didn’t know him?  How could he ever forgive me for that? I went away from that place and cried like a baby.  I had heard him called the Son of God, I had seen him at that special time, and then denied even knowing him, just to save my own skin.  I didn’t want to talk to anyone; I couldn’t bear what they might say to me or about me.  But then no names that anyone might call me could be worse than what I thought of myself.  I was totally unworthy of even being called his disciple, let alone his friend.  How would I ever get over this?

 

Eventually I did find some comfort in being with the other disciples, but I was just as afraid of what might happen to us as all the others were, even though in a way I didn’t really care what happened to me now.  So I was really surprised when the two Marys came to us and said that they had seen Jesus alive and had been told to “go and tell the disciples and Peter”, that he was going ahead of us to Galilee.  He had particularly mentioned me – after what I had done to him!

 

I had very mixed emotions when I saw him.  I didn’t really know how to face him; how to look him in the eye, when he knew what I had said; how I had denied that I even knew him.  It was very hard on that beach after I had jumped out of the boat, when we caught those fish, and I realised that Jesus was on the beach.  When he kept asking me if I loved him, by the third time I was hurt that he had to keep asking and I had to keep answering.  But afterwards when I thought about what he had said and done, I realised that he was giving me the chance to wipe out each of those three times that I had denied him, and he was restoring me to be his Rock after all.  I’m glad he did that because I wanted to wipe out what I had done.  I will never forget it, but I know he will not hold it against me.  He never does hold things against you when you are weak and fail him and let him down; not if you are genuinely sorry.

 

Before Jesus left us to ascend to his father, he promised that he would send his Holy Spirit to help us.  I had no idea when he said this what it would really mean, but now after receiving that outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and standing up in front of thousands of people telling them about Jesus, I know that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life – to tell people about the Jesus that loves them.  I know that I can’t be on a permanent high all my life and that at times I will still have very low moments, but I know that for every circumstance of my life I have the Holy Spirit to help me get through whatever life throws at me.  I now know that the only way for this to happen was that Jesus my Lord had to die and be raised to life and go back to his father in heaven, so that anyone who believes in him can have the Holy Spirit indwelling their lives to help them live for him.”

 

GF

5/6/15

 

 

 

A meditation on the Communion Service

 

As we come to the start of Lent this week, it seems an appropriate time to think about the Communion service and what it means to us.  I therefore want to look at the Communion service, as instigated by Jesus on that last Passover evening, through the eyes of someone who was at the Last Supper. The following is a reflection I have written on the words of Jesus as he shared his last Passover meal with his disciples, through the eyes of Peter.

 

“It’s only as I look back at that eventful week from a distance that I see things clearly; that I understand that Jesus had to go to Jerusalem for the Passover and that all that happened thereafter was fulfilling things prophesied long ago about the Messiah.  He had always known what would happen to him when he set his face towards Jerusalem; that in doing so he was signing his own death warrant.  But I didn’t understand; none of us understood at the time that it was the reason that he had been sent to earth.  We wanted to stop him; we tried to stop him; we didn’t want him to die.  We had not really understood, when he told us about his kingdom, what sort of a kingdom he meant.  Our thoughts were about the kingdoms of this world, but he was talking about his heavenly kingdom. 

 

Jesus must have slipped away from us at some time and made the arrangements in advance for us to eat the Passover meal together in that upper room.  He knew that a man carrying a water jar in Jerusalem would be a rare sight, so that was how we would know who we had to follow to find the right house.  He knew that the owner would let us use his upper room.  John and I went, as instructed, to make the usual preparations for Passover, unaware of the significance of what we were doing.  To us it was just another Passover meal together, with no idea that it was to be our last, but yet our most significant one. 

 

When we were reclining at the table, Jesus told us that he was eager to eat the Passover meal with us before he suffered.  He said that he would not eat it again until it found fulfilment in the kingdom of God.  I didn’t grasp what he meant by this and there was no time to ponder it then.  I guess I just didn’t want to think he meant that he really was going to be killed and that was why we would never eat another Passover meal with him. 

 

Just as the meal was about to be served, Jesus surprised us all by doing for us what would normally be done by a slave – he washed our feet!  It wasn’t right that he should do this for us – him, the one we called ‘Teacher’ washing our feet.  I protested at this and wouldn’t let him do it, but he told me that unless he washed me I could have no part in him.  I didn’t understand then that he had come to serve humanity and to set an example of humility for us to follow.  He told me that I would understand later what he was doing.  I asked him to wash all of me in that case, but he said that was unnecessary as we only needed to wash our feet.  He said though that not all of us were clean. That, at the time seemed just a throw-away remark; none of us could even think that one of us would betray Him.  We all loved and followed Him – didn’t we?  We knew that the authorities were looking for ways to trap Him and be rid of Him, that’s why we had tried to persuade Him not to come to Jerusalem, so why would any of us do anything to help these people – it was unthinkable!

