20/09/17 - Pastor Young
This past Sunday, we kicked off the first section of Luke 22, which itself is part of a larger section that details Jesus moving toward the cross. There is clearly more going on beneath the surface, as Judas succumbs to Satan's advances, and the plans for betrayal are in place. As Jesus sits with His disciples and eats, the cross looms in the background for those of us who are familiar with how the story continues. In fact, we know that there will be great suffering up ahead.
It seems that Satan is in the background, pulling the strings in order to launch an all-out war against God and His people. The religious leaders have finally found someone on the inside who will help them to arrest Jesus without the watching eyes of the crowd. They will deliver Him over to Rome to have Him executed. Everything seems to be aligning for the enemy to emerge victorious, and for our hopes to be dashed.
For the first time, the enemy is flexing its muscles, and it seems that they have all the power.
But this isn't the first time in history that God's people seemed to be oppressed and hopeless in the face of one more powerful. Centuries prior, Pharaoh refused to recognise God as sovereign, despite the many plagues that struck Egypt. He believed himself to be a god, and he couldn't imagine anyone with power greater than his. As the plagues continued on, however, it became clear that the Lord wielded power infinitely greater than that of Pharaoh and all of Egypt.
God's plan prevailed, and His people were freed from slavery and death. This is commemorated and celebrated by the Israelites, and we see a glimpse of this in our passage, as Jesus eats with His disciples.
As God was in control then, He is in control as Jesus moves inexorably toward the cross. And His power and control mean that those who seem to be in power are about to experience a great change -- the first will be last, the proud will be brought low, and the outcasts will be welcomed.
In fact, the religious leaders who seem to have all of the power as they find a betrayer have never really had power; all of their questions have been answered excellently by Jesus, whereas they are unable to answer His, and so they tremble in fear as they imagine their status as leaders disintegrating beneath them. Rome displays powerlessness, even as an oppressive regime, as it will eventually bow to the pressure of the baying crowd, and crucify who they believe to be an innocent man.
And Satan will see that all of his plans and manipulative schemes have come to his own destruction, as the crucifixion of Christ is revealed to be God's plan all along. The nails that are driven into Jesus at the cross prove to be nails in the coffin for sin and death, as they are defeated.
The firstborn is to die, just as in the tenth plague in Egypt. The firstborn of God is also the sacrificial Lamb, who prepares to offer Himself on behalf of those who will join the family of God through His death and resurrection.
Everything in this passage points to the power of God. As we worry about what Judas is plotting, God remains in control and we see the beginnings of an explanation as to why the Messiah would die. In the preparations for the Passover meal, Peter and John find that everything is as Jesus said it would be, and that there is nothing to worry about with Him leading them.
In fact, even the way that Jesus eats the meal reflects the posture of one who is completely free, and enjoying the knowledge of God's sovereignty. Jesus reclines at the table, relaxing at the celebration of Israel's liberation from death in Egypt. Previously, the first Passover was done in haste, and the people were to stand so as to be ready to depart at a moment's notice. Now, the disciples recline alongside Jesus.
This is true power.
God's power is such that even as He faces His own betrayal and death, Jesus can relax at the table in a way that shows His absolute trust in the Father.
Our natural tendency is to recoil rather than recline. We can't help but to be shocked at the fallen state of the world, as news from far and wide illuminates the little blue screens around us. Sometimes, we are rendered hopeless by the personal tragedies that rise in our lives.
It is fitting now more than ever in these uncertain times for us to take heed of how Jesus reclines. As He went before us, and as His sacrifice and substitution means that we are sons and daughters of God, we too can look with hope to our Father. We, like Jesus, can have absolute trust in God, knowing that there is victory just over the horizon.
Looking forward with hope,