For them it expected to be a jubilant Passover supper. Jesus earlier that week was greeted by shouts of Hosanna’s. The Passover meal was ready and in every Jewish home that night they started their meal with one question. “What makes this night different than any other night?” Then the elder told the story of how the blood of the sacrificial Lamb saved them from death and set them free. But that night their meal did not start with that ancient question; it started in a new way with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.
Christ was preparing to become the sacrifice for our sins and he begins by a humble act of cleansing the dirt off the feet of his followers. Later on the cross his death will clean the stench and filth of the sins from you and me. If we are going to understand that night in the upper room it is important for us to see and to hear all Jesus said in that room.
I invite you to take time this week to read from the Gospel of John chapters 13 through 17. In these chapters we will discover Christ telling us and showing us how we were to respond to his life, death and resurrection. It is in his works and words where we will discover that we were more than redeemed by him; in addition to salvation we were restored to our former glory as intended by our God.
The accounts of the upper room in Matthew, Mark, and Luke offer some minor differences in what they record of that evening but for the most part they are the same. They all describe the breaking of bread and drinking of the cup of the covenant. They all tell of Jesus revealing the betrayal by one of them. In these gospels the description of the upper room experience is described in about 20 verses and then they move on to the Garden of Gethsemane.
John’s gospel reveals much more. In five chapters and about 150 verses we will find why that night was a night we should remember as our Passover history story. John starts his account with Christ washing the feet of the disciples and he does not even mention the institution of the Eucharist. What he was inspired to write in detail was what Christ told his disciples and at the same time was telling all of us who would come to believe.
Why is John so much more focused on what Jesus said to us rather than what he did? It is in the words of Christ in that upper room that we find the way to being sons and daughters of the living God. It is in the words spoken that evening that we will discover how God desired not only to redeem us but to have his love transform us.
As Christians we have a tendency to always be looking for what we must do to be good. By looking for good things to do we miss the first step in discipleship. Before we do any works we need to embrace the saving act of Jesus. In our act of acknowledging his death on the cross was for us we allow ourselves to be flooded with his presence. That sacrificial act needs to be personal in our minds and hearts by accepting Jesus died for me. For if we only think of his death as saving the world it is easy of us to overlook the personal significance of Christ saving act for you and you alone.
Jesus in his own words that night was preparing them for his death and what would be accomplished by his death. In the same way those words today are preparing us. Preparing us for what, to believe in “I am” (Jn. 13:19). Do we really believe? If we believe then we must respond to him. We must like Peter say, “You are the messiah!” Not by an intellectual response of knowing but one of acceptance from our hearts.
On that night Christ showed us that the way to live out our faith is not by our own strength and plan. It is in recognizing that apart from Christ we can do nothing – he said, “I am the vine and you are the branches apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). It is in being clothed with power from on high that we can go out and “do the things Christ did and even greater than Christ did because he is gone to the Father” (Jn. 14:12). Yes on this night we are told that we will no longer be what we once were; for we will be changed by his death and by the Spirits coming.
Because of this night we are offered a life that is filled with peace, with hope, with God’s mercy and filled with awe. On this night the power of sin was broken in our lives and just as our forefathers were set free so are we set free by the Lamb of God.
“What makes this night different than any other night” is that on this night Jesus submitted to God’s plan to remove the barrier of sin between us and God. Our relationship with God totally changed because of this night. Because of this night we are obligated as disciples to go forth offering freedom to others by forgiving, by serving and by loving as Christ loved. We are obligated by this night to do the things Christ did filled with the power of the Holy Spirit equipping us to always do the will of the one who sends us.
We are obligated this night to go forth and be visible and focal in telling the story of our Passover- that because of Christ’s death and resurrection we have been freed from the power of sin. We are truly the reflection of God’s glory; so let us let our light shine.