In This Room
Today is called Holy Thursday. This is remembered as the night when Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. It is the Seder Supper that Jews all over the world celebrated a few nights before.
This is one of my most treasured days in the Christian calendar year. The other is Pentecost. It occurred to me that both these events took place in the same place. In an upper room. Places Jesus chose to meet with, dine and pray with his companions and friends. And even his enemies, we are told.
Imagine. A city filled with festival-goers, come to Jerusalem, as they are this week, to celebrate Passover, and for Christians, the Easter season. Our Jewish friends are celebrating Passover and Christians are commemorating the week of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Jesus and his disciples are also in the holy city to celebrate Passover. Both celebrations as they continue throughout the years are intimately linked in the person of Jesus. On this night he sought a place apart, away from the crowded city, to a more private place away from the limelight where supposedly a large crowd gathered to put palms down for his passage into the city. Throughout his life, we often see Jesus going off to secluded places, away from the crush of the crowds, some who wanted to end his message, mission and his life, and others who wanted to make a king of him, but most who just wanted to listen to him and be in his presence. In the end the epithet King of the Jews would follow him to the cross, as a mockery and warning to anyone who even appeared to challenge the authority of the Romans along with the authority of the priests, the Jewish Sanhedrin.
The Jewish people where under the rule of a foreign power again. Into this hornets nest came a man who would show them another way of looking at and living their lives, even in their current situation, captive to the long arm of Rome. With his carpenter hands, he was making something new. With his carpenter hands, he points to another way. He would be that way. He was a man who walked out among the people and told stories that turn their hearts to him, and away from petty prescriptives and a long list of ridiculous rituals and rules.
On both this night and on the morning of Pentecost Jesus gives us a great gift. The gift of himself. He gathers to him those closest to him (for their protection as well as his) in a room where he gives himself without reservation, body, heart, mind and spirit. With his carpenter hands, he makes something that will not rot or crumble, decay or disappear. Mary’s son presided over a Passover meal where he recites the story of the Exodus of his people from slavery to freedom. It was a meal in which to remember who carried them to freedom, who they were, whose they were. And whether he knew it or not, it would mark his own passover to a new life as he makes his exodus from the captivity of death to the absolute freedom of the reign of God.
His spirit lives on – carried down through the centuries to us in the body of believers. Because he left us his spirit this passing over to new life is ours as well. On this night, he gathers to us himself and gives us a place at the table with him. (A table surely set by the women.) He hands to us the gift of himself. The gift of his life. A gift without walls or barriers. A gift we can take to ourselves at any time, for the next time they gather in the upper room he gives the spirit of his life as well. In his Spirit, we gather him to ourselves, and remember who we are. Whose we are.
Although likened to bread, a lamb, a king, a messiah, a rebel-rouser, or prophet, in this room was a man, who took the reign of God in his carpenter hands and opened the door for us that will never close.