 

While we were eating, Jesus took some of the Passover bread and broke it in pieces and gave thanks for it.  I didn’t think anything of it at first – it was a normal part of the ritual of the Passover meal, which we had all known from childhood.  But then he said “Take and eat – this is my body broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  Those weren’t the usual words used in the Passover meal.  Then after that he took the cup of wine and gave thanks for it and offered it to us saying “drink from it all of you.  This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you.”  This again was a departure from the usual words of the Passover.  I had no idea then of the significance of those words; what he had been trying to tell us for a while now had still not sunk in.  Why should we need anything to help us remember Him, after all He was there with us wasn’t He? 

 

He was obviously deeply troubled as he said that one of us was going to betray him.  We all stared at one another and protested that surely it was not us.  I whispered to John, who was leaning against Jesus, to ask him who he meant.  Jesus replied that it was the person to whom he gave the piece of bread that he dipped in the dish.  He took the bread, dipped it in the dish and gave it to Judas Iscariot.  When Judas said “Surely not I Rabbi?” Jesus said “Yes, it is you.” We didn’t then realise that Jesus meant he knew that Judas was going to betray him to the Chief priests and elders.  Judas had charge of the money, and so we thought he was just going to buy more things for the feast. 

 

After Judas had gone, Jesus told us that he was going to his Father and would be glorified, and that he would be with us only a little longer.  Where he was going, he said, we could not go with him.  I protested at this that I would follow him wherever he went.  I was fully prepared to go with him and die with him, I said, and I meant it when I said it.  I really did. But Jesus told me sadly that, before the cock had crowed, I would deny three times that I even knew him.  I couldn’t believe that I would do that to my Master and friend. Me – the one he called the Rock – I would go with him to the bitter end.  Of course I know now that he was right about me – he knew me better than I knew myself. He knew that at the time, although I had been the one to say right out that he was the Son of God, I would fail him, because I was still thinking in worldly terms, whereas he was talking in heavenly terms.  But he prayed for me and for all of us.  He told us not to let our hearts be troubled and to trust in God.  He was going to his father to prepare a place for us.  He tried to comfort us even when his heart must have been breaking, knowing what was ahead of him, as he did.

 

That last Passover meal and all that Jesus said and did, as well as all that happened after that, has been indelibly etched into my memory.  You don’t ever forget something like that.  I thought my life had changed when I began to follow Jesus around the countryside and saw his miracles and heard his teaching.  I knew then that I had found the Messiah, but I didn’t truly know what kind of Messiah he was, or what kind of a kingdom he would bring. I didn’t realise then that he had to die in order to bring in his kingdom.  I thought at the time that if he died that would be the end of everything for us. I couldn’t see what could be gained by his dying. Now from a distance and with the help of the Holy Spirit – the Counsellor that he promised would come to us, I can look back at that new kind of Passover meal that Jesus instituted and realise exactly what he meant by his words.  The new covenant, as he called it was of far more significance than the old Passover meal.  It felt different to us too; whenever we celebrated it we really felt as though Jesus was right there with us, as He said, inside us, through the Holy Spirit that he sent us.

 

Jesus was and is the Son of God, but he came to this earth as part of God’s purpose of redemption for mankind.  His body was holy and yet he allowed it to be beaten and broken and nailed to a shameful Roman cross, because he loved everyone so much that he was obedient to his Father’s wish not to punish people for their sins but to forgive them.  I now know that nothing we said or did would have stopped him from carrying out God’s purpose for him, because when I reflect on the things that he said when he was with us, I realise that in all things he was just obeying his Father’s will. 

 

Whenever we eat that new meal that Jesus instigated, that we now like to call the Lord’s Supper in his memory, we remember his words to us.  At first it used to shame me, because I remembered that having said that I would go with him and die with him, within a few hours I denied even knowing him.  But now it reminds me of the love of Jesus – the sort of love that means humility and service to further the kingdom of God.  The sort of love that emptied himself of all thoughts about himself and his suffering and prayed for us, his disciples, and even for forgiveness for those who were crucifying him.  The sort of love that gave me three chances to redeem myself and tell him how much I loved him, and the love that forgave me unconditionally for denying him as I did. 

 

We might like to think that as committed followers of Jesus, who spent time with him when he was on earth, we shouldn’t need any reminder of what he has done for us, but we are humans and we forget all too easily.  So we do celebrate that meal of remembrance often to keep in our thoughts exactly what Jesus had to go through to gain salvation for us and for mankind.  We encourage all new Christians to meet together in this way, as a means of fellowship and worship.  It’s not always easy to do at times, but it is very important.”

 

If the disciples, who walked and talked with Jesus and saw his death and resurrection needed a meal to remind them of what Jesus had done, how much more do we need to do what Jesus commanded, and eat the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of what he has done for us?  May we each be reminded afresh of what Jesus our Saviour did for us every time we meet around the Communion table, and particularly during the period of Lent, when we think about the passion of our Lord.  I pray that we will each take time to think through that journey of Jesus that ended at the cross, apply it to our lives and then rejoice in His resurrection, that signified that He had conquered death and sin for ever. 

 

As we come to the Communion table in a few moments time, may it have a fresh significance for us as we reflect on what we have heard.

 

 

GF

14/2/15