Exodus 12:1-4, 11-14 Psalm 116:1, 10-17 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Matthew 26:30-46 Psalm 22
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I am Peter. I used to be called Simon bar Zebedee, but now I’m Peter, my friends call me “Rocky” it’s a pun in Greek, but I speak Aramaic like most Jews. I have just come from a remarkable evening and an unforgettable meal. You know I am a follower of Jesus, more than that though I think He and I have a special connexion. This is the week of the Passover, it’s a very important time for us Jews. We were part of a people called the Israelites. We got our name from Jacob Israel, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, so we have a good lineage. Jacob Israel went to Egypt from the Promised Land about two thousand years ago. Things were good to start with when Joseph ruled Egypt but then the Egyptians got jealous of the Israelites because they prospered. Everything the Jews touched seemed to turn to gold, a king Midas kind of a thing. Out of jealousy the Egyptians took away our rights, our possessions and enslaved us. After a long time of putting up with this our God freed us with mighty miracles through our great prophet Moses. And we returned to Israel. There have been a lot of upsets since, and now we are under Roman rule. The twelve tribes of Israel have been reduced to just us Jews and the Benjamites, but we have survived to carry on the knowledge of our God and we do.
Every year we celebrate our liberation from Egypt by having a special meal. God calls it the Passover and he has said we have to keep up the tradition every year. We do. I have just come from ours and what a meal it was. It must have cost a pretty penny. The inn keeper knew what he was doing though and served up the meal in good order and well cooked. I love roast lamb. Instead of relaxing and being really comfortable, our tradition dictates when we eat this meal we wear travelling clothes, bags packed, even carrying a staff for the traditional journey that follows. That’s where we are going now. Jesus says we need to take a walk so we are going to the Mount of Olives and this beautiful garden called Gethsemane. The trees are in blossom and it smells good, it’s nice and cool this evening and to be honest I drank quite a bit of wine at supper. I’d like to lie down and have some shut-eye under the stars breathing the good night air. I will. I just wish Jesus wouldn’t walk so fast. He’s like a man on a mission. He needs to relax a bit too. After all it’s been quite a week all told.
On Sunday last we came to Jerusalem for the Passover, there really is no place like it to celebrate Passover, with the Temple and all. Jesus has become famous and thousands of people lined the streets on Sunday when we arrived. It was the confirmation of Jesus’ success that we all needed. It’s not easy being on the road all the time, never sure of what the next day will bring. Then for the last few days Jesus has been teaching and healing the crowds in the Temple. The priests hated it but He didn’t care. He threw out the money-grubbers who make a fortune selling the animals for sacrifice, that made the chief priest really angry because that cost him a lot of money ! But I enjoyed the rough and tumble. I’m a physical kind of a guy and always turning the other cheek and calling for peace gets a tiring, sometimes I like to use a little muscle to say we are serious, and for some people, as you know, that’s the only language they understand.
It’s been a long time since Jesus came to me and my brother Andrew and asked us to follow Him. Now Andrew had been a follower of John, who we called ‘the Baptist’, so he was used to the kind of life we’ve lived for the last while. For me it was a shock. I’m used to going home after a hard day’s work, home to my wife and kids, sleeping in my own bed, not traipsing about the countryside on what some think is a fool’s-mission. Fortunately my dad’s business is good and he has been able to support my family while I am away. I’m a fisherman by trade, but Jesus said I was to fish for people. That’s a funny way to start a relationship but with Andrew’s encouragement and my cousins James and John coming along we hit the road. A few other people joined us and we’ve been going about all over Israel, fishing for people, and you know there are many in the net that Jesus casts.
We have seen miracles like you wouldn’t believe. These are tough times for a lot of people, they are not all as well-off as my folks, many can’t afford the basics of life, like enough food and they often get sick. I don’t know what it is like in your time but people can’t afford medicines, so when they get sick, they die. Jesus changed that. He fed them by the thousands. And He healed all the sick people that came to Him, no matter what it was, men who couldn’t walk, women who were broken through the rigours of childbirth, men who couldn’t see, people who have got this horrible disease called leprosy, children who had died, and a couple of weeks ago he brought back to life His friend Lazarus, who was dead and buried nearly a week ! Wow ! Can you believe ? I can I was there !
But it’s not only Him taking care of our physical needs. There is something more important. He takes care of our spiritual needs too. I live in a time when we have Spiritual Police. Not only do we have an intolerant priesthood we have these self-appointed watchdogs called Pharisees. You have to watch what you do and say when they are around, or they will cart you off to the courts and when they do you nearly always get a beating or thrown into prison, or worse. They even rile the people up and have them stone their victims to death all in the name of God. That can’t be right ! That’s not the God Jesus talks about. There’s one really bad Pharisee, his name is Paul of Tarsus, he’s a maniac ! For us it’s almost a badge of honour to be accused by them though, because it means you are a normal person, not a fanatic like them.
Jesus spoke up to those Pharisees so many times, you can’t believe how many times, but every time He bested them. They want us to be so constrained in our belief in God but Jesus wants us to be free and to talk with God, the way we would our own loving parents. Being like that is like being in a new day, where the Sun shines and scares the dark clouds of life away. That’s what has kept me going all these years. It is wonderful. The guy emanates peace and goodwill, it’s hard to explain but He does. I’m not supposed to tell you this but one time recently we went up a mountain and we entered the presence of God. I swear, the very presence of God ! Two figures appeared out of nowhere to talk with Jesus, and glory shone around all three of them they glowed with righteousness. I was scared. Jesus later told us it was Moses and Elijah helping Him decide what was to be next. I think they were planning something great. I can’t wait to see what it is.
Let me get back to the meal. As I said it was delicious, the atmosphere was warm and friendly, we sang a few of the old hymns, just like always. There were two strange things about tonight though. Jesus was a bit melancholy. As we were eating He suddenly got up, took off His travelling cloak, got a bowl of water and washed our feet, all of us. I protested but He won the argument and He washed my feet too. What’s disturbing is He is our leader, our teacher, the Messiah and He took on the role of a servant girl. It was enough to really make me question His sanity and the meaning, until He told us this is how we are to be to others. To be their servant, even do menial tasks for them because, God loves them too and they are worthy of our help. We are no better than anyone else and we could often use a hand-up by others. “Love one another” He said. That was odd but the other thing was even more disturbing.
He took the unleavened bread and said to us “This is my Body, which is broken for you, do this in remembrance of me”. I mean, what do you make of that ?! Then later He took the last cup of wine of the Meal, the Cup of Blessing, and He said “This is my Blood of the New Covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this also in remembrance of me”. That too ! But it was so strange, those are really odd things to say, really odd, and I have no idea what He meant. I’ll ask Him tomorrow.
Maybe a third odd thing happened. Right after that last cup of wine Judas got up and high-tailed it out of there. God knows where he went, he too has been acting a bit odd lately.
And then just now while we were walking, I’m reluctant to share this but I will even though it hurt me personally. Jesus said we would all betray Him, me too, me ! What ? No way! I said we have a special bond I am no more likely to betray Him that He me. I would die for Him. It just ain’t going to happen.
I know something really big is about to happen though, I feel it in the air, I can’t wait for tomorrow, I think we are going to get all the answers then.
Just a minute, there He goes, I’ve got to catch up. Don’t go away